Volunteer in Africa
Africa is an incredible continent and if you would like to do something more rewarding than just sightseeing then volunteering programs will appeal to you. Africa has some of the worst poverty in the world and also faces many issues like wildlife poaching, disease and climate change. Volunteering in Africa will give you one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
Volunteer Programs in Africa
Find structured, free & low cost volunteer projects in Africa.
Find Programs by Destination
- Bukina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Cote D'Ivoire
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
Guide to Volunteering in Africa
If you want to do something rewarding we highly recommend apply to volunteer in Africa. With One World 365 you can search hundreds of projects in the North, East, South and West of the continent. Africa is characterized by people who are resilient, entrepreneurial, compassionate, and spirited. Our partner organisations work incredibly hard to improve the livelihoods of the people in their communities and we place volunteers to where they are needed most, and our local partners are always gracious for the time, talent, and energy our participants contribute.
Our website features over 1,000 volunteer opportunities where you will be able to discover things about not only yourself but also get a whole new perspective on the world. You will see things on a day to day basis you could not have dreamed about for example seeing the difference you make. This may be your only opportunity in life where you are able to travel and improve the lives of the people less fortunate.
There are short and long term programs available to book and join all year round, so whether you want to help disadvantaged communities, help conservation and nature, improve education or work hands on with animals - we have projects which will appeal to you.
Why the Need for Assistance
Some of the major development challenges facing Africa include environmental depletion, inadequate or outdated infrastructure to support economic growth, high population growth coupled with a shortage of social assistance programs, as well as high rates of illiteracy, especially among women. There are continuous efforts inspired by the local and international community to build the capacity of local grass-roots organizations, effectively leading development into the hands of the people who face its immediate impacts. You can help make a difference in the lives of others by joining a project to help improve living standards and also help people, wildlife and the environment. Major issues affecting Africa today include poverty, HIV & AIDS, women's rights, post-conflict rebuilding, access to education, sanitation, and youth empowerment.
Depending on your area of interest, you can choose from a number of placements which need caring and enthusiastic volunteers. Working overseas in Africa gives you the unique opportunity to experience life in another country and if you are concerned about travelling or volunteering alone, most of our projects are arranged in groups. Make the right choice & you will forever have memories of actually helping, you will be living a different life for a while discovering what it is you really want out of life and puts you on a path to a better future. Search our structured and free volunteer opportunities in Africa today.
How to Choose Where to Volunteer
With more than fifty diverse countries, Africa is a vast and varied continent and where you go really depends on which project or country you are interested in. The Western region is often most under visited and lacks international volunteers compared to the East and South. We find South Africa is generally most peoples top choice but we also list organisations who place volunteers throughout more rural regions like West Africa. This is a region where you can get lost in the drum beats, feast your eyes on the multitude of bright colours, and feel the hot tropical sun in a way that is characteristic only to coastal countries hovering around the equator. Countries in desperate need of assistance include the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone - but you will need to check latest safety information regarding the ebola outbreak.
Types of Volunteer Programs in Africa
You could use your skills on football placements, help at orphanages or contribute to medical efforts. Please note these positions are rewarding but can be challenging. You could help improve the lives of communities on gap year community placements, this is a fantastic opportunity to give back and help people whilst experiencing living abroad. Joining conservation placements is an amazing opportunity to help and especially if you are passionate about wildlife and the environment. International participants are needed at orphanage projects in countries like Kenya and Tanzania and you can join all year round. These programs are a wonderful opportunity to help the children who live in extreme poverty.
Natural habitat destruction and poaching is a terrible problem in Africa and on conservation projects you will be able to work in teams with the aim of improving the situation. By raising awareness of serious issues like poaching and working hands on with incredible wildlife you will get memories to last a lifetime. Most wildlife projects will involve working in teams up to 6 days a week and sometimes over 8 hours a day. The types of animals you can help include lions, giraffes, cheetah, eland, buffalo, leopards, roans, kudu, hyenas, zebras, waterbuck, wildebeest, gemsbok, sable, impala, duiker, steenbok, wild dogs, aardwolf, serval, caracal, jackals and rhinos. Seeing and volunteering with elephants in their natural habitat in Africa is a magical experience! By helping you will be able to help these animals have a better future.
