ISV - Volunteer Projects in South Africa

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Program Update:

ISV will only be conducting programs for this coming summer, 2018 in the Dominican Republic.

About

South Africa is renowned for its vigorous culture, sweeping landscapes and remarkable wildlife – but communities, children’s homes and wildlife reserves need the help of volunteers through organizations like International Student Volunteers (ISV) to address disadvantage and environmental concerns.

Through volunteering with ISV, you can be involved in life-changing community development projects, taking part in tasks such as building schools and playgrounds, urban renewal programs, water and sanitation development and classroom support. On ISV’s wildlife conservation and environmental management projects, you could be assisting researchers in surveying and monitoring of flora and fauna used for conservation management, or volunteering on a wildlife rehabilitation centre. Come join us to make a meaningful difference in South Africa!

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Questions & Answers

Reviews

98%
based on 151 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 8.5
  • Value 9.6
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 31 - 45 of 151
Katie
10/10

The 5-weeks that changed my life!

South Africa changed my life. I went into this trip with an open mind not expecting too much like coming out with some new passport stamps and academic credit for my school. Man, could I have been more naive of what was about to happen.

I was able to volunteer for two weeks in the "Bush" with no wifi or anything around for that matter. It absolutely amazing to be completely off grid and really get in touch with nature. I was able to truly appreciate clean air, the quiet sounds of nature, and the unbelievable stars we saw at night. These two weeks challenged my values and made me think of what was really important in life. The project leader would give lectures on sustainability and showed us new ways to be sustainable and changed so many of values I can't even begin to explain. For example, I never will use plastic bags again, shorter showers, became a vegetarian on the trip, appreciating everything, and overall living a sustainable life when we got back home.

Then we had the adventure tour for two weeks, and what a adventure tour it was!! We started off walking with elephants and experiencing all the different parts of South African culture. Then we were off to Blyde River Canyon where we saw animals right up close to our cabins, and kloofing definitely challenged mentally and physically but was one of my favorite days of the whole trip. Then we were able to go to the famous Kruger National Park where we were able to see 4/5 of the big 5! Then we went to Swaziland where I got to go horse back riding around our accommodations and we went to the local orphanage. The orphanage made me not only thankful to be able to volunteer at such a unique place with such wonderful children but realize that our petty problems are nothing in the "big picture" of life. We were also able to go caving which was incredibly challenging and a whole lot of fun. Then we were off the Mozambique where we got go scuba diving, snorkeling with dolphins, and surfing! Being a marine biology major, I had such a blast at Mozambique in particular with such beautiful beaches and ocean. It was one of the most relaxing of the trip.

Then as my 4th-week friends went back home, I stayed with the 5th-week excursion people. If you have the money, it is unbelievably worth it!!! We went to Zambia where we able to go white water rafting on level 4 to level 5 rapids which for my first time was incredible and I want to go rafting again. Then I was able to go on a microlight flight where I saw the beautiful Victoria Falls from the air, which is a little expensive but the experience is worth it. I was able to make a big cross off my bucket list with doing Bungee jumping, which was so scary and adrenaline filled it's so worth it! We got to see the Falls up close and get drenched by the mist, bring water proof camera for that day! Then we made our way to Botswana where I had the best game drives of the entire trip these two days! We not only saw so many lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, etc., but it made for one incredible camping night!

I wouldn't trade this trip for the world. I will always remember the memories I made but also got me thinking of the potential working jobs or internships I want in the future. If you do this trip, it may be expensive but through fundraising early and getting excited it is well worth it. Last piece of advice make sure to JOURNAL YOUR TRIP, it will be a lifesaver when thinking of all the amazing experiences you had. From this Texas Aggie you will not regret one minute of it!

How can this program be improved?
Just letting people know all the extra costs earlier on like for Visas, plane tickets, etc. Other than that I recommend this trip to all students!!
Yes, I recommend
Mitchell
10/10

South African Community Development

An absolutely unparalleled experience.

I am not sure that there is any story I can share that another has not shared already. Helping out communities that live in "housing" they can barely move in and throughout was extremely rewarding. Hearing about how the locals live, how blocks of housing share toiletries, how little is available in every sense of what we call living, and yet, there was not one individual without a smile. There was no such thing as negativity, as everyone wore their heart on their sleeve, and brought yours out with them.

The families in the poverty-stricken townships never take anything for granted, and this is a lesson we all learned and implemented very quickly. There are some you may never see again, which can very easily and unpredictably tear your heart into pieces. But, as most of those pieces will heal, some of those pieces will forever remain with the people who's hearts you have touched. As their smiles will forever be with you.

