South Africa

Main Features

  • Orientation in Cape Town.
  • Introduction to local language, customs & culture.
  • Accommodation with a local family or on the project site.
  • Projects:  Community Development, Education, Childcare, Conservation, Enviorment.
  • From 4 to 24 weeks.

Volunteering in South Africa gives participants a first hand experience of a new nation working towards a vision of unity and prosperity. Many serious problems need to be tackled if this vision is to be realised. Projects relating to community development, education, the enviornment and conservation help to tackle issues of poverty and inequality, and this is where volunteers can make a real contribution. There are many important volunteer projects available, mostly near the beautiful city of Cape Town.


There are many interesting projects available in the categories listed below. The projects given here are an example of the projects in each category. Our goal is to match the skills and expectations of the participants with the needs of the local projects. Our volunteer coordinator in the field will suggest a project for you once they have your application. They are well placed to match your skills and interests to the right placements.

Community Development

In recent years there have been numerous new projects set up with the aim of redressing the damages of Apartheid and supporting the budding South African democracy at local level. Volunteers work with a variety of registered non profit organisations specialising in running structured programmes addressing important social issues such as poverty, education, HIV and AIDS and youth development. Specific projects of the Community Outreach Initiative include:

HIV and Sexual Health Youth Outreach -  established and run by experienced local health workers who are close to the heartbeat of their communities with a passion to make a difference. Awareness raising outreach programmes such as workshops in community centres, schools and churchs aim to reach young people with information to prevent the spread of disease and support people living with HIV to live long and healthy lives through knowledge of ARV use and nutrition.

The Container Programme - old shipping containers are converted into vital community structures. Since 1993, 175 of these containers have been recycled, refurbished and placed in poor communities throughout Southern Africa.

Special Campaigns are run during the year and these include the annual outing to the sea for local children as well as bread distribution/ food parcels to the communities.

Mandela Day Library Project turns recycled containers into reading rooms for local children in communities.

What can volunteers expect to do?

Volunteers will be based in the projects office in Cape Town and will be working alongside project managers and staff.  The placement involves organisation, fieldwork and administration and volunteers play a vital role in providing supporting services to the existing staff. Volunteers with initiative have scope on these projects to share their skills with their project collegues to increase the sustainability of the project. You also have an opportunity to learn about community development from experienced people working on the ground.

 Tasks and activities could include:

  • Awareness programmes
  • General Administration tasks 
  • Packaging of food parcels and bread distribution
  • Furnishing and beautifying recycled containers
  • General upkeep of facilities
  • Helping out on the Beach outreach programme (only two weeks during summer period)
  • Playing games & interactive activities
  • Assisting with reading and library programmes


The South African National Education System is facing enormous challenges and needs support specifically in poorer and rural communities.  Challenges include over-crowded classrooms, limited resources and over-extended staff.  The current educational crisis sees children not receiving equal opportunities to learn, grow and develop.  Over 1 million households in South Africa have illiterate adults, this coupled with lack of regular and structured recreational sport at primary and high school level, overcrowding (55-70 children per class) lack of libraries, computers, satisfactory toilet facilities and special needs teachers all contribute to an already over-stretched system.  Volunteers are encouraged to support local teachers in public schools in the hope of providing a brighter future for its children.  The programme includes supporting academic, sporting and life skills programmes at primary and high school level. 

What can volunteers expect to do? 

This is a very hands-on programme and volunteers will be expected to assist as teacher aids in classrooms on a daily basis.  The schools range from city based schools in historically disadvantaged communities to rural based schools.  

What specific tasks and activities are involved?

  • Assisting with teaching in classrooms
  • Beautifying and fixing up of classrooms
  • Assisting with sport and art activities
  • Providing extra classes for learners struggling with reading and mathematics
  • Teaching computer literacy
  • Setting up and organising library facility
  • Assisting with home-work
  • Providing support with projects run at the school during the time of placement
  • Please note that education projects do not run all year due to school holidays. Please check with EIL for further details.

Early Childhood Development

Projects in this category focus on the development of children cared for at local crèches and pre-schools.  Children catered for at crèches ranges from the ages of baby’s to toddlers between the ages 3 to 6 year olds.  International research reveals that “regardless of cultural distinction or level of development, it is that pre-school education for children greatly improves their chances of subsequent success in school. In particular, early childhood education can make a critical difference in the lives of disadvantaged children.”

In the South African context, there are many home-based crèches.  These are sometimes started by mothers in the community who provide day care facilities to working parents in the community.  Most of the home-based crèches are informal and do not offer formal structured learning for little ones.  Volunteers can make a tremendous impact by assisting with facilitation of better organisation within the facility as well as providing useful help in terms of offering learning ideas for children at a young age. 

What can volunteers expect to do?

Volunteers will have the opportunity to work alongside local caregivers and crèche staff and provide assistance in terms caring for babies and toddlers as well as pre-schoolers.  This is a fun environment to work in, as volunteers will be working hands-on and assist wherever help is needed at the time.

What specific tasks and activities are involved?

