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South Africa

Overview

In South Africa, volunteer in caregiving, education and sports. Live in a Volunteer House situated in one of Cape Town’s best neighborhoods. Additionally:

 

 

 

 

 

About Cape Town

Cape Town is the second-most populous city in South Africa. It is an exciting city that is beautifully located in Table Bay. It is surrounded by beautiful Table Mountain and steep cliffs that extend into the ocean. Its beaches are world renown and, along with the Mediterranean climate, help make Cape Town one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. Its rich history also gives the city depth. The influence of its many settlers, including the French, Dutch, British and German, as well as local tribes such as the Bantu and Bushman, can still be felt.

However, serious social problems and poverty persist in Cape Town. Racial tensions continue, and unemployment and wealth disparity are serious. Many poor children are especially vulnerable to malnutrition, neglect and violence. The opportunities for them to break the poverty cycle are limited. In Cape Town you have the finest international volunteering opportunities available to you, including teaching English, caring for children and working in an NGO. Click on the tabs above to learn more.

 

“I am very happy I chose UBELONG because the program was more than I expected and the staff was always so helpful and kind. UBELONG has made volunteering accessible and enjoyable for all.” Stephen Rousseau, UBELONG South Africa Volunteer from the United States – read his interview here.

Projects

Caregiving

The opportunities of Cape Town’s poorest have increased in the last decade with economic growth and aggressive anti-poverty programs by government. However, poor children in Cape Town face serious challenges like abuse, neglect, malnutrition and violence. Many live in townships, or informal settlements, which are marked by flimsy shacks, gang violence and limited access to services like electricity and water.

Volunteers in Cape Town have the opportunity to make a real impact in the lives of local children. Volunteers bring affection, attention and love. They introduce the children to new cultures and bring fresh perspectives. Volunteers live and work in Cape Town.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers work four to six hours a day in a daycare for children ranging from infants to 6 years old. Most of the children come from very poor backgrounds, and some come from homes where alcoholism, abuse and neglect occur. Volunteers provide much needed affection and attention to the children. Typical volunteer activities include dancing, making art, singing and playing games or sports. Volunteers also help the local staff in taking the children through their daily activities, which include brushing teeth, cleaning, feeding and nap time.

 

 

Requirements to participate: 
-The energy to keep children stimulated.
-A very caring and open attitude.
-Education and/or professional experience in a caregiving-related field is not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
1 week.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except December 15, 2018 through January 13, 2019 when the project is closed for the holidays (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

Mary Kate and Giulia, friends from Maryland, at the daycare.

Mary Kate and Giulia, friends from Maryland, at the daycare.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers generally serve four to six hours a day in a center for disabled children. The children range from infants to teenagers and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. They suffer moderate to severe physical and mental disabilities, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome and fetal alcohol syndrome. Most of the parents’ children cannot afford to care for them or have largely abandoned them because of economic and social pressures. Volunteers work with the local staff in leading the children through their rehabilitation and therapy exercises, and they help with cleaning, feeding and any other daily living requirement. Volunteers also play with the children to provide them with affection, love and positive diversion. Activities may include dancing, making art and singing.

Requirements to participate: 
-The energy to keep children stimulated.
-A very caring and open attitude.
-Education and/or professional experience in a caregiving-related field is not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
2 weeks.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except December 15, 2018 through January 13, 2019 when the project is closed for the holidays (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

Stephen (second from left), from Ocala, Florida, at the project with friends.

Stephen (second from left), from Ocala, Florida, at the project with friends.

Education

Education for non-whites has improved significantly since the end of apartheid in the early 1990s. For example, all children must now attend school, and more schools serving poor communities have been built. However, the quality of education for the poorest South Africans remains subpar. Material shortages exist, and the influx of rural migrants into cities like Cape Town has brought overcrowding. Additionally, many children come from homes with problems like abuse, HIV/AIDS, illiteracy and unemployment.
Volunteers bring energy and new backgrounds into the classroom. They help local teachers maintain classroom order and provide more individualized attention to students, especially those falling behind. Volunteers live and work in Cape Town.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers serve four to six hours a day in an elementary school with children aged 6 to 13 years old. The school is public, and most of the children come from Cape Town’s poorest areas, including the townships. Volunteers work with the local teachers on a variety of topics, for example culture, geography, math and writing. Volunteers are also involved in extracurricular areas, which range from playtime with the younger children to activities like dance, theatre and physical education with the older ones. Local teachers also rely on the volunteers to bring new ideas, provide individualized attention to children falling behind, and help maintain classroom order. Volunteers usually teach alongside the local teachers, although depending on need they may have the opportunity to lead classes.