There are two quotes that I saw on this trip that were meant to be:
The first was painted on the side of a wall in one of the communities. It said, "Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven. Matthew 5v16".
The second was an insert from a book, and said, "On the street I saw a naked child, hungry and shivering in the cold. I became angry and said to God, 'Why do you permit this? Why don't you do something?' For a while God said nothing. That night he replied, quite suddenly, 'I certainly did something. I made you.'"
We are one, across the world, and need to treat and take care of each other as such. ISV gave me the best, most tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that. They have nothing, but still imagine beauty. Will you do the same? If so, I can promise you will not regret it.

How can this program be improved?
The very only thing that I believe could be improved is more detailed information when it comes to the optional activities and such.
Yes, I recommend
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Maria
10/10

South Africa Adventure

ISV is an amazing program to go with when you want to travel and do some volunteer work at the same time. They showed you Africa in a way that I can never forget. They opened my eyes to this beautiful country and it has allowed me to share my experience with others. I am so glad that I discovered ISV and I did this trip. I want to change the world and they allowed me to do it overseas and at home. This has been an eye opening experience and I can't wait to go back and go with ISV again.

Yes, I recommend
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Jade
10/10

A month I'll never forget.

I can't say I knew exactly what to expect when signing up for this experience. What I did know was this: 1. I wanted to travel and experience a completely different culture and 2. I wanted to volunteer and make an impact somewhere or on someone who needed it. Boy, did I ever get both and more.

You always hear about people travelling and coming home a "changed" person and I can honestly vouch and say they are probably telling the truth. My month in South Africa not only gave me an insight and new found appreciation for the beautiful country, culture, and people; but also humbled me as a person, giving me new perspectives and lessons on life which I find myself continuing to implement here at home.

I am so grateful I found ISV to guide me on this journey, especially being a first time solo traveller. They truly did a fantastic job balancing humbling volunteer work with adventure/ travel, all whilst evoking the TRUE South African spirit and culture.

I will never forget the kindness and joy of the local people (despite some having such misfortune), the breathtaking landscapes, the unique wild life interactions, and of course my amazing fellow volunteers and leaders I am glad to call friends.

If you're looking for a one of a kind, humbling, adventure filled, true South African experience that you will never forget then this is the program to sign up for.

Yes, I recommend
Jonathan
10/10

Best month of my life

Do not take it lightly when I say that my time spent in South Africa with ISV was the best month of my life in every way possible. I could talk about the positive and sustainable contributions we made volunteering at the Ann Van Dyke Cheetah Center, of which there are many, or I could tell you about what an absolute blast I had on the adventure tour doing activities from kloofing (so much fun) to caving (even more fun), but that's not what made the trip so special. What sticks with me, and the aspect that I miss the most beyond a shadow of a doubt are the people. I have never in my life been exposed and surrounded by so many unique and positive people. Absolutely every person I met, from locals, to staff at the cheetah center, to project leaders, to tour leaders, to activity guides and especially fellow volunteers, were among the most caring people I have met in my life, and they made the experience nothing short of extraordinary. Everybody is there because they simply want to make the world a better place and that's something that we don't see enough of in this world anymore. They will inspire you and bring out the best in you, and I can honestly tell you that I am a better person because of them. ISV's slogan is "impact your world", and after traveling with them for a month, I know that they have impacted mine.

Yes, I recommend
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Derek
10/10

A truly life changing experience

Getting onto the plane to Johannesburg from JFK I never would have thought that the 2 weeks ibwas spending in South Africa would have such a huge impact on my entire life and way that I see the world. During my time in South Africa we worked with a local organization in the little town of Cintsa. We refurbished a school in an poverty ridden village off the beaten path. The smiles and laughter of the children in this school despite their daily sorrow really changed my whole perspective of what the true meaning of life is. We did all the fun stuff like cliff jumping and seeing the African big 5 but nothing compares to bringing laughter to the children and pride back to the school after years of being in shambles. I also left with not only friends but more like a second family. You become so close to the people you spend your time with that it becomes unbearable to say goodbye. I have been home for 3 days and am already planning a return trip. You will never see the world the same again.

