Volunteer in Puerto Rico
Greenheart Travel offers you the opportunity to volunteer with a pioneering project on sustainable forestry research, enrichment and reforestation!
Located on a 1,000-acre reserve in the southern mountains of Puerto Rico’s rainforest, Greenheart Travel offers teen groups the opportunity to volunteer with a pioneering project on sustainable forestry research, enrichment and reforestation!
Since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in September 2017, we ask volunteers be willing to help in the clean-up of the aftermath. In our support of helping the people and environment of Puerto Rico, groups should be self-sufficient, mature and willing to assist in the efforts.
The expansion of agriculture, pasture grazing and coffee plantations across Puerto Rico lead to clearcutting and destruction of mature rainforests on the island, leaving only about 25% of the trees intact. In junction with the government, this forestry project was developed to research and develop alternative ways of planting and extracting natural timber resources with a focus on sustainable and ecological practices.
How You Will Make a Difference as a Volunteer
Thousands of native and exotic hardwood trees have been planted in the nursery reserve, and our volunteers assist in researching and cataloging all of the promising results. Your group volunteer activities might include:
- Measure tree diameter, density, and health for various species
- Prune, plant and care for seedlings, saps and mature trees
- Clearing trails, creating new trails, and general land maintenance
- Tend to the on-site organic garden, including compost management
- Data entry & cataloging of ongoing research progress
Until the devastation from Hurricane Maria is cleaned, your group might also:
- Clear overgrowth and ensure endangered species get proper sunlight and water
- Help rebuild destroyed bridges necessary for resources
Follow along on with a Greenheart Quest Scholarship group from Chicago that participated in this program:
This program is open to groups of people who meet the following requirements:
- 14-18 years old, or Freshman, Sophomore, Junior or Senior*
- Beginner level of Spanish preferred
- Be in good physical shape due to manor labor nature of the work
- Be open minded and curious about the environment and culture of Puerto Rico
Please keep in mind that Puerto Rico is a US territory, and you need to have open travel access to enroll. If you are not an American citizen, it is your responsibility to secure the necessary travel clearance for entry into Puerto Rico. Greenheart Travel does not provide visas.
*We are also able to accommodate corporate volunteer groups, individual adults and families. Please inquire with a program manager.
We are able to have groups start any Monday throughout the year for a minimum 5 day/4 night program (longer programs also available). Submit an inquiry to request your chosen Monday. We can be flexible!
In an effort to speed up the recovery process from Hurricane Maria, we can also accommodate groups for a long-weekend trip, Friday-Monday. See information here.
Arrival & Departure
All groups will:
- Arrive in San Juan, Puerto Rico on their start date (Monday) before 12:00pm
- Transfer from San Juan airport to project site upon arrival
- Depart from San Juan, Puerto Rico on Friday after 12:00pm
- Transfer from project site to San Juan airport in the morning
Please note: Greenheart Travel includes flights in the cost of the program. If you wish to book flights on your own, we will deduct this from the total fee.
Please inquire directly with a program manager as the cost of the program depends on the size of your group and your departing airport.
What’s Included in the program cost:
During your program:
- Flights to and from Puerto Rico from a designated airport
- Airport pickup and drop off to/from San Juan airport
- Accommodations in volunteer bunkhouses
- 3 meals per day cooked by a local chef
- Medical/accident insurance
- 24-hour long distance and local emergency support
- On-site arrival orientation and training
- Mid-week excursion to the local beach
Pre-departure resources and training:
- Personal assistance from a Greenheart Travel program manager
- Comprehensive program handbook
- Online pre-departure orientation with Greenheart Travel
- Culture & etiquette guidebook
- The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience
- Donation to support the Greenheart Odyssey, an award-winning youth leadership development program
- Certificate of Completion upon request for successful completion of the program
What’s Not Included:
- Spending money for personal purchases or activities
Please refer to the payment schedule here.
While volunteering, groups will be living on site at the project location. The accommodations are rustic and in the middle of a rainforest. You need to come prepared with an open mind because you may not have access to the same creature comforts you are used to at home.
Accommodations will include either a bunk in the volunteer house or a platform tent under a roof covered area. Depending on space, you may or may not have volunteers outside your group living in the vicinity.
Volunteers will also have access to an open-air common living space which includes a kitchen, dining and lounging area. There are also comfortable hammocks to enjoy at the end of a hard day’s work!
