Ways to Volunteer in South Africa with Children

If you’re determined to go to South Africa and particularly passionate about helping children, or even interested in one and nervous about the other…there are a variety of ways — and an even larger variety of programs — to brave both and positively impact this increasingly popular destination.

Of the many advantages of choosing South Africa for your next trip, the beautiful natural surroundings, exotic wildlife, developed amenities, and commonality of English speaking make for an ideal voluntourism setting. Knowing in advance that communication won’t be a problem and matching your specific skills and talents with one of the many volunteer opportunities, from daycare and teaching to coaching or healthcare, will prepare you for a meaningful, life-changing experience.

Customize your plans by choosing the right outlet for you based on your own experience, education, skills, and interests. Here are the overall ways you can serve children in South Africa and a few ideal program providers of each method.

Teaching Students

Teach children in schools in South Africa

Opportunities in public institutions range from daycare to primary or secondary schools. Regardless of the students’ ages, a major need filled by volunteers is offloading local teachers. Impoverished schools are overcrowded and simply relieving stress on both the teachers and students makes a huge difference in the impact of the curriculum and the experience and confidence of the students.

Volunteers may be asked to entertain or occupy students, play games or organize activities, maintain organization in the classroom, or help grade papers. You could also be asked to manage after school programs and therefore given the opportunity to teach music, dance, or sports.

Suggested teaching programs in South Africa...

For a more specific assignment, look into IVHQ’s computer training project or GVN’s Venda project, where your daily tasks are outlined as specifically as serving porridge, brushing teeth, counting, educating on personal hygiene, making crafts, and teaching reading, writing, and pronunciation of English.

Serving Disadvantaged Children

Private facilities in need of assistance include orphanages, group homes, safe houses, social service facilities, or daycare centers for mentally or physically disabled children. The children in these situations may be dealing with or recovering from extreme poverty, alcohol or drug-related abuse, illness, abandonment, or physical abuse.

Children in South Africa

These placements require understanding and training in the amount of attention and nurture these children require, in addition to how best to communicate with them given the circumstances. Volunteers’ responsibilities will still involve serving food, arranging activities, and helping with homework, but with a directed approach and potentially more challenging interactions.

Suggested childcare programs in orphanages and daycares in South Africa...

Volunteering Solutions offers a Childcare and Social Welfare program typically with one- to eight-week placements in Cape Town. This particular program features opportunities to incorporate arts and crafts, dance, or drama into your assistance.

In contrast, i-to-i Volunteering offers a program specifically serving special needs children at a daycare centre for those physically or mentally handicapped. Volunteers are trained for these exact needs and will provide sensory stimulation through art and games.

Aiding in Healthcare

While supporting the vast need for HIV/AIDS education, treatment, and prevention covers all ages, several programs guarantee work with children while fighting this epidemic if it’s what you feel led to or are qualified for. Healthcare volunteering doesn’t require medical expertise; it’s a field in desperate need of relief for overwhelmed doctors and nurses.

Suggested healthcare programs serving kids in South Africa...

For example, African Impact hosts a clinic in beautiful St. Lucia on the South African coast, where volunteers playing with children makes all the difference in saving time and stress for adult patients. For a more hands-on, medical opportunity, Kaya Volunteers serves HIV/AIDS infected children living in orphanages. Kaya also serves a preschool in Chintsa and adult HIV/AIDS awareness programs.

Coaching and Promoting Fitness

Sports coaching

More active and athletic volunteers have opportunities to lead children in organized sports, after school activities, or surfing. With students’ ages ranging from six months to high school, volunteers could be doing anything from duck, duck, goose to football or fitness training.

Suggested sports coaching and fitness programs for kids in South Africa...

Love Volunteers focuses on healthy lifestyle implementation and team building in its Sports Development program while Projects Abroad, like several local programs, includes participation in the Surfing Project, where volunteers teach swimming, paddling, surfing, and even sand castle building after school.

Last, Edge of Africa’s Knysna experience includes afternoon sports clinics where volunteers can coach soccer, teach motor skills, and introduce the sport of their choice to children whose schools don’t promote physical education.

Whatever your interests and eventual role, a country familiar with turmoil, prejudice, and illness can undoubtedly use your help, and local children are the hope for a progressively better future. Your mere hobby—whether sports, crafts, music, dance, or games—can change the outlook of a nation…and your own life more than you know.

Ashley Day

Ashley fell in love with travel between volunteering in Honduras and studying abroad in Florence. She grew up in Orlando, attended college in Nashville, and is now a travel writer and editor in New York City contributing to Rand McNally, The Daily Meal, and Men's Fitness.