Requirements to participate:
-At least a fluent level of English.
-The energy to keep children stimulated.
-The creativity and initiative to lead classes with limited resources.
-Teaching experience and/or certifications are not required.

Minimum time commitment:
2 weeks.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except December 15, 2018 through January 13, 2019 when the project is closed for the holidays (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

At school with Andy, an incredible volunteer from New York!

At school with Andy, an incredible volunteer from New York!

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers serve four to six hours a day in a school for children with autism. The children are 6 to 16 years old, and their level of autism ranges from moderate to severe. The school caters to children from poor backgrounds, and volunteers should expect a lack of manpower and resources when compared to their home country. Some of the children are able hold basic conversations and, to a limited extend, focus on classroom learning. Others struggle to write, read and, in some cases, talk. Volunteers help the local teachers lead classes, especially by providing more individualized attention to the children. They also help with recreational activities, which may include playtime with younger children and going on walks and playing sports with the older ones. As the need arises, volunteers also assist with the children’s basic care, including feeding and cleaning.

Requirements to participate: 
-The energy to keep children stimulated.
-The creativity and initiative to work in an environment with limited resources.
-Education and/or professional experience in special education, resource teaching or related fields.

Minimum time commitment: 
2 weeks.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except December 15, 2018 through January 13, 2019 when the project is closed for the holidays (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2. In their application, volunteers must provide their resume/CV.

3. Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

Sammy, a volunteer from the College of Charleston, with a new friend at the project!

Sammy, a volunteer from the College of Charleston, with a new friend.

Sports

Sports are very important in South Africa. From the post-apartheid successes of the Springboks, the national rugby squad, to the 2010 soccer World Cup, sports have helped bring South Africans together. Sports help people build trust and encourage collaboration and communication.

While public schools in Cape Town have a physical education component, resources are extremely limited. Volunteers bring energy and skills, as well as new cultural perspectives that they share with the children. Volunteers live and work in Cape Town.

Click on a heading below to learn more.

What do volunteers do?
Volunteers serve four to six hours a day in an elementary school with children ranging from 6 to 13 years old. The school is public, and most of the children come from very poor backgrounds. Overcrowding and not enough teachers, materials and other resources are constant problems. Volunteers work alongside local physical education teachers to lead sports activities. These may include playing games like basketball, soccer and volleyball, as well as general fitness activities like running and stretching. Volunteers encourage the children and maintain order, and help to make teams, referee and ensure good sportsmanship. Volunteers are also encouraged to introduce new sports and to lead discussions on healthy living, for example ones related to exercise and nutrition. As physical education does not run the whole day at the school, volunteers also have the opportunity to help in other areas of the school with classroom topics like art, dancing, math and writing.

Requirements to participate:
-The health and physical capability to play sports on a daily basis.
-The creativity and initiative to work in an environment with limited resources.
-Education and/or professional experience in a sports-relevant field is not required.

Minimum time commitment: 
2 weeks.

Project schedule:
The project starts every Monday of the month and runs year-round, except December 15, 2018 through January 13, 2019 when the project is closed for the holidays (for groups of four or more, we may make an exception and allow an alternative start date – contact us to request an exception).

Please note:
1. This description is intended only as a broad overview of the work. There is no typical day or script to follow. Remember, volunteers are serving in the developing world where conditions can change in an instant. Being flexible, open and able think on your feet are crucial characteristics of a good international volunteer. It is each volunteer’s role to fit in with their project and not the other way around. We expect volunteers to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in activities they were not expecting to work in. Being able to adapt, adjust and fit in is challenging, but also what makes international volunteering so special.

2.  Prior to arrival, volunteers must provide a police background check. Without it, volunteers will not be allowed on the project.

#FinestVolunteersInTheWorld:
1. Read reviews of past UBELONG Volunteers and see why UBELONG is trusted by thousands every year.

2. Browse our Volunteer Abroad news section to meet UBELONG Volunteers, the finest international volunteers in the world.

3. Like UBELONG on Facebook and connect with past, current and future UBELONG Volunteers.

 

UBELONGers playing soccer with the students in Cape Town!

UBELONGers playing soccer with the students in Cape Town!

Living

When you volunteer in South Africa with UBELONG, you embark on a life-changing volunteer trip that is all about volunteering, experiencing the local culture and making new friends. Live in a safe, clean and comfortable Volunteer House that is perfectly located in the heart of Cape Town. Enjoy excellent food and have an authentic, immersive experience living as part of the local community. Read on to learn more!

