Volunteering in South Africa
In South Africa, a whole world exists in one country. Few countries can compare with South Africa in natural beauty, and in cultural and ethnic diversity. South Africa welcomes you to a whole world in one country!
Volunteering in South Africa
EXIS organizes volunteering stays in South Africa, which can be combined with an English course at an international language school in Nairobi. South Africa is a land of many contrasts, and although Cape Town in many ways is very much like a modern European city, there are still many areas where you will find great poverty.
Volunteering offers a unique possibility to experience the country, culture and population while doing a meaningful job. Volunteers must be independent, open minded and minimum 18 years old. Many volunteers choose to end their stay in South Africa with a 20 days camping-safari from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. You can also of course also choose to participate in this trek without volunteering.
“The reward of the ending of apartheid will and must be measured by the happiness and welfare of the children, at once the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures.”
– Words spoken by Mr. Nelson Mandela in his acceptance speech on receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993
The program starts upon arrival on a Sunday at Cape Town airport. You will be picked-up by your host family.
Below you can learn about the different projects we offer in South Africa.
All participants are accommodated with host families in the quieter parts of Cape Town and in nice surroundings. Lodging with South African families will give you a firsthand experience of the South African way of life. Our coordinator, who controls and chooses your accommodation works at an international language school, situated in the suburb of Claremont, south of Cape Town and near the university in a quiet area with many young residents. Your family is used to have international guests. You will have a single room and half board (breakfast and dinner). The family also washes your cloths.
Volunteers usually stay with the same host family during their stay in South Africa. These homes are all situated in the quieter parts of Cape Town and in nice surroundings. The cost of commuting between one’s host family and work place generally is about 20 Rand per day.
The International Language School
The international language school, founded in 1991, is located in the center of Claremont, in the South of Cape Town, close to our host families and to many tourist attractions. The school specializes in teaching of English to foreigners. Courses and activities focuses mainly on conversation, which allows you to study in a practical way. The teachers are qualified and very attentive to the progress of their students. They will help you practice your English during your stay. Enrolling for a standard course means you will follow15 hours of group lessons and 5 individual hours per week. Or, if you wish more lessons, 15 hours of group lessons and 10 hours individual lessons per week. You can decide if you want the individual hours to be focused on general English lessons or business English. There are between 3 and 10 participants per class in the group lessons.
You will follow a few days introduction before you start working. These days will help you to become familiar with your new surroundings, meet the coordinator and get practival information. It is very important that you accept working with poor people in society. Volunteer tasks vary from institution to institution. There’s also time for some organised outings. If you choose to follow English lessons before volunteering, the introduction activities will take place during your first week lessons.
Volunteering Projects in South Africa
For working places involving teaching, be aware of the following school periods:
14.01 – 25.03 – 1st term
13.04 – 26.06 – 2nd term
20.07 – 02.10 – 3rd term
12.10 – 09.12 – 4rd term
Outside these periodes, other workplaces will still be available.
Shelters for women and children
This organisation is an NGO that shelters, cares and empowers destitute, abused and disadvantaged mothers and their children. It offers short-term shelter and care for 17 women and their children at any time and a day-care centre for children with counselling and therapy. It also provides opportunities for job training in order to enable mothers to find a job.
In South Africa there is a housing shortage which creates a problem when residents leave the shelter as they cannot afford the market related rentals. The NGO has 2 houses where residents from the shelter can stay for 12 months.
The volunteers help to occupy the children. Schools for former street children provide schooling to children up to 15 years old. Almost 50 % of the children are four years or more behind in schooling, compared to European children. They come from families without education and have no books at home and were never taught skills. The basic teaching of mathematics, reading and writing – preparing them for a normal schooling can also help them. Many have been abused and are sometimes disturbed. Violence has been a part of their lives. This is one of the more difficult placements and not recommended for anyone under 20 years of age.
Children from impoverished backgrounds who are not able to enjoy the childhood they deserve because of orthopaedic disabilities or injuries are treated at a prominent paediatric orthopaedic hospital. Some of the children are in hospital for a few days; others spend months in bed recovering from corrective surgical procedures. Regardless of the severity of their condition, or the time they have to spend in hospital, they all share one thing in common – hope. Hope for a better, healthier future. Hope that they won’t miss any more of their childhood. The hospital also has a medical and physiotherapy student programme for interns.
