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!

Impact

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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 46 - 60 of 151
Emilie
10/10

The Summer that Changed My Life!

During my six weeks in Southern Africa with ISV I encountered so many different people, places, experiences. Learned so many different things, found myself in the process and ended up making some of the best friends Ive ever known! The memories and stories could go on for days, as everyday we pushed head first into a new adventure; from taking care of baby cheetah's, to diving with whales, eating a braai outside in the sand surrounded by friends and funny stories! To walking with elephants and hearing lions roar from our outside tent, to holding an orphan and donating money to buy them food. Diving into the unknown by going on a caving expedition and free jumping into waterfalls, eagerly holding our binoculars to get a look at the Big 5 on both of our Safari's. Sitting back with friends made, eating, laughing, crying and having to say goodbye to some of the group that were only there for four weeks! To finding myself doing the unthinkable by bungee jumping off of Victoria Falls and feeling the wind on my face and the rush of the pounding water beneath me and rafting on some of the most extreme rapids. The stories are endless and cause so much longing whenever I fondly remember them. This trip wasn't just a chance for me to help make a conservation different in Africa, but the chance to grow, to learn and to see the world in a unique and special point of view. But my favorite memory of all, had to have been the remaining part of groups last night all together, we decided to do a boat cruise, we all sat around telling stories and eating great food! We coasted along the shores of the Zambezi River and watched as the sun set and the beautiful stars of the African sky come out. It got quiet as we all sat back and processed the amazing 6 weeks we had spent together that felt like we had just started the day before. As we coasted by the shores, we looked upon elephants with their little ones, money's flying from the trees, birds flying in the distance and took in the beautiful songs of the African wilderness. At that moment I could have agreed more with Ernest Hemingway when he said, "All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already."

How can this program be improved?
There isn;t anything I would improve, the people, the places, the feelings and memories are what they were because of the program and the people who have put this amazing program together! Only thing I can think of is programs that are longer, as I never wanted to leave!
Yes, I recommend
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Taylor
10/10

The most amazing experience of my life

Traveling to Africa with ISV was a life changing experience that will always be close to my heart. I had the opportunity to learn what it means to be a true traveller and I did it with a group of amazing new friends by my side. I would recommend this program to anyone and everyone. It will change your life and teach you more than you could ever imagine.

How can this program be improved?
I wish I could have stayed longer
Yes, I recommend
Tracy
10/10

Best Time of My Life!

Traveling with ISV was the best time of my entire life. I volunteered for two weeks on a conservation project on a nature reserve in South Africa and am so proud of the work that I did while on project. I also spent another three weeks on an adventure tour and excursion tour traveling around southern Africa. Traveling with ISV allows you to really get immersed in the culture rather than just being a typical tourist and you meet so many amazing people, both locals and fellow volunteers. The best part is that traveling as a volunteer really changes your outlook on life and what is really important. It has made me far more aware of how everything I do can have either a positive or negative impact on the world and has really inspired me to live a more environmentally and socially aware life. If you travel with ISV, not only will you have a blast, but you'll make a ton of new friends from all over the world and learn a lot about the world too!

How can this program be improved?
I do wish the ISV recruiters were a little more upfront about the different volunteer options. I didn't even know my volunteer trip was an option until that was the one I was assigned. Also, the date of my trip got moved a couple of times for different reasons, so that was a little frustrating, however, the staff was very helpful with helping me through the changes.
Yes, I recommend
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Calynn
9/10

South Africa Done Right

When volunteering on Chintsa South Africa, I had the opportunity to feel like a part of the community. During the day we worked at a primary school; we put up a fence while a herd of cows sat and watched us, plastered a new classroom and built the trusses for the roof, cleaned up and repainted another classroom for the younger kids and spent recess playing with the kids. Then after work we explored local areas:beaches, sand dunes, the township, and of course the local hangout The Barefoot Cafe. The owners of said cafe were warm and welcoming, even letting me help out on a particularily busy night. After the 2 weeks of volunteering, the adventure tour opened the door to numerous opportunities. Walking with elephants, taking food to an orphanage, jumping off cliffs and leaning to surf. I did more in these 4 weeks than the rest of the year!

How can this program be improved?
The one thing I would improve, other than having the opportunity to stay longer, would be to improve communication from ISV. There was some confusion about what we were going to be doing on our project.
Yes, I recommend
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Kara
10/10

Changed me for the better

This program literally changed my life. After volunteering with ISV I realized how much I loved volunteering and completely changed my career plans in hopes of one day working for a Non-profit organization. One year of school left and then out to the real world but I will be forever looking for opportunities to make the lives of others better because of the time I spent in South Africa.