Housing

While volunteering in South Africa you have the wonderful opportunity to live in a Volunteer House that is perfectly located in a safe, lively neighborhood in the heart of Cape Town. The house has a friendly, social atmosphere. The beaches and ocean front are easily reachable, and the famous Muizenberg Beach, one of Cape Town’s most popular surf spots, is a 20 minute drive away. Lower Main Road, one of the most popular nightlife destinations in Cape Town, is only 10 minutes away walking. The shared bathrooms are clean and you typically room with three to seven other volunteers in comfortable dormitory-style rooms. The common area is a popular place for volunteers to relax in. It features a flat screen television, DVD player and couches. There is also a pool/table-tennis table that is a volunteer favorite. Conveniences like cafes, grocery stores and pharmacies are steps away, and there are laundromats nearby. The popular Old Biscuit Mill, which features night and day markets, farm-stalls and excellent cafes, is also nearby and is a favorite weekend spot for volunteers.

Food

Cape Town offers a range of different cuisines reflecting its multicultural identity. You can expect to eat very well throughout your volunteer placement with UBELONG. We provide you with breakfast and dinners Monday to Friday.

Breakfast: It normally includes coffee, tea or juice with bread, cereal, cheese, fruit or yogurt. Depending on your volunteer work schedule, you eat breakfast alone or with your fellow volunteers. Breakfast is self-served at the Volunteer House.

Dinner: Dinner is the main meal in South Africa.  It includes a wide variety of dishes featuring items like chicken or beef with beans, pasta, vegetables or rice. Hamburgers, lasagna, and curry and rice are also popular. You eat dinner with your fellow volunteers, and it’s a great time to come together, socialize and hang out. Dinners are served at a local restaurant or at the Volunteer House.

For lunch and weekend breakfast and dinners, volunteers can eat out at one of Cape Town’s many excellent restaurants. These range from tiny cuisines serving tasty South African dishes at very affordable prices to fast food, Asian and some of Africa’s finest restaurants. One can generally eat very well at a restaurant in Cape Town for US$8 and up. Many volunteers also purchase food and prepare it themselves at the Volunteer House, where a kitchen is available.

Free Time

Cape Town is one of Africa’s most popular tourist destinations for a reason. As a UBELONG Volunteer in Cape Town you will have incredible opportunities to make new friends and experience all that the city has to offer. Its beaches, such as Camp’s Bay, are world renown, and Cape Town’s beachfront and downtown areas are lively at any time. During the day it is easy to find artisans selling their crafts or outdoor cafes to enjoy the Mediterranean climate. At night, there are many excellent bars, clubs and restaurants where locals and foreigners can relax and socialize.

There are numerous cultural sites to visit, including the Bo-Kaap neighborhood and the Castle of Good Hope. They reflect Cape Town’s long history and help explain why the city is one of the most multicultural in the word. Robben Island, the infamous prison where political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, were held during apartheid is a difficult but necessary stop to learn about one of the saddest chapters in modern history. For UBELONG Volunteers who love the outdoors, Cape Town has a wide mix of opportunities. Table Mountain is a breathtaking spot to visit, and there are many nearby hills, mountains and trails that make for great biking, climbing and hiking. Many, like Lion’s Head Mountain, also offer stunning views over the city and ocean below.

 

travel-volunteer-cape-town-south-africa

UBELONGers Jaime and Brandon, from the United States, visiting Cape Point.

Cost

Volunteering abroad with UBELONG is extremely affordable. Plus, when you consider that UBELONG Volunteers receive extensive support and the trust of joining an organization based in the United States with top reviews, you realize the unmatchable value UBELONG offers. It’s one of the main reasons thousands have already decided to join a UBELONG volunteer trip.

 

Volunteer Placement Program Fee (USD)
1 week $175
2 weeks $325
3 weeks $475
4 weeks $600
5 weeks $735
6 weeks $785
8 weeks $1055
12 weeks $1505
16 weeks $1985
20 weeks $2465
24 weeks $2915

In addition to the program fee, there is a US$295 reservation fee due upon your being accepted into a project.

 

Additionally, please note:

Before your trip

Easy online application: You can apply online using our Volunteer Abroad application form. We use the application to get to know you and make sure that you join a volunteer project that is right for you based on your background, interests, and skills.

Preparation Booklet: The booklet offers you a wealth of information and helpful tips to prepare you for your volunteer trip with UBELONG. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the development challenges that your host community faces.

