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Edge of Africa

About

EDGE of AFRICA is committed to ethical volunteering and responsible traveling, providing volunteer and internship placements in Africa for gap years, career breaks, university internships, school groups and corporate team building projects. EDGE of AFRICA is all about EMPOWERING communities; INSPIRING conservation; and RESTORING biodiversity.

Founded
2007
Headquarters

United States

Reviews

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Hayley
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When arriving in South Africa, a member of staff picked us up right away. He was extremely friendly which took a lot of post-flight stress away. Arriving at the house I was pleasantly surprised. The staff were all lovely and there was just about enough room for all of us in the room. The programme consisted of organising two events for the people who live in the townships pretty much on our own. We had some guidance from a project leader however, were were mainly left to do our own planning and creating. At the end of each day spend on this event planning project we would write down what we had achieved so the project leaders could track our progress. We would drive around venues, speak to the local people, create our own decorations and we learnt a lot about event planning. Both of our events were a success despite last minute stresses which come with all events everywhere. Although planning events for this programme were very different to how I would plan events at home, it still grew my confidence in event planning and made me realise there is not always a step-by-step process to follow, sometime you have to adapt to your situation and surroundings. Overall, this program brought me a lot of happiness when seeing the local people enjoying the event I'd created, it's a feeling I wont forget and it have drove my passion for events even more.

What would you improve about this program?
Housing - more space was needed in my opinion. One room had no space for clothes and no room to pull under bed boxes out.
Guidance - due to lots of materials being lost in the devastating fire the year before, I feel like more guidance could have been giving to use as we had to do everything from scratch and getting started was difficult.
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Dom
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent 5 days with EOA and really enjoyed my time with them and as a group we had a big impact on the community and environment around Knysna. We spent time in the community helping out people and running soup kitchens and a recycling swop shop.

We also did environmental work with GreenPop and planted treesI spent 5 days with EOA and really enjoyed my time with them and as a group we had a big impact on the community and environment around Knysna. We spent time in the community helping out people and running soup kitchens and a recycling swop shop.

We also did environmental work with GreenPop and planted treesI spent 5 days with EOA and really enjoyed my time with them and as a group we had a big impact on the community and environment around Knysna. We spent time in the community helping out people and running soup kitchens and a recycling swop shop.

We also did environmental work with GreenPop and planted trees

What would you improve about this program?
More time to spend on projects we enjoyed doing and more time to spend on projects overall
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Alice
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Visiting Knysna wasn't just a work based learning project for me, it was an adventure, where I developed academic skills as well as personal, such as time management, organisational, confidence, motivation and perseverance. My South African adventure was an eye opener.

Volunteering at EDGE of AFRICA is one of my most fantastic and rewarding achievements. I imagine it as an inspiring story that I am never afraid to tell. I will forever remember and cherish the memories that were created with my team, the staff and most importantly the local people. It was the local people who made my trip so memorable and special, they put life into perspective for me. In the UK we worry about being up-to-date with the latest technology, in Knysna they worry about being able to provide a pair of shoes for their child. It broke my heart to see such scenes, however, then I thought to myself, wait a minute, these people are surprisingly happy and always have a smile on their faces. And that's the moment where I thought, this is what life is all about. To appreciate the simplest things for example, when I gave the school children each a pencil, they were so delighted they kept it safe and hugged me to say how thankful they were.

The staff at EDGE of AFRICA are phenomenal, they are down to earth, friendly and caring. My South African adventure wouldn't have been the same without the EDGE team by my side. When I was homesick or having a bad day I could always rely on a member of the team to cheer me up and make me laugh again. It was the connectedness of the team that I loved, EDGE felt like my second family.

One of my most treasured experiences that will always stay with me is visiting the Rastafarian community. They are so cool! One message that I took away with me was that diversity is a main factor within society. It is the diverse cultures of this earth that makes the world go round. The more cultures that you discover, the more open-minded you will become and the more open-minded you are as a person, the more understanding you are towards others.

Roar! Now for the beautiful wildlife and natural landscapes. Addo Elephant National Park is one for you to tick off your bucket list. There is nothing more moving than seeing animals such as elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes and rhinos in their natural habitats on a safari. Did I mention that I also did horse back riding with giraffes? Oh, and went shark cage diving at Mossel Bay? See my photos if you don't believe me.

