Top 10 Tips for Volunteering in Africa
Going to volunteer in Africa for the first time? Never done anything like this before? This can be a daunting experience but with our advice you can get preapred before departing. Check out our essential things to think about before working in Africa and top tips to make the most out of the experience below...
1. Research all Destinations
Africa is a huge continent with over 50 countries and there are voluntary opportunities in most countries. Make sure you are happy with your chosen destination because you will be spending a period of time living and working there. Also don't be afraid to choose a country which might not be as well known as others, the experience can be just as good. You can find projects in so many places, these destinations are highly recommended:
- Volunteer in South Africa
- Volunteer in Egypt
- Volunteer in Kenya
- Volunteer in Tanzania
- Volunteer in Morocco
- Volunteer in Zimbabwe
2. Choose the Right Project
Ask yourself what types of program interests you? Do you have any skills you can contribute? There are so many different opportunities available for both short and long periods. Some require previous skills whilst others are more general and no experience is required. Be sure to check Africa volunteer reviews too, chatting to previous staff or reading past testimonials is a great way to see how reputable placements/organisations are. You have the option to join a range of opportunities including:
- Animal Programs
- Building Programs
- Childcare Work
- Community Programs
- Conservation Programs
- Marine Conservation Projects
- Medical and Healthcare Programs
- Helping Refugees
- Religious Voluntary Work
- Sports Coaching
3. Decide What Type of Organisation You Want to Help
There are a wide range of organisations, charities, non profits, NGO's and international travel agencies offering programs to internationals. Some local orgranisations offer low cost and free volunteer programs in Africa but you will usually need to pay for flights, accommodation and organise transport independently. Some agencies charge a fee which includes flights, accommodation, meals, transfers and emergency support once in your destination. For peace of mind it is sometimes better to go for the structured method and pay the fee - this takes the hassle out of the experience especially if you are planning a gap year to Africa for example and want to be placed with other likeminded people of your age group.
4. Check Vaccinations & Take Medication
Before departing go to your local GP to see if there are any vaccinations needed. Considering taking malaria pills if you are going to be in a country affected by mosquitos. Also pack an emergency kit. The first days you might have stomach problems when getting used to the local water and new foods so packing tablets like imodium is recommended.
5. Arrange an Airport Pickup
Arriving in a foreign country can be one of the most scary and daunting things especially when you are tired, jetlagged and feel a bit confused arriving in a new country. Make sure you get your organisation to pick you up or arrange a private shuttle or taxi in advance. When you arrive with luggage and get taken to your accommodation it is one less thing to stress about.
6. Pack Sensibly
Africa is a warm continent and you will need to check where you are going and what you will be doing. Do you really need that expensive laptop? Or a coat? Or hair straighteners? Pack light and take essential things like clothing, phone, possibly a tablet and a good pair of trainers. If you are going to be joining community based programs it is recommended to bring basic school materials (pencils, paper, color sheets, scissors, paste, pens, markers, crayons, drawings); clothes; English books; medical materials. You could also take presents for staff for example chocolate or things from your home country.
7. Be Friendly
Be opening minded and open to anything. Don't be afraid of local people, most people in Afica will greet you with smiles and warmt rather than any malice. You will be working alongside other international volunteers
8. Listen & Learn
You will be working alongside local staff who are very experienced in this field of work. Listen to everything they say and try to pick up skills and advice. Your whole time in Africa will be an eye opening experience.
Africa is a facinating destination with so many diverse travel experiences available. There are wildlife safaris, spectacular sights, beaches, deserts, jungles and so many things you can do in your spare time. Highlights include seeing Victoria Falls, Cape Town, visiting the mountain gorillas, going overland and seeing amazing beaches. You can book Africa tours in advance or once in country. Make the most of your time here by trying to see as much as possible.
Just enjoy the experience and get involved with everything! Going to volunteer abroad really is a life changing experience. Your time will go quick and try to maximize your experience and take as many photos as possible. You will create memories to last a lifetime and hopefully go back home and inspire others to do something similar too.