Monday, 2 December 2013

10 reasons to volunteer in South Africa by Adel Groenewald

Voluntourism is a term that was coined when more and more people started travelling the world to volunteer in foreign countries. Not only is it a great way to see a new country and really get stuck in with the culture and environment, but it’s also a great way to meet new people – especially if you’re travelling alone.

Although almost every developing country now offers volunteering progammes, South Africa has more going for it than most. Have a look at these 10 reasons why South Africa is the perfect place to volunteer and you’ll be convinced before you reach the bottom.

1. Stay in beautiful places

You get to choose from so many beautiful settings
to spend our volunteering time in and explore on your off days.
The rugged Wild Coast is one of the them.
South Africa’s natural diversity is so staggering that it’s hard to believe all these different environments can exist within one country. Each area of the country is unique and beautiful in its own respects, and most of these places offer volunteering opportunities.

There are programmes based in the scenic Cape Winelands (only 30 minutes from Cape Town), the ruggedly beautiful Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape, the wildlife rich plains of the Limpopo or even the lush landscapes of KwaZulu-Natal.

2. Volunteer in communities

Painting schools and helping with renovations
is another important aspect of volunteering in South Africa,
especially if you choose community volunteering.
Photo taken with See Saw Do.
There are loads of projects to get involved with across the country. But if you’re looking to get involved with the locals then there are many rural communities that can do with some assistance.

The community development projects at Volunteer Africa (VA32) has volunteers constructing facilities that are lacking, building jungle gyms for the kids or even painting walls at the local school.

3. Teach local children

If you love children and you’re passionate about growing their minds then there are plenty places where you can teach South African kids from preschool to primary and high school age.

Apart from formal teachings, there are also after school activities, sports and loads of fun to be had with some of the poorest children in the country.

4. Volunteer with wildlife

When you choose South Africa as your volunteering destination,
you'll have the chance to work with wild animals, like cheetahs.
Photo taken at Cheetah Outreach.
The beauty of volunteering in South Africa is that you can choose between volunteering with people and volunteering with animals. Our rich wildlife heritage makes for many fantastic opportunities to help with the conservation efforts of our local wildlife.

It’s hard work, cleaning and maintaining facilities at wildlife centers and on farms, but the fact that you get to be in the presence of animals like the Wild Coast’s beautiful horses, big cats like lion and cheetah, perky penguins and even wild dogs in KwaZulu-Natal more than makes up for the hard work.

5. The weather

They don’t call it sunny South Africa for nothing. Without much planning, you can have great weather no matter your location. Summer in the Western Cape is hot, sunny and cheerful while the provinces further east and north have sunshine even in the middle of winter!

The sunsets all over the country are another thing to behold – bright red in the bush and all kinds of orange and purple closer to our beaches.

6. It’s cheap to do things on your off days

On top of the fact that there are myriads of fascinating, fun and beautiful places to explore on your off days, South Africa is also cheap. Especially for people coming from the UK, Europe and America, our transport and attractions cost small change.

The food is another thing. Eating out is seldom expensive and South Africans aren’t shy to admit that they know their food. Finding inspiration from cuisines all over the world, we have a cunning way of getting all of them to taste delicious.

7. We speak friendly English

You’ll have absolutely no problem communicating with most South Africans. There may be eleven official languages, but one of the main ones is English. You may require a bit of impromptu sign language skills here and there, but the person to whom you’re talking will gladly try and understand what it is you’re saying.

South Africans are friendly and hospitable. Foreigners are welcomed with a smile and locals are always happy to point you in the right direction or strike up a conversation.

8. You’ll meet many different cultures

Considering the eleven official languages, it’s safe to say that you’ll encounter quite a number of different cultures here too.

There’s a striking difference between life in the city and life in the rural communities. Just imagine all the different dialects, accents and mannerisms you’ll encounter.

9. You’ll meet many different foreigners

In between meeting all kinds of interesting South Africans, you’ll get to encounter people from other nationalities as well. Volunteers from all over the world join the programmes in South Africa.

These young people will probably be sharing your volunteer house with you and you’re more than likely to meet people that will stay your friends forever.

10. It will enrich you like no professional job ever will

Whether you’re just out of university or whether you’ve worked professionally for many years, volunteering is something completely different from a nine-to-five.

When you spend your time helping others, in a foreign country, with people that you’ve never met and you do it simply because you want to, you’ll find a new, inspiring feeling of fulfillment and humility.

Adel Groenewald is a freelance travel writer and contributor to Overlanding Africa, which offers budget safaris, Africa overland tours, camping and backpacking advice for Africa.


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