Yes, I recommend
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Corey
10/10

Rainbow Nation with Random Strangers

I have been traveling since I was a little girl when my parents started sending me abroad. I love to visit new places and by far South Africa is my favorite place. Meeting new people and seeing new places is my favorite thing. ISV was able to give me this opportunity while helping people in need. My group just happened to be composed of 11 girls from ages 19-24 and for me growing up going to all girl schools this was completely fine for me! We were told we were going to be building a playground and honestly I wondered how we would finished in two short weeks but we worked so hard we finished it before the two weeks ended. We were working at a daycare in a little village and we got to interact with the children, which was my favorite part. This one little boy at the daycare every morning when he saw me he would smile crawl over to me and lift his hands up as to ask me to pick him up. He wasn't even a year old and he made my days better everyday. We had a very diverse group of girls we worked with so when we had discussions we got to broaden our views by seeing the viewpoints of others. ISV made sure we learned about the country we were in and the problems this country we were in were facing and have gone through. This made it an amazing learning experience. After completing 80 hours of service we went on to the adventure part which was so much fun. This adventures pushed our comfort zones to say the least. I sadly misplaced/stolen so I had to go on an adventure of my own to get a new passport in a foreign country. This was definitely pushing myself out of my comfort zone but ISV helped me find accommodation and made sure I was safe along the way and got me caught back up to the group after my two day delay. We got to not only visit South Africa but we visited Swaziland and Mozambique as well. Who cannot complain when going on one trip and seeing three different countries. It was a three for one deal. I learned a lot about myself on this trip. For example, I never knew I didn't like enclosed spaces until some of the activities we did. I also got to learn about the people I met and how much their lifestyles are different than mine. Because of ISV and this opportunity I have changed my major and I am not changing schools to be able to follow my dreams of starting a nonprofit school or orphanage one day and I am forever grateful of that!

Yes, I recommend
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Tatum
10/10

Unforgettable experience with awesome people

I have always loved to travel and I have been a lot of places, but they way I travelled with ISV was different and amazing. Being able to really connect with and impact the community you are visiting really changes how you experience a place. I loved getting to know some of the people in Chintsa East where I was involved in a community development project.

The tour part of the trip was also great. You get to know a group of new, interesting people from other volunteer projects and you get to see crazy stuff. I miss the people I was grouped with and I hope I get to see them again someday. Something about sharing this kind of experience with someone (or a bunch of someones) creates a quick connection.

This program lets you get to know people and places that you wouldn't otherwise get to see.

My only advice if you are thinking about doing a trip through ISV is to contact your in country group leader about what to pack based on your specific project. The more generic packing lists your given are sometimes not entirely accurate.

Overall a great trip that I would definitely recommend!!

How can this program be improved?
Communication between ISV and volunteers about what to pack and how to meet up with groups at the detonation could be clearer. Letting people know what their program entails before arriving on site would also be nice.
Yes, I recommend
Nicolette
10/10

Best experience of my life!

This opportunity was completely life changing and turned my world upside down. We were completely immersed in the culture of South Africa. Living in a village surrounded by 7 others, next to a game reserve. We spent two weeks participating in hands on volunteer works in the private reserve. We were able to see many of the iconic animals of Africa, getting up close and personal as we took game drives and assessments. We assisted in collecting data on the flora and fauna of the land, which is amazing experience for students studying in the Environmental fields. We ventured to breathtaking and luxurious parts of South Africa, Swaziland, and finally ending the adventure tour on the beautiful beaches of Mozambique. The adventure tour in itself is worth the cost of the four week+ trip. We packed in more activities than you would be able to do spending months in these counties. Some of the incredible activities we did were hiking, an elephant encounter, visited a wildlife rehabilitation center, kloofing, caving, surfing, scuba diving, swimming in hot springs and making memories with amazing people I will remember forever. This is a once in a lifetime experience I recommend for everyone!

Yes, I recommend
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Kimberly
10/10

Best Travel Experience of My Life

Traveling with ISV to South Africa was the most amazing experience. I positively impacted the community, I met amazing people in my group and throughout our tour, and had so many unforgettable moments. I can't wait to do more traveling abroad.

Yes, I recommend
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Kayla
10/10

A Life Changing Experience!

If anyone is debating whether or not to they should go on this trip, I would highly recommend that they should definitely take the opportunity and do it!!! This truly is the experience of a life time and it will change how you view everything. Volunteering in a third world country is a real eye-opener and it really makes you appreciate life a lot more. The best part of the program is that you're completely immersed in the culture and lifestyle of the country in which you're volunteering. You get tointeract with the locals and see what it's really like for them. ISV makes the experience even better because you're with a group of like-minded students who all share similar interests. I've met some amazing new people and made some lifelong friendships on this trip. Other than the volunteer work, you also get to do and see a bunch of other cool things on your free time. The adventure tour gives you a nice break from all the work and allows you to have fun and travel the country. Overall, this has to be the best experience of my life, and I'm so glad I got to participate in one of ISV's volunteer programs!

