Volunteer Work in South Africa: A Comprehensive Guidebook

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A gorgeous country located at the Southern tip of the African peninsula where the 2 great oceans meet – South Africa is nothing short of a paradise for travelers and backpackers. Whether you are a beach lover or a wildlife enthusiast, or maybe just keen to explore the roads less traveled – this country has all that you are seeking. With its diverse landscapes, incredible wildlife, warm people, a perfect balance of history & modernity, and meaningful volunteering opportunities – this is the perfect place for those who wish travel with a purpose.

For all those who are planning to set out for a volunteering journey in South Africa and have a lot of questions in mind, this Comprehensive Guidebook might just help you in clearing your doubts.

Which volunteer programs are available in South Africa?

Volunteer programs in South Africa are available in 2 major cities – Cape Town has 5 different kinds of projects, and the Wildlife Reserve Volunteering Program is in Port Elizabeth.

2 Weeks Special Voluntour, Cape Town

short term volunteering in South Africa

Aptly designed for those who have a time crunch, this 2 Weeks Special Volunteer & Travel Program will not only let you experience the goodness of working for the development of an underprivileged township, but also take you for a tour of Cape Town as well as a thrilling jungle safari. Being a part of this project, you’ll be placed in and around Cape Town wherein you will be volunteering at childcare centers and creches mainly. Your main role would be to look after the little ones on a daily basis, feed them, teach them, play with them – but above all, shower them with utmost love and care. This program would be perfect for high school & college students looking for a meaningful volunteering experience during the course break.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $695, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation, Weekend Excursions & City Tours, and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

Childcare & Social Welfare Volunteering Program

2 weeks special in South Africa

If you love to be with children, then this project would be the apt one for you! The underprivileged townships in and around Cape Town have several childcare centers where you’ll be placed, to make a difference in the lives of the little ones through your effective contribution. As a volunteer, you’ll have to work alongside the local staff or supervisors at the project and plan different activities with the children, in order to keep them engaged all day long. Plan the activities thoughtfully, so that the kids can also learn some lessons from them. Most of all, you should focus on showering these little ones with utmost love and care, since they are either orphans or often neglected by their families.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $495, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

Sports Development Program

sports development south africa

If you are a sports lover and confident that you have the zeal to train the primary & high school students to develop their skills, then this volunteering program is meant for you. As a volunteer for the Sports Development Program, you’ll mostly be working closely with the schools in the suburban and township areas of Cape Town, aiming to provide sports training as well as life skills such as teamwork and endurance to students and youth. Physical fitness and sportsman spirit is something that not only helps one to be strong in the game but in life as well. Most of the schools don’t have adequate types of equipment needed for sports and there’s a lack of basic resources and infrastructure, so you’ll have to be prompt in finding alternate methods. Rest assured, being a coach will be immensely satisfying and you never know, you might just end up training a Rooney or Messi!

Note: The Sports Development Coaching is usually for 1-2 hours daily and for the rest of the day, volunteers will have to teach in the classrooms or assist the teachers with their lesson planning.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $495, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

Volunteer Teaching Program

teaching volunteering in south africa

In order to be a volunteer teacher in Cape Town, you don’t need any previous experience or the TEFL Certificate. All you need is the patience to help the children learn and see them grow under your wings. As a volunteer, you will be placed in primary and secondary schools, in the suburbs and township areas of Cape Town. Most of the children studying in these schools come from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds. The schools are overcrowded usually, and the teacher-student ratio is extremely poor. Thus, you’ll get to play an important role in shaping the lives of these children. You can teach them English, Maths, Geography & Science as well as boost their interests for extra-curricular activities.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $495, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

Healthcare Volunteer Program

Healthcare Volunteer Program south africa

Are you a medical or nursing student or a medical practitioner looking for a medical volunteering program abroad? The Healthcare Volunteering Program in South Africa would be a perfect choice, which will not only enable you to work for the poorer sections of the society but also give you an idea about the healthcare scenario in the region. As a medical volunteer, you will be placed in healthcare clinics and day hospitals located in Cape Town as well as suburban community areas. These are usually small centers, treating people who usually can’t afford private medical care. The services provided here are minor in nature and they cater for out-patients. No major surgeries/ operations are performed here. You will be working alongside the professional doctors and nurses, shadowing and assisting them. You might also need to organize Awareness Campaigns, Health Information Counselling Sessions etc. Overall, it’ll be an incredible learning journey for you.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $495, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

Wildlife Reserve Volunteering Program

VolSol_SouthAfrica_Volunteering

Are you a wildlife enthusiast who’s keen on volunteering with animals and help them have a better life? Your wait is over because that’s exactly what the Wildlife Rescue Center Project in South Africa has to offer. As a volunteer, you’ll be placed at a rescue center located around 45 minutes outside mainland Port Elizabeth, and it has a diverse flora & fauna including the African BIG 5. Volunteers will be working in groups, under the supervision of the mentor. It’ll be an incredible opportunity to stay close to nature, track the animals (including lions and elephants), clean the forest area, carry out anti-poaching campaigns and a lot more. It’ll be a learning experience for you while doing something worthy for the environment.

