Volunteering in South Africa

It is hard to beat South Africa for a truly rich and diverse volunteering and travel experience. Sitting at the southernmost tip of Africa, the “Rainbow Nation” is ever-increasing in popularity for tourism, study-abroad and service-oriented work. Its development and safety have made it a go-to destination for many a round-the-world trip involving a short-term volunteer stint, as well as longer-term stays with one of the many NGOs and community organizations serving the country’s residents.

Volunteering opportunities in South Africa mirror many of the Sub-Saharan Africa positions, and include tons of possibilities working with wildlife through environmental conservation and animal protection groups. In addition, there are many volunteer jobs in orphanages and community centers working with children in need of extra attention.

If any of these types of volunteer overseas opportunities appeal to you, read on for more information about South Africa’s history, people and climate.

About South Africa

The Southern African nations of Namibia and South Africa, while suffering through years of civil war and turmoil, are two of the most prosperous nations in the region.

Both boast bustling, modern cities along side untouched natural resources. These nations offer more stable options for volunteers looking to become involved in comprehensive and innovative community development and HIV/AIDS awareness projects. Zimbabwe, by stark contrast, is still in a state of conflict with the recent economic collapse causing widespread famine and fueling the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Quick Fact? South Africa has 11 official languages.

However, it is these conditions that make volunteer positions with local, struggling NGOS all the more necessary.

Learn much more about the country and plan a South Africa trip with help from FrugalMonkey. The website includes detailed information on South African history, cities, and culture.

Population & Politics

The politics of South Africa have a long a tumultuous history, with major changes occurring since the end of apartheid in 1994. While the country has held multi-party elections, it is still making the long-term transition into a true democracy and has still has a long way to go to completely rebuild itself into unified nation. Much of South Africa is prosperous, but this is offset by overwhelming economic disparity. Unlike many of the central African nations, fifty per cent of Namibia’s population belongs to one tribe, the Ovambo, who populate Namibia’s north. The country also boasts the second largest population of white Europeans (after South Africa) who make up 12% of the population. As a result, the two most widely spoken languages are Oshiwambo (the native language of the Ovambo) and Afrikaans with English also being widely understood. Namibia has parliamentary government, and though democracy has seen the same political party (South West Africa People’s Organization) hold power since 1992.

Did you Know? The springbok or “jumping antelope” is the unofficial “mascot” associated with almost any sports player competing for South Africa on the international stage.


Like its northern neighbors, the Southern African nations enjoy as many as 300 days of sunshine per year, with a hot, dry climate during the day and cooler nights. Along the coastline, breezes keep the temperatures cooler with higher humidity, while the interior has two rainy seasons: October through December is the short season and the longer season from January to April. During both seasons, the temperatures go as high as 40º C (104 ºF). During the winter months (May through December) temperatures can drop below freezing.

South Africa Volunteer Organizations

  • BUNAC: BUNAC is an all-purpose work abroad company that arranges for visas and placements all over the world, including South Africa! The South Africa programs place volunteers for 5-17 months at jobs in the following areas: Environment Conservation, Wildlife, Health, Sports, Summer ‘theme’ camps, Housing construction, Education and Social Welfare. Work is sponsored by the South African Student Travel Service, and volunteers must be 18-35 to qualify. There is a fee for visa, placement, and on-the-ground support.
  • All Africa Volunteers: All Africa Volunteers focuses primarily on community building and endangered species. In addition to short-term volunteer stays, they also sponsor a number of volunteer and adventure vacations. They are truly community-based (in Jeffreys Bay South Africa) and there is a fee to volunteer.
  • Khaya Volunteer: Khaya offers an extensive listing of volunteer projects in South Africa and Tanzania. They have interesting opportunities for the athletically-inclined through their Sports Development Program. The program focuses on organized sports to help children build confidence and empower them. There are many other fee-based opportunities working in childcare, with animals, and in community development programs.

Quick Summary:

  • South Africa attracts many to outdoor volunteer jobs, due to its more than 300 sunny days per year.
  • The BUNAC program offers visa assistance and volunteer placement for volunteers from the US and Canada.
  • The proliferation of NGOs and community-based organizations make the opportunities for community development volunteering in South Africa plentiful.

If you’re still thinking about other places around the world that might be a great fit for your volunteer abroad dreams, keep reading for more information about volunteering abroad in Asia!

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