Yes, I recommend
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Stephani
10/10

Incredible and eye opening

I had the most amazing experience with the most amazing people. The volunteering portion will melt your heart and open your eyes while also getting to learn about different cultures. The adventure tour portion is nonstop fun and exploring the whole time.

While all that is great, what made my trip was the staff and the other members of the group. They were all amazing people from all over and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

Yes, I recommend
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Bayli
10/10

South Africa 2015

I went to South Africa to help out people who are less fortunate and I left there a different person. I learned so much from the people there and I left with a whole new group of friends from around the world.
This was my first travel experience. I still remember the day a ISV recruiter walked into my math class and started telling me about the program. Right then I knee that I was going to go to Africa. My life hasn't been perfect and I knew the people I'd be helping have had their struggles.
It wasnt until I was there and I saw a little girl eat the core of an apple. It was gross. We grow up thinking you can't eat it, but in Africa food is scarce and wasting any part of it is nonexistent. You eat what you can get and you don't complain.
Africa was truly amazing and even though it cost a lot of money...every penny was worth it!

How can this program be improved?
When I was there I dreaded the 7 hour bus drives every other day but now I miss it. During those times I watched out the window and took in the view and the culture. My friendships grew stronger with my fellow volunteers as we sang and danced and got sick together! Honestly I wouldn't change anything. Maybe be more upfront with all the fees so we aren't blindsided but I loved all of it.
Yes, I recommend
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Toria
9/10

ISV-Wonders

Besides meeting all of the other students, meeting the Project Leaders and the Adventure tour leader were AMAZING! We all grew so close to each other and it felt like each of the two weeks we spent with them was a life time. Each and every one of the students there felt we could reach out to the leaders if we ever needed to talk. All the hiccups in the road felt like nothing because they handled everything so smoothly and always kept us informed. They showed us how to have a good time with any experience, from cold rides to the work sites to jumping off cliffs! They taught us how this is the time to become the person we want to be, because this is a once in a life time thing, maybe not traveling or volunteering, but that specific moment. It was unique, and we knew we could conquer our fears with the support of everyone around us because we were a team that became a family. Everyone there helped me grow as a person.
The volunteer work was just as memorable! I can never look at birds the same, now that I have seen how beautiful, peaceful and unique they are! Another thing I can't look at the same? Trees. I've gotten up, close and personal with some of the coolest, but pokiest trees ever! I've got scars from all the trees that were a pain to measure, but at least I've got every day reminders of the truly amazing, hard working time I had in South Africa.

How can this program be improved?
I would have liked to have had the chance to pick my own flight, so I wish they could have given us at leas 2 or 3 flight plans. Also, I would have liked to know more about what we were doing before we got there. We kind of went in blind, which isn't always a bad thing, but it still would have been nice.
Yes, I recommend
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Caitlin
10/10

Cheetahs and Surfing and Elephants Oh My!

My trip with ISV to South Africa was incredible. Not only did I meet some amazing people but I was able to give back to the country I was visiting while traveling. the first two weeks were spent on a nature reserve going on habitat assessments, game drives and stargazing. We were even able to spend time at a local school with children who were genuinely excited to learn.

The second two weeks were the adventure tour and there was never a dull moment. Between surfing, elephant encounters,game drives in Kruger,horseback riding, caving and swimming with dolphins you were gauranteed the trip of a lifetime. We were also given time to shop at local markets and experience the culture.

The best part of the trip for me was in Swaziland where we bought gifts for a local orphanage and spent the afternoon playing with the children. Nothing felt better than seeing the smiles on their faces.

How can this program be improved?
There are some additional costs so bring extra money but all the additional activities are worth it!
Yes, I recommend
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Christine
8/10

ISV South Africa 2015

It was a great experience, especially for who have not traveled on their own before. As the trip is quite expensive, I would definitely recommend fundraising a lot for it, but it was worth it in the end. It was such a humbling experience learning their culture and providing sustainable kitchens for the community to use. I bonded with people all over North America with the same goals and passion for adventure. Great trip!

How can this program be improved?
The organization of the program prior to going to South Africa could be greatly improved upon. The people we called to ask for help were sometimes confusing and sometimes gave us the wrong information. It would be more beneficial if the assistants were trained in knowing one of the countries and their trips more specifically, allowing them to help us with more detailed questions.
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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