UBELONG Mentor: We pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Briefing Meeting: Prior to your departure, you have a meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your volunteer placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your Volunteer Abroad experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

UBELONG Shop 25% discount: The UBELONG Shop is a clothing store selling shirts, bracelets and other items that are inspired by travel. It’s another way for us to advance our social mission. A part of the Shop’s profits go to where UBELONGers serve, for example the hospitals, schools, environmental reserves, etc.

When you are accepted into a UBELONG program, you receive a 25% promo code for the UBELONG Shop. You can share it with your friends and family. The donations from purchases made with your promo code go to the projects in the location where you are travelling.

During your trip

Airport pickup: When you arrive at the Cape Town airport, a driver meets you and brings you to your accommodations.

First week extra R&R day: On the Sunday prior to your first Monday, which is the start of your placement, your housing is included so that you can comfortably settle in. You can arrive earlier, just note the US$25 per night extra charge.

Orientation: Our Local Team Leader gives you a volunteer orientation to introduce you to the local team and go over everything from living locally to the volunteer work that you will be doing. The orientation is generally your first Monday.

Housing: You live in a safe, clean and comfortable Volunteer House.  To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

Food: You receive breakfast and dinner Monday through Friday. To learn more, click the “living” tab above.

United States and Europe based support: UBELONG is an American organization with headquarters in Charleston, South Carolina. We also have a European office in Lisbon, Portugal. As such, you have the peace of mind that comes from having the support of a volunteer organization with an American and European presence.

In-country support: Throughout your Volunteer Abroad placement, we work with our Local Team Leader to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, the local team is there for you.

After your trip

Reference letter (including for graduate degree and job references): Upon request, we provide you with a letter stating that you joined our Volunteer Abroad program. As the UBELONG network extends widely into the university and professional worlds, participating in a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program can be a strong positive in a university or job application. See some of the institutions in the UBELONG network.

Fundraising and networking: We hold fundraising and networking events throughout the year to support development initiatives. Join us online, in the United States or wherever in the world we are holding an event. To keep up with events, see the UBELONG Facebook page.

United States President’s Volunteer Service Award: If you are a U.S. citizen and shared your story in our Volunteer Abroad blog, you are eligible for the award, which we have been certified to give as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

Airfare, airport drop-off, travel medical insurance, and visas are not included. Lunch and weekend dinners are also not included.

We also require that every person 18 years of age or older obtain a police background check to volunteer with UBELONG – this is part of our commitment to volunteer safety and community safety. The price you pay depends on what location you are in because every country/city has a different price. However, in general, the cost of a police background check ranges from US$40 to US$150 per person.

Additionally, miscellaneous spending like snacks and toiletries is not included. You may also have to take transportation to reach your volunteer project and you are responsible for the fare. Most volunteers budget US$10 to US$20 for each day of their placement for additional expenses in the field.

Please note: We require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your volunteer placement with UBELONG. We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

You can pay us via PayPal (which includes credit and debit card), bank wire, United States Postal Service money order, or certified bank check. We do not accept cash or personal checks. To learn about when fees are due, see our how to apply section.

FAQ

Application

Applying is easy, simply follow the steps we lay out in our How To Apply section.

If you still have questions after doing so, please contact us, we are glad to help.

Our accepting you into a Volunteer Abroad project is based on three things:

  • Availability: We receive many more applications than we have spots for. As such, there may be projects where we simply don’t have a need for volunteers anymore. This is why you should apply as soon as possible. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.
  • Your background, experience and skills: Make sure to check the description of each project carefully. You can find all the project descriptions for this location in the “project” tab above.
  • The UBELONG Mindset: UBELONG Volunteers have the well-deserved reputation of being the best of the best. So, we expect that you will approach your UBELONG experience eager to contribute, and with a caring, humble, proactive and respectful attitude. We just want good people with the right attitude.

Yes, as long as your dates meet the “minimum time commitment” and “project schedule” requirements we have for the project you want to join. You can see these requirements by clicking on the “project” tab above and looking at the description for your project.

Additionally, considering how affordable and popular UBELONG opportunities are, we sometimes run out of spots. So, while you should only apply when you are completely sure you will join if accepted, the earlier you can apply the better your chances of being accepted. Until you have submitted an application, we will not be able to tell you if certain dates have been filled or not – you must apply first.

For additional information, visit our how to apply section and see our application.

Yes. We believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute. If you do not have previous experience, we offer you the opportunity to have a great start with us. We make international volunteering easy – not only are our Volunteer Abroad opportunities rooted in offering you extensive support, but they are also very affordable.

