Each year Outward Bound Costa Rica welcomes hundreds of students from across the world. As the leader of experiential learning and outdoor training in Central America, we also dedicate resources to funding and developing a variety of local programs and trainings in Costa Rica and Panama.
Our commitment to generating an organizational consciousness has created initiatives that promote outdoor safety at a national level, leadership development of the nation’s youth, and environmental sustainability practices both on base and in the field. These initiatives have not only benefited the local community, but have also fostered greater compassion and further cultural competence for Outward Bound Costa Rica participants and staff that join from all parts of the world.
INCREASING ACCESS TO OUTDOOR EDUCATION
Since 2003, Outward Bound Costa Rica has been as partner with the Guías y Scouts de Costa Rica, the Costa Rican Association of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides dedicated to serving youth and creating greater world-citizens.
Outward Bound’s participation with the scouts and guides includes sponsoring and funding maintenance of the country’s best climbing wall, equipment, and staff training to effectively and safely operate climbing and rappelling for Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. Our instructors also team up with the association’s local staff and volunteers to develop character and leadership skills for the Costa Rican at-risk youth population while keeping activities safe for all participants.
Local events serve over 18,000 Costa Rican youth each year through camps, jamborees, and other events at two camps, Iztaru Scout Camp in the mountains near the Capital and a smaller camp in the lower elevation rainforests of northern Costa Rica.
COMBATING DEFORESTATION IN COSTA RICA
Promoting social and environmental responsibility is one of the core elements of any Outward Bound course. As an organization, we strive to meet this responsibility and educate our students by doing our part every day, both on and off course.
Since 1950, about 60% of rainforest deforestation in Costa Rica has been driven by the demand for hamburger meat abroad. Cattle ranches have slowly replaced lush foliage here, disrupting the natural ecosystem and facilitating the erosion of soil. Costa Rica has been referred to by National Geographic as the “most biologically intense place on Earth” and has consequently been the focus of many Save the Rainforest campaigns since the 1970s.
Despite efforts to improve conservation of its many national parks, Costa Rica still has one of the world’s highest deforestation rates at nearly 4% per year. One way Outward Bound Costa Rica supports combating deforestation is that we do not serve beef products to students or staff at our bases or during course. By upholding to the no-beef policy, instructors and staff are given a chance to explain to students how the economics of choice and environmental degradation are so closely linked.
TRAINING PARK RANGERS
Outward Bound instructors are world-renowned for being highly trained in both soft skills and technical safety training. The Costa Rican government, however, does not provide such training to its park rangers who, in many parts of the Costa Rican wilderness, are the first responders to emergencies. Years ago, Outward Bound staff caught wind of fatalities that could have been avoided had park rangers been properly trained in CPR, First Aid or Water Rescue. We partner with Proparques to train and certify hundreds of park guards each year. Examples of trainings include Red Cross training in First Aid and CPR, wilderness search and rescue, and beach safety and rescue.
According to our Program Director Daniel Jimenez, this training seeks to, “change the mentality of park rangers, getting them to see their role as more of a profession rather than a volunteer position.” A recent training held at Irazu Volcano served over 20 park rangers, preparing them to be better first responders, including mastering rope rescue, reading GPS coordinates to locate a lost person and implementing first aid and CPR.
To date Outward Bound Costa Rica has trained and certified over 750 park service personnel in first aid, CPR, lifeguarding, search and rescue, vertical rescue, and water rescue.
INSTILLING LEADERSHIP IN COSTA RICAN INTERNATIONAL BACCALAUREATE (IB) STUDENTS
Every International Baccalaureate (IB) high school student studying in Costa Rica spends three days at our rainforest base to participate in a residential Outward Bound course. Our courses with The Association of IB Schools in Costa Rica expose local students to outdoor education, where they learn about team building and develop leadership skills. This is another initiative that is largely funded by our organization as outreach to the local community that would not otherwise be able to afford such an adventure-based program.
PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
A little closer to our home, we embrace the Costa Rican value of environmental sustainability by supporting nation-wide efforts to compost, recycle, reuse, and repurpose. Our practices include maintaining a chicken coop with more than fifteen chickens that produce fresh and organic eggs for the students’ meals, an herb garden planted for both student and staff use, and compost and recycle bins. Retired sea kayaks are remade into desks, whitewater kayaks make great planters on base, and old surfboards get a second life as benches and signs.