How can this program be improved?
It is a bit expensive but every penny is worth it. The only regret I have is not going for the full month tour.
Yes, I recommend
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Cory
10/10

Life Changing Experience

To think that my trip to South Africa was going to have this much of an impact on my life, is a definite understatement. I expected it to changed my outlook on life; but it completely changed everything. During my month in the motherland, it was easily the best month of my life. As soon as I got off the plane, it just felt right. It's like I should've been from South Africa because it felt so right. The things that I saw and people that I met truly changed my life for the better and I can't thank Africa and its humbling atmosphere enough for what its done for me. It makes you want to be better, makes you forgot about all the stupid things that we as teens obsess over such as cell phones, looks and all materialistic things. It humbles you right away because you see the struggle in people's eyes and somehow, they are the happiest people on Earth and they have NOTHING compared to us. I am so lucky and blessed to have what I have such as clean drinking water, food, a roof over my head and clothes on my back. I will NEVER take that for granted again. I promise to always give more than I receive and will live my life always putting other people before myself because someone, out there has it harder than you. I will never forget my time in this beautiful country, and I promised myself that I will go back to see Mama Africa and relive all its amazing moments.

How can this program be improved?
The cost. Although we did so much and everything was so well organized, I think that the cost could be lowered a little bit.
Yes, I recommend
Alexis
10/10

The trip that changed my life

ISV is much more than it looks like, the programs truly stick to their mission statement of creating more active global citizens. But more than that they don't tell you that every single aspect of the program is so thought out that where you eat lunch, where you stop for gas, where you stay makes a difference in someones life locally. I felt that I made a difference and more so that ISV impacted me more. We helped children in Chinsta, South Africa and the gratitude and love from these children made me appreciate my life and want to do more. I have changed my life coming home and have traveled to several other countries, each culture and experience creating a piece of who I am as a person. I am forever thankful for the amazing program I went on and highly recommend ISV as a program!

How can this program be improved?
Improvement by having a profile for students prior to leaving. The inner office does amazing work but organization for students could be improved prior to leaving.
Yes, I recommend
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Jazmyne
10/10

Enkosi Kakhulu!

One story I haven't shared anywhere else is about the amazing women who cooked for us daily and did all of our laundry during our volunteer stay. These two women went above and beyond to make sure our stay was amazing. They taught us their language and required that we use it as often as possible. "Enkosi Kakhulu!" means "thank you very much" and I would like to reiterate that statement to these ladies. They exposed me to their culture and welcomed me into their hearts. One had a young daughter who would often come to the house and hang out with us. We played Jenga with her, puzzles, and had many dance parties! Because of these people, I was still having adventures, even during our down time. They taught me how to appreciate life and gave me new perspectives on the word Family. I feel truly blessed to have spent two weeks in their presence and I hope to one day make someone feel as accepted and loved as I did with them.

Enkosi Kakhulu.

How can this program be improved?
If I had to change one thing about the program it would be the costs. It was very expensive (totally worth it), but I believe that if the cost was lower, many more people would be able to take advantage of this life changing experience. Not only would more people sign up, but that would mean there are more people out there helping rural communities who need it.
Yes, I recommend
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Kendra
10/10

ISV Conservation Program in South Africa

Going to South Africa with ISV was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I felt like I made a lasting impact with the volunteer work we did and I made life long friends in the process. I was also able to cross a number of items off my bucket list such as petting a cheetah, going scuba diving, going on a safari, cliff jumping, and caving. Even though many of the South Africans we met didn't have a lot, they were always happy and positive. This made me reevaluate the way I look at the world and I now find joy in the simple things. This trip has forever changed me and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to travel.

How can this program be improved?
I wish the volunteer part of this program could have been three weeks instead of two because it went by way too fast.
Yes, I recommend
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Amanda
10/10

I Fell in Love with Africa!!

This summer I went to South Africa with ISV. It was the first time I have ever left the country and it was the most terrifying and amazing thing I have ever done in my life! I was scared and worried about being in another country with people I didn't know, but all that anxiety went away after meeting my project leader and my fellow volunteers. By the next day I'd already felt at home. I still find myself missing the sounds of the birds on our early mornings, everyone laughing around the campfire, and even the cow bells down the road at night.

I got to experience what life is like out in the South African bush. It's amazing, breathtaking, and sometimes can even take you out of your comfort zone, but it's worth it. Every moment from those freezing cold mornings to those happy grinning faces of the kids was worth it all.

I did things I never thought I could do in my life. I freaked out about baboons, bartered with South African market men, pet a cheetah and a leopard, hugged an elephant, jumped off a cliff into freezing cold water, and even scuba dived with a shark!

South Africa changed my view of the world. It used to be small but now it's sooo big! I would go back in a heart beat but I think my exploring has just begun. South Africa has given me just a taste of what the world has to offer and I want to thank ISV for taking me there!