The hospital welcomes Medical Students, who are already in their clinical years (usually from forth year onwards). Students will be expected to take part in the daily routine of the Hospital, and form part of the surgical team. Physiotherapy students in their second or third year are also welcome as interns. The children need all the support and care they can get and the volunteers play an important role. The hospital staff is under constant pressure, and has no time to give the children the individual attention they need. The children’s ward depends on volunteers to create a caring and safe environment. Volunteers can organize activities and games for the children.
Schools for handicapped children
These schools are for children who are brain-damaged from birth. Sometimes the damage is so little that it is not immediately obvious, whilst other, more handicapped children have problems with their hearing, their sight, sensory disorders, physical disorders and their learning capabilities are also affected. All the children are taught English, maths, nature studies etc. plus practical subjects such as handiwork and woodwork. Pupils who cannot cope with the educational subjects are transferred to practical classes. At the end of their schooling these pupils will be employed at sheltered workshops – adult training centres.
There are also pupils with general learning disabilities at this school. There is also a team of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists in a therapy unit. Volunteers who choose this field are expected to have a strong interest in working with mentally and physically handicapped children.
School for autistic children
This school provides education and training to learners with Autism Spectrum Disorder, particularly those from disadvantaged communities. A holistic approach, ranging from education and therapies to sport and psychological intervention, is offered to the children. Autism is more common in boys than in girls and is found in all socio-economic and cultural groups. Autism is on a spectrum and people diagnosed as ‘Autistic’ can vary largely in behaviours, skills, and abilities.
There are about 65 children at school, mostly boys between the ages of 5 and 18. More than 85 % come from disadvantaged homes. Some can read and count, others do not speak. Some have a ‘high functioning’ label, while others need help with basics, even the toilet. Volunteers will be assigned to classrooms and teachers and gain experience in teaching and educational coordination and serve as part of the school team.
Volunteers and or Interns with relevant experience can also work closely with the fulltime psychologist if they are interested in counselling or psychology and they will get assistance and guidance regarding their duties at the school. Volunteers are also used to assist with music therapy, art therapy, sport activities and any other areas that they are interested in.
Domestic Animal Rescue group
This is a pro-life, non-profit organisation that rescues, cares for and re-homes abused and abandoned cats, kittens, dogs and puppies. It does not receive any government funding and is solely dependent on donations from the public. The rescue/adoption centre is open between 9am and 4pm daily, including weekends.
The centre aims to lessen the suffering of abandoned, injured and abused dogs and cats by rescuing them, providing for their well being and placing them into loving homes reduce the numbers of unwanted animals by providing primary health care such as vaccinations, de-worming and parasite control, free sterilization to dogs and cats in disadvantaged communities, helping them to protect the rights of the animals through effective education. There is a veterinary clinic at the centre, which treats animals from disadvantaged communities.
Volunteers can help with caring for the dogs and puppies in the kennels, tending to the cats and kittens in the cattery, assisting in the office and charity shops, rescuing animals, maintaining the general upkeep of the facilities, general fundraising, street collections, and home checks.
Kiddies College is a fancy name for a pre-school. They take children from very poor backgrounds. All lessons are in English. Volunteers have some freedom to run their own ideas and projects. You will mainly be assisting the teachers in the classrooms with education, playing and eating. There are 4 different classrooms for the different age groups:
Red group: 2 to 3 years old
Blue group I: 3 to 4 years old
Blue group II: 4 to 5 years old
Yellow group: (Grade R): 5 to 6 years old
Dominical Deaf School
This school is located in Wittebome, a suburb area, close to volunteers home stay addresses. This is a regular school with pre-school students to grade 12. Most children are deaf, but some have other disabilities like cerebral palsy or autism. The school also has a hostel for some children from out-of-town. Although the school gets financial support from the department of education they are always needing extra funds and volunteers are welcome to help out with all odd tasks. The main tasks of the volunteers are:
- Assisting the teachers in classrooms
- Helping the children with homework in the afternoon
- Sport activities
- Computer work
- Social interaction with the children in the hostel over weekends
Volunteers will work from 8am – 2 pm.