Wildlife programs you can work with the big 5 wildlife, this is very unique where you can gain equine game reserve management experience. You will be able to contribute to conservation efforts in this region of Southern Africa and make a difference to wildlife . You will learn a lot on these gap year programs, from picking up the basics of game reserve management, to tracking wild animals, preventing poaching, game counts, researching and also working hands on. Types of animals you might be working with include cheetahs, rhinos, elephants and lions! These programs are very safe, structured and allow you to really experience the culture of the destinations you visit doing far more than just being a tourist. No previous experience is needed and full training / in-country support is available.
We have lots of projects helping to preserve animals in the wild and at rehabilitation centres and game reserves in Africa. You will gain a unique experience in an amazing setting. These are the types of activities you can expect to be involved in:
- Game Monitoring
- Game Counts
- Telemetry & Tracking
- Landscape Restoration & Rehabilitation
- Breeding Centre Management
- Alien Plant Control
- Animal Rehabilitation Centre
- Local Community Projects
- Other Activities (e.g. game capture, sleep out on the reserve - weather and time permitting, reserve orientation and guided walks, night time anti-poaching patrols)
- Educational Lecture and Talks
This is a very literal way to lend a helping hand! Our partners have projects that involve physical labour. On a Volunteer Abroad placement with this focus you could be building a school, constructing a roof, installing alternative energy resources, gardening, or helping in the fields. There is no language requirement for a Physical Labour placement. Our volunteers work under the direction of a local staff or community person. While they lead, our volunteers take direction and work as a part of a team working towards an end goal. Our partners always appreciate the time, effort, and muscle our volunteers offer to help get the job done.
Some programs have been created to help open opportunities for local people to enhance their skill set, increase their cultural sensitivity, improve their communication and collaboration skills, and most importantly to help people to participate actively in "global" life. Some youth based organizations have a particular focus on providing long-lasting and sustained support for youth across the continent. They recognize that education, active citizenship, and cross-cultural experiences - have no age requirement, and we encourage all who are interested to inquire about our programming.
Medical & Healthcare
If you are training in medicine you might want to help inspirational clinical / healthcare programs. On these types of programs you might be working on awareness projects or gain hands on work experience in a clinic or medical facility. You will work as part of a team on educational / healthcare projects with the aim of improving life for local communities. These programs are great if you are looking for a medical elective, want to gain work experience or just want to help others.
Healthcare awareness programs are very important in Africa, you will be able to inform local children about issues, run workshops and also screen people for illness. You will be able to contribute to current programs and also help create new initivies going forward meaning you will have an impact long after you have left. These projects are based all over the continent and there will be lots of time to explore the local areas and various sightseeing activities are available.
Social Work & Youth Engagement
Social work extends far beyond the traditional one-on-one format. You will be acting as a mentor, for example for at-risk youth or marginalized women and children. You will also be helping to run programs at your host organization which aim to develop life skills, rehabilitate, and offer support to individuals.
Placements in social work are invaluable learning opportunities for someone pursuing a related career. In addition to the skills developed working with the local community, you will gain an understanding of social, cultural, and economic factors affecting quality of life in the country where you are working. Placements with this focus include social work, youth engagement, and childcare. This focus tends to be where volunteers are needed most. Local staff members are often overburdened with their work. Both staff and the people they serve are grateful for the care, attention, and time given by volunteers.
With a youth engagement focus, you will be working with impoverished youth. The programming of communitity-based organizations demonstrates the positive alternatives youth have available to them, provides a basic education to youth who may not otherwise have the opportunity to go to school, and develops critical life skills. You will either help to deliver the programs to youth, or will develop program materials for staff and future volunteers. Both are important ways to lend a helping hand.
In areas where we work, not only do children make up a significant amount of the population, many have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS or war. In Africa there has been an emergence of child-headed households, homes where an older child takes on the role of his or her deceased parents. When possible, they will live in an childcare centre. It is notable that while it is well-known that HIV/AIDS has led to many children losing their parents in Africa, this has also happened in parts of Asia and Latin America. The need is dire, and local staff members are severely overworked. Participants help to relieve the burden by caring for, tutoring, and mentoring children. Local staff are extremely grateful for the care, attention, and time that our participants spend helping.
To participate most organisations require you to be in good health and over the age of 18. There are so short term programs for 16 and 17 year olds and also programs for families where under 18's can participate. This is a very popular volunteer holiday destination and applications are received from worldwide countries.