Program Fee – The cost for 2 weeks would be $1100, which will include Airport Pick-up, Accommodation, Meals, Project Orientation and 24/7 in-country support. A part of this fee also goes for the development of the project.

What Are the Requirements to Be a Volunteer in South Africa?

In order to be a volunteer for any of the above-mentioned programs in South Africa, you should be at least 18 years old or more. You must have an adaptive, flexible and patient attitude, and willing to live out of your comfort zone.

You can volunteer as an individual or in groups (students, corporate or friends), and/or with your family & friends. It is essential for you to know that volunteering is a serious task and needs immense focus and sincerity. So, if you have the motivation to help others, the dedication of being a part of a meaningful project and the enthusiasm to travel abroad to do something worthy, we believe that you can be a volunteer.

It is essential for a volunteer to be open-minded and understand that no luxuries would be available on this journey.

Volunteers who are keen to work with children for any project (Childcare, Teaching, Sports Development) will have to provide the Criminal Background Check Report. Medical volunteers will have to provide their college enrollment documents and a copy of their passport.

What Kind Of Accommodation & Meals Can I Expect In South Africa?

A volunteering journey isn’t like another other normal vacation, hence you shouldn’t expect a very luxurious accommodation. However, at Volunteering Solutions, our aim is to provide comfortable living facilities to all our volunteers and we’ll ensure that you get to have a ‘Home Away From Home’ experience.

Accommodation & Meals at Cape Town

volunteer accommodation in cape town- volsol
Here, volunteers usually live at the hostel or with a host family. The volunteer hostel provides dormitory-style accommodations facilities and it’s situated near the Observatory and Sea Point area of Cape Town. Staying at the hostel with other volunteers will be absolutely amazing and fun filled. In the evenings, volunteers usually organize different activities in the house like movie nights in the lounge or having a braai, which is a South African barbeque! The hostel has a very hippie feel, with backpacker’s style sleeping arrangement and can accommodate about 4 to 8 people in a room. All modern amenities are available at the volunteer hostel. Volunteers will get 2 meals a day (weekdays – Monday to Friday) – a healthy breakfast consisting of eggs, cereals, fruit, toast, tea/coffee, etc. and dinner at a nearby restaurant where a set, wholesome meal will be provided to each volunteer. During the weekends, you can eat the restaurants of your choice or go out exploring the food scenes in Cape Town!

Other than that, volunteers can also stay with a host family for a deeper cultural experience. Know more about the traditions and lifestyle of your hosts, and you’ll be absolutely touched by their warmth. At the host’s place, you’ll get 3 meals a day – breakfast, packed lunch & dinner, on all 7 days. It’ll be amazing to taste the authentic South African cuisine, and you can also help them in cooking! It’s gonna be a great opportunity for you to learn some delicious recipes, which you can try once you head back home.

Accommodation & Meals at Port Elizabeth

volunteer accommodation in Port elizabeth- volsol
Volunteers will be living in a dorm-style accommodation close to the Wildlife Rescue Center. Rooms will be allotted on the same gender sharing basis. If you are travel with your partner and looking forward to sharing a room together, you need to inform us beforehand, so that we can make adequate arrangements (it also depends on the availability). Basic amenities are available at the accommodation. Laundry facility is also available for two days in a week at an extra cost. Volunteers will be provided with meals on all 7 days of the week. The usual breakfast will consist of cereals, bread, butter, jam, tea, coffee, and cheese, but sometimes volunteers are also served eggs, sausages or baked beans, and sometimes a combination of the both.

When Do I Need To Arrive In South Africa For My Program? What Will Happen Once I Arrive?

Cape Town

Volunteers will have to arrive in Cape Town on a Sunday (kindly check the program dates mentioned on the website). Our country coordinator will be there at the airport to greet you and take you to the accommodation where you can rest. On Monday, there will be an Orientation Session where you’ll be given a detailed idea about the project work, transportation, culture, lifestyle etc., – precisely, everything that one needs to know while volunteering in South Africa. From Tuesday to Friday, you’ll be visiting the project site. During the weekends, you can head out and explore the beautiful Cape Town.