Yes. Many of our Volunteer Abroad projects are designed to offer highly-skilled professionals the opportunity to contribute their expertise while growing professionally and personally.

We were founded by international development professionals and university professors determined to raise the bar in international volunteering. Empowering even the most senior development professionals to volunteer overseas is a key part of our mission.

While we are based in the United States, we offer programs for people of all nationalities. Most of our volunteers come from North America, Europe, and Australia, yet every year we welcome into the UBELONG community thousands of individuals from all corners of the world. As long as you have a willingness to discover the world and volunteer abroad, you’re welcome to join one of our Volunteer Abroad projects.

You should apply as soon as possible as we receive a very high volume of applications for a limited number of spots. However, you should only apply when you know the exact location, project, and dates of your placement, and when you’re completely sure you’ll join if accepted.

Most individuals apply three to six months before their start date, although some apply even earlier and some with as little as a week before. Again, the earlier you apply the better, but only do so when you’re completely ready to commit if accepted.

As of the date you submit your application, you must be at least 18 years old. There is no maximum age requirement. Whether you are a student or have recently retired, or whether you are a young professional or a middle-aged housewife, we probably have a Volunteer Abroad project that is right for you.

Please note: In certain cases, we will allow people under 18 years old to become UBELONG Volunteers. To learn more, see the two FAQs right below this one.

Yes, we have many wonderful families with children volunteer on our projects. It is a great way for families to come together, and we have found that children coming in as volunteers can very positively impact the local communities.

For families with everybody 13 years or older, all our volunteer projects are open to you. Visit our families page to learn more about families volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

For families with children younger than 13 years old, due to project qualification requirements, logistical challenges and safety precautions, in certain of our locations we cannot have children under 13 years old join. To see the list of volunteer projects that are open to families with children under 13 years old, please visit our families page.

If you are under 18 years old, you can still volunteer with UBELONG either with your family or with a high school group. Click on the links to view more information about each option.

Groups

Yes. All groups, including couples, families and friends, can join any of our Volunteer Abroad projects and volunteer together. Every year we have thousands of individuals become UBELONG volunteers as part of corporate, university and religious groups. We can have groups of up to 500 people.

The application procedure for groups is easy and very similar as the one for individuals. You can review the entire process in our How To Apply section, and for your convenience here is an overview:

1. Each group member submits his or her own application online with these points in mind:

  • Everybody in the group should apply within the same 24 hours so we can review all the applications together.
  • In part 1 of the application there is a field where each person types a common group name. The group makes up its own name, past examples:
    • For a couple: “Jane and John”
    • For friends: “Peter, Trent and Mike”
    • For large groups: “Cornell University summer 2015 team” or “Jake’s winter 2018 team from the University of Michigan”
  • If you want to house together or volunteer on the same project, please let us know in your application. We will do everything we can to accommodate you; generally it is not a problem as long as you let us know in your application.

2. Once we receive all the applications, we will review them together. Assuming you are all accepted, we will pair the group with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience to support you. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

As always, if you have any further question please contact us, we are glad to help.

Yes, we have accepted many alternative breaks teams into our Volunteer Abroad program and had great success.

We have had teams from over 100 institutions from throughout the world, including:

  • Cornell University
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of California, San Diego
  • Rice University
  • McGill University
  • Oxford University
  • La Sorbonne
  • College of Charleston
  • University of Indiana
  • New Mexico State University
  • University of Melbourne
  • Dartmouth College
  • Columbia University
  • Southern Methodist University
  • University of South Dakota
  • New York University

The teams volunteered throughout the world on our projects across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Some have gone for a week during spring break, while others went for longer periods. Moreover, as we have over 150 projects, depending on their backgrounds teams have joined projects ranging from teaching English and conservation to healthcare and microfinance.

We encourage you to connect with past teams by visiting our Volunteer Abroad News section as well as the UBELONG Facebook page.

Yes, we work with many high school groups from all over the world.

Visit our high school groups page to learn more about high school groups volunteering abroad with UBELONG.

Mindset

We believe everybody has something to offer by volunteering abroad – this is why our Volunteer Abroad program is rooted in affordability and flexibility.

At the same time, volunteering abroad is not easy. Expect challenges. There is no typical day or script to follow, and in the developing world conditions can change quickly. You must be flexible and ready for anything. Some days will be frustrating and not what you expected.

However, the challenge of international volunteering is also what makes it so special. You will push yourself and step out of your comfort zone. You may develop relationships you would never have ever imagined. Or, in making an impact on those around you, find yourself growing immensely. And when it is all said and done, you may realize you gained even more from volunteering abroad than what you put in.

