Cape Town draws visitors to its beautiful coastal surroundings, lush vineyards and vibrant city life. Beyond the usual activities of wine tasting and hiking Table Mountain, there are many organisations in dire need of assistance. And if you’re already a resident, there’s no reason why you can’t also get involved and offer up some of your free time. Not only will community service allow you to give back, but it will help you gain a deeper understanding of South African culture.
Organisations range from animal shelters to soup kitchens. Although most will accept anyone’s assistance, there are several companies that exist to help with placement and logistics for foreign visitors. These companies charge fees to volunteer workers, but many provide a level of backup and support while in South Africa that are worth the extra charge.
DARG is the Domestic Animal Rescue Group. It is a non-profit organisation that rescues and cares for previously neglected, abused and abandoned dogs and cats. It’s situated in the popular seaside suburb of Hout Bay, and does a lot of work to assist surrounding communities and their pets. Much of its work is done by volunteers, and it is always looking for passionate and dedicated people to get involved with its projects.
TEARS (The Emma Animal Rescue Society) is another well-respected animal rescue centre in Cape Town. Based in Sunnydale, it does an immense amount of good work to help neglected and abused domestic animals. As a volunteer, you’ll be able to help with dog walking, cat cuddling (yes, really!), training, upkeep of the kennels and supporting its charity shops. It accepts volunteers aged 16 and over, including dog walkers.
Etafeni has done remarkable work with young children in the Cape Town township of Nyanga for many years. It provides a care centre for children affected by AIDS and their caregivers. As part of the programme, it provides a preschool, vegetable garden, nutritional guidance and an AIDS counsellor programme. Though much of the work is specialised, Etafeni is always looking for volunteers from across the spectrum to assist.
Haven Night Shelter
The Haven Night Shelter has branches throughout Cape Town that do a vast amount of good work for the city’s homeless population. They offer people from all walks of life the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community. volunteers get involved with meaningful tasks at either specific shelters, or the Haven Shelter Head Office. In-shelter roles include preparing meals and collecting essential donated items.
Ikhaya Le Themba
This non-profit organisation based in Hout Bay runs holistic after-school care programmes for children of the informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu. It provides physical and emotional care for a wide range of children in need, and accepts volunteer assistance from anyone able to allocate some time. There are several projects to get involved in, from traditional after-school activities, through to fundraising, online and marketing assistance.
South Africa is home to a variety of amazing coastal bird-life, although much has come under threat from pollution and human activities. The Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB) is attempting to reverse some of the damage that has already been done. It has a dedicated team that helps rescue and rehabilitate a wide range of sea birds, and is always looking for assistance from local and international volunteers. volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside the team and, weather permitting, can accompany them on a seabird release trip at the end of the programme.
Cape Town’s Scalabrini Centre takes more than 2,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers each month and assists them with various programmes to help with integration into local society. It works closely with volunteers who assist in all aspects of their work, including welfare, advocacy, development and outreach programmes. It offers part- and full-time volunteer opportunities, but due to the nature of the work request that volunteers spend a minimum of three months with the organisation.
Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women & Children
The Saartjie Baartman Centre for Women & Children (SBCWC) does amazing work to assist women who are survivors of abuse. It provides safe spaces for survivors, and offers assistance child care and legal advice. It has several volunteer opportunities available, which include everything from hands-on farming and maintenance through to volunteer counselling for those trained to do so.
Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust
Rape Crisis is the oldest organisation in South Africa that offers assistance to rape survivors. It supports survivors, helps them to seek justice, and works to transform communities. It offers an intensive volunteer programme that includes training and orientation, but due to the nature of the work, typically ask that volunteers commit to a minimum number of hours each month over the period of one year.
Oude Molen Eco Village
Oude Molen Eco Village is a vibrant multi-purpose village set in a unique location in Cape Town. The village is home to a range of respected social enterprises providing valuable services that also benefit the local communities. These include wood and craft workshops, food gardens, a public pool, an elderly care centre, horse riding school and backpacker’s accommodation. It accepts volunteers on a number of levels, including at the organic farm and stables. You do need to speak English and be available for minimum of one month.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
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