What to Think about Before Applying
Sometimes the thought of living abroad and volunteering in a destination like Africa can seem appealing but in reality the experience can be hard work and really challenging both mentally and physically. Sometimes living conditions can be tough and basic, not what you might be used to and so signing up for a long term program might not be the best idea. Full training is provided on most placements to help and there will be guidance from experienced staff. If you are having doubts please e-mail us for suggestions and recommendations as there are also tours in Africa where you can visit volunteer projects which might be a better option.
Ethical Volunteering Programs in Africa
Volunteering is a thing that many people wish to do in Africa. The idea of being able to help people or animals in need in a new country sounds like a great experience. However, care should be taken to ensure that you really are making a genuine difference, and not being exploited whilst being convinced otherwise...
There are many programs in Africa which claim to make a genuine difference. For example, there are countless lion breeding facilities in South Africa (and more in other countries) which claim to release lions into the wild. They allow volunteers to help raise lion cubs, and also allow volunteers and tourists to walk with older lions. However, unfortunately, many of these volunteer projects are simply exploiting volunteers and tourists, and actually participate in the sale of lions to zoos, instead of releasing lions into the wild, as they claim. More disturbingly, many of these same farms are also involved in the canned hunting industry, where lions are hand raised by paying volunteers, walked with by paying tourists, and eventually shot by paying hunters.
Many of these projects can be booked through similar websites to One World 365, who specialise in working and volunteering abroad opportunities. Because of this, many people do not carry out their own research of the project before. Instead, they trust the information and judgement provided by other agencies. Unfortunately, this is naive, and what aspiring volunteers should do is research any projects as thoroughly as possible before considering volunteering at them. In doing this, they may realise the true nature of some dishonest projects, such as the many breeding/canned hunting farms operating under the false pretense of conservation.
Although many genuine volunteer projects in Africa and other destinations exist, it is encouraged to research projects that you may be considering as much as you possibly can. If you are looking for a volunteer project in Africa our website is one of the most ethical resources as you can search and contact reputable local organisations. Contacting the project directly, asking their aims, and for evidence of their good work is also a good idea.
Any genuine project will appreciate your enquiry, and should answer your questions as clearly as possible. For example, if you are asking for evidence that an animal rehabilitation centre does in fact release animals into the wild, they should be able to tell you the details of the animals that they have released, and where and when they released them. In this situation, answers such as 'a private game reserve' avoid answering your question with an actual answer. This, along with answers which avoid providing precise information are something that you should be wary of.
Although projects should be rewarding for the volunteers, the main aim of them is to help people and animals in need. By bearing in mind the suggestions in this article, potential volunteers may be able to ensure that they make informed decisions about volunteering projects, meaning that they can avoid being exploited, and hopefully make a real difference instead.
Accommodation is usually provided in local guest houses or at house shares. All transport to projects are included, as well as all meals. Housing will be secure, clean and comfortable with running water and electricity but depending on where you are, meals and facilities can be quite basic. Living in a rural community in Africa can mean that there simply isn’t access to some of your normal creature comforts. There are also homestays available and private accommodation options.
Your in-country support is provided by an exchange manager who looks after everything from your accommodation, project placement, airport collection and anything country specific. Usually staff are local and are very knowledgeable about local events and life in Africa. They have years of experience managing international volunteers and working with local projects and they will be on hand to answer your queries during your placement and will provide your orientation when you first arrive.
Other Ways to Help
In addition to taking the time to find and research a genuine volunteer project, there are other ways to help people and animals in need. For example, you could donate to charities such as UNICEF, WWF, and other similar organisations. If you perhaps cannot spare the money to donate, helping to raise awareness of a particular charity or cause can also be greatly helpful. Also, you could consider other smaller ways to help whilst you travel. For example, you could consider supporting local people and projects, or even taking the time to visit a charity or orphanage when visiting a country.
Why You Might Need to Pay to Volunteer in Africa
One of the greatest challenges local organisations face is a lack of financial stability due to not having any government funding. Often funds fall short and this is where donations and also contributions from international volunteers. Furthermore, they may come from a few select sources. This means that if one funder stops funding a project for any given reason, the work of local NGO's suffers largely. In an effort to improve financial stability, organisations are looking to diversify and increase their funding base and in order to reach this goal, volunteers can assist.
Volunteer for Free in Africa
Our directory includes organisations in Africa where you can volunteer for free. Sometimes the fee for volunteering and this can put you off the experience but it is possible to find free and low cost volunteering placements in Africa. If you are interested in free volunteer programs in Africa our website includes non-profits and local organisations as well as large international sending agencies.
