Service work

Volunteer at Las Casas de la Selva, 2021

Voluntariado en Las Casas de la Selva, 2021

En el corazón de la Sierra de Cayey, en el municipio de Patillas, Puerto Rico, se encuentra nuestro proyecto y centro de investigación. Hemos abierto nuevamente el programa de voluntariado y estaremos aceptando solicitudes. Se escogerán voluntarios que deseen quedarse hasta tres meses para participar en nuestros proyectos. El programa incluye comidas y acomodo. Envíe una breve biografía, foto y CV, junto con un párrafo sobre lo que esperaría obtener de una experiencia como esta. Navegue por nuestro sitio web para comprender mejor este proyecto único de enriquecimiento de bosques y silvicultura sostenible, con 37 años de antigüedad y que ha sobrevivido a huracanes, terremotos y pandemias desde 1983. Contacto

Durante casi 40 años, nuestro proyecto ha dado la bienvenida a los huéspedes a la pintoresca granja de montaña boscosa de Las Casas de la Selva, en el sureste de la isla de Puerto Rico. Las medidas de seguridad de COVID-19 requieren que adaptemos nuestra hospitalidad, pero si bien nuestras operaciones serán diferentes, nuestra dedicación a los objetivos del proyecto y la exploración de nuestro potencial humano sigue siendo la misma. La seguridad de nuestros voluntarios, huéspedes y personal es de gran preocupación. Se requieren cubrimientos faciales en interiores. Todos debemos practicar el distanciamiento social parándonos al menos a seis pies de distancia entre nosotros y mientras nos movemos por la propiedad.

Este será un tiempo de tareas al aire libre, tranquilidad, menos gente, baños en el bosque, caminatas privadas, inmersiones en ríos, en este magnífico bosque de tabunuco, con espectaculares vistas del mar Caribe desde la montaña.

Volunteer at Las Casas de la Selva, 2021

In the heart of the Sierra de Cayey, in the municipality of Patillas, Puerto Rico, sits our research center homestead. We are re-opening our volunteer program, and accepting applications for volunteers who would like to stay for up to three months and partake in all our projects. Learning by Doing. The program includes food and accommodation. Please send a short bio, pic, and CV, along with a paragraph about what you would hope to get out of an experience like this. Please browse our website to gain some understanding of this unique 37-year-old sustainable forestry and rainforest enrichment project that has survived hurricanes, earthquakes, and pandemics, since 1983.  Contact

For nearly 40 years, our project has welcomed volunteers & guests to the scenic forested mountain homestead of Las Casas de la Selva, on the south east of the island of Puerto Rico. COVID-19 safety measures require us to adapt our hospitality but while our operations will be different, our dedication to the project’s aims and exploring our human potential remains the same. The safety of our volunteers, guests, and staff is of greatest concern. Face coverings are required while indoors. We all should practice social distancing by standing at least six feet away from each other, and while moving around the property.

This will be a time of out-door tasks, tranquility, fewer people, forest-bathing, private hikes, river-dips, in this magnificent tabunuco forest, with spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea from the mountain.

Americorps Youth 2018 at Las Casas de la Selva

Since June 2018 many Americorps youth in Puerto Rico, chose to come to Las Casas on their volunteer days. The tasks at the project, led by 3t, are always hard labor, but fun. The mountain breeze, along with the cold mountain water, and terrific views, make it a hard-to-resist location!

These wonderful teams have helped with all manner of tasks including clearing debris, gardening, digging out landslides, digging drainage ditches, bridge repair, general construction, and helping with main drive maintenance. We are really appreciative of the service ethic that these folks have demonstrated.

Americorps youth (who are here in Puerto Rico working with FEMA on hurricane relief), continue to volunteer at Las Casas in 2019. Thank you very much for your service!

All images by 3t Vakil
https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/what-americorps

Planting Vetiver – July 2017

Planting Vetiver for erosion control and bank stabilization.

Chrysopogon zizanioides, is commonly known as vetiver.