  • Bathing, feeding and caring for babies
  • Playing and interacting with children
  • Assist with lesson times, sing-along’s and storytelling
  • Provide support and assistance in terms of organising daily programme
  • Arrange a fieldtrip during the placement and accompany staff
  • Provide ideas and assist with fundraising initiatives
  • Beautifying of facility
  • Assist staff with annual projects (example end of year parties)
  • Assist with general upkeep 


Typically these projects offer environmental education camps for children and youth, as well as outreach and awareness programmes for children from impoverished communities in South Africa. These camps are aimed at making children more aware and responsible for their own local environments. Volunteers are based close to the environmental centre and will assist with running of the environmental education camps for children and youth. This could include outdoor hikes on the nature reserve, educational lessons and overnight camping out with the children. The outreach activities would involve going to poorer schools to assist with the Eco-Schools Programme. Maintenance and upkeep of the facilities, as well as painting and beautifying of the educational resource centre could also form part of the volunteer tasks.

Tasks and activities could include:

  • Assisting and facilitation on environmental education camps for children and youth
  • Assisting with the Eco-Schools programme
  • Upgrading of resource centre
  • Painting of walls and murals
  • General upkeep of facilities


Lion research and conservation education

The project is funded through eco-tourism and is based in a wildlife lodge in Limpopo. The project is dedicated to conserving African Lions and Cheetahs and is renowned for the unusually good health of its animals. Lodge guests can learn about Lion conservation. Volunteers duties include feeding and caring for young lions and working with the rangers.  Research from zoology departments in major university into the high health of these animals aims to find a cure for TB in wildlife to preserve the Lion for the future. Releasing established prides of lions and cheetahs into the wild is a goal of this project.

Form more information see our full page description with start dates, prices and photos here.

Rhino & Elephant Project

The project is run on a vast, rugged reserve in the north of Limpopo. The project is dedicated to conserving rhinos and elephants through active tracking, locating and monitoring on a daily basis on this 40 000 acre reserve.

For more information see our full page description with photos here.

Arrival & Orientation

You will arrive in Cape Town International Airport and will be picked up at arrivals and transferred to a high quality hostel where you will stay for the first 2-3 days while you have your orientation to South Africa. The purpose of the orientation is to give you an understanding of the people, history, culture, languages, and political climate of South Africa. It will also give you the necessary travel, safety and medical advice, as well as advice on how to prepare for the upcoming volunteer project.


During the orientation, you will stay at a hostel in Cape Town where all your transport and meal costs are covered.

Accommodation while on volunteer placement is generally with a host family, with meals provided by the family. Some projects (such as the wildlife project) have shared volunteer accommodation on site. Volunteers living with a host family are quickly integrated into the local community, and this is a unique opportunity to experience everyday life in South Africa. 

Start dates

21/07, 04/08, 18/08, 01/09, 15/09, 29/09, 13/10, 27/10, 10/11, 24/11, 08/12, 22/12


If you are staying less than 90 days, you will be issued a tourist stamp on arrival together with a volunteer endorsement.  If you are staying longer than 90 days, you need to apply for a volunteer visa.

The EIL Development Education Network

Our volunteers work and live alongside local people in local communities in some of the most deprived areas in the world. It is in response to their experiences that the EIL development education programme was set up. On their return to Ireland we ask our volunteers to be the voice for the stories of the people they worked with and to highlight their experience of equality and social justice. Then together we campaign to make a difference by promoting global justice, human rights, fair trade, debt relief, enviornmental sustainability and greater equality and respect among the peoples of the world. Our goal is to see global justice and equality reach the top of the Irish agenda.

The Application Process

Applying for the Volunteer Abroad programme is a straight forward process: after receiving your application and CV we will contact you to find out more about your interests and motivation for wanting to be a volunteer. We then send your information to our colleagues in the country of your choice and they make your placement. As soon as they confirm a suitable placement for you, we will send you all the information necessary to finalise your preparations. Although some countries can accept late applications, you should send your completed application 12 weeks in advance. The earlier you apply, the more time we have to find the most suitable project for you.

What you need to do:

  • Complete the application form and send it to us together with 2 recent passport photos, €350 deposit, and recent CV.
  • Do a telephone interview (or in person if you live in Cork and/or want to call in).
  • A confirmation letter of enrolment will then be sent within 10 working days.

If you prefer we can send you the application form by post.

For more information about applying to volunteer with EIL please see How do I apply? 

We guarantee no hidden costs.

We encourage you to compare our costs with other organisations  and a careful comparison of what is included and what is not included is always advisable.

What Is Included

  • Pre-departure information and 2 day preparation workshop
  • Airport pick up
  • Placement in project
  • Meals and accommodation for the duration of the project placement
  • 2-3 day orientation in Cape Town
  • Accommodation, food & transport costs covered during orientation
  • Transfer to host family/project after orientation
  • Full assistance and back-up support for the duration of the programme
  • Debrief workshop on return to Ireland
  • Invitation to join the EIL Development Education Network

What Is Not Included

  • Cost of flights
  • Medical, liability and travel insurance (available for €10 per week)
  • Personal expenses
  • Visa costs (if applicable)


  • 4 weeks: €1,499
  • 6 weeks: €1,749
  • 8 weeks: €1,949
  • 10 weeks: €2,099
  • 12 weeks: €2,299
  • 16 weeks: €2,799

Medical, liability and travel insurance available for €10 per week.

Prices are subject to change.

Visit our WHY PAY? and FUNDRAISING pages.


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