Volunteering Solutions provides affordable and meaningful opportunities for those who are keen on volunteering with children in the Port Elizabeth region of South Africa. The program is located at the Walmer Township, a relatively calm and easily accessible area. Poverty, child neglect, alcohol abuse and a high unemployment rate are some of the many challenges this community faces on a day-to-day basis. The diversity of needs and great lack of services for this community shows in terms of a shortage of educational institutes. There are only 2 primary schools and 1 high school available to the children of Walmer.
Being a volunteer for the childcare project, you'll be playing a crucial role in the lives of the little ones who have to deal directly or indirectly with HIV/AIDS. They are for example orphaned and are living with family members (e.g. grandparents) because their parents died of AIDS-related diseases. The number of absentees at school is high due to a lack of guidance, family support, and financial means. Volunteers are expected to guide and support these children through mentorship and social support.
While this would be a challenging task, it'll be equally satisfying as well. Shower the children with utmost love and care, teach them basic lessons, help them dream and also guide them to live a happy & healthy life.
This volunteering program would be perfect for high school and college students as well as gap year travelers and backpackers who are eager to be a part of social change through some active contribution.
Volunteers must be 17 years or older at the time of joining the project. Participants should have an open mind and flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment. Volunteers need to be flexible, open-minded and have a passion for working with children. You should also be proactive and have an ability to take initiative All volunteers must provide a clean criminal background check report prior to joining the program. A parental consent form shall be required for Under 18 participants joining the program.
Volunteer Roles & Responsibilities
Your role will vary depending on the kind of work you choose. Volunteers joining this program can opt for any of the following, according to their interests and preferences:
Dancing Program: Assist Florence Mtengwana, a local traditional dancer who's working with children of the township and offering them a positive way of learning about their own Xhosa culture. There will be about 30 - 35 children who attend Florence's classes every day, and she aims at offering the children a fun way of dancing, learning about their culture and to stimulate their creativity. Florence also hosts workshops at day care centers and several crèches. Being a part of the Dancing Project will enable you to understand the culture more deeply while handling these little ones, and of course, you can also pick up some dancing skills!
Preschool Program: Volunteers can help at different preschools or crèches caring for 20-30 children between the ages of 3-6 years, by giving individual care and assistance to the children. It sounds so simple but with the daily individual attention, you can really help these children. You can for example; teach them the English alphabet, how to count or to learn about animals. Organizing and playing games can also be a part of your tasks. As a volunteer, you play a big part in the individual development of the children.
Primary School & Sports Program: There are 2 primary schools in the township where volunteers can work with children between the ages of 6-12 years. Due to inadequate teaching staff, these kids don't get enough attention. Hence, your major role as a volunteer would be to guide these children and help them learn basic English & Maths. There will also be sports classes from Monday to Thursday for about one and a half hours, where you can coach the children. On Friday we offer a swimming program for children between 6-9 years old and we provide transport to a heated indoor swimming pool in winter or an outdoor swimming pool in summer where we give basic swimming lessons.
Volunteer Work Schedule
This depends on which project you will be working at. Normally we work weekdays from 8:30 am until 3.30pm, Friday until 12 noon and weekends are off. Some projects, however, might start earlier and in the summertime, due to the heat, hours can change. You'll be notified for the same once you join the program.
The program starts on Monday and the volunteers will have to arrive that day. You will be picked up at either the airport or any accommodation in Port Elizabeth on Monday morning, after which you will have time to settle in and explore the area. Tuesday will be your introduction day at the project. If you arrive before Monday we can assist with accommodation at a backpackers or guesthouse for you.
Note: Participation is per full weeks only and the project will be closed for about 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s every year.
Volunteers are picked up from the Port Elizabeth Airport on the program start date i.e Monday and dropped off back to the airport after their project stay is over. Daily transportation to and from project placement to the accommodation is also included in your program fee.
Upon arrival all volunteers are given a detailed welcome pack with information guide, free sim card, maps etc. Volunteers are also given an introduction to the program as well as a tour of the area around before starting their program.
Volunteers in the Port Elizabeth program are provided accommodation at a backpacker lodge.
Superbly located in a prime spot in Port Elizabeth, close to beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife, the accommodation is a comfortable and relaxing space that volunteers can call home. Rated as 3-star backpackers by The South African Grading Council, the lodge is a quiet sanctuary where volunteers can find relax and enjoy this time with others. It is a place where friendships are forged, and memories are made.
The Lodge is made up of various spaces, living areas, bathrooms and 3 bedrooms with other rooms optional for couples and older volunteers. The house has a nice entertainment area with barbecue (braai) facilities, a comfortable lounge with fireplace and a sparkling pool that you can happily dive into on a hot day. A great area to socialize with your fellow volunteers from all over the world. The interior of the Lodge is laid back and cosy with an African feel.