If there is one message to take away from my experience it is to appreciate what you have.

What would you improve about this program?
I would've liked all members of the EDGE team to have been more involved during our individual projects and general team bonding activities.
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Ayla
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience was organized by my university, but I fundraised money to go myself. This process raised awareness about Edge of Africa within my local community and social groups.
My experience was unique because I knew no one going, although I was travelling with fellow UoC students, we had never met before and were all from different departments within the uni. I now have friends for life from my trip. The bond we made was so strong, mainly due to the tough nature of the programme. Many of us got ill and had to overcome personal challenges during our 5 week trip which naturally made us closer as a group. I also met other volunteers in the volunteer house. Girls similar ages to myself, from Denmark, Switzerland for example.
During our stay. we were invited to learn about South African culture with our daily sessions about food, traditions and the community. The programme staff were also really welcoming and friendly, making sure we had everything we needed and were comfortable delivering out workshops. Going into pre-schools highlighted to me how different children's lives can be compared to home. The lack of resources (even paper and colouring pencils) was a shock to us, we just expected to have those kind of things. This made me reflect on my own school experience and really opened my eyes to the poverty in some communities in South Africa. One thing we all noticed though, was all the children were happy. They had so much energy, and soul about them, which lifted our mood every day.
My advice to future participants would be: go with an open mind, expect the unexpected, look forward to visiting the most beautiful varied country, be ready for a challenge, and don't worry too much about what you'll be doing or where you'll be staying. Edge of Africa really look after you and make sure you get the most out of your experience, for you and their community.

What would you improve about this program?
Maybe some more support from staff whilst out on placement. We were dropped off at our pre-school with another volunteer who wasn't that helpful. It would have been useful to have had an Edge staff member to introduce us properly to the school and guide us in gradually. We were definitely thrown in at the deep end which was good for us, but it was a lot to take in all at once - especially after such a long journey!
I also think it'd be nice for staff to run weekly one-to-ones with volunteers. To talk through their projects, make sure they're doing okay in themselves and just to touch base.
Ruby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I met such amazing people in my five weeks in Knysna. I absolutely loved working in the pre-schools and interacting with the children who were so enthusiastic and cute. The various community projects we did were also great because the work Edge do is so important for the community and it was also very eye-opening for me to get a real sense of the difficulty of many people's situations. Myself and the other girls in my group are still in contact and all talk about going back someday!

Programs

Displaying 10 - 10 of 10

Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Emily Dinsmore

Studied Events Management and Tourism at the University of Chester. She absolutely loves adventure.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program as part of my studies during my second year at university. I could either go on work placement somewhere in the UK or I could pick to study abroad for my module. I went with the obvious choice and decided to study abroad.

You could pick from a variety of programs in a variety of countries, and the Edge of Africa program stood out. It had a mixture of adventure and helping others, and I even got to learn more about what I was studying and put it into practice in a completely new and different environment.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

As I was going through the university, I had sessions to discuss things – which has a lot to do with the country, the program and the jabs, visas, etc. Edge of Africa has been absolutely great when I needed answers to any questions I had that weren't covered in my uni sessions, or if I just wanted more information. They always got back to you quickly and efficiently.

I did organize by myself everything in the UK to South Africa such as flights, etc. but the help was there if and when I needed it. As soon as I got to South Africa, the team were there waiting for all of us volunteers at the airport. I didn't really have to worry about anything whilst I was there.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

One piece of advice I would give is on clothing. Make sure you have something that goes below the knee for when you are working within the communities; it's a sign or respect. I took long shorts, and we get a t-shirt to work in so you don't have to worry about the top half of your body.

Also, if you love bournville, there is a mint version sold in the supermarkets, and OMG it's absolutely delicious! I can't seem to find it anywhere else so enjoy it whilst you're there!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

It depends on which program you choose to do with Edge of Africa. From Monday to Thursday, you would go to where your placement is. If you are in a school, then that's where you would go for a few hours before coming back to the house for dinner. You have about an hour for dinner which is provided by Edge of Africa. Then you go back out to do two more hours of volunteering which is usually completely different to what you have done in the morning. You have complete free time in the evenings and weekends. Weekends are usually when excursions would be done.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was worried about sharing a room with a lot of girls for five weeks and not having personal space even for just a small amount of time. However, I told myself that I wouldn’t have to do it forever and that I could do it. I'm so glad I did because it turned out to be such an amazing experience, and I absolutely loved sharing a room with so many wonderful people!

