Volunteer Programs in South Africa with African Impact

African Impact gives you a fantastic opportunity to do charity work in Africa, volunteer in conservation, participate in teaching volunteer projects, medical volunteer projects, orphan care and volunteer with lions. As a volunteer you can make a huge impact in the conservation of Africa's magnificent wildlife as well as to the survival of endangered species through Big 5 Research and Conservation Projects on a private game reserve in South Africa and volunteer with great white sharks.
During your stay you will uplift the impoverished, conserve the environment and make a lasting impact by creating a brighter future for the locals with merely a pair of willing hands! There are also various opportunities within marketing, media, design, tourism, photography, financial and hospitality industries to volunteer in your area of interest or expertise.
Volunteer in South Africa, take a career break abroad, or join for a gap year in South Africa and experience a country of incredible diversity.

Program Info

Location: 
  • South Africa
Volunteer Types: 
Photography
Building
Sexual Health
Disabled Care
Medical
Childcare
Orphan Care
Community Development
Conservation
Environmental Conservation
Wildlife Conservation
Marine Conservation
Education
Service Learning
Teaching
Sports
Veterinary Service
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
1-3 months
3-6 months
Cost: 
$500 - $2,000 (USD)
$2,000 - $5,000 (USD)
See site for details.
See Additional Information
Age Group: 
18-22
22-35
50+
Cost Description: 

The volunteer fee for our projects not only covers your accommodation, all meals, transport and resources used while on project; but it also contributes to the development of new projects in communities and areas where help is needed, and gives us the ability to sustain our projects for the long-term. We also offer you 24 hour on the ground support and will collect you from the airport when you arrive!

Languages: 
English
Other
Housing: 
Volunteer House
Travel: 
Participants travel to the program independently (not in a group with other participants).
Application: 
Online Application

Videos

Program Reviews (20)

93%
Positive
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  • Impact
    92%
  • Support
    94%
  • Fun
    88%
  • Value
    94%
  • Safety
    94%
  • Wendy Suter
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Quito, Ecuador
    The Big 5 Conservation Program at Thanda Reserve
    04/08/2015

    I was part of African Impact's conservation program for one month and I have to say that I wish I could have stayed more time! The time there goes by so fast. My day started at 6 am going in an early drive of 3 hours and when we got back we had other tasks to work on- i was planning a lesson for a group of students at a primary school. Then we would have lunch at 12 pm and after that we had another drive from 1 pm-4 pm; at 6:30 pm we had dinner and then we would have different things to do every day- some presentations, game night, movie night.

    Everything was perfect! I will say one of my highlights of being there was when we could presentiate the speed of two cheetah brothers while hunting. We could see them eating an impala just by the fence! it was amazing. There is also the youth program were you could choose to go any Tuesday to a village near to play with the kids and entertain them, talking about you, and teaching them about conservation.

    On the weekends you get the option to go on a trip or to go to places nearby like the cat rehabilitation center where you get to touch a cheetah or to the elephant interaction, 5 min away from the lodge. If you are planning to go for this program at the end you will want to stay more time there! the people at the lodge are amazing and they make you feel like it's your second home. I highly recommend this program!

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  • Sophie
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Nottingham, UK
    Nottingham Trent University
    Cape Town Teaching Project 2013
    02/12/2014

    I loved my volunteering experience with African Impact, i only wish i had volunteered for longer than just 2 short weeks! It's left me wanting more and i'm already hoping to return.

    If you are looking for a volunteer experience that is legitimate, sustainable and enjoyable all whilst making a truly valuable impact then look no further, African Impact is the largest on the ground facilitator of volunteer opportunities in Africa! So where you want to be and what you want to do is totally up to you, and trust me, you will be in safe hands!

    So i chose to volunteer in sunny Cape Town with the teaching projects out there. I spent half my time supporting teaching at a pre-school in a local township and the other half with GAPA (Grandmothers Against Poverty & Aids) - a truly incredible project that supports grandmothers to provide after-school care, fun and food to children within the largest township community, Khayelitsha.

    I learnt more than I could have imagined, not just about the culture and lifestyles of the communities, but also about the nature of volunteering itself. It's about offering support whilst remaining completely sustainable, less about the hand outs and more about enabling and empowering others. This means that your impact is truly lasting and unforgettable.
    At Luntu you will meet some very special children who will fall in love with you as soon as you walk in through the front door! Their squeals of joy and the songs they will teach you will buzz around your head forever. I spent most mornings reading stories, teaching English and supporting their play.

    GAPA volunteers help to support grandmothers in providing a safe place where children can simply enjoy being children. Grandmothers often become parents again to their grandchildren as the middle generation are affected by HIV/aids, the project enables them to get together, offering care, love and attention to the communities children and also gives them an opportunity to start earning a small living again, making and selling unique hand-made toys, jewellery and accessories which make fantastic keep-sakes and souvenirs! You will have fun organising games and singing songs, playing cards or painting pictures in the dusty yard. As a Primary School teacher back in the UK, I was amazed at what you can do with little resources! The children are strong, happy, motivated and independent. They will fight for your attention and obsess over your hair, they will love you just for being there.

    You will have plenty of fun at the volunteer house, making friends from all around the world. Theme nights, pub quizzes, coffee shop crawls! You will be pretty well looked after too by the wonderful Shecky and Jane! The cooking is traditional, delicious and dinner is always on the table when you come home from project! They'll even do your washing for you so that you can concentrate on the important things, like enjoying yourself, sorting resources or planning for more fun!
    You will never be on your own, fellow volunteers will become your family out there and with constant support from African Impact project co-coordinators and Interns you will work together to plan fun and engaging activities and not forgetting the incredible local project leaders who are always on hand for a quick Xhosa lesson or two!

    Cape Town is so vibrant and colourful, it's constantly buzzing! There is so much to see and do that you will be spoilt for choice! We spent our weekends and free time exploring Obs (the volunteer house local town) where there is an eclectic mix of late night coffee shops, pubs, clubs and live music! We clambered up Table Mountain and abseiled down again, sampled tasty treats at the Biscuit Mill markets. We then joined the Cape to Addo tour at the end of our volunteer adventure, where we bungee-jumped, braved black-water tubing and bare-back Ostrich riding! We sunned ourselves at a citrus farm and spotted elephants on Safari - a perfect way to round off an epic South African adventure. There are plenty more opportunities from shark-cage diving to sky diving, the possibilities are endless and your volunteering experience will be unforgettable.

    So here's a few tips:
    - Bring a jumper (it gets cold indoors!)
    - Be open minded (if your friends want to stop off to try sheep's head on the way to project - do it! Try the local treats, they will leave you wanting more no matter how strange they seem!)
    - Learn some Xhosa - the go go's will appreciate a 'molo!'
    - Why not pack a few extra resources in your back-pack - kids love to play cards and parachute games!

    Volunteering provides a broader perspective on all aspects of life, it deepens understanding and ignites intrigue. To volunteer is to learn, to enjoy, to experience. To be excited, exhilarated and to explore a sense of awe and wonder. If it does all this for you, just imagine what you can do for others.

    Volunteer with African Impact Cape Town City Projects - You know you want to!