Volunteers are not tourists. Volunteers expect to serve, tourists expect to be served. As a volunteer your role is to fit in your project and not the other way around. Think what you can do for your hosting community, not what it can do for you. We expect you to contribute wherever the need arises, even if it means being involved in an area you were not expecting to work in.

You must be open, flexible and proactive. That is the challenge, but also the beauty of becoming a UBELONG Volunteer – you will be out of your comfort zone, but don’t be surprised if in making an impact you yourself have the experience of a lifetime.

Finally, while tourism companies offer overpriced “voluntourism” opportunities, we believe that’s unfortunate. Volunteerism and tourism have nothing to do with one another. They require very different attitudes, and attempting to combine them creates disappointment for the volunteer and generates no positive impact for the local community. And, while tourism companies may speak of the “volunteer travel industry”, authentic volunteering has nothing to do with an industry. For UBELONG Volunteers, volunteering is about people coming together for positive change – there is nothing industrial about it.

As long as you take your volunteering seriously and approach your experience with an open and proactive mindset, absolutely.

Your impact will be specific to you – every person experiences life differently. And while you will not “save the world”, as a UBELONG Volunteer you will be part of a large and wonderful community of individuals who, together, are making a significant positive global impact.

There are three general areas where you can expect to make an impact:

  • Project: You bring energy, experience and skills to share with the local community. Whether you are helping plant trees or sharing medical skills on a health project, you are making your mark.
  • Cross-cultural sharing: When people come across borders to live and work together, it’s powerful. It breaks down barriers and dispels stereotypes. Whether you are connecting with a local or another UBELONG Volunteer from a different country, those relationships you create matter.
  • Yourself: In travelling and volunteering, you will probably change for the better. You will pick up new skills, have new experiences and make new friends. How each of us grows is deeply personal to who we are, but be ready to change in ways you may never have imagined.

One of the best ways to learn about the impact of UBELONG Volunteers is to meet them. Do so by reading their interviews in the Volunteer Abroad news section and meeting them on the UBELONG Facebook page.

Community

Yes. While certain times of the year are busier than others, there are generally 5 to 20 UBELONG volunteers in any location at any point in time. You’ll be meeting plenty of other volunteers during your UBELONG experience. A great place to meet them beforehand is our Facebook page – you should like our page and connect with the other people hanging out there.

We encourage you to connect with others in the rapidly growing UBELONG community. It is a great way for you to hear firsthand about what it’s like to be a UBELONG Volunteer.

There are thousands of UBELONG Volunteers around the world, so getting in touch is easy. You have three principle ways:

1. We frequently publish interviews with alumni in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

2. Many people connect with each other via our rapidly growing UBELONG Facebook page. We suggest scrolling through the timeline and seeing the many pictures, videos, and testimonials posted there. If you have a comment or question, do not be shy, start a conversation.

3. Read some of our volunteer abroad reviews.

Health and Safety

Like in any large city where you are a foreign traveler, you must take precautions in Cape Town. There are parts of the city that are not safe, and you should be particularly careful with petty crime and traffic. Additionally, especially if you are a woman, you must be sensitive to cultural norms that may be different from those where you are from. However, Cape Town is generally safe and its citizens are very open and friendly. Once you become a UBELONG Volunteer, we will provide you with extensive materials and support to help make sure you stay safe and comfortable.

As international travel and volunteering carry inherent risks, we cannot guarantee your safety. However, your safety is our top priority and we work hard to minimize the risks. We design our programs so that you are surrounded by five layers of protection:

1. Comprehensive program set up
All our programs are personally inspected by a member of our team who goes through an extensive field checklist. We evaluate the local staff, inspect the living facilities, ride the public transportation, speak to former and current participants, taste the food, visit the work sites, and walk the neighborhoods, among many other activities. The program set-up process is long and thorough, but we consider it the most important part of our work. Our philosophy is to only offer placements where we would feel comfortable sending our own families.

2. Your preparation
When you sign up for a Volunteer Abroad project we send you a Preparation Booklet. The booklet offers a wealth of information and helpful tips to help you prepare for your experience. Topics range from health, safety and visa issues to the challenges in your hosting community.

We also pair you with a UBELONG Mentor, a highly experienced member of our team who works closely with you throughout your UBELONG experience. From coordinating details like airport pickup and housing preferences to preparing you for your role as an international volunteer, your mentor is there for you.

