VN Center for Social Justice  


Independent internships, global education, and experiential learning programs that support social justice efforts in the north of Costa Rica.

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Experiential learning programs for positive social change

VN Center for Social Justice

VN Center for Social Justice supports vulnerable populations in the north of Costa Rica through initiatives that focus education, health and well-being, and socio-economic development. 

VN coordinates cross-cultural learning programs for international students and professionals.  Participants support projects in Costa Rica while learning about global social justice issues.

Our group study and internship programs offer students and professionals a global perspective on important social and environmental issues including human rights, human displacement, and the sustainable development goals (SDGs).



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VN Center - Intercambio cultural para justicia social. (Cross-cultural learning for social justice)

Social justice and cultural
understanding

Why go abroad?

Program participants gain new perspectives about cultures, systems, and important topics including globalization, sustainable development, and social justice.   In addition to hands-on experience, students build tolerance, cultural humility, and a broader world view - important skills for all global citizens.  


Borders divide, bridges connect. VN Center advocacy and outreach programs uphold migrant, asylum seekers, and refugee rights.

Experiential Learning

Learn by doing! Venture off the beaten path with us and immerse yourself in the culture of the north of Costa Rica. Live with a family and experience daily life in a rural community. Visit hidden treasures-still undiscovered by most tourists- and support small-scale tourist projects through your visit. Study and improve your Spanish skills by living and working in a rural community. Gain experience through an internship or global learning program!  

Over 20 years experience in central america 

Ethical Study Abroad
Sustainability and Collaboration

VN Center offers experiential and cross-cultural learning programs that advocate for social justice.

We have long-standing relationships with community leaders, organizations, and institutions and incorporate the use of local knowledge to develop sustainable community projects.

All of our community initiatives are needs-based.  Community members actively participate in program planning, implementation, and oversight.  Students work alongside communities creating mutually beneficial learning opportunities. Community engagement is vital to ethical study abroad programs and to the sustainability of our work.

Program Founder and Director, Carrie McCracken, is a Sociologist and Educator with over 20 years of experience in Nicaragua and Costa Rica.  She works with community members and funding institutions to develop needs-based programs that support community health, well-being, and social justice.  Carrie lives in the communities we work with, coordinates and accompanies all groups, and provides both community members and program participants with a unique and dynamic learning experience. 

The Global Fund

We work with communities to design programs and projects that meet their needs.  

Ten percent of all placement fees go to the Global Fund that supports community projects. 

Some initiatives funded through the Global fund include:
-2 mall businesses for Nicaraguan refugee women 

- Community garden  at a children's center

-A community center in a refugee neighborhood

- Agriculture supplies for an Indigenous refugee population 

-School supplies, first aid kits, and hygiene kits for schools

 

Internships that advocate for immigrant and refugee integration

VN Center worked in Nicaragua as Viva Nicaragua Center until 2018.  Why did we leave?

The socio-political crisis in Nicaragua that began in 2018, forced thousands of Nicaraguans to seek asylum in neighboring Costa Rica. According to the UNHCR, in February of 2022, there were over 150,000 Nicaraguan refugees and asylum seekers in Costa Rica . The number of Nicaraguans now living in Costa Rica, combined with differing cultural and historical narratives, has contributed to economic difficulties and social tension between Costa Ricans and Nicaraguans. However, VN Abroad is working with  Nicaraguans and Costa Ricans to transform this difficult situation into an opportunity to grow through cross cultural collaboration and exchange. Nicaraguans can learn from a culture of peace; Costa Ricans can learn about the Nicaraguan reality and build cultural competence. National and international students and professionals can contribute ideas, experience, and tools in order to find unified solutions and foster a more integrated society.

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New Program! 
Community Health

On-going - Open enrollement for individuals and groups

1 week to 1-month program, open to social and health science majors.

Through community engagement, conversations, and observations, we will gain a greater understanding of the social determinants of health. We will join community leaders and learn about efforts to meet basic needs including housing and nutrition and see long-term improvements in education, household income, and health. We will visit public health clinics to learn about health systems and services. Students will learn to value small actions and basic interventions that can lead to positive health outcomes. We will collaborate with projects for children and families, participate in after-school crafts and sports programs, and tutor English to students. Students will learn about the culture and daily life by living with a homestay family. We will celebrate our experience with the community at a festive party on the last day. Students will also have time to enjoy the natural beauty of Costa Rica