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  • MR G
    Age: 31-50
    Male
    bristol. uk
    AMAZING EXPERIENCE
    11/25/2013

    I have just returned from two weeks in st lucia with African impact and have to say, they were just amazing.The co-ordinators ( from Monique & Miriam to Vlekkie ) are so committed, enthusiastic,motivated and passionate about their projects ( it makes you so proud of them ).They make you feel at home as soon as you arrive and you become one big family. The zulu staff are supportive and also an important part of this project,their knowledge of the area and the community really puts you at ease,i soon became part of the community !!! people of all ages recognise you and just love to talk !!. As for the projects, you really do feel as if you make a difference and a great help,from cleaning peoples houses to being part of the reading club ( very rewarding ).The house in which you stay is very comfortable and clean,it is very close to shops,resturaunts and cafes. Please Please make the plunge and go, i can assure you you will not be disappointed.

    How could this program be improved?

    NO negatives apart from i wish i stayed for longer, but 100% sure i will return so please book longer.

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  • Colleen
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Massachusetts, USA
    Great experience in South Africa
    11/07/2013

    I volunteered with the African Impact for two weeks in Cape Town, South Africa. At first, I was so scared about flying all my myself and I didnt know much about the African Impact organization. I was able to make 30 hours of flight to South Africa from United States, and as soon as when I arrived Cape Town, there was a really sweet lady who was waiting for me with my name on the sign. She was so friendly and welcomed me to the volunteer house. I met so many nice people from all over the world in my volunteer house in Cape Town. They were all passion about helping others. I volunteered with the Veterinary assistance and abused animal shelter project and it was wonderful! There were so many inspirational people in Cape Town and they have opened my eyes so much. There were so many things to do in Cape Town, I went to shark caged diving, Lions Head mountain hiking, restaurants, and many others with other volunteers from my house. The volunteer house was so nice and welcoming. You will learn a lot lot in Africa, and I am SO glad I went!! I almost didn't went, because I wasn't sure if it would be worth it. But it was more than worth it and I miss every minute of it! I say go for the experience because it will be once in lifetime. I wish I could go back! African Impact is such a wonderful organization and everyone who works for the organization was perfect!

    How could this program be improved?

    I really don't think there is anything to change. Everything was perfect! It was a great experience and absolutely a unforgettable trip.

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  • Matthew Blatherwick
    Age: 25-30
    Male
    United Kingdom
    Nottingham Trent University
    Sports Development Cape Town
    09/30/2013

    When I arrived at the volunteer house we had an induction which outlined the goals for each project and the goal for the Sports Development project was to introduce a good to high standard of Physical Education (PE) while supporting the local head coach from a company called "Sports Choice". This company works with local schools with in townships with backing from some charities to improve the quality of coaching and the amount of time children take part in organised PE sessions. Sustainability is really important to African Impact and that is very clear in each project in which I was involved in.
    The schools were how I pictured a township school and not like the photo on the website of the volunteer provider. The photo was of a school African Impact used to work at a couple of months before and the school did not require more volunteer help as they progressed to a high level that they can sustain for many years to come. The areas that the children do PE were old netball courts with grass in patches on an asphalt surface on which all the children take their shoes off and have bare feet. I was surprised at first but I think back to the days I was at primary school in New Zealand and I just to go bare footed for everything. I overheard the coach saying that the school don't let the children wear shoes due to it marks and wreaks the courts, which I think is a shame when the court is in quiet a poor state.
    The first couple of sessions the head coach was in charge and it felt more like pre-season training rather than a PE lesion as all we did for 45 minutes were shuttles with the class split in to four groups which at least nine in each line. I thought this was crazy as I have learnt though practice and study that children should not be put in big group qued activities, one good thing was that the coach always got the children chanting as each group had a name and gained points for supporting pairs and teammates. After the first day I started to take more control of sessions from just a warm up to taking the whole session in which the children played more skill based games that include all the children most of the time, which I feel they would benefit from having fun and learning new skills as well.
    Depending on the age of the children and the level of English would depend on the complexity of each game. I would explain to the rules and goals of the games to the children then speak to the coach so he knew why I am doing this particular active and what skills I am looking for from the children. If it doesn't go quite right, just adapting the rules slightly makes the children more responsive. I gave the head coach a list of session plans that have key points for the session and a lot of different games based for different age groups instead of have just one set game for the children.
    On Fridays as a team we plan sessions for the next week and brainstorm new games we could try as well making them age relevant games, we would also set a theme every two weeks as the head coach only sees each class once a fortnight. Also being based in two schools in the township of Langa only two days a week allows a very limited time with each class, but the goal is to provide PE and show how important PE is in the development of a child mentally as well as physically.
    After two weeks on the volunteer project I felt time went really quickly and I just wanted to stay and continue the project as I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed my time with the staff and the children as well as I felt I have grown in terms of taking a more leading role without stepping on the head coaches toes while putting my ideas out there and having the confidence in explaining and justifying the reason for this idea. When I was younger I feel I would have taken a back seat role and just let things play out as an observer.
    This experience has shown me a different style and culture of coaching children and has opened my eyes to the fact that children have a massive respect for adults in this culture and been constantly hearing a collective "yes coach" and if you say something they do it, whereas some English children don't have that level of respect of even close.
    The more you put in to project the more you get out, it was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

    How could this program be improved?

    Update photos to current schools, apart from that it was amazing and everyone should do it

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  • Heiko van Eijnsbergen
    Age: 51 or older
    Male
    Vancouver B.C. Canada
    University of British Columbia
    Big animal research at Thanda
    09/20/2013

    African Impact runs a serious research project at Thanda. My work-holiday time there was a chance to learn about and to participate in meaningful investigations of wild animal behaviour. Suddenly faced with an eight member pride of lions I saw at once that I should have studied more closely all the preparation sheets I had been sent. Identifying individual animals from photos and detailed descriptions at first seemed impossible; and so recording their interactions appeared futile. This was no less true when an over 20 member herd of elephants surrounded us. (After an eight day search our 40-40 vision driver managed to get us this experience. I could say lots about our hyper-tuned bird dog drivers) Yet this is what this program teaches us to do. The challenge is to immerse oneself, before, during and after the numerous actual sightings, in the available material showing the animals' features and group relationships. We volunteers, working together with trained staff, manually recorded and then entered electronically every observation. We were then able to analyze the data and to present trends in draft monthly reports. A few weeks here can be anything from a holiday to the beginning of a career. The food, accommodation, staff, camaraderie, who cares, it's all great. So also are the times we spent helping people in surrounding villages and helping to keep vegetation under control. Where the opportunities are unique is with tracking and finding the animals, and then with the limitless challenge of studying and recording them.

    How could this program be improved?

    For the surprisingly speedy and thorough observational skills called for, more preparatory exercises would help.

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  • LeonaArmstrong
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Manchester, UK
    Manchester Metropolitan University
    The best thing I've ever done!
    09/03/2013

    Volunteering with African Impact is the best thing I have ever done and I can't wait to go back as soon as possible! The projects are organised really well, they keep you busy when you are there but thats the whole reason of volunteering right? Sustainability is really important to African Impact and thats clear in each project I was involved in. The more you put in to the projects the more you get out, thee most rewarding thing I've ever done.