Port Elizabeth

You need to arrive at Port Elizabeth on a Monday (kindly check the program dates mentioned on the website) before 4 PM. The country coordinator will be there to receive you at the airport and take you to the volunteer’s accommodation. On Tuesday, there will be the detailed Orientation Session, and from Wednesday, you’ll kickstart your project work.

How To Get The Visa For South Africa?

With the exception of citizens of a few countries (including the USA, UK, Australia, and others), visas are not required for an intended stay of up to 90 days. Visitors will be granted a 90-day visa upon arrival in South Africa provided you have your full return flight details and a valid passport. You can also check here, to know which countries are visa exempt for 90 days.

Passports should be valid for at least six months (please ensure you have at least 2 empty pages in your passport before arriving in South Africa or they may not let you enter). If you are planning to join our longer volunteer programs (for more than 90 days), you must apply for the visa in advance in your home country and we shall provide you with the supporting documents. Also, it is essential to have a Yellow Fever Vaccine Certificate while traveling to South Africa.

For more information regarding the Visa, you can get in touch with the Program Advisor.

What Are The Dos & Don’ts That Needs To Be Followed In South Africa?

We always advise our volunteers to follow the basic dos and don’ts in the host country, so that the people don’t get offended. Like any other country in the world, South Africa has its own share of cultural sensitivities which are important to keep in mind before beginning your trip to South Africa. Also, if the locals see you doing it their way, they’ll accept you as one of them and it’ll help you further at your project work.

Dos

  • Always greet someone when you meet them. You can either shake hands or raise your hands and do a ‘High 5’ gesture (considered as a friendly approach) in order to acknowledge their presence.
  • Take permission before clicking someone’s photograph. Africans have the superstition that the camera will absorb their ‘essence’ of life, hence they are usually a pretty skeptic of getting clicked.
  • Dress moderately, especially when you are going for the project work.
  • Always leave a tip when you eat at a restaurant.
  • If someone gifts you something, open and see it in front of them. It’s a gesture to show that you like the present and appreciate it.
  • Also, make sure to accept the gift with your right hand and open it using your right hand as well.
    Try to avoid intense religious or political conversations, that might upset their sentiments.

Don’ts

  • Don’t call the locals as ‘blacks’ or ‘negroes’ – they find it very offensive. Also, try to avoid calling them ‘Africans’ as they might feel you are trying to focus on their ethnicity.
  • Don’t take photographs of the government buildings without seeking prior permission.
  • Never leave food on your plate at a guest’s place – it is seen as a sign of wastage. You must take the quantity that you can finish.
  • Never touch anyone (especially women) on the arms or their waist. Try to avoid physical contact as much as possible.
  • Women shouldn’t wear skimpy clothes while exploring the public places or markets. However, it’s fine if you are at the beach!
  • During the wildlife safaris, never imitate the animals or repeat their calls, and never throw anything towards them.

What Are The Things To Do In South Africa During My Volunteer Trip?

South Africa is a gorgeous country and there are too many things to be explored! If you’re eager for that extra dose of an adrenaline rush, don’t miss out the thrilling adventure sports that will surely help you in creating memories for a lifetime.

It’s good if you can make your bucket list beforehand and do all that your heart calls for. Here’s a list of things to do and places to visit during your volunteer vacation in the Rainbow Nation!

table mountain

1. Take a cable car ride or go for a hike up the Table Mountain. The view of Cape Town from the top would be absolutely breathtaking. You’ll probably get to witness the most Instagrammable view of the city!

2. There’s no end to adventure sports when it comes to South Africa! And you can’t miss trying out the thrilling shark cage diving. Go underwater, and get closer to the diverse varieties of sharks who call the waters around Cape Town, home.

3. Visit the different museums of Cape Town and learn more about the history of the country.

4. How can you miss visiting the African Penguins Colony? Take a walk down the Boulders Beach and meet the adorable penguins living there.

5. Go for a hike at Chapman’s Peak, a mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, between Hout Bay and Noordhoek in Cape Town.

6. Take a day trip to Robben Island, which has been marked as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and explore the pristine beaches. It’s the place which was home for several political prisoners under apartheid, and you can also visit the Nelson Mandela Gateway located in the island.

7. Go for a wine tasting tour at Helderberg – the largest wine-producing area in the Western Cape of South Africa.

8. Take a ‘Hop On Hop Off’ City Sightseeing Bus – it’s one of those services that are tried & tested and it’s surely gonna be a very fun filled way of seeing the Cape Town’s main attractions.

9. Keen on learning how to surf? Some of Cape Town’s best beaches (including Clifton Beach, Muizenberg Beach, Camps Bay Beach etc) have provisions for surfing lessons, and you can just become a pro in the sport!

