Experienced with other international volunteer global service initiatives, I was hesitant about using a company that I did not know to facilitate our South African group experience. I found Edge of Africa online, and the testimonies of others caught my attention. I contacted locals in the Knysna area whom I knew, and I asked about the company, and only good things were said about Edge of Africa.
Our school's Global Service Leadership program is called E.D.G.E. (Engagement, Development, Gratitude and Experience), so I must admit I was hoping that the company would serve us well. I had no need to hesitate. My queries were treated professionally, honestly and promptly.
Not only was the communication good before we arrived, but our experience was positive from the time we were gently picked up from the airport after our 30 hour journey, to our tearful good byes when we were returned to the airport at the end of our stay.
The program was varied yet meaningful everyday. There were opportunities for change when it seemed advantageous and we were treated as family - with humour, respect and caring. Our students benefited from taking responsibility to teach young children about the environment, to have fun with local children and one another in working and playful experiences.
Our students were also given the opportunity to visit and work on a local game reserve (arriving with the new lions roaring not far from our tents was exciting, and getting to know the elephants by name and scent was heart-warming). The entire experience was fantastic - nothing was unpleasant, even the soaking rain and mud and hard physical work on the reserve; it made wonderful memories.
I have no hesitation in recommending Edge of Africa as an outstanding company with which to work, and they facilitate an excellent volunteering experience in South Africa.
This is the online blog written by our students, which accompanies photos we took in Knysna, on the reserve and our visit to Cape Town: http://2011edgesouthafrica.wordpress.com/