Riding with the disabled
This organisation assures free therapeutic horse riding lessons for handicapped. They provide the opportunity of therapeutic and recreational riding to people living with disabilities, who, irrespective of their disability, might benefit from riding in their general health and well being and their social and educational skills.
Therapeutic horse riding is literally therapy on a horse, and it’s a lot more fun than therapy in a therapy room, especially when you’re a child! It improves flexibility, balance and muscle strength. The unique relationship that is formed with the horse can lead to increased confidence, patience and self-esteem as well as the physical, emotional and mental rewards. Riding is mostly during the mornings and not every day.
It is possible to combine this work place with another.
This centre provides support in language and reading for children in Grades 2 and 3 who may need extra help with literacy. All teaching is in English at schools, but most of the children are Xhosa speakers and have problems learning English. Volunteers sit with 1 – 2 children at a school twice a week, to grow their love of books and reading. Their mission is to develop a nation of young readers. They have developed a proven and award winning innovative programme that provides literacy and language support. The schools they partner with are English speaking, and for many children, English is not a first language.
The Centers provides individual learning support with appropriate resources which helps at-risk children to get the individual attention and assistance they need to be able to read better, and therefore, learn better. Volunteers assist teachers and work in groups, helping students with reading, homework and schoolwork in class. The centre is located at the Observatory Junior School, where English teaching is offered on a one to one basis by volunteers. Teaching is also at inner-city schools.
You don’t need to have any teaching experience to become a volunteer. If you share our passion for helping a child to discover the joy of reading, then join us!
All you need is to be able to read and commit minimum two hours per week. This work place can be combined with other work in the Cape Town area.
“Home from Home” provides supported and supervised community-based foster care for orphaned, abused, neglected and vulnerable children through a network of small, family homes in disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Living in a small family unit with a dedicated foster mother or parent and no more than six children, is the next best place for children who can’t be cared for by their own biological families.
The children grow up in their home communities and culture, where their home language is spoken. They have a foster family to support and care for them and there is always the hope that one day they will either be reunited with their biological families, or failing that, that the Home from Home organisation has provided them with the necessary grounding to lead happy, successful lives.
There are many tasks you could get involved with from taking children on outings or helping a foster mother and child to the local clinic for an appointment. Part of the work will be hands-on in the afternoons with the children and the foster mother in the mornings and work with the organisation and the social workers during the afternoons.
Volunteers with special skills – for example, counselling, physiotherapy and occupational therapy amongst others – are very welcome. Most common are the following tasks:
- Assist the foster parents in their daily work
- Arrange activities for children
- Health care
- Cleaning and repairing the children’s surroundings, clothing, shoes, etc.
- Entertain and run extra activities with games
- Help them to wash their face and brush their teeth
- Help them to learn their lessons
- Help them to eat food, serve food or be with them while eating so that they can feel a family environment
All about Ability
This NGO provides mental health services in the Western Cape. There are 22 community-based programmes for the development and rights of people with mental disabilities, both intellectual and psychiatric. They focus on ability rather than disability, that’s why their slogan is: all about ability.
The NGO’s aim is to bring about a mind-shift in society, to challenge the stigma and prejudice that persons with mental disabilities encounter almost daily, to remove the environmental and structural barriers that prevent their full participation in society, and to improve their access to service. It is impossble to mention all the departments, so we only mention some of the NGO’s activities.
- Supervised residential facilities for women with intellectual disability. Providing healthy meals, access to medical resources, life skill training etc.
- Integrated Social work services. These services include awareness raising and prevention, early intervention, statutory services and reintegration services to individuals, groups and at community level.
- Individual counseling services to improve knowledge and understanding and assist with access to services, resources and opportunities.
- Group work services organizing events to enhance mental health of the community, clients and caregivers, exhibitions and mental health presentations to educate the public about mental health and the services.
- School programme to empower educators and learners to identify and deal with mental health problems and access services.
- Training Workshops, rehabilitation centers.
All volunteers interested in working for this NGO need to have experience and relevant education.
Orphanage for girls
This home for Girls in Wynberg, provides for children who are abused, abandoned, neglected and orphaned. Girls from failed foster placements and those with behavioural problems are also cared for.