What is the food like?

I get this question quite a lot when people ask me about my time in Knysna, and the first thing I say is that it’s amazing! A lot of traditional food is a little stodgy and might not even be to your taste, but I would definitely recommend trying it! It is so appetizing and delicious; I don't think there was one thing I didn't fully enjoy. They also eat the same kind of food we do in the UK, so if you have special dietary requirements or anything, you don't have to worry too much.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Tell us a little about Edge of Africa and your role at the company.

Jo: Edge of Africa was founded in South Africa in 2007 by Dayne Davey. Dayne was born in Zimbabwe and has always been passionate about Africa’s people and environment. Through her own personal experiences Dayne was motivated to initiate a volunteer organisation that truly benefits local communities and the environment.

Edge of Africa branches have now also been opened in Madagascar and Zimbabwe and our organisation boasts the involvement of volunteers from over 20 different nations globally.

We are a non-government organisation offering volunteers the opportunity to contribute to Africa’s communities and environment. We provide ethical volunteer and internship placements in Africa for those taking gap years or career breaks, university students looking for internship opportunities, and school groups. We don't receive any funding from the government or any other organisations and rely solely on the goodwill and hard work of our team members.

We believe our organisation not only helps satisfy some dire needs in our communities and environment, but also provides exposure to the colourful heritage, cultures and traditions Africa has to offer, with the valuable benefit of making an actual, tangible difference in the lives we touch.

My role includes assisting with the general management of our Knysna (South Africa) Branch and its team members; however my main role in Edge of Africa is Project Development. My responsibilities include identifying projects that align with the ethos of Edge of Africa and outlining clear aims and objectives for those projects; monitoring and evaluating the progress of our projects to ensure that we are in line with our objectives; ensuring that our volunteers have a clear understanding of the objectives of our projects and their role within our projects; and communicating with and maintaining good relationships with community members and any other stakeholders.

How did you get involved in the volunteer industry?

Jo: I initially became involved with the volunteer industry through my passion for conservation. I have a degree in Animal Conservation Science and during my free time whilst at university I chose to volunteer on various conservation projects. Through one of these volunteer opportunities I discovered Edge of Africa and I never looked back! Within days of volunteering with this organisation I knew this was my calling and I couldn’t imagine ever not being a part of Edge of Africa and so I went from being a short term volunteer, to a long term volunteer, and eventually became a permanent team member!

In your experience, what characteristics make a good international volunteer?

Jo: To me the number one most important requirement of a volunteer is that they share the vision of the organisation and the projects that they plan to be involved in. For example many people who consider volunteering (often with good intentions) hold a belief that they are going to come in and “save Africa” – the problem with this is that the very suggestion that Africa needs “saving” instils a sense of self-worthlessness in the community and does not align with the vision of Edge of Africa which is to empower local communities.

I think that other characteristics that make a good volunteer are willingness to get stuck in with all aspects of a project; the ability to take initiative and go the extra mile in order to benefit the project they are involved in; an understanding that they are often contributing to a bigger picture (“Rome wasn’t built in a day!”); and the ability to show sensitivity and open-mindedness towards all cultures and traditions.

I think that a good volunteer puts the needs of the project first – choosing to volunteer is rarely an entirely selfless act, for most people part of their motivation to volunteer is because they want to experience new things and meet new people and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this at all, gaining something for yourself is part of the experience but I believe that the number one priority of a volunteer should be to benefit the projects they are involved with.

What does the future hold for Edge of Africa?

Jo: We are currently working towards the establishment of the Edge of Africa Academy. To have a local academy has always been a dream of the Edge of Africa Team - the key aims of this Academy are to provide a safe and inspiring space where children can learn, develop and have the freedom to excel; to provide a channel for business empowerment opportunities for adults; and to form a trust which will enable Academy members to apply for bursaries for tertiary education or to further their career path.

Although we do not yet have the Academy building (this is something we hope the near future will hold!) we are putting the model for the Academy into practice. For example we have developed business models for small businesses that will employ local community