Vetiver grass has a special root system that works above and below ground, to ensure steep soil stabilization and erosion control. Vetiver’s roots grow downward, 2 metres (7 ft) to 4 metres (13 ft) in depth, deeper than some tree roots. The sturdy, hard stems create hedges, which act to protect the topsoil, dissipate wind and water energy, slow down water flow, trap sediments, and control water runoff. There are at least 11 species of vetiver and lots of cultigens and cultivars. There is one species, Chrysopogon zizanioides, that is sterile, so there is no concern about it being invasive.

This current planting project aims to protect our newly graded road, by stabilizing the banks.

Thanks to Alberto Rodriguez for the Vetiver.

And gratitude to Summer Powers, who brought her two friends, Serena Tsui and Katherine Tsui to volunteer as well, for ten days. (Summer first volunteered here in 2015 with a Globalworks Teen Team, lead by Scott Page). We love returners. Thank you ladies!

Please see this page for info about volunteering at Las Casas de la Selva, Patillas, Puerto Rico. We always appreciate the power of people who love our biosphere.

July 2017

Outdoor Adventure Field leaders in training – Oct 2016

These seven intrepid women from North Bay, Ontario, Canada are traveling through Puerto Rico, this October, as part of training to become Field leaders in expeditions. They stayed at Las Casas de la Selva and helped out for two days on manual labor tasks of clearing trails. Subjected to torrential rains, these ladies kept their smiles and energy high, and helped accomplish many tasks at hand.

Mackenzie Kerr said about this trip in advance: “We are a group of seven students in the Outdoor Adventure Naturalist program at Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley. We are raising money to get us to Puerto Rico and assess the current economic crisis they are facing. We will be using the money to help support local volunteer and ecotourism businesses and better understand how members of the community are faring.”

Mackenzie’s remarks from Ontario, after the trip to explore Puerto Rico:

“Myself, and team of Outdoor Adventure Naturalist felt enlightened and welcomed during our stay in Puerto Rico. Various individuals were willing to discuss environmental and economical concerns regarding the outdoor industry. We found ourselves emerged in various ecosystems through our time on the island. We were able to see caves, kayak, hike various trails, visit the national parks, volunteer and explore all that the natural environment of Puerto Rico had to offer. We found ourselves at the Eye on the Rainforest for a nights stay. We were very intrigued by the project and learning about how it functioned. We were welcomed with open arms. Our team found ourselves, regrouping and finding relaxation from our stay. As we reflect on our trip in its entirety it is safe to say we learned about the ecology that exists on the island. But we also learned about the fantastic people and outdoor adventure that it has to offer.”

Images by 3t Oct 2016

San Francisco Day School with Globalworks, May 2016!

This May another 60 students from San Francisco Day school came to Puerto Rico along with their staff, and on a Globalworks organized trip, they stayed all over the island, spending valuable time at Las Casas de la Selva, (20 at a time) during some torrential rainy weather, helping us with the mixing and pouring of a a new cement floor. Thanks to Globalworks staff, Ari W, Luis Bertolo, and PR Globalworks Director, Scott Page. The work was led by Andrés Rúa, and Norman Greenhawk. Thanks to Ricardo Valles, Alex Figueroa and Joel Bernier, for help with all the work. Yara Solis gave three full-on Salsa Dance classes, and Magha Garcia provided some of the finest Puerto Rican food on the island! Thanks to 3t Vakil and Irving Rappaport for images.

Thank you everyone, for all the great energy, even through some of the worst weather we have had this year!

Globalworks and Squaw Valley Preparatory School, April 2016

Globalworks provides intense adventure and service holidays for teenagers. We have collaborated with Globalworks since 2003, and we always have a great time, as well as getting a lot of work done! Twenty-two members, between 14 and 17 years of age, from the Squaw Valley Preparatory School, California, came to stay at Las Casas de la Selva with Scott Page, Director of Globalworks, Puerto Rico. Over a few days a huge amount of trailblazing was carried out, some cement work, and everyone partook in the salsa dance class with Yara Solis.. Thanks to Norman Greenhawk, who was the crew leader out in the forest. Thank you SVP staff Ms. Monica and Shana Boyd. Thanks to Hunter Banovich and Ms. Monica for their photos! Hope to see you all back here someday!