By providing specialised care and education and teaching life skills to the girls within a secure environment, caregivers empower them with the necessary skills and knowledge to become confident individuals. Equipped with these vital tools the girls are eventually able to leave the home and make a positive contribution to society.
Forty girls between the ages of two and eighteen are divided into four smaller families of all ages, each in the care of its own Child Care Worker (house mother). There also is one relief childcare worker. The overall care is provided for by a social worker. The girls attend schools in the surrounding areas, worship at a church of their choice and are actively involved in extra-mural activities.
Volunteers work during the afternoon as girls attend school during the morning.
Fees in Euros
15 hours of group lessons and 5 hours of individual lessons per week. No volunteering
|Weeks||Fees in EURO|
15 hours of group lessons and 10 hours of individual lessons per week. No volunteering
|Weeks||Fees in EURO|
Volunteering and language course
15 hours group lessons and 5 individual lessons per week, followed by volunteering
|Weeks Lessons||Weeks volunteering||Fees in EURO|
Volunteering only. No language course
|Weeks||Fees in EURO|
Kontakt venligst [email protected] for oplysninger om priser på længerevarige ophold.
Vælger du at arbejde på en skole eller anden uddannelsesinstitution, skal du være opmærksom på følgende ferieperioder:
1. semester: 14. januar til 25. marts
2. semester: 13. april til 26. juni
3. semester: 20. juli til 2. oktober
4. semester: 12. oktober til 9. december
All fees include
Voluntary Work and/or English classes in South Africa
Single room with half board at a host family, during your entire stay
Help and advice from our coordinator during your entire stay
For English courses: 15 hours of group lessons with 5 or 10 hours of individual lessons per week as described
For English courses: Books and teaching material
Preparation activities, meetings and outings, e.g. Cape Town City Tour, Kirstenbosch, Gardens outing, Township tour, Table Mountain walk and Hout Bay outing
Internet access at the language school
The following is not included in the fee:
- Flight to and from South Africa
- Extra outings; e.g. visit to Robben Island
- Potential cost of transport to and from working place (Approx.20 Rand per day)
- Teaching material, when following lessons: (50 ZAR = approx. 4 Euro)
- Pocket money
Very few countries can measure up to the natural beauties, the cultural and ethnic diversity of South Africa. From elephants, leopards, buffalo and rhinoceros roaming the large nature reserves to the many huge skyscrapers in the cities, from its luscious vineyards and high mountains to its deserts and savannahs. Since Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutchman, established a trading post in 1652, South Africa has continued to attract people from all over the world. British, Dutch, French, Portuguese, Malaysian and people from the Indian Subcontinent together with Africans from various tribes and ethnic origins have, throughout history, been able to settle and prosper in their new surroundings.
Climate of South Africa
Most of South Africa lies within a warm temperate zone with a mainly dry climate. Temperatures are moderate throughout most of the country. June and July are accepted as winter whereas the warmest summer months are December and January. In the South of the country (Cape Province) the climate resembles that of the Mediterranean. Natal and the Northern provinces enjoy a range of temperatures from sub-tropical to the temperate climate of the Highlands.
The average maximum temperature for Cape Town during the months of January and February is 27 °C. and for the coldest months of June and July the temperature averages about 18 °C.
Population of South Africa
Most of the white population are descendants of British, Dutch, French and German immigrants, who came to South Africa between the 17th and the 19th century. In the 20th century South Africa has drawn many immigrants from Europe and China as well as from the neighbouring African states/ countries that lie north of the Limpopo River, South Africa’s natural northern border. The large population is made up of different ethnic groups. The majority are Zulus followed by Xhosas, North and South Sothos and Tswanas, all descendants of tribes that emigrated from the central part of Africa.
Xhosas, North and South Sothos and Tswanas are all descendants of tribes that emigrated from the central part of Africa. In the 1860s many Asians came to South Africa to work in the sugar cane fields and today 85% of these people still live in the Natal province. South Africa’s Indian population is the fourth largest after India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The Cape Town populations still live very much separately; Many coloured and black people live in townships such as Khayelitsha, with approx. 1 million inhabitants.
If you want to read more about the origin of townships you can look here.