Note: If you would like to have a private room, we will gladly see if we can arrange that for the small surcharge per week. Couples and older volunteers will have a preference for private rooms if available, but if you want to be guaranteed a private room we will have to charge this extra fee. Let us know if you want more information.
Three meals per day are included and we work on a set menu per week, lovingly prepared by our cook with your assistance. There is free coffee, tea and drinking water available at any time.For breakfast you will have continental buffet with a choice of bread, fruit, yoghurt, cereals and/or eggs. For lunch, you can make your own sandwiches with cheese, marmalade, cold meat or other spreads to take with you to the project. Dinners are a variety of hearty healthy meals such as soups, stews, pies, oven dishes and other options.
We cater for vegetarians and vegans but please inform us before arriving to prepare accordingly.
During your Free Time
You will have the weekend free wherein you will have time to explore other locations in South Africa as well.You can choose to fly into Cape Town for the weekend and explore the city or just spend the weekend chilling at the volunteer house with other likeminded volunteers from around the world.Other activities that you can get involved in include sandboarding down the giant dunes, having close encounters with peaceful pachyderms at Addo Elephant Park, hiking in the lush coastal countryside around Port Elizabeth…and much more
Please Note: -An application fee of $229 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of £179 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of $299 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment) Please Note: -An application fee of €199 is charged over and above the program fee as an application payment. (A 4% international banking fee is charged at the time of payment)
What are you Paying for?
- Information and assistance before departure.
- Pick up upon arrival and drop off at the end of your stay.
- Welcome pack with the information guide, free SIM-card, maps, etc. upon arrival.
- Accommodation in volunteer house close to the beach (7 nights per week of volunteering booked).
- Onsite volunteer coordinator available 24/7.
- 3 basic meals a day.
- Direct donation to the project’s needs.
- Transfers to and from the project daily.
- An offer of weekend trips and outings (extra costs apply) to enjoy yourself on the weekends.
- Certificate Of Completion (Upon Request)
What's NOT included?
- Private Luxuries (snacks, cool drinks, alcohol).
- Costs for weekend outings.
- Air tickets.
- Weekend Pick up and Drop off at airport.
FAQ's Application and Program Details
It is advised to apply for the projects once the volunteering/ traveling dates are decided as there are limited spots available. Our service is based on first come first serve basis. As soon as you decide the travel dates, we suggest you apply for the program and hold your spot.
Usually, it takes around 10-12 working days for the application to be processed and placement to be confirmed. After we review your CV and documents, your booking is confirmed and the booking confirmation is updated in your ‘My Account’ and you can view the information in your account. The application acceptance depends on the availability of seats in the project as well as the eligibility criteria of the program (age, skills and experience etc.).
Below are the necessary requirements to participate in the Port Elizabeth, South Africa volunteer projects:
- Volunteer must be at least 18-year-old at the time of joining the project.
- Volunteer needs to have an open mind and flexible attitude for working in a new and different environment.
- The volunteer should bring energy and enthusiasm to make a difference.
- The participant must be in good health.
Yes, you are welcome to take part in the Volunteer Programs as part of a group. We welcome families, friends, high school students, college/university and corporate groups to volunteer together in the Port Elizabeth programs. Volunteering Solutions has hosted student groups as well as families coming to volunteer in the program.
It is important to prepare yourself and obtain local knowledge about the country you are about to visit. Once you apply for the program, we shall provide you with the pre-departure guidebook that has all the detailed information about the lifestyle and living in South Africa. Life in this country is a little different from anywhere else in the world, and you need to adapt their ways to immerse yourself fully. Apparently, the locals might appear to be lazy, always late, talking loudly, chaotic and a little hot-headed - but once you start spending time with them, you'll realize how good at heart they are!
Yes, most definitely you can, as we believe every participant brings something new to the project. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable. No matter whether you choose the Township Volunteering Program or the Penguin Rescue Center Program, you’ll have an incredible experience with us.
Yes, we will provide you with the Certificate after successful completion of your program. The Certificate is provided on request.
When do I need to arrive in Port Elizabeth for my program? What will happen once I arrive in Port Elizabeth?
Volunteers need to arrive at Port Elizabeth International Airport (PLZ) from where you'll be picked up by our local coordinator and transferred to the volunteer house.
Your airport pickup is included in your fee when arriving on Monday or any other day of the week. If you choose to arrive on a weekend, we will gladly organize a cab to pick you up (or you can take an Uber) to any accommodation of your choice. We will collect you there on Monday morning at 9 AM to start your stay with us.