Pepperdine, App State, Fountain Valley: Volunteer Groups March 2016

These intrepid students from Fountain Valley High School, Colorado Springs spent 5 days of hard labor on projects ranging from nursery work and trail-blazing with 3t, to roadwork with Andres, and woodworking with Ricardo and Alex. This is the third year of FVS students volunteering at Las Casas de la Selva. We are honored to have worked alongside you all. Welcome back anytime! Thanks to Deb and Brett, awesome staff who accompanied the students. Also huge thanks to Magha Garcia for the delicious food. Check back in the coming weeks for more pix.

This was our 2016 Appalachian State University Team of hardworking volunteers on their Alternative Service Experience during Spring Break. We all worked on a multitude of tasks at Las Casas de la Selva, including organization of the sheds and workshop, deconstruction of an old roof, and ditch-digging for a new floor. AS Staff member, Mona helped in the library with cleaning abd book maintenance and care. We are thrilled every year to receive students from App State and every year just gets better. Abbie (her second year at Las Casas de la Selva) and Lucas – hats off to you for great team leadership. We thank you all for your labors, along with the fine company. See you soon again. Thanks also to Lizbeth Velez for participation with the groups, helping in all aspects of management.
Great team from Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA. This team built the two extra showers, that we need as some of our groups in the year are over 15 people. The year’s compost pile was emptied and a new one started. Thank you Carsen and Kris for leading the team and thank you all for such tremendous company and hard work. This team lived in a mountain cloud for the most part of their time here. It rained a lot!

Fountain Valley High School March 2015

Fountain Valley High School from Colorado Springs, in their second annual collaboration with Las Casas de la Selva. This team of enthusiastic teenagers worked on the ethnobotanical trail, helped grade the main drive, helped in the wood workshop, learnt how to use a lathe with Andres Rua, and turn wood, had a Puertorrican cooking class with Magha Garcia Medina, enjoyed a salsa dance class with Yara, and after an afternoon at the beach, Villa Pesqueras in Patillas, and a wonderful dinner at Habitarte, Route PR 15, with Wanda and Riccardo. It was a pleasure to get to know you all.

Appalachian State University ASB March 2015

In their third year of collaboration with Las Casas de la Selva, this App State Team worked hard on maintenance of the main drive, our life-line to the outside. In amongst all this manual labor we ate well, thanks to Magha Garcia Medina, and also visited the Habitarte Project on Route PR 15. Thanks to Wanda and Riccardo for hosting us for an evening. We also took the team to swim and kayak off the spectacular Villa Pesquera, Patillas Beach. Several of the team were lucky to swim with three manatees that frequent this zone. Thank you App State…hope we see you back next year!

Pepperdine University – Getting down and dirty! March 2015

Pepperdine University students spent seven days at Las Casas de la Selva, helping with various tasks led by Andrés Rúa, ranging from plastering the new retaining wall and walls on the main house, as well as work on the ethnobotanical trail, step-building, pruning, and prepping surfaces for more work. This team were lucky to have a cooking class with renowned gourmet chef Magha Garcia Medina, and a rocking Salsa Dance Class with Yara Soler Garcia.

We had a superb time with this team, and we thank you all for all the joy and enthusiasm that you brought to the project. Please revisit in the future! Thanks also to William Robinson who has been volunteering here for one month.

On the second day of the group’s visit, Simarouba, our beautiful white cat gave birth to 5 kittens. Magha Garcia Medina takes the students on an exploration of the foods of Puerto Rico, and we end up with a Sancocho for dinner. If you have never had Sancocho, here’s the place to come and try it!

Globalworks at Las Casas de la Selva July 2014

Thank you Globalworks, we appreciate all your hard work on the forest road, pruning, and working on drainage ditches. The help in the gardens was also great, clearing vines and digging the soil to loosen it all up.