Languages in South Africa
There are 11 official languages in South Africa (after all, it IS called the Rainbow Nation). These are: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu.
EXIS in South Africa
The language school and all of our volunteering projects are located in Cape Town.
Before you go
It is a big challenge to live and work in a foreign country. It demands courage and the ability to adapt. It is emotionally demanding to work with underprivileged people. It can be overwhelming, especially at first, to have to adjust to completely new conditions and communicate in a foreign language. Things are not as you are used to, the climate, the food, the atmosphere – everything is different.
During your work you will be faced with a harsh social reality and experience things a tourist would never see.
Do not expect a planned daily schedule waiting for you at your work place. If you have decided to work with children, you should already know how to entertain children – with crafts, sports, games and more. Use your imagination and be creative.
To take part in the voluntary work program, maturity, flexibility, independence and the desire to do social work are necessary. Your stay is an experience you will never forget.
No matter where volunteers are placed, their duties will be varied and they must be prepared to assist in any task requested. You will be asked to assist the staff at the institution you have chosen to work for, but can also be asked to do any odd jobs: cleaning, cooking, food distribution, washing and generally tidying up. The more preliminary training you may have, the more interesting your tasks will be. This also applies to anyone assigned to assist at the Animal Rescue Center. Some homes for children only have children in the afternoon from 14.30 to 18.00, as they attend school in the morning. These places need volunteers who accept work during weekends as well. Normal working hours are from 9.00 to 17.00. Participants should be patient when starting their programme as it takes time to become part of a team.
Volunteers enter South Africa as tourists. European citizens get a 3-month tourist visa stamp when landing in Cape Town. If you participate in the Savannah trek after a volunteer period, you will leave South Africa and can come back and stay 7 days before returning home. The cost of air-tickets to South Africa varies considerably. Please note that you are requested to inform EXIS of the flight number together with the date and time of your arrival in Cape Town, so we can organize your airport pick-up. Bookings should be made with arrivals on Sundays.
It is advisable to book/order the return journey to your home country on an open ticket or make sure that the date of the return flight can be changed as unforeseen obstacles such as bad weather etc., can cause delays.
Approx. one hour before landing the staff in the plane will hand over a little leaflet to fill out. Here you have to fill out your passport number and reason for your stay. As you do not get paid for voluntary work, you state: tourism.
Your host family will pick you up at the airport. They will have a sign with your name. Don’t leave the airport before you have found your host family. They could be late because of a traffic jam.
Most commercial banks are open from 09.00 – 15.30, Monday to Friday and from 08.30-11.00 on Saturday. Shops are open from 08.00 to 16.30 Monday to Friday and from 08.30 – 12.30 on Saturday.
Major international credit cards such as American Express, Bank of America, Diners, MasterCard, Standard Bank Card, Visa and their affiliates are accepted. However use may be restricted in small towns and country areas and in some retail shops. Automatic teller machines (ATM) are situated outside most banks in towns and cities and operate 24 hours a day. Credit cards are not generally accepted for the purchase of petrol.
Upon arrival in the airport, you may try to find the first cash point machines, called Bankteller. There’s none at the arrival terminal! About 400 meters on the right, you will find the departure terminal for domestic flights. Here you can find the Bankteller you need.
South Africa’s beaches are beautiful. Tests have shown that the seawater off South Africa’s beaches is among the cleanest in the world. But the water is very cold and salty compared to European beaches and the strong waves can be dangerous. The sun can be very strong so wear a hat and use sun lotion.
Most people in Cape Town use buses, which run often. Some prefer the train and buy a ticket for a month for approx. 112 rand. A special kind of transportation is more common in this town: Mini buses. We cannot recommend these Volkswagen taxis, as most of them are illegal. Most colored people use these taxis, as they simply pick up any passenger during their tours. It certainly is a good way to get into contact with the local population, for cars are packed to the limit. Passengers are invited to get in all the way and leave the car when they have arrived at destination. There is only one price: approx.10 Rand, no matter how far you go to be paid when you get in. If you want a trip all the way to a specific place, you bargain with the driver about a “special” price.
