About CEPIA Costa Rica

CEPIA is a costarican nationally accredited non-profit organization that since 2005 promotes culture, educational and labor opportunities, mental and physical health, participation, and social cohesion of children and teenagers and their families from poor backgrounds in the communities of Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

About our Founder

Laetitia Deweer worked as the executive director for 12 years, then as vice-president for 4 years and today she serves as the development director. Laetitia was born in Belgium in 1979 and as a university student, she participated in social projects in Guatemala and Mexico. At age 23 she moved to Costa Rica and worked in a family business on the pacific coast for one year before getting deeply involved as a volunteer with PANI (government child protection agency in Costa Rica). She founded CEPIA in 2005, together with her lifelong friend Lotje De Ridder, who now lives in Belgium.

Laetitia studied Educational Sciences with emphasis on Family Education at the University of Ghent in Belgium and Clinical Psychology at the Universidad Latina in Costa Rica. She also works as a private EMDR psychotherapist and transformational breathwork facilitator. Laetitia speaks Spanish, English, French, and Dutch. She is a fellow of the Central America Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Institute (USA).

Laetitia remembers how she first thought about this project. "It was around 20 years ago when I settled in Costa Rica and was working as a family counselor, that people started to recognize me in the village and ask me how I could help them with their difficult situation. The kids in the village wanted to do sports, learn to use a computer..."

How it all started

"I volunteered at first in the orphanage to really get in touch with the children. They had been abused and neglected for so many years... and I thought:

We should prevent this, we should try to help people when they are in need, at the moment they need the help. Some people were deeply suffering... Children were hanging out in the street all day, not knowing what to do, and really vulnerable to anyone who could take advantage of them or abuse them."

History of CEPIA

"When we started CEPIA with myself and some friends we suddenly had 50 children show up at the center the first week! They wanted to practice arts, they wanted to get to see these new laptops, and they wanted to get support, and some kids started to open up and talk about their dad beating them up, or their step-father abusing them and that's when we knew that this was an important initiative because kids finally had a place to feel safe. Kids needed to do something after school because they only had 4 hours a day school."

"Today you can ask people in any of these villages nearby if they know CEPIA and everyone knows CEPIA is protecting children. This is very important in an area with high rates of domestic violence and family disintegration."

Our founding members (2005) are: Laetitia Deweer, Lotje de Ridder, Caroline Lemaire, Van Salcedo, Gerardo Brenes Alfaro, Isabelle Vandevelde, Juliana Zuñiga Spano, Victor Ruiz Genoves.

Board of directors

Simona Danielle

Simona Danielle

President

Martin Salerno

Vice-President
Annginette Arroyo

Annginette Arroyo

Secretary
Vincent Barrabe

Vincent Barrabe

Treasurer
Wenceslao Mendioroz

Wenceslao Mendioroz

Vocal 1
Ana Margarita Elizondo

Ana Margarita Elizondo

Vocal 2
Roberto José Céspedes

Roberto José Céspedes

Vocal 3
Ana Catalina Baltodano

Ana Catalina Baltodano

Fiscal

Staff

Maria Jose Cappa

Maria Jose Cappa

Executive Director
Nancy Cespedes

Nancy Cespedes

Secretary
Cesar Abarca

César Abarca

Administrator
Laetitia Deweer

Laetitia Deweer

Director of Development & Strategy
Natasha Guerrero Rosales

Natasha Guerrero Rosales

Assistant, Intervention Center
Graciela Gómez Guevara

Graciela Gómez Guevara

Assistant, Intervention Center
Ana Laura Zelaya

Ana Laura Zelaya

Educational Coordinator, I.C.
Priscilla Arias Rodriguez

Priscilla Arias Rodriguez

After School Program & Volunteers
Karen Ruiz Obando

Karen Ruiz Obando

Physical Therapist
Karla Marin Rodríguez

Karla Marin Rodríguez

Youth Group Psychologist
Claudia Angulo

Claudia Angulo

Psychologist
Eleana Cristina Alcocer Ramirez

Eleana Cristina Alcocer Ramirez

Psychologist
Julieth Castañeda Ortiz

Julieth Castañeda Ortiz

English Teacher
Mauricio Juarez

Mauricio Juarez

Bus Driver

Juan

Bus Driver
Meilin Arleth Espinoza

Heyling Larios Fonseca

Assistant, Pre-School

Isela Massiel Viales Álvarez

Assistant, Intervention Center
Juan Fonseca

Juan Fonseca

Professional trainings and employment coordinator

Volunteers

CEPIA is looking for long term (min 6 weeks) volunteers with commitment, ethical behavior and social engagement. There are lots of different projects going on at the same time at CEPIA. You will receive a document about the projects and tasks for volunteers by email. At first you will integrate for a week in many different activities and programs, it seems chaotic but we expect flexibility and curiosity from you, go with the flow and participate fully in each moment.

There are different options for you to be a part of:

  • You can join an existing class, help the teacher or a volunteer leading the class, and maybe take over the class if the teacher or the volunteer leaves.
  • You can ask what activity you could realize in according to your own talents or interests: for example, an English class, yoga, arts & crafts, computer classes, environmental education, sports, …
  • You can make your very own project. Just make a proposal, we will help you.

The advantage of the third option is that you can do what you really like. You have the possibility to structure your project the way you like it. Brainstorm ideas before you come to CEPIA and communicate with CEPIA what you would like to do. In that way you won’t lose time making plans and you will be able to connect your passion with volunteering. Do not wait for someone to structure your day. The golden rule here is: Everything is possible; you just have to come up with ideas. We strongly advice you that you at least get to a good level of conversational level of Spanish before coming to CEPIA. It is hugely helpful and necessary to communicate with staff and children. The mayority of teachers and kids do not speak English.

Thanks!
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