As you might have realised just typing a term like 'volunteer in Africa for free' into Google will literally bring up millions of search results, try to focus your attention on what you are looking for e.g. 'humanitarian work in Kenya' or use our advanced search. Also when researching free volunteer opportunities please understand some small organisations don't have enough money to have a website and you can find messages on forums and message boards like the Gumtree and TripAdvisor - this is also a great way to see feedback.
Large sending agencies usually charge a fee to participate, this comes part of a structured package which sometimes includes placements, flights, accommodation, training and in-country support. If you avoid the middle/third party then you will keep costs down. But One World 365 featured hundreds of volunteer organisations which offer placements in Africa and you can find low cost and free volunteer programs by local organisations, NGO's and non-profits.
You still might be required to pay a donation and pay for accommodation and meals separately. We check all we have listed directory to make sure listings are reliable and safe but its always good to double check feedback on websites like facebook. There are fully funded skilled placements available in Africa, a past participant who arrange a program through our website worked as accountant working at a hotel assisting international volunteers and local business projects. If you are working in a profession like business, law, accounting, architecture and healthcare you might be able to find paid/free placements.
How to Apply
You can search programs on our directory and apply today. Some companies charge a fee to participate and this usually include accommodation, meals, transport, orientations, in country support and more. Each organisation is different and please research all before applying. If you apply direct with local programs this can work out cheaper but for peace of mind and safety considerations we recommend applying through an international sending agency.
Help / Advice
If you need any help arranging a volunteer placement in Africa please get in touch.
Africa Volunteer Reviews & Testimonials
If you have ever volunteered in Africa and would like to write about your experience, review an organisation or share any recommendations please contact us.
"I worked at a wildlife sanctuary helping elephants and rhinos. This is a fantastic chance for anyone person wanted to build your skills and make a difference in a sunny climate. It is heartbreaking when you see up close the devestating effects of wildlife poaching and more volunteers and funds are needed to help." Andy, conservation volunteer from the UK
"I helped at a rural school and it was an incredible experience. Some days can be hard, working conditions are basic to say the least but the smiles from the local children made the whole placement the best time of my life." - Lucy, teaching volunteer from the UK
"Volunteering in Africa was the best opportunity I have ever had, and I wish I could do it all again. I never realised how quickly ten weeks can go! It taught me a lot about a completely different way of life, and a new culture that it so unlike ours here in the UK. It has changed my outlook on many different issues and gave me a new perspective on life. Now that I am back in the UK, I am keen to pursue this type of work and I have applied to be a support worker over summer with teenagers, which is something I never imagined myself ever doing 9 months ago when I finished university." - Marc Seymour, UK
"I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have ever done in my life and I certainly came back home with a different perspective on life. I wanted to work in a community that had nothing and Africa seemed the place for me to go. Where I was based had many different projects so you could choose and change to another if you wanted to. You work with a number of other very committed and like minded people and make many new friends whilst feeling like you are doing something so worthwhile." - Sara, UK
"Everything was absolutely fantastic - I loved every minute of it! I’m very happy, the living conditions were really good, probably better than I expected but I hadn't really known what to expect. Again I didn't really know what to expect but for the most part everything has been perfect! Duncan our project leader is fantastic, really helpful and goes out of his way to make sure we are all ok. I was really impressed by the hospital too - its a big relief to know that it's a good one. I felt like we were in very safe hands. Everything was wonderful. It was tempting to stay there forever!" - Laura, UK volunteered with The Leap Overseas
"I joined a program with Volunteers Partnership for West Africa (VPWA) who not only have several interesting projects, but also offer you the opportunity to gain international experience, living with people from all over the world, of different ages, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, and you also work with many local people. Projects are carried out with other volunteers, along with local leaders." - Isabela, Canada
"My desire to travel more has been strengthened through this experience also, beginning with another volunteer trip in the summer. That is the great thing about volunteering; it shows you how much more is out there and how you can really make a difference. You can go anywhere in the world, at any time, on a variety of different projects." - Marc, UK
"Volunteering in Africa taught me a lot about myself and gave me the opportunity to contribute to a community program. Sometimes it was challenging with the living conditions but I would 1000% recommend the experience. I made some of my best friends on this trip! Africa will always have a special space in my heart." - Megan, UK