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VVoluntourism in South Africa is one of the country’s fastest-growing travel sectors. But responsible volunteering requires a delicate balance between your expectations and your host’s. Seek advice first and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’re planning for the most rewarding time of your life – and it will be fun.
Voluntourism in South Africa is a win-win scenario. As a traveller, you come out and work with orphans or schools or animals, for example, and the institute and individuals you are helping benefit immensely from your efforts. The money that you pay enables them to get important work done without having to find large budgets.
You, in turn, leave after a few weeks or months, knowing you’ve made a positive difference in the world and having gained invaluable experience that will help your sense of self or even your career.
The world, in some tiny way, is a better place.
But to make your voluntourism stint in South Africa a success for all concerned, here’s some advice.
Before you start looking for a reputable operator, give your voluntourist dreams plenty of thought. Define where you think you can most benefit other people or projects. Skills transfer, for example, is very highly prized.
But you should also be clear about what you want to gain from the experience.
Bear in mind that the longer you stay, the better your chances of making a meaningful difference. Most responsible volunteering operators recommend 4 to 6 weeks. More is better. If you have only 2 weeks to share, you will have to tailor your expectations but can still make a valuable contribution and have fun.
To find a reputable operator, ask around. Speak to previous voluntourists. Once you’ve decided on one, don’t be afraid to ask questions. How much of your money will be going towards the actual project? Who runs the project? Where will you stay?
Make sure that your self-subsidised labour is not taking someone else's possible job. Also, carefully consider what your ‘legacy’ will be. For example, it’s tempting to go and assist orphans for a month, but is it really helpful if they suffer separation anxiety after you leave?
Many problems can be avoided by choosing the right operator. In South Africa, seek out those that are accredited with Volunteer Southern Africa, the South African Youth Travel Confederation and Fair Trade Tourism South Africa.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Volunteer Southern Africa
Tel: +27 (0)71 327 8445
South African Youth Travel Confederation
Tel: +27 (0)65 875 0463
Fair Trade Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)12 342 2945
Cell: +27 (0)83 750 5094