For most people, South Africa stirs up thoughts of safaris, glistening waters, a diverse culture and neverending adventures. South Africa is not only a bucket destination, it is also a place that offers lots of meaningful volunteering activities. If you want to contribute and make a difference as a volunteer in South Africa, you’ve come to the right place.
Generally, there are two major causes where you can volunteer in South Africa: wildlife and conservation, or children and education. Today, we’re sharing the 5 best programs that you can take part in and become a volunteer in South Africa!
1. Volunteer at Big Cats Sanctuary
Panthera Africa is an eco-friendly sanctuary for captive bred big cats. All of the animals here were rescued from breeding facilities. As an educational platform, Panthera Africa hopes to raise awareness about the conditions big cats face in captivity, and how animal welfare and enrichment play a vital role in giving them the best captive life possible.
In this volunteer program, you will have the unique opportunity of going behind the scenes and learning what it takes to run a sanctuary. You will work with sanctuary’s staff to care for the big cats, prepare their food, maintain enclosures, and educate visitors. Through spending time with the animals, you will form indescribable bonds with them. Experience love from big cats, and see them appreciate the effort you make.
2. Take part in penguin and marine bird rescue
Have the urge to work with animals and care for the penguins in South Africa? This program aims at protecting and caring for the avian species that were affected by adverse effects of human behaviour. It focuses mainly on caring for sick or injured African Penguins, as well as other marine birds such as gannets, cormorants, and seagulls.
As a volunteer, you’ll play an active role to rescue and rehabilitate, as well as to inform and educate the public through different programs. As the bird hospital, you will clean and care for the birds, prepare food and medication, and maintain facilities. Over at the sea school, you will help with lessons and educate visitors. The extensive displays here give tourists and school groups the opportunity to learn about these endangered birds, and the wider variety of marine life in Algoa Bay!
3. Be a swim and surf instructor
SAVE Foundation aims to teach youth from disadvantaged communities valuable life skills such as teamwork and dedication through swimming and surfing. This program is a weekly extramural activity for disadvantaged youths and it helps to keep them occupied and off the streets after school. By promoting physical activity as a positive outlet for energy, there has been a drastic decrease in drop-out rates.
As a volunteer here, you will gain experience working with children and groups. Your mornings are spent assisting in one of the schools, lessons on computer and educating youths. The afternoons are spent with the kids teaching them to swim or surf. You will also receive teaching training and surfing lessons yourself, so you can in turn teach the children!
4. Take care of young children at a crèche
If you have an enthusiasm towards childcare, you can make an impact in the poorest townships in Cape Town. For many lower-income families, affordable daycare is very hard to find and often fully booked. This leaves many young children without proper care while their parents work.
In this program, you will work approximately five hours a day in a public kindergarten or NGO-run after-school center for toddlers. You will assist local teachers in introducing the children to basic concepts of culture, geography, math and writing. Local teachers rely on volunteers to provide individualized attention to children falling behind, and also to supervise during recreation time. Through creative activities like dancing, arts, sports and games, you will also help promote good manners and behavior. Working with young children requires lots of patience and energy, but their adorable faces and loving nature will be more than just rewarding.
5. Be a baboon orphan care-giver
A different kind of childcare, in this program you will work within a stunning Big Five Private Nature Reserve in the Greater Kruger National Park. This is a unique experience working with chacma baboons! You will make a difference in their rescue, rehabilitation and release, giving them a second chance at being free and wild again.
You will help hand-raise baby baboon orphans, assist with their bonding to baboon surrogate mothers, the rehabilitation of baboons who have spent many years in a lab-cage, and to help animals rescued from all sorts of circumstances. To be part of the animals’ healing and bond with them in a way incomprehensible to most is an unforgettable experience. Apart from caring for these beautiful creatures, you will also partake in outreach programs, educating children and increasing support for the baboons.