10. Find yourself amidst the lush greenery at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and go for a soothing treetop canopy walkway called the “Boomslang”. This garden was marked as the “International Garden of the Year” by the International Garden Tourism Awards Body in 2015 and it’s surely worth visiting.

11. You can check out the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay. This weekend shindig has over 80 trader stalls filled with delightful goods, delicious food stalls and also features live music and much more.

12. Explore the Cape of Good Hope – a rocky headland that’s on the coast of the Cape Peninsula and is known as one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean.

13. Go for a long drive on the Garden Route with your new travel mates. Stop at the Garden Route National Park on the way.

14. Visit the Kruger National park for the ultimate wildlife safari experience and get to spot the African Big 5 amidst the wilderness. Opt to stay for a night in the camp and gaze at the starlit sky for an even more thrilling experience.

15. You can also visit the Addo Elephant National Park, Augrabies Falls National Park, West Coast National Park among others.

Why Should I Choose to Volunteer with Volunteering Solutions in South Africa?

If this question is popping up in your mind, know that you aren’t alone! Almost every person who decides to travel abroad to volunteer has some doubts and faces the trouble of choosing one organization through which they can fulfill their dreams. When we ask you to join our programs, it’s obvious that this particular question will come to your mind.

With its presence in more than 20 destinations all across the globe, Volunteering Solutions (Vol Sol) provides a plethora of volunteering programs in each of these destinations. In the last 11 years, since its inception, Vol Sol has placed more than 13,200 international volunteers on different projects as well as internship programs and has helped them nurture in their personal and professional lives.

Vol Sol values the importance of ethical and successful volunteering, and through its deep knowledge in this field, it places a candidate into a program which suits him/her the best, according to the field of interest, skills, and educational background. The projects available in South Africa have been designed in a way that both the giver and the receiver are equally benefited.

Vol Sol works in associated with locals NGOs, schools, hospitals, orphanages, wildlife rescue centers and other social welfare organizations in the country. It is ensured by the dedicated VolSol team that volunteers/interns have a smooth and memorable journey while traveling, and they get to learn from their peers as well.

From the time a candidate generates a query, through the process of clearing doubts, filling the application form, making payments, access to Pre-Departure Guidebook, and reaching the volunteering placement location followed by Program Orientation – the VolSol Team takes care of everything. We have in-country coordinators and representatives who are specially appointed to help volunteers at the project sites.

Apart from these, Vol Sol provides help in various important divisions, such as;
● Providing Medical and Travel insurance at a nominal extra cost
● Raising fund for volunteers who face financial crunch to sponsor their trip
● Weekend excursions and safaris in South Africa
● Vehicle facilities for local traveling and airport drop for a minimal extra cost

Also, once you finish your project, you’ll be awarded with a Certificate of Completion which will immensely affect your career ahead. Volunteering with Vol Sol will help you to boost your CV/ Resume and also broaden your social network. To say the least, it’ll be a journey that you will cherish forever.

Reviews From Past Volunteers

volsol review

Bethany Gordon (United States), 2 Weeks Special Voluntour

“This is the most incredible experience of my life and I am thankful towards Volunteering Solutions for making this even better for us by guiding us at every step. I feel like the luckiest girl in the whole world. I spent the last two weeks with the most amazing people and children. I really enjoyed teaching the children and made many little friends in the orphanage school. I loved being with the children and I will come again for them. This was by far the best decision I could have made to come to South Africa and volunteer. I will cherish these friendships forever.

On the weekend, I took a safari trip, which included elephant interaction and lion walking. I also took the helicopter tour of the Cape Town city and the views are amazing and beyond imagination. I have volunteered with one of my best friends so we did Skydiving and Shark cage diving together.

Thanks for all the memories, South Africa. I will treasure this experience always and remember each of these smiles for a lifetime.”

Leena_taha

Leena Taha (Saudi Arabia), Healthcare Volunteering Program

“I’ve learned a lot in the span of two weeks, both from the clinic and from my host family. Country Coordinators were welcoming and helpful. The overall living experience was excellent. It was very comfortable and homely stay with all the facilities that I could have asked for.

The host family is the most generous home I’ve been in. I feel like they went above and beyond in making my stay safe and enjoyable. They deserve a raise 🙂

The experience was definitely worthwhile. Even though I’m a medical student I’m still in pre-clinical years so this was my first hands-on experience. I particularly learned from the practitioner nurses.

The family I stayed with, the nurses and patients that accepted me despite me being new to the clinic and the beauty of Cape Town were highlights of my volunteering journey to South Africa.”

If you wish, you can read more Reviews from the volunteers on our Facebook Page. Also, take a quick look at the amazing photographs that our volunteers share with us, on our Instagram profile.

For more information about volunteering in South Africa, you can simply drop us a mail at [email protected]


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