    Monday to Friday you're busy on projects from 8:30am till around 4pm, coming home for a delicious cooked lunch in between. In your spare time you get to see more of this beautiful part of the world and get to make friends for life with the other wonderful volunteers and the AMAZING African Impact staff.

    The co-ordinators and other staff members are just brilliant, a total inspiration and are always there when you need them. The house where you stay is really lovely and the meals the zulu ladies cook are DELICIOUS!

    Volunteering with African Impact is a fantastic experience, you get to see a different part of the world, immerse yourself in a different culture, help those less fortunate than you and develop yourself as person as a result.

    How could this program be improved?

    Trying to think of something negative about the project is really difficult, I just wish I had enough time and money to stay there longer!

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  • Emily_DW
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Cornwall, UK
    Amazing experience
    07/22/2013

    My 2 weeks spent with African Impact in St Lucia were awesome. The team of staff and volunteers were so supportive, knowledgeable and encouraging. I really enjoyed all of the projects that I was involved in, especially brick building, holiday club, reading club and the Support Groups. The experience of working alongside members of the Zulu communities is second to none. The accommodation and food provided was superb and made the whole trip very comfortable in comparison to previous trips to Africa. I really would recommend African Impact, especially to those who enjoy meeting new people and making a noticeable difference to people's lives. The staff dealt with any problems that arose in an incredibly professional manner, maintaining the safety and well-being of volunteers at all times. Thank you very much African Impact for a brilliant time!

    How could this program be improved?

    I would have stayed longer than two weeks!

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  • Beth
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    United Kingdom
    Rewarding and Worthwhile Experience
    07/22/2013

    I spent 2 weeks volunteering for African Impact in St Lucia, South Africa on their Community Project and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life! The volunteer house was brilliant and comfortable - absolute luxury compared to some places I have stayed in other parts of Africa where we had cold outdoor showers, long drop toilets and no electricity. The food was great - always enough, extremely varied (definitely not just rice and veg) and able to cater for a whole range of dietary requirements including one fellow volunteer who was both a vegan and ate Kosher! The staff were always very friendly, supportive and knowledgeable as were the other volunteers. The project itself was wonderful because we got to do a whole range of things that not only took into account an individual's skills but allowed them to develop new ones. For example, I never thought I would be able to make concrete and bricks by hand, and now I can! I loved being able to get to know members of the community and the gratitude they showed us for something as simple as weeding their garden was humbling. I truly believe that all the African Impact projects in St Lucia are making a difference in the surrounding communities and I would thoroughly recommend African Impact to anyone, regardless of age or skill.

    How could this program be improved?

    The only thing I would say is that 2 weeks is definitely not long enough!

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  • Travellingprof
    Age: 31-50
    Female
    Denver, CO
    University of Denver
    Medical program needs work
    07/21/2013

    I wish that I had better things to say about African Impact. I did not have a good experience with them, in many ways. First of all, the volunteer house itself is in need of repair. The showers were very unreliable and many people ended up finishing their showers in the sink. The food was low in nutritional value overall (rice and frozen veg was the regular meal) and generally very spicy. On the medical program, there was simply not enough for the volunteers to do, so we would be sent out in 4's to check on one person. The idea was to get quality time with the patient, but really it was just the Zulu social worker doing all of the communication, so the volunteers were left just to sit and stare at the person. Not exactly what I had in mind when I signed up for this experience. This leads me to believe that they are more interested in getting the money from the volunteers more than creating significant change or a valuable experience, at least for the medical part of the program. I began to disagree with management after they changed my assignment without my input. I specialize in teaching Human Sexuality and they gave the HIV class to people who had no training or knowledge of HIV, and no special desire to do the class. They were just randomly assigned the task. I didn't take this well and started to get depressed and sullen. The worst part came when, after 3 weeks of working with them, I was roused out of bed and told I had been terminated from the program. The initial reason was due to a stupid, generalized joke I posted on Facebook about smothering people, but then stated the official reason was that I had revealed, in an email to the lead coordinator, that I had an anxiety disorder (citing that as why I had trouble discussing with them that I was so unhappy with the recent change). I was told that I had not listed that on my application, so that was grounds for immediate termination. This was after a night of program sponsored drinking, so I was not in the place to take this well either. I left, even though they gave me the option of staying, in separate quarters--like a criminal. They put me in a very dangerous position, drunk, alone, having a full-blown panic attack on the darkened streets of St. Lucia . They did try to offer suggestions of hostels, but if you've ever had a panic attack, you know that it's unbelievably difficult to focus on anything besides the anxiety. I was rescued by a local woman and after a few days, I took responsibility for my actions and sent an email to them apologizing for my part in things and asked to come back. If you are interested in volunteering abroad, you want to do the work. That's why you're there and that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to finish the work that I started. I was denied that chance with no explanation of why. The majority of the coordinators are incredibly young and inexperienced. If you are over the age of 25 and have any actual skills that you want to employ, this is not the program for you. This rash decision, coupled with my own ill conceived behavior, has costs me almost $1,000, since I had to find my own lodging, food, and way back to Durban, 3 hours away. I am a school teacher and do not have that kind of extra cash, especially after paying $5,000 for the experience in the first place. I'm afraid this has killed any motivation for me to volunteer abroad or to encourage others to do so. That's probably the saddest outcome of all. I do want to note that this is not my first review of this organization. I was contacted by the lead coordinator and pressured to take down my initial feedback. This tells me that they are not interested in receiving honest feedback or others knowing their serious flaws.

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    Response from African Impact
    07/22/2013
    African Impact would like to comment that we are aware of this unfortunate event in which we were required to make some difficult decisions that we do not take lightly. All feedback we receive is important to us and reviewed seriously so that we can agree on appropriate steps to improve. We are committed to our responsibility to volunteers who join us in Africa to help us achieve the objectives we agree with local communities on the projects we run. At the centre of our focus is our responsibility to facilitate projects with meaningful outcomes for all of our volunteers, and we make it a priority for volunteers in turn to experience, learn and enjoy their time with us, and feel safe in all aspects of their stay. We have in place a Code of Conduct which on rare occasions we use to make sure all other volunteers are safe and their experience is not affected negatively by others. When we use the Code of Conduct we ensure the person involved is offered support and is safe. Our St Lucia Project hosts over a hundred volunteers a year and the testimonials speak for themselves - this is one of our top rated projects and has received rave reviews from previous volunteers. We invite any potential volunteers to read subsequent reviews of this program for more accurate project feedback. - Andrew Procter, Operations Director, African Impact
  • RT
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Nashville, TN
    Furman University
    Amazing Experience
    07/15/2013

    I was on the education project in St. Lucia for 2 months, and it was easily the best experience I have ever had. I had a lot of expectations coming in, and I they were all exceeded. The staff is extremely kind and always willing to help. You can tell that they love what they do and truly believe in it. From the beginning of my trip, they made me feel extremely comfortable and at home. Since I was on the education project I participated in teaching at the creches, reading club, after school club, holiday club, adult english classes and other community projects such as gardening and brick building. I could tell that the different projects we take part in really do make a difference in the communities, especially since I was there for 2 months. I can't choose a favorite project, but I really loved reading club and holiday club. I feel like I really got to know these kids, and they had a huge impact on me. One of the things that was really cool is when people in the community talked about how much African Impact means to them, and how it has affected their lives. One experience that was really cool was when a kid wrote a poem about African Impact. That's when you know that the work you are doing is affecting people's lives. I will never forget the experiences that I had here, and I hope that I will return soon.