Why Greenheart Travel
With so many volunteer options, why volunteer through Greenheart Travel?
Greenheart Travel is a non-profit, mission based organization committed to making a positive, long-lasting impact in the communities where we work. We partner with local, grassroots non-profit organizations in Puerto Rico to not only to create the most impactful program, but also to guarantee your volunteer work will make a difference.
Greenheart Travel has been operating volunteer abroad programs for many years. We are proud of our authentic, hands-on opportunities on 4 different continents, which allow you to provide service hours to communities around the world! There are lots of advantages to traveling with us:
Personalized and Consistent Support
- Our staff is in Chicago – we are available to answer questions during US business hours
- Friendly, responsive, and professional communication from staff who have actually volunteered abroad themselves
- Hands on support and personal attention every step of the way
- An experienced program manager will personally review your application to make sure this is the right program for you
Global Community of Volunteers
- Access to a community of alumni and current volunteers on the program, before you even leave!
- Automatic enrollment in the Greenheart Club, an online community for Greenheart alumni to find resources, log volunteer hours, and apply for alumni grants and scholarship
- Offer an online platform to log your service hours, qualifying you for a Greenheart Grant
- Exclusive access to Greenheart Travel Alumni Program
Top-Notch Materials and Preparation
- The Greenheart Travel Atlas, an interactive guide to your cross-cultural experience
- Online pre-departure orientation with focus on cultural training
- Greenheart Travel T-shirt
Don’t just take our word for it! Check out independent reviews from past participants of Greenheart Travel programs here.
What is a typical volunteer day like?
You will wake up around 7:00am to have breakfast at 7:30am, then head into the morning volunteer meeting at 9:00am. You will plan the day and connect with the group about which projects are going on. You will put in about 4-5 hours of work each day with a break for lunch. There are various evening activities planned, such as meditation, documentary viewing, and personal presentations on industry issues.
Will my group be required to buy special gear for volunteering?
We will provide your group with a detailed packing list upon acceptance. We will ask students to bring clothes they feel comfortable working in and typically special gear is not required.
Can we submit one application per group?
What about allergy/specific dietary requirements?
We can cater to vegetarian needs quite easily. Any other specific diets should be discussed with us to see if we can arrange to have your needs met.
How can I contact friends/family from home?
Currently, the project site does not have internet. The best way to communicate with friends and family is through your data plan from the U.S. Due to the remote nature of the program, coverage may be inconsistent, and you should not expect to be constantly connected. This is a time to unplug and enjoy your nature surroundings! If you do speak with friends and family back home, please keep conversations to a minimum and away from common areas.
Do I need any special vaccinations?
Please be sure your tetanus shot is current. All other major immunizations should be up to date, but check with a medical professional to see if they recommend any additional vaccines.
What does it mean for my child to be in good mental health in the program eligibility requirements?
Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to the most well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on a long-term exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of candidates.
We may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition.
These include, but are not limited to:
- Obsessive compulsive disorder
- Debilitating anxiety
- Eating disorders
If the student’s mental health issue has been resolved (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will ask for a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.
What if my child doesn’t speak Spanish ?
No problem! It is not necessary to speak Spanish to apply for this program. All on-site staff speak English fluently.
Is Puerto Rico safe for my child?
Puerto Rico has been a very safe and frequented destination for visitors for decades. The project is a respected part of the local community and Greenheart Travel has never had any safety issues. Through program materials, online pre-departure orientations and on-site orientations and training, students are given adequate preparation for expectations during the program, including health and safety.
Greenheart Travel always puts the safety of our participants first and it is our number one priority, and we would never send students somewhere we wouldn’t go ourselves. We certainly wouldn’t be in business for 30 years if we didn’t take safety very seriously. We recently hosted a webinar about safety & security abroad if you would be interested in watching it here.
Is the water safe to drink?
The accommodation will provide you with safe and filtered drinking water.
What my child do in his or her free time?
When your child is not volunteering they will also be allowed to spend time relaxing at the volunteer accommodation, visiting local natural pools or rivers, or visit the beach. Your child will not be permitted to be alone or unsupervised during this program. We encourage students to bring lots of books and games, and especially spend time journaling!
Schedule a Call
Have questions or want to talk to us about the program? Set up a time to have a phone call below.
Be sure to review the FAQs before your call!