For 23 years, Global Works has been providing exceptional Community Service, Cultural Exchange, Adventure Travel, and Language Immersion programs for teens, which foster personal growth and promote social and cultural awareness for the participant and the communities involved.

Appalachian State University March 9-15, 2014

Appalachian State University students worked really hard on a diversity of projects at Las Casas de la Selva; plastering the bunkhouse, making a ramp for access to the dining room, pruning, gardening, nursery work, moving soil, making a new compost, emptying the humanure compost ready for use, and many other tasks. Wow! We thank you all for being such wonderful company this last week. We’ll see you again!

Vanderbilt University March 1-8, 2014

Vanderbilt University students have just spent several days with us at Las Casas de la Selva, and we have had a super time, working hard! Students learnt the art of plastering on the bunkhouse, led by Andres, and also helped with heavy labor and soil renewal on the Papaya Terraces with 3t. In their time here, they also got to do a leaf litter study with Norman and hiked into the forest. Thank you for your remarkable teamwork, and thanks Zach and Julia, team leaders who did a great job. We salute you all! Come back and see us again soon.

Vella Lovell, a student at The Julliard School of Dance, Drama and Music, NY, volunteered at Las Casas de la Selva for the days that Vanderbilt University students were here. Thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm lovely lady!

Fryeburg Academy February 12-20, 2014

3t, Andrés, Norman and Magha appreciate the work and great company of Fryeburg students, February 2014

This wonderful team from Fryeburg Academy, worked with Andres and 3t to build the new nursery for the endangered endemic tree planting program. We have had a super time and we thank you all for help in clearing, pruning, tidying, and generally being a great clean-up crew on the homestead too! And in rainy conditions! The team also spent time with Norman on trail work, and carried out a frog study on a night-hike.

Thanks to Chris and Emily for bringing such a great team our way this year. We look forward to seeing Daniel at age three next year!

This program has been formulated to protect endangered flora and fauna by planting endangered endemic tree species, and working on habitat enhancement in subtropical wet forest. The location and the quality of the habitat of the 930-acre forest property of Las Casas de la Selva is ideal for the establishment of projects toward the recovery of various endangered endemic tree species. The property’s north-eastern border adjoins the Carite State Forest which contains another 6,660 acres of subtropical wet mountain forest land.

Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation are collaborating with US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop habitat enhancement and restoration projects that benefit endangered endemic species of Puerto Rico

See images of this area being cleared by the last team from Vanderbilt University in December 2013.

Creating a new space

Vanderbilt Alternative Winter Break.

These students worked with Andrés and 3t on the reparation of a broken fence and gate and also completely pruned back an overgrown area that will house the new tree nursery. The weather was rainy for most of the time, so kudos to the team for staying on task and getting the work done. Norman Greenhawk and Magha Garcia Medina provided delicious food for the group, and they also got a night hike led by Norman. Thanks everyone for a week of super work. Now a few days of a Christmas break before we get ready for our next Earthwatch team arriving on the 28th December.

Thank You Vanderbilt Winter Breakers! We appreciate your time and effort in helping us with our goals.

Sally & Sean

When great friends come to visit! 3t’s friend Sally J. Richardson, and her 17 year old nephew, Sean Hitchcock, visited for three weeks, and in their time at Las Casas, helped with all aspects of homestead life and assisted magnificently with the organization and work with Globalworks teenagers and the Upward Bound Appalachian team. Sean, you were a star and we really appreciated your hard work in the field with the teams, and your quiet getting on with everything, and we especially loved your smile! Sally, tremendous gratitude for your upbeat humor in all situations and your generosity. We loved having you both here!

We did let them off the ranch a few times, and we did visit El Morro Fort in Old San Juan on a beautiful day. Sally and Sean went snorkeling on a Catamaran trip around Icacos and Lobos islands of the NE coast. They also managed to squeeze in a kayak trip in the Bioluminescent bay. A bio bay is a body of water that contains millions of micro-organisms, called “dinoflagellates”, that glow in the dark for a second when agitated. It is a rare, natural wonder that Sally and Sean were lucky enough to experience.