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  • Hellyeahcooke
    Age: 18 or younger
    Female
    Devon, UK
    Orphan Day Care Teaching and HIV/AIDS Education program -St. Lucia
    05/20/2013

    can't even begin to explain how amazing my time with the St. Lucia team was. The staff were so helpful and knowledgeable, and an absolute laugh! I had a great group of volunteers to work with, from all over the world. It was so rewarding teaching the children everyday and seeing them learn and respond, playing the hilarious apple game! I got to help teach English to adults within the community, partake in gardening, as well as having the absolute joy of working with and seeing the growth of the inkanyezi creche, a look in at what the medical volunteers get up to in the clinic. It was the most insightful and -as cliche as it is- life changing experience to date. It's opened my eyes to so much and really broadened my prospects and aims for the future. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be coming back, hopefully to St. Lucia, as well as more of my beautiful home country. I cannot recommend African Impact enough. 10/10

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  • Patto
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Port Campbell, Australia
    Deakin University
    St Lucia
    02/10/2013

    I had a lot of reservations about volunteering in St Lucia. I'm pretty sceptical when it comes to humanitarian volunteer work in general. But St Lucia proved to be one of the most rewarding, worthwhile things I've ever done.
    I left there knowing my work was beneficial and my time was spent well. The program is really well set up; it can easily rotate volunteers on a weekly or monthly basis through ongoing projects. Standard assignments included English lessons, gardening and HIV awareness. Those on the receiving end of the help are happy to receive it and free to turn it down; no one is forcing the issue. I feel as though I played my small part in something very worthwhile.

    How could this program be improved?

    If you have a large appetite expect to visit the supermarket for snacking purposes in between meals.

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  • TSO
    Age: 19-24
    Male
    Bristol, UK
    Thank you St. Lucia for showing me the value of life
    02/10/2013

    Never in my life I imagined myself doing anything of the sort as I ended up doing in St. Lucia. Had been to Africa before, but not the REAL Africa, only the touristy type of Africa where nothing is really Africa... When I arrived in St Lucia and saw the colours, the people and, mainly, the children, I felt I was home. It was quite daunting the first day (never I imagined that 10 kids running towards me could actually bring me down!) but it was a truly humbling experience. I've learnt to be happy, genuinely happy, with a brick or a tyre or with the simple fact that there's water to shower at the end of a very hard working day. The little African stars (and believe me, they really are stars) will make your money truly worth it, and you will experience things that you'll never experience again! The staff were great, great organisers and mainly friends, always ready to help you and to make sure that you are getting the best of your time there. The local ladies are a show of their own, and you'll never find people so lively and lovely as them. And if you can, travel around St Lucia and beyond, you'll find amazing people and scenery. And finally, don't think you cannot do something: I've built bricks, taught English, made tonnes of face paints, made friends and left a bit of me in St. Lucia. And, at the end of your time with the great staff of African Impact, you'll feel exactly the same, and you'll dream of the day to go back again.

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  • lzdrowski
    Age: 19-24
    Female
    Denver, CO
    University of Colorado- Denver
    Amazing experience in beautiful St. Lucia
    02/08/2013

    I loved my time volunteering in St. Lucia. This experience opened my eyes to the epidemics of poverty and HIV/AIDS in a South African village while offering concrete and veteran projects that allowed me to feel like I was truly making a tangible difference in the lives around me. I can honestly say I learned and benefited as much or more than those we were helping, giving me deeper insight and perspective that I have been able to keep with me and share with others upon my return home. The volunteer house is beautiful, comfortable, and safe, and the staff are absolutely amazing. The programs are organized and structured without being "stuck in old ways," and are therefore constantly being reevaluated and improved upon. Additionally, there are plenty of opportunities for travel and memorable excursions so that you can be both a volunteer and a tourist in beautiful South Africa. I will never forget my time in South Africa or the amazing people I met there!

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Alumni Interviews

  • What inspired you to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Always Time for a Cuddle!

    Sophie: I had always wanted to visit South Africa, a diverse and colourful country.

    Intrigued by its history and vibrant cultures I wanted to not only travel there, but to volunteer, as there really is no better way to genuinely learn about a place and its people than through volunteering!

    As a trainee primary school teacher back in the UK, I was particularly inspired by African impact's teaching projects in Cape Town and believed that volunteering in this area would enable me to contribute to making a genuine impact in the local community.

    African Impact are a responsible and sustainable organisation committed to educating, enriching and empowering the communities in which they work.

    They are partnered with a UK Registered Charity 'The Happy Africa Foundation' who strive to make a difference to Africa's communities and wildlife. A charity and organisation I felt inspired to support.

    What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

    Sophie: The people. I had so much fun at the volunteer house, as soon as I walked in through the front door I felt at home, making friends from all around the world.

    We were extremely well looked after by wonderful local and international staff. Fellow volunteers were like family out there and with constant support from African Impact project co-coordinators and interns, I was able to work together to plan fun and engaging activities and even picked up a bit of Xhosa from the project co-ordinators!

    The Grandmothers and children too! I was lucky enough to meet some very special children whose eyes would light up as soon as I walked in through the front door! Their squeals of joy and the songs they taught will continue to buzz around my head forever - the Grandmothers stories too!

    Tell us about one person you met.

    Overlooking Khayelitsha! (Sandiso: The wonderful guy on the right!)

    Sophie: The one and only Sandiso!

    Sandiso is a local Xhosa speaking project co-ordinator who is dedicated to supporting volunteers in making an impact within the communities.

    Sandiso is a typically laid-back South African who takes everything in his stride! He taught me the true meaning of sustainability and encouraged and enabled me to contribute responsibly all whilst having plenty of fun!

    We worked together at a pre-school and an after-school care project within the local townships. He has a natural rapport with both the locals and international volunteers and of course the children!

    It's obvious that he loves his job, his smile is infectious and he is always up for a song or a dance!

    What was the best moment of the entire trip?

    Sophie: Playing parachute games and singing songs on our last day at GAPA (an after-school care project).

    The children were so excited, giggling and squealing as we tried to organise the parachute chaos! They sang as we said goodbye, so powerful and moving.

    Any tips for future volunteers?

    Children at GAPA (after-school care project)

    Sophie: Bring a jumper! - It's surprisingly cold indoors in South Africa during the winter months!

    Ask questions and really get to know the locals and project staff, they will enrich your life more than you know!

    Be open minded (if your friends want to stop off to try sheep's head on the way to project - do it! Try the local treats, they will leave you wanting more no matter how strange they seem!)

    Learn some Xhosa - the Gogo's will appreciate a 'molo!'

    Why not pack a few extra resources in your back-pack - kids love to play cards and parachute games!

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with African Impact in South Africa?

    Colleen McGilpin

    Colleen: I had wanted to volunteer with the African Impact for a long time! I heard many great things about the organization on their website. I love to volunteer and to help out in the community in my hometown. For as long as I can remember, I wanted to volunteer abroad because I feel that it would be a great experience.