Additionally, prior to your departure you have a Briefing Meeting with your UBELONG Mentor. You go over staying safe during your Volunteer Abroad placement, as well as tips for getting the most out of your experience. The meetings generally occur over the phone or Skype, but if you are in the same location as your UBELONG Mentor they can occur in person.

3. Local partners
We have built and continuously manage a network of local partners, including community organizations, NGOs, private citizens and schools. They are well positioned to look after your day-to-day safety and comfort. They have extensive local contacts, understand how things work on the ground, and implement appropriate safety measures.

4. Continual program monitoring
We are proactive in identifying and dealing with issues that may affect your safety. We monitor local conditions where programs are located and continuously communicate with our local partners to determine if any safety steps need to be taken. Our team also spends many months on the road every year supervising placements and checking the safety of our programs.

5. Communication with you
Throughout your Volunteer Abroad experience, we work with our local partners to provide you with any assistance that you may need. Whether you have a question about where to travel on the weekend or have an issue that requires immediate assistance, staff is reachable 24/7.

The sports project requires sustained physical activity. You’ll be outside in hot weather playing sports like volleyball and soccer with the children, and so you must be ready for that.

While the other volunteer projects in Cape Town do not require sustained physical work, volunteering and living in the city requires energy and strength. Additionally, the weather can be very hot and humid. You should be in excellent physical health.

Prior to arriving in South Africa, we suggest that you visit your physician or a travel health clinic to ensure that you are in good enough health for your placement and to obtain any immunizations that you require.

If you are coming from a country that is considered to have a risk of yellow fever then you must present an International Certificate of Vaccination (Yellow Card) to show proof of yellow fever immunization. Most of the countries requiring yellow fever immunization are in Africa and South America, although regardless of where you are coming from you should consult your country’s South African embassy for the latest information.

Additionally, you should see your physician or a travel health clinic prior to arriving in South Africa as most doctors recommend at least a few precautionary vaccinations before arriving, including:

-Routine immunizations for polio, measles/mumps/rubella, etc.
-Hepatitis A
-Hepatitis B
-Japanese encephalitis
-Rabies
-Tetanus
-Typhoid
-Yellow fever

The risk of malaria in Cape Town is low. However, if you plan to travel throughout South Africa after your placement, you should consult a medical professional as there are high malaria risk areas in the country.

Yes. For all our Volunteer Abroad projects we require that you have travel medical insurance, including emergency evacuation, throughout your experience.

We do not include it because there are many different plans available and you know best what is right for you. Before your departure we will ask you for general information about your policy, but it is your sole responsibility to determine its adequacy and any associated details like coverage levels and deductibles.

Travel Logistics

Citizens of most countries can enter at no charge with a passport valid for at least six months from the date you enter South Africa. Once you become a UBELONG volunteer, we will provide you further information and guidance on obtaining a visa.

Most volunteers arrive by plane at Cape Town’s international airport, which serves points throughout the world on a daily basis.

We recommend that you arrive the Sunday before your first Monday. During your first week, housing and food is included on the Sunday before so you can comfortably settle in.

A driver will be waiting for you at the airport to welcome you and bring you to your accommodations.

Yes, you’re welcome to volunteer in multiple of our locations back to back. Just remember that travelling between locations takes a lot of energy and time. You also need time to settle in and get up the learning curve in each location.

So, while you can do back to back placements, we suggest you think it through to make sure you’re not cutting yourself short. Generally, we advise against volunteering in multiple locations back to back if you’re spending less than two weeks in any particular location.

Project

Your orientation generally happens during your first two days and is led by our Local Team Leader. During the orientation you go over your project scheduling and receive further information about your work. You also meet other volunteers and staff, and take a tour of the city.

Yes. The majority of the local team speaks English.

It depends on the availability of positions and the participation requirements of the project you wish to join. Additionally, remember that it takes time to settle in, get up the learning curve and find your role within a project. As such, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, we expect you to stay in your original project for at least two weeks before requesting a switch.

Yes, but we ask that you limit any financial or material donation to your project to US$20 for every month you spend in the field. We do not want to encourage a culture of dependency whereby volunteers are viewed as a source of money.

Additionally, as an international development organization, we believe the culture of handouts that has been perpetuated by “voluntourism” organizations with no real commitment to making a genuine local impact is unfortunate. Handouts stifle local innovation, self-reliance, and long-term sustainability.

In general, all of the projects run Monday through Friday. Saturday and Sunday are off, as well as local holidays. Your days off are free, so it’s entirely up to you what to do.

As for the number of hours a day you will spend at your project, every project is different. For every project description under the “project” tab above we offer an approximation of what you can expect.

