A Heart to Heart with Costa Rica’s Abriendo Mentes


It is a hot & dry Wednesday in the Guanacaste province of Costa Rica when I show up at the small office of Abriendo Mentes to meet with Country Director, Rachael Sine. As a Kind Charity Partner, we have spoken via email and over the phone, but now we finally get to meet in person.  

Abriendo Mentes is a Costa Rican non-profit empowering individuals from local rural/underserved communities to develop the skills they need to seize educational and economic opportunities for themselves and their families.

By teaching computer skills and providing English classes to both youth & adults, Abriendo Mentes enables its community to become economically stable through steady job placement. Their programs are thoughtfully developed to address the unique education and community development needs of the villages where they are specifically located. 

The office is crowded with a recent donation of children’s clothes and the only space to be found in the room is at the single desk with three chairs surrounding it. I go to sit down & Rachael quickly says, "be careful, that chair is a little broken, but it still works." Smiling, I respond, "No worries" and ask about the stairs I see leading up to an open floor above. Rachael shares that the room upstairs is another small space that they sometimes use for classes but as the air conditioning doesn’t reach up there, they only tend to use it when they need extra space. "You can only sweat for so long," she says laughing. 

Joining in with her laughter, I launch into my first question, truly interested in how Rachael (previously living in Philadelphia) first ended up with Abriendo Mentes over five years ago. 

So Rachael, tell me the story of how you ended up in Costa Rica with Abriendo Mentes? 

I have been with Abriendo Mentes for over five years actually and started as a volunteer back in 2012. I was looking for some new experience in the nonprofit world, in Latin America specifically, and I came to Abriendo Mentes as and intern for about six months. I am from Philadelphia originally and after my volunteer stint, I was back in Philly working but always wanted to come back. An opportunity opened up to come back & work in Costa Rica with Abriendo Mentes so I jumped on board and that was over five years ago now. I have been Director of the organization for just over three years. In my different roles with Abriendo Mentes, I have gotten to see a lot of different phases of the organization. We were smaller back then and now we have been around for over 11 years helping the community.

That’s incredible. Can you share more about how Abriendo Mentes has changed over time? 

We are still a small team, but we now operate in two communities: here in Protero, where we were founded in 2009 and Brasilito, also a town in the Guanacaste Province. We started with just simple, informal English classes. {All of a sudden Rachael turns around and points} Right here, actually at this restaurant you see across the street? The owner of the restaurant asked the founders of Abriendo Mentes to give their kids a few English lessons. And that is how it all started. Other people in the community started to bring their kids and the founders realized there was a need that they could help fill. From there, they recognized not just the need for English classes, but also the need for extra curricular activities. We got a donation of computers and were able to start computer classes. We also now offer some adult education classes. Today, we have a summer program happening to support kids whose parents are at work & have nowhere to go during the day.

So incredibly empowering. What would you say are the most impactful programs at Abriendo Mentes? 

Definitely our after-school program for kids. We offer about 8 hours of extracurricular activities a week for children. It has not only improved their English level, computer competency skills, but it also has become a safe haven for kids to go. School in Costa Rica is only 4 hours a day and there are no community spaces other than the school. Being able to provide such a space is really important for the children. 

Wow. Only four hours in school. So, how can someone traveling to Costa Rica help? Or even someone not in the country help? 

We love hosting volunteers. It is particularly helpful if the volunteer has an expertise to share with the community. When we get contacted by someone who wants to volunteer we encourage them to share what they know really well! We can always use supplies. Supplies for our classrooms, art supplies, school supplies, soccer balls. And of course, if people want to donate. We are a non-profit so we survive on donations. Subscribe to our newsletter, supporting us in those ways are huge. 

I sit back in my chair and say thank you so much to Rachael, who offers to show me the Abriendo Mentes classroom down the street. Happily, I jump up and say yes. We walk down the street and Rachael points out that we are in the center of town. We walk past a large soccer field on our left and a beautiful church on our right. Two boys bike by us and wave at Rachael.

Rachael lifts up her hand and points to a building in front of us and I see a crowd of kids laughing and joking around. “There it is," she says. 

We walk into the classroom & I see a small room filled with art supplies, old desktop dell computers, and drawings covering the walls. Rachael explains that in this room they have a range of 20-35 kids at any given time. She shows how they transform the classroom for computer classes (putting 2-3 kids at each computer) to opening up the space for art activities.

As we leave, one of the kids, probably about four years old, waves and says to me ‘Have a good day.' I smile, hearing this proof of the way that Abriendo Mentes is empowering youth in the local community. 


Kind Traveler offers exclusive hotel rates and perks upon a $10 nightly donation to Abriendo Mentes, or to any Kind Charity. 100% of donations go to charity. A $10 donation to Abriendo Mentes will provide school supplies for one child. 

Visit all Kind Traveler Hotels in Costa Rica. 

Learn more about Abriendo Mentes' wish list. 


Bio: Helena Faye Huizenga is a traveling yogi and yoga instructor seeking to inspire slow travel experiences that encourage others to explore destinations with purpose and intention.