    I decided to volunteer with the African Impact because they are a well known organization around the world. There are so many projects from the African Impact, including orphan care, medical and hospital care, HIV/AIDS research and support, teaching, sports coaching, animals, and much more.

    I decided to volunteer with the Veterinary Assistance and Abused Animal Shelter project because I grew up with many animals in my life and I hope to work with them in the future. I believe taking care of pets has taught me how to be responsible.

    The African Impact organization has many great volunteer projects with animals and I wanted to help animals in South Africa. Cape Town is such a great city to volunteer in because many people are struggling in the city. There are many animals who need our help in South Africa. Volunteering in Africa can make a huge difference for anyone.

    What was the best moment of the entire trip?

    The Puppies at TEARS, which is much like the animal's shelter.
    The Puppies at TEARS, which is much like the animal's shelter.

    Colleen: I made many great memories while volunteering in South Africa. The best moment of the trip would be meeting inspirational people from all over the world. As soon as when I arrived in Cape Town, I couldn't believe how wonderful the people were.

    I volunteered with the Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS) and Wenga's Cat Farm in Cape Town, and everyone was passionate about helping animals. I was inspired to see how people were trying hard to save animals from the streets in Cape Town. The workers and volunteers at the TEARS and Wenga's Cat Farm take care hundreds of animal everyday. I was able to help the veterinarians with performing surgeries on animals. I learned a lot from the veterinarians.

    I also met many other great volunteers at the house where I was staying. All volunteers from African Impact loved to help the community. It was a great feeling to know that many people want to give back to the community in South Africa. I volunteered for five days a week, and I was able to go on many great activities on the weekend!

    I went to shark cage diving, Lions Head mountain hiking, city bus tour, visiting Boulder Beach and Cape of Good Hope. I even spent my birthday in Cape Town while volunteering on the project! It was the most memorable birthday ever.

    What was the most interesting cultural difference you encountered?

    Cape Town
    Cape Town

    Colleen: I have learned a lot in South Africa. I have never traveled or volunteered abroad before. It was my first time volunteering in another country. I was unfamiliar with some languages in South Africa, and many other volunteers from my house spoke Dutch or African as their first language.

    It has made me wanting to learn other language, since English is my first language. Cape Town is very different from my hometown, and it was so nice to learn many new rings. It was hard for me to see how many people are struggling in Cape Town and that there aren't enough of people helping out. I learned all about the food, the cultural, the people and many others.

    The most challenging part is to learn about the money. I was very unfamiliar with African money, but I was able to learn it! The most inspirational thing I learned about the culture in South Africa is the community called Masiphumelele. I have never seen anything like Masi before, and it has opened my eyes.

    Many adults, children, and animals in Masi are struggling to survive. It is a very poor community. Everyone was having a hard time without any money or food. It was amazing to see how people from African Impact help them.

    What was the hardest or most challenging part of your experience?

    Colleen with the owner of Wenga's Farm who takes care of all the cats.
    Colleen with the owner of Wenga's Farm who takes care of all the cats.

    Colleen: The challenging part about the trip was to fly alone for 30 hours to South Africa. I was little scared because I have never traveled outside of United States before. African Impact has opened their arms and warmly welcomed me to the volunteer house as soon when I arrived.

    I think the hardest thing during volunteering in South Africa was to see how people were struggling. Many parts of Cape Town are very poor and most people didn't have much of support. They were having a hard time to find food or to raise money for their survival. Some people built their own homes because they couldn't afford to get a house.

    While volunteering on the project, I have seen countless people on the streets begging for money and food. It was absolutely heart breaking to witness it. The volunteers from African Impact do their best to help, but there weren't enough volunteers. Many animals have died because their owners didn't want to keep them.

    I have witnessed many dogs and cats being hit by a car because their owners threw them out of their homes. There were a lot of animals on the streets, and it was hard to rescue them all. The amazing part was that the workers and volunteers from my project were trying their hardest to rescue animals.

    Has your worldwide changed as a result of your trip?

    Colleen: The trip to South Africa was a life-changing for me. I loved everything about it. I believe volunteering in Africa has made me to appreciate my life much more. I appreciate my family, my pets, and my life more and it helped me to understand how I should be happy with my family. I had never seen people struggling so much before going to Africa.

    It made me want to help people and animals in more countries. Africa has helped me to understand that there are countless of animals and children that need our help. I hope to volunteer abroad again because I had an amazing time and it was an unforgettable trip.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with African Impact in South Africa?

    Heiko with two seniors hanging out at a local youth program.
    Heiko with two seniors hanging out at a local youth program.

    Heiko: I decided to volunteer with African Impact because among the wide variety of options they included exactly the combination of volunteer opportunities I and my family were looking for: primarily rhinos and elephants along with conservation and community work.

    We had a previous experience in Namibia with another organization which involved primarily carnivores. Many of these were in enclosures, but some had to be tracked by radio in very large areas. As we had enjoyed this experience we wanted to come back; but with a focus more of on the larger animals.

    What was your favorite moment of the trip?

    Heiko: My favorite moment of the trip was our first encounter with elephants after six days of searching for them. Excitement was building up as efforts to locate them intensified. Then other thoughts crept in as the days wore on, and despite rumors of sightings by others. Monty Python's skit of the cheese shop came to mind. The operator happened to be out of the cheese the customer first requested, and then the second one, and so on for several dozen more, each with different excuses, until the operator finally admitted that he had no cheese. Perhaps the elephants had wandered away or had been killed by poachers.

    Mature Juvenile and infant elephants crossing the vehicle track.
    Mature Juvenile and infant elephants crossing the vehicle track.

    Finally our driver, Cela, the one with the 80-80 vision, spotted what he thought was a movement over half a kilometer away. Less than ten minutes later we were surrounded by a herd of about 20 of these phantom-like creatures. Like a flotilla they quietly moved across the track on which our vehicle was now stopped. They emerged here and there one or a few at a time out of the bush at one side; and disappeared as in a fog into the growth on the other.

    As I now remember the event, I have to recall that feeling. It is one of life and peace in rich abundance. One large animal had turned to slowly approach our vehicle. We sat still. He came to within less than 20 feet; and Cela had his hand on the starter. Then the Elephant just looked, as if standing guard, as other Elephants, old, young and very young continued to cross the track.

    Tell us about one person you met.

    Phiwe Heiko's favourite soccer player, hospitality student and kitchen help.
    Phiwe Heiko's favourite soccer player, hospitality student and kitchen help.

    Heiko: Others had gone on excursions for the weekend; and some of the kitchen staff were on a break. I introduced myself to a quiet and diminutive young man named Phiwe. It turns out that he is a soccer player and moreover captain of his team of players made up of residents of surrounding communities. He explained in some detail the struggles and frustrations involved in advancing his team so that some of the players might have a chance to become professional.

    This was not just kitchen help; but a young man with intentions of studying and advancing in the hospitality industry, and showing his initiative, vision and ability in organizing and steering his soccer team. Soon we were talking philosophy. I discovered in Phiwe a serious, wise and spiritual man. He looks at the local church in its varied forms with a sense of longing for something more profound and more inclusive. Phiwe is only one of the staff that I have come to appreciate, respect and admire for their dedication, skill and character.

