Volunteering is a growing area, with opportunities nationwide. But there are some rip-off operators, often around animal-related projects. Book through local rather than foreign organisations, get previous volunteers' opinions and check that most of your payment will go to the schemes involved rather than middlemen.
To work on an unpaid, voluntary basis for a short period, a visitor's permit or visa suffices. If you want to take a lengthy placement (longer than the 90 days afforded by a visitor's permit), the organisation facilitating your placement should help you apply for the correct visa.
Shorter experiences of a few hours, days or weeks are available through accommodation options and tourist businesses, which often give ongoing support to one or two local schemes. But keep in mind that while short visits are interesting for the visitor, they may be of limited use to the project, beyond any fee paid for the trip. Some prominent volunteer organisations have actually suggested that short-term volunteers may do more harm than good.
African Conservation Experience (www.conservationafrica.net) Conservation projects and courses in Southern Africa.
African Impact (www.africanimpact.com) Volunteering and internship opportunities in areas such as healthcare and conservation.
Aviva (www.aviva-sa.com) Cape Town–based organisation offering wide-ranging volunteering opportunities, including great white shark and African penguin conservation.
GoAbroad.com (www.goabroad.com) Listings of opportunities in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Greater Good SA (www.greatergoodsa.co.za) Has details on many local charities and development projects.
Grow (www.facebook.com/GROWMokhotlong) There are opportunities with this NGO implementing community-development programs in eastern Lesotho.
Kick4Life (www.kick4life.org) Opportunities in Lesotho, including the annual football tour, which mixes HIV education and soccer matches.
Life Skills (www.lifeskillsinsa.com) Reforestation and other green projects on the Garden Route.
One World 365 (www.oneworld365.org) Opportunities in areas such as human rights, conservation, English teaching and healthcare.
Streetfootballworld (www.streetfootballworld.org) A starting point for football-related volunteering opportunities.
Travel Now Now (www.travelnownow.co.za) Province-by-province listings of opportunities.
Uthando South Africa (www.uthandosa.org) A tour company that supports a range of charitable projects.
Wilderness Foundation (www.wildernessfoundation.org) Conservation NGO running projects throughout South Africa.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (www.wwoofsa.co.za) Opportunities to stay and work on organic farms across South Africa; Fynbos Estate (www.fynbosestate.co.za) near Cape Town is recommended.
If you would like to stay put somewhere for a month or two, the easiest option is to find informal, cash-in-hand work at a backpackers or cafe, possibly with room and board included. Opportunities exist in the tourism and hotel industries, but your employer will have to help you procure a work permit through VFS Global. Using an immigration consultant is recommended.
The same applies to other sectors such as business and aid, where there are opportunities for people with special skills. Bear in mind that jobs are poorly paid in South Africa compared with Western countries, even taking the exchange rate into account. Working remotely for foreign clients takes advantage of the weak rand.
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