South Africa’s seasons are the reverse of those in Europe, with midwinter in June and July and midsummer in December and January. Cape Town and the southernmost part of Western Cape have a Mediterranean-type climate, with mild, changeable winters, when most of the rainfall occurs, and a warm to hot summer. The weather in Cape Town can change very quickly. Don’t forget to bring a sweater for windy days.
Cost of Living
Your money goes a long way in South Africa. Thanks to an extremely advantageous exchange rate costs are considerably lower than in Europe.
Alcoholic drinks may only be purchased by those 18 and must not be consumed in public, except in restricted areas such as bars and restaurants. Water: Tap water is safe to drink.
Driving is on the left and speed limits are in kilometers and are 120 km/h on the highways and 60 km/h in built-up areas.
Current is 220/240 volts, just as in Europe. A three-point round-pin adapter plug is required for European items; these adapters can be purchased in many shops. Price: about 10 Rand.
Dial 10111 for the police and 10177 for ambulances. But if your problem is not so serious contact your coordinator.
For vaccinations contact your doctor or insurance company. It is safe to drink the tap water throughout South Africa and health regulation control the hygiene of street food vendors. While South Africa boasts excellent medical facilities, visitors should ensure they take out insurance to cover the cost of treatment should the need arise.
For extra tourism information: www.south-african-tourism.org
You will se poverty already on the drive from the airport to your accommodation. On the right and left side of the motorway, you will notice the first townships. A good way of learning about the consequences of apartheid is the trip organized during your preparation course. You can look up the Rainbow Curtain Tour. See: Rainbow Curtain Tours.
January 1st: New year
March 21st: Human rights day
March 30th: Holy Friday
April: 2nd: Family day
April 27th: Freedom day
May 1st and 2nd: Labor Day
June 16th: Youth day
August 9th: Womens day
September 24th: Heritage day
December 16th: Reconciliation day
December 25th and 26th: Christmas
Safety and Security
Despite news reports about crime, South Africa is basically a safe place for Europeans. Visitor numbers are growing dramatically, yet only a tiny percentage experience crime. The South African Police Service has introduced plans to ensure the safety of tourists.
Exercise normal safety precautions as you would anywhere else in the world. South African Tourism has compiled safety tips which include:
- Do not draw attention to yourself by flaunting large amounts of cash or jewelry. A camera round your neck identifies you as a tourist – carry it in a shoulder bag or handbag.
- Avoid dark, unlit places.
- Be observant and look around before entering car parks. Park in well lit areas and never pick up strangers.
- Keep car doors locked at all times.
- Do not leave packages or personal items on the seat of the car, put them in the boot.
- Always keep your baggage or handbag close by, never leave items unattended.
Public phones in South Africa are either coin or card operated. Only green public telephones take telephone cards. The cards come in amounts ranging from R10 to R200 and can be bought at post offices, airports, bookshops and supermarkets such as Pick & Pay. Local calls made from a phone box cost approximately 40 cents for three minutes. Mobile phones, known as cell phones in South Africa, are widely used.
The international code for South Africa is 27, which should be preceded by your international prefix (i.e. 00 if calling from Europe). When dialing from outside South Africa the ‘0’ at the front of the local area code should be omitted, but it should be used when dialing within the country. If you take your mobile phone, make sure it is “unlocked”, so that you can use it for SMS messages and buy a South African simcard.
Waiters and taxi drivers should receive 10% of the bill, unless a service charge is included.
What to Wear
In the South African summer, lightweight clothing is the norm; in the winter a jacket, sweater or coat may be needed, particularly in the evenings.
For the Savannah trek you will receive a complete packing list. At game reserves, neutral colors, such as browns, beiges and khakis are preferred on game drives. Bright colors or white may disturb the animals. Pack a sweater;it can be chilly in the early morning and after dusk. Wear a hat to avoid sunstroke and don’t forget a swimsuit. Bring comfortable shoes.
The Xhosas are part of the Nguni people, which includes the Zulu, the Swazi-speaking people and the Ndebele who make up two thirds of the country’s population. South Africa’s former President, Nelson Mandela, is Xhosa.
The Zulus play a colorful and highly significant part in South African history, not least for their bravery in battle against both the Boers and the British. But they are only one of several tribal African groups from various regions of the country.
Ready to go?
Reserve a spot for one of our projects in South Africa.