    The employees reflect well on those who hire them. There is a sense of integrity or genuineness that pervades the entire project. Those people who are more permanent, and in that sense are 'running' the projects, show their dedication not only in their attitude toward volunteers and visitors but also in their love for the animals, particularly the endangered ones. Not least indicative is their sincere and diligent outreach to the surrounding communities.

    If you could go back and do something different, what would it be?

    Fuller view of Elephant crossing
    Fuller view of Elephant crossing

    Heiko: Animals too are individuals. It is a serious challenge to identify those individuals and to become familiar with them such that they become more easily recognizable. I would hope to make more of an effort to enable me to get to know the individual animals better. That would open the way to start studying the relationships between members of a group. This is what the resident scientists do; and I would try to draw more on the help that they readily provide by way of off field identification from photographs and descriptions.

    I would also try to become more focused in establishing relationships with individual members of the communities with which African Impact is involved. Each time I have talked to someone more at length I have learned something and obtained a greater appreciation of the individual. I realize that these ambitions are too time demanding for a two or three week stint. So I would have to choose either a greater animal focus, or a greater people focus, or a greater amount of great time.

    Do you feel this project allowed you to contribute in a meaningful way?

    Heiko: Even in my untrained capacity I felt gratified by my ability to contribute. There was not much of the day that was wasted; and schedules were adhered to with a no nonsense discipline. Collecting, recording, and entering animal data is painstaking. Though I spent much time learning to do this, it was largely learning on the job where I was part of doing necessary tasks. The community work was at times overwhelming because of the number of children looking for attention; so every minute contributed.

    One can't learn English in one session; so again, every minute was meaningful if only for the few things that might be learned in a short time. The conservation work in terms of clearing and uprooting invasive species is daunting; but can also only be done one root at a time. So I have to say that in every way I was able to contribute meaningfully, not because of any special skill but due to how my participation was organized.

  • Volunteer with kids in South Africa's classroom
    Lily with local children in her classroom South Africa

    Morning: We all had an early morning start at 7am and helped ourselves to breakfast; a choice of fruit, cereal, yoghurt, tea and coffee. The volunteer house was home for the volunteers of the Medical Outreach/HIV Awareness project and of the Orphan Day Care/HIV Awareness Project. However the activities of both projects often over-lapped. All the volunteers made sure each of the three vehicles were packed up, we piled into each one and went off to our different activities for the morning.

    I was on the medical outreach project but for my first week I was teaching HIV education to primary school kids. In the morning we would arrive at the creche in Khula village and play with the children until it was time to walk to the school. Other volunteers remained at the creche to teach there. The walk took at least a good thirty minutes and it wound through the local village. We passed many locals who would warmly shout "Sawubona". Right on queue we would reply with "Yebo. Unjani?", trying to use as much of the Zulu language we learnt in our induction. At the school we picked up the chalk from the office and headed to the classroom. When the bell rang the class piled in and took their seats. We taught in English and planned the lesson plans the night before. The class would have six lessons over two weeks.

    On the final lesson the kids would take a test. It was up to us to make sure they understood the information so they could not only pass their test but be aware of the risks of HIV transmission. After the lesson we would walk back to the creche to help out there until we headed back to the volunteer house to all have lunch together.

    Afternoon: After we had all finished lunch we packed up the jeeps again ready for our afternoon work. This tended to be different everyday. I got involved in the after school club in one of the local villages, gave medical help in local homes, made bricks to build a new creche, taught adults HIV education, attended women support groups and weeded the vegetable patches that were made by the local women to feed families and give them an income.

    Every day was different. Some of it was physically hard work and emotionally tough but it was always rewarding. We were usually supervised by one of two local women who were a good laugh and they could translate for us during conversations with the local people. The afternoon sessions ended before dinner time where again we all joined up at the volunteer house to eat and tell everyone about the progress we had made during the day. With so many volunteers at the table it was never quiet. Beofre dinner there was always time to head into the town of St.Lucia to grab a coffee or a slice of cake. (The illy cafe does an amazing variety of flavoured lattes).

    Evening: The evening time was our free time but, if like me, you had lessons to give in the morning, it was often first spent discussing with your fellow volunteers the proposed plan for the next days lesson. The volunteer house has a pool but believe me South Africa's winter is cold! A couple brave ones jumped in and quickly got out shaking like a leaf.

    A couple of us every night would head down to the Babooshka bar to have a boogie or get to know the local people. We had to watch out for hippos on the walk home though - yes we encountered hippos on the road!

    Volunteer in South Africa at night
    Lily with other volunteers going out at night

    Highlights: It is so hard to pick just one highlight because there were so many of them: most of my class passing their school test, hearing Primrose continually laugh at after school club and getting easily beat in a game of netball against the village's girls team on national women's day. I enjoyed the project so much that I extended my stay and I'm still trying to find a time when I can go back to it.

    Beside the volunteering I made amazing friends who I am still in contact with and even came face-to-face with a hippo!

  • Woman with a child in South Africa holding a sign
    Laura spreading awareness!

    Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Laura: I decided to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa for a few different reasons: my best friend was completing her Peace Corps service in Khula Village by St Lucia, I had just graduated from undergrad and was itching for an adventure, and I was about to begin nursing school and wanted to gain experience in international healthcare. I chose African Impact because, from the looks of their website and from my friend's experience in the village, they had the most pervasive impact in the community. Not only did they participate in many meaningful projects and events, they also played a sustainable and impactful role in these South African communities.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Laura: One of the reasons why I loved African Impact so much is because I felt busy and productive each and every day. Each weekday, the volunteers would wake up and eat breakfast together and then head to project they were assigned to for that morning. The volunteers were generally split between medical volunteers, who focused on home-based care visits, clinic support, and HIV/AIDS support groups, and educational volunteers who spent most of their time in kreches (preschools) and after-school programs. Both teams also spent a great deal of time on HIV/AIDS education in primary schools and adult learners, gardening in the community garden, and "ten families" in which we visited the ten families the induna (think president of the village) deemed most in need and worked to assist them in any way we could.

    Normally volunteers would work for four hours in the morning, return for lunch, and set out again for four hours of afternoon work. Because we would visit two neighboring villages, Khula and Eswenelisha, we were pretty busy! One of those afternoons would be spent planning for the following week's projects and volunteers would spend a few hours brainstorming new games or lessons for the children or new health topics to cover during HIV/AIDS support groups. After a long day of work, we would gather for delicious dinners cooked by our house cook. We would spend the rest of the evening playing games together or relaxing. Weekends were free for excursions and traveling, exploring St Lucia, or relaxing on the beach.

    Woman with a child in South Africa
    Laura with a new friend!

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Laura: I loved the balance between structure and relaxation, volunteering and tourism. Because South Africa is such a diverse country, full of extreme poverty, wealth, beauty, and tragedy, I thought it was special and fitting for our experience to incorporate all of these aspects. Although at times it was difficult to wrap our heads around these dichotomies, I felt it was important to experience, and to do so as a team.