If you prefer to come to us directly over the weekend, as well as when you depart again, we will charge an extra Weekend Fee of R200 (15 EUR) for your pick up or drop off. An additional R250 (20 EUR) per night for any extra nights outside of your booking dates. Please discuss your personal preference with us to make sure all is prepared for you.
Health and Safety
Like in any new country, you need to take general precautions for safety. You will be given safety precautions and instructions by the local coordinator team during the orientation as well as in your Pre-departure handbook after you become an enrolled participant.
As we offer free WIFI, you will be able to Skype, use Facebook or other forms of social media to stay in touch with the family and friends back home.
To be connected in South Africa, we will give you a free local SIM card to use locally and to phone us if you need us. Please make sure your Smartphone is SIM lock free to be able to use this card.
Safety is an issue that is paramount in the minds of volunteers visiting South Africa. Safety is important to us and by following just a few guidelines your safety in South Africa can be increased incredibly. Although South Africa is in many aspects a developed country, much of its population, particularly in rural areas, live in great poverty.
When you stay in South Africa, the odds are that you will have a safe and incident-free volunteering period. However, crime and violence, as well as unexpected difficulties, can happen.
Hoping to help you avoid serious difficulties during your visit to South Africa, you should keep the following in mind:
- Safety on the Street: use the same common sense traveling in South Africa that you would at home.
- Don’t walk around with all your valuables visible.
- Use taxis at night and let somebody always know where you are going.
- Try to seem purposeful when you move about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going. When possible, ask directions from individuals in authority.
The Program looks after your safety in multiple ways during your stay:
- We offer safe and well-equipped accommodation. The volunteer house has perimeter walls, burglar bars and a dog on the premises.
- Our coordinators are prepared for your stay and have been instructed to keep you as safe as possible.
- Our Code of Conduct, which will be spoken about and signed has clear do’s and don’ts which we urge volunteers to stick to.
- All activities and visits in the townships are supervised by our coordinators, who will walk with our volunteers and make sure they are safe.
Port Elizabeth is a malaria free area; in fact, we have very little mosquitoes at all. It is best to contact your local physician before you leave your country to check what vaccinations they advise you to have. Rabies is NOT common here and no real risk, so no need for that.
However, while there are risks anywhere you travel, South Africa has a relatively salubrious climate and the levels of hygiene, health care, and water treatment make it a pretty safe destination. Our policy is that we do not allow volunteers to be exposed to any serious health risks. Guarantees are impossible to give but we do believe that we can offer healthy working environments for volunteers, staying within reasonability of risks involved of course
Yes, for all participants, it is mandatory to have a valid travel medical insurance for their trip. Volunteers have the option to purchase Travel and Medical Insurance at a nominal extra cost from Volunteering Solutions. To provide the best option to our participants, we offer comprehensive insurance coverage in collaboration with a leading insurance provider.
If you already have a valid Travel and Medical insurance, you can email us a copy of the same. It is also advised to bring along the Insurance documents during your trip.
Accommodation and Living
Your fees will cover most of your expenses but if you like to enjoy a beer or soda, want to buy some souvenirs or fancy a nice dinner eating out, we advise you to bring some extra money. Basically, keep the money for your personal expenses and trips that you would wish to take.
Bring clothing for a variety of weather conditions. Even though it is Africa, it is not always hot and especially in winter, the nights can be cold. So bring a wind jacket and some long trousers, a hat is always handy on sunny days and good shoes for weekend outings.
Connect with Past Volunteers
How can I connect with past Volunteering Solutions South Africa alumni as well as other former and current volunteers?
We encourage volunteers to get in touch with former Volunteering Solutions South Africa program participants and also other program participants joining our projects. You are recommended to join the Volunteering Solutions Facebook Page or Facebook Group to communicate with other participants.
To read alumni interviews from past participants, visit the Meet a Volunteer page on our website.
Flights and Visa
All travelers coming to South Africa need to have a valid visa.The citizens from most of the European (including UK & Ireland), African and South American countries as well as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand do NOT need to obtain a visa beforehand and can stay in the country for a period of up to 90 days. However, you must have a passport valid for at least 6 months period.
All participants joining the South Africa volunteer projects for more than 90 days, need to apply for volunteer Visa at the nearest South African Embassy or Consulate. Along with the Visa application, you need to attach the required supporting documents. Volunteers are provided with the necessary supporting document for their South African Visa application. More detailed information shall be provided after you become a Volunteering Solutions’ enrolled participant.
There are not many direct international flights to Port Elizabeth - you will probably need to fly to Cape Town or Johannesburg and then take a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth.
South African Airways, Mango Air, and Com Air have flight options to Port Elizabeth.