How can this program be improved?
They tell you you'll need extra money for food and souvenirs but they don't tell you how much. Things aren't that expensive in South Africa but I ended up craving a lot of chocolate and wanting to buy EVERYTHING! I would have liked it if they would have warned me that while everything's cheap you will still want to bring a good amount of money with you.
Yes, I recommend
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Miranda
10/10

Trip of a Lifetime

South Africa was a life-changing experience. When we first got there, we were introduced to each other and our guides, and briefed on the schedule for the coming weeks. I immediately made several friends (from all over the world with whom I still have contact) and bonded with our amazing team of leaders who genuinely cared about all of the participants. I learned a ton about environment sustainability while out in the field collecting research, group discussions, and documentary films we watched together in the evenings. If I could, I would do it all over again!

Yes, I recommend
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Natasha
10/10

A lifetime of change in 4 weeks

ISV was such a great program to be apart of. Administratively, they were always available to contact and were super useful to help with the questions. The program leaders were fun to be around and were very helpful. The experience as whole has showed me happiness comes from the smallest moments and not the material aspect of living in America. Being able to adapt to the culture and learn a culture that is not very known was an experience only few people get in their lifetime. If I could I would go back and make a bigger impact. It really helped me decide on my future career and life goals. ISV as a whole is such a huge impact and letting students to be able to enjoy and be part of this experience is one in a lifetime. Swimming with dolphins, playing soccer with the kids at the school and frisbee on the beach was something I could never describe to anyone.

Yes, I recommend
Tara
10/10

Best summer ever

My volunteer project was based in the Masebe wildlife reserve. The first thing you need to know is, it's literally in the middle of no where. There are no shops, no internet, no phone service, no tvs - nothing. It was like stepping into a whole other world. A world I very quickly began to enjoy. In the morning we rose early to begin our volunteer activities: bird-counts, habitat assessments and visiting the local villages. All of the work we completed was done outside, in the sun and the fresh air. In the nature itself. One morning, my group had gone out to complete the bird count for that day; we were all very silent, listening to the different chirps and whistles of the local birds when suddenly we heard a twig snap about 20 ft from where we were standing. Standard horror movie stuff. Then came the sounds of feet on ground, and heavy breathing. The sounds were coming from no farther than 10 ft now. We didn't know what was going to come out and eat us, being in the middle of a reserve and all. Just when some of us were preparing to make a break for it, a herd of zebra come quietly out from behind the trees. ZEBRA. I can't put into words how exhilarating it is to come that close to such beautiful wild animals. We also encountered baboons, grey monkeys, giraffe, scorpions, impala, warthog, eagles and so many other amazing creatures. One time a rogue baboon actually managed to break into our camp. I've got to say, exiting the bathroom to find a fully-grown male baboon standing right outside the door was something I'll never forget.

The adventure tour was also amazing. Kloofing (the african word for canyoning) was definitely my favourite activity. It's basically 'following the river wherever it takes you'. And yes that includes off the side of cliffs and under waterfalls. Very adrenaline fuelled. Snorkelling alongside Manta-rays in the Indian ocean during our time in Mozambique was also another awesome experience. Oh and caving! Honestly, that was probably the most terrifying thing I have ever accomplished but it was so worth it. I'm pretty claustrophobic, so if you are too and you're considering not going for that reason, don't worry! The instructors were very helpful and reassured me several times that the caves were perfectly safe. P.s. Don't watch the movie 'The Descent' like the majority of us had before going underground.

Basically, the whole trip was probably the greatest experience of my life. I met sooo many people, and made friends I hope will last a lifetime. The experiences I have had have definitely changed me. My whole outlook on life has being widened. The program has made me want to see the rest of the world. I returned home a much happier and grateful person. I hope I can take part in more programs like this in the future. If you're hesitating on whether or not to go, just go for it. Trust me, you will not regret it.

How can this program be improved?
The program is a little costly, but at the same time it was worth every penny.
Yes, I recommend
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Samantha
10/10

ISV Shingwedzi trip

ISV was the best 4 weeks of my life, every day was a new adventure. I did wildlife programme in South Africa. You really make a difference when you're over there but you also have time for fun. We worked hard and made a real difference doing maintenance work but also got to help out on cheetah feeding rounds and spend time with the cheetahs. The staff and project leaders were awesome and become a second family and you make some life long friends.
The adventure tour is also not to be missed; safaris, scuba diving, swimming with dolhpins, cultural villages and lots and lots of fun!
This trip is defintely worth it you will have a great time and it's an amazing experience!

Yes, I recommend

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Meet the Alumni

About ISV (International Student Volunteers)

ISV’s mission is to support sustainable development programs around the world through life changing student volunteer programs designed to positively impact our world and to educate, inspire and result in more active global citizens.

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