    Our wonderful and passionate volunteer coordinators, Alanna and Sofie, also did an amazing job getting everyone involved and inspiring enthusiasm, oftentimes challenging us to come up with our own ideas and projects to make the experience a more personal one.They were always available to talk, answer questions, and were constantly thinking of ideas to make our time more special. I was also lucky enough to be with African Impact during World AIDS Day, and the events we participated in that week are the memories that I hold most dear to my heart -- the energy, hope, and advocacy fueled by these villages was absolutely inspiring.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Laura: My experience with African Impact greatly impacted my future. Although I already had plans to go to nursing school, my experience in South Africa solidified my decision, as nursing is a profession in which you are able to help and impact others everyday. My experience also awakened in me a passion for preventative health education and advocacy, and I plan to incorporate this into my practice both in the states and abroad in my future. Although I already had interest and knowledge on the topic of HIV/AIDS, this experience truly opened my eyes to the devastating effect this epidemic has had in Africa, and more specifically in South Africa -- in the Kwazulu-Natal region, around 40% of inhabitants are infected by this deadly virus.

    This realization therefore also inspired a passion for HIV/AIDS education and advocacy and I have taken clinical elective courses on caring for patients infected by HIV/AIDS since beginning nursing school in the states. Finally, my experience showed me the beauty of a continent I once feared as too exotic and unknown -- I will never forget the beauty of the song, dance, and smiles of the South Africans of Khula and Eswenelisha villages.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Volunteer playing with children
    Elsbeth volunteering with children through African Impact

    Elsbeth: Eight years ago I made a trip trough South Africa and I fell in love with that country. From that time I decided to be a volunteer one day. But like the most lives, it is not easy to get away for two months when you have a job. When I heard that my job would be over from the first of October, I decided to follow my dream and went to South Africa to be a volunteer. I booked with Activity International and they worked together with African Impact. The reason that I booked with African Impact is because of the different projects that they have so that I could see all the different aspects in the Zulu community.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Elsbeth: I lived in a volunteer's house together with about ten other volunteers from different countries. It was a great time. There were volunteers who worked with the children in the creches in Khula and in Ezwenelisha and other volunteers who worked in the clinic in Khula or visited sick people at home. In the morning we worked from 8.30 till 12.30 and then we had lunch at the volunteers house. After lunch we worked from 13.30 till 16.30. In the afternoon there were different projects for the community, like garbage picking, painting the church, working in the garden, reading books with children in the Reading club, planning activities with orphans at the afterschool club, giving HIV/Aids education for adults and for children at the Primary School, making bricks for a new building, joining the support group where people can talk about their problems etc.

    Because of all the different activities you have a good picture how the Zulu people are living. Although the people are poor they always laugh and are very happy when you come. This gives you a great feeling! During the evenings and in the weekend you had free time and African Impact always gives you different options for booking excursions, like a visit to Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park, visiting Isimangaliso Wetland Park, an trip to Kosi Bay or Swaziland, an Zulu night, horse-back riding, an elephant interaction at Thanda Game Reserve, an game drive at Bayete Zulu Game Reserve or a Hippo and Crocodile tour. So you will never had a dull moment.

    Children playing on the playground
    Children playing on the playground

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Elsbeth: For me, personally it was a experience for life. Anyone who has the chance to be a volunteer must do it! You meet other people, another culture and you reflected this at your own life. Elsbeth never had a better feeling about a job than being a volunteer. The respect and appreciation what you receive from this people is amazing. You won't forget!

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Elsbeth: So, this experience of being a volunteer was so intense that I decided to find a job abroad! You can't change Africa, but Africa can change you!

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    ISV Volunteers exploring South African wildlife
    Claire and her friend exploring South African wildlife

    Claire: I had always wanted to do a volunteer abroad program and Africa had always been my first choice. I had a little time in the summer that year so I decided to research online and see if I could find anything. African Impact came up and I visited the website. There were also great reviews and I had a look at the Facebook page. I found the St. Lucia project and it really appealed to me. The idea that the projects aimed to be sustainable and the overall aim of the company really connected with me. I got in contact via the website and within hours I received a phone call. They were so quick at responding and so easy to talk to that I couldn't refuse. I kept in touch by email and everything went through quickly and easily. I would recommend them to anyone interested in volunteering and will probably use them again.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Claire: The whole experience was like a dream. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I made so many incredible friends and South Africa really did find a special place in my heart. The staff were so friendly and easy to talk to. They made the whole experience that bit more personal and made you really feel like you were making a difference.

    The people of the communities were so welcoming and loving and were such an inspiration. You got the opportunity to do different projects so every day was unique. As well as volunteering, I had the chance to see some of the country, the culture, food and wildlife. I built so many bonds, especially with the children as you got to know them so well. I was surprised at how little the language barrier got in the way. The children spoke with their smiles, hugs and laughter. It was magical!

    Volunteers with local South African kids
    Claire volunteered in South Africa through ISV

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Claire: The time I spent there will never be forgotten. It has made me so much more grateful for what I have and the opportunities I have been given. I think twice now before I moan or complain. It has made me realize what is truly important and that life is precious and short.

    Traveling has always been an interest for me but now I want to see more, do more and make more of my life. I have realized that although my studies are important, they are not everything and life shouldn't be planned and strict but should be a daring adventure full of twists and turns.The trip was so important to me, I actually had Zulu words tattooed on my side a few weeks later. It was a life changing experience. Jump right in and get involved!

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Jessica: Research, really is the only answer. I've always wanted to volunteer in Africa, and it was just a matter of finding a suitable organization. African Impact has such a wide variety of projects in many countries, making it easy to find something for you! They aim for sustainable development, which was a huge factor to me. African Impact seeks to aid in the development of African countries, but does so in a way that gives the people the tools to maintain and flourish their projects.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Jessica: On the St. Lucia Community and Orphan Care project, our mornings consisted of teaching, playing, feeding and cleaning at creches (like a preschool or daycare). We would create lesson plans on weekly themes. Our repertoire would include ABC's, 123's, colors, shapes, etc, and the weekly theme, would could vary from transportation to animals. Some volunteers would also teach HIV education to primary school children, on a course created by African Impact, granting certificates to all children that passed!

    Jessica with local African child
    Jessica smiling while helping out local communities

    Afternoon projects generally ended around 430, and we were free to do as we please until dinner at 550. Our volunteer house was situated right n the town of St. Lucia, and we were free to go into town to get a coffee, go on the Internet, shop, and so on. If we wanted, we could sign out of any meal and enjoy some of the restaurants in town. After supper many of us would go for a drink or dessert. St. Lucia was right on an estuary, so when we went out after dinner we needed to stay in a group and bring flashlights because the hippos come out of the estuary at night!

    On the St. Lucia Community and Orphan Care project, our mornings consisted of teaching, playing, feeding and cleaning at creches (like a preschool or daycare). We would create lesson plans on weekly themes. Our repertoire would include ABC's, 123's, colors, shapes, etc, and the weekly theme, would could vary from transportation to animals. Some volunteers would also teach HIV education to primary school children, on a course created by African Impact, granting certificates to all children that passed!

    After coming back to our volunteer house and eating our prepared lunch, both the medical and community (the project I was on) volunteers would head out together. These projects were various, and could include building beds or tire courses for some of the creches, gardening in some of the village gardens, teaching adult literacy club, children's reading club, adult HIV education or after school club. Most of these projects would run on certain days of the week, and the schedule rotated volunteers through on a weekly basis.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Jessica: This experience was hands down the best experience of my life. I'd go back in a second. The experience of getting to know other volunteers was something unique to me in and of itself. There were volunteers from all over the world, and it was amazing to meet and share such connections with these people. African Impact also hires local people to aid us on the projects. These women, and man, were incredibly inspirational, hilarious and informative. It was very hard to say goodbye to them! I miss them each and every day. I think it is truly a testament to the all encompassing nature of African Impact to see them employ locals. I think it shows how deeply African Impact cares about the communities they work in.

    Jessica exploring South Africa with friend
    Jessica exploring South Africa

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Name: As cliche as it sounds, I'm going to be yet another volunteer who says volunteering abroad has greatly impacted them. I'm actually already looking into volunteering with African Impact again. Being that my degree is in Political Science, I have taken in interest in African politics, and would love to further that education. I have been considering getting a teaching degree upon completion of my current bachelors, and while that is still on the table, my passion for teaching and working with children in Africa is greater.

    Some days it still doesn't feel real that I'm back home, going to school and working. I miss my St. Lucia routine, I miss the children and people in the villages, I miss the culture. I've never felt as happy as I did in South Africa. My time there was rewarding to the utmost, and it was rejuvenating in a sense. You can see what your work does, and it gave me a sense of accomplishment, being able to say, 'Hey, I helped build that.' Or 'I helped teach that.' Yet there is so much more that needs to be done, and so much more that can be done. And I'd love to do more with African Impact.

  • Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Lily with local African kids
    Volunteer with local South African kids

    Lily: I had had bad experiences with volunteer projects before so wanted to find one where I was worked hard and that made a difference. I found African Impact when I searched online and noticed that for this particular medical project you did not need to be studying medicine. I was also very interested in doing some work in HIV awareness as KwaZulu-natal has a very high prevalence of it.

    What made me decide to go with African Impact was that when I emailed them for more information they emailed me back promptly offering to phone me to discuss any questions I had. They were so friendly and efficient that I decided they would be a good company to volunteer for.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Lily: The project manager explained their vision and how the project was aiming to be sustainable. You really got to understand what they were doing and how you were helping. We were volunteering in local villages and helping in severely poor areas that really needed help. The local village people were so friendly and smiley, they were a pleasure to be around.

    Volunteer exploring South African culture
    Volunteer working with other South African locals

    Besides from the volunteering, the project is based in iSimangaliso Wetland Park giving volunteers great opportunities for safari activities at the weekend. There was also the opportunity to go to a cheetah park, swim with dolphins in Mozambique, cruise on St.Lucia estuary to see crocodiles and hippos or if you are really brave have a go at canoeing on it. Not to be missed is the Zulu night which is run in the local village of Khula. You get to sample local food, music, dance and have a peek at their culture.

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Lily: I left the project with a slightly heavy heart because so much needed to be done there and the conditions the people had to live in were terrible. Nevertheless I feel like I really did contribute to something great. I keep up to date with what the project is currently doing and I really do hope I can return someday for longer.

    In terms of jobs and academia, I get asked about the experience in job interviews and I always include it on my CV or when applying for university places. I got to broaden my experiences and work on my initiative. I got involved in so many different things that it can really be applied to any job application.

  • Volunteer with South African kid
    Ben volunteering in South Africa

    Why did you decide to volunteer with African Impact in South Africa?

    Ben: I found African Impact through another site - Amanzi Travel (definitely worth checking them out). The reviews of African impact's projects were all really good though, and it just looked like such a worthwhile experience.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Ben: Every morning we'd start with cereal, fruit or toast as we got ready to get on the bus for the morning project. Then we'd all get on the bus and set off on a beautiful drive along the coast to our different pre-schools for the morning - my school was luckily last stop of the trip so every morning I'd get at least 20 minutes of taking in the ocean views before a fun morning with the kids. The kids always come running to the gate to greet the volunteers and after a bit of playing, it's time for an English lesson and a snack. After a bit more fun, you help with washing the hands and lunch and then head off back on the bus which takes you back to the volunteer house for lunch.

    After an always-tasty lunch and an hour or so break, we'd be off to the afternoon community project. These were really, really rewarding. One community project is a home for HIV infected and affect children, and African Impact are the only volunteer organisation allowed in to the home, so it's a great privilege to talk to these amazing kids and help them with their English and maths. Always a good laugh too, they're witty and will always keep you on your toes! Another community project is a safe house for a abused kids and parents, again a privilege to be involved with - such an eye-opener.

    The food for dinner was top-notch. Always hit the spot after a long day. After this the volunteers will decide how best to use the evening. You can prepare extra activities for the next day or explore. Beaches - everywhere. Mountains - everywhere. Loads of nice evening spots for meals or drinks... there really is a lot to keep you occupied. I personally would go for a run up the hill to a beach view probably 3 nights a week, followed by a chilled evening. Also went to the cinema, watched a local talent show and went swimming in a lake. Most evenings there will be someone putting a film on or going over the road to get some food.

    A nice view of South Africa
    Ben exploring parts of South Africa

    The highlight was probably skydiving. That was just an incredible experience, and Cape Town is one of the top 3 places in the world to skydive apparently. So insanely good. In terms of the actual volunteering, though... The highlight had to be the way you interact with and learn from everyone in Cape Town. The project staff, the pre-school teachers and the pre-school kids - so many life lessons to learn from them. Some inspirational adults and some amazingly happy and grateful kids - it's just awesome to be a part of.

    What made this experience unique and special?

    Ben: So much to say. Cape Town is just an incredible place. So much life, colour, scenery, activity and contrast. Learning about their culture is a great experience - getting to know the kids there, the schools and the way of life, is really interesting. The sites - Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robben Island, those are all worthy of the hype too. The project staff were really nice from day one, and the volunteer house is such a great base. The food and the service is top-quality. The friends I made and the good times I had won't be forgotten. I got help out in the office, putting my photography and graphic design abilities to good use too - really enjoyed that. The whole volunteering experience helps you to discover a new world and grow as a person, and those are things you just can't learn from a text book.

    Volunteer enjoying South Africa scenery
    Ben enjoying sightseeing in South Africa

    How has this experience impacted your future?

    Ben: The experience has helped re-enforce life lessons such as... be grateful for what you have, work hard and to the best of your ability (EARN your time to chill), be tolerant and understanding of other people's problems, and loads more. It has done wonders for my CV and helped me to realize what I want to do career-wise, long-term. Character building, for sure... When it comes to leaving home, taking risks and pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone... I'm not naturally at ease. It took a lot of will power to book this project but the second I arrived in Cape Town I knew it was the place to be. As one of my favourite songs puts it: 'If you never leave home, never let go, you'll never make it to the great unknown'. Getting out there and doing something like this can set you up for a life of exploring and experiencing. Do it.

About the provider

African Impact is a multi-award winning volunteer travel organisation which runs and manages meaningful and responsible volunteer experiences and internship programs throughout Africa. The organisation was founded in 2004 in Zimbabwe, and since then has grown into the Africa leaders in volunteer tourism, having facilitated over 12,000 volunteers and interns in 12 countries across the continent.

We're proud to offer fun, safe and structured placements where volunteers understand their contribution to responsible projects run in partnership with local communities and conservation efforts. Our journey so far has been both inspiring and humbling and we will keep pushing the horizons of what volunteering can achieve.