Finally, remember that in accepting you as a UBELONG Volunteer we expect you to be understanding that local needs are always changing. You may find yourself volunteering either more or less days and hours than you expected, and you must be adaptable and flexible.

As it says in each project description under the “projects” tab above, we require a police background check from every UBELONG Volunteer. Once you apply and are accepted into a project your UBELONG Mentor will ask you for it.

In terms of obtaining one, every country, state and city is different. For example, getting a background check in Washington, DC, where UBELONG was founded, is different than getting one in a neighboring city like Boston or New York. Similarly, countries like Australia and Canada all have their own unique processes.

In general though, it is a relatively easy process that simply requires you to walk into your local police station and ask for one. For volunteers living in the United States we also have a couple helpful tips that we offer you in your Preparation Booklet once you become a UBELONG Volunteer.

Living

In most cases yes and, considering the difficulty of meeting dietary restrictions in the countries UBELONG Volunteers serve in, we believe we do an excellent job. For example, restrictions related to dairy, eggs, gluten, poultry, meat, nuts and shellfish are generally not a problem.

With that said, there are limitations because of the different resources available in the field. For example, if your allergy is very severe, we cannot guarantee cooking environments that are completely free of a particular type of food product, for example peanuts or seafood. Remember, you are travelling to an environment that may not be built to cater to your requirements.

So, if you have a dietary restriction, simply let us know in your application and, if we cannot meet it, we will let you know. You can also contact us before you submit your application and ask us about your particular needs.

Yes. We encourage you to discover different places, experience new cultures, and meet other people. These are fundamental parts of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad experience, and you should take advantage of your free time in the field.

Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate. Winter is mild and wet and lasts from June to September with temperatures from 45°F (7°C) to 63°F (17.5°C). Summer runs November to March and is warm and dry with an average temperature of 78°F (25.5°C) during the day. At night during the summer, it generally does not get cooler than 55°F (13°C).

No. The UBELONG experience is as much about volunteering on your project, as it is about cross-cultural exchange and community building. A lot of that happens through the housing that we have set up. Additionally, for safety reasons all volunteers must live in vetted housing. As such, for you to become a UBELONG Volunteer you must live in our accommodations. 

Network Opportunities

The United States President’s Volunteer Service Award was created by the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation to recognize the contributions of American volunteers and encourage others to serve. There are various award levels, depending on the number of hours served.

UBELONG has been certified to give the award to UBELONG Volunteers. UBELONG successfully passed the selection process as a U.S. based international volunteering organization committed to the highest standards.

The award can be bestowed to U.S. citizens, and we award it to UBELONG Volunteers who, upon returning home, share their stories in our Volunteer Abroad news section.

Washington, DC is the most important international volunteering center in the world. Our network is strong and we have unparalleled resources at our fingertips. Most notably, the city is home to influential development organizations, government agencies, embassies, think-tanks and universities. We tap heavily into these networks to help us design safe, affordable, and high-quality programs.

Cost

You are not “paying to volunteer.” Among other services, you are paying for your pre-departure preparation with a UBELONG Mentor, project supervision, housing and meals. Additionally, your fee goes towards the extensive structure we put in place to support you. Offering safe, comfortable and meaningful volunteering experiences in developing countries takes an enormous amount of resources. It does not “just happen.” From large details to ones you will never notice but that are still crucial, we make sure that you can focus on discovering new places and making a difference instead of worrying about logistics.

Additionally, in many cases it is significantly cheaper to join a UBELONG Volunteer Abroad project than traveling alone and trying to plan logistics like airport pickup, housing and meals on your own. Not even counting UBELONG services like pre-departure preparation, project supervision and volunteer flight discounts, it is very difficult to travel on your own and have what we charge you give you the same comfort, security, and support that UBELONG volunteers receive.

UBELONG has revolutionized how people volunteer abroad. A fundamental part of our mission is to offer the highest quality experiences at the lowest possible cost. We are able to do so for two principal reasons:

1. There are very few organizations offering one week to six month international volunteering opportunities. As a result, even those claiming to be nonprofit get away charging exorbitantly high prices. Strong demand and low supply means elevated prices.

We believe that a new approach is needed. We are a social venture, which means we aim to advance our social mission in a sustainable manner instead of widening our profit margins. Moreover, being led by former international volunteers with extensive academic, international development and management experience, we can keep our overhead costs low while focusing on the quality of our programs. We do much more with much less.

2. The resources we have as a US-based organization are unmatchable. We have access to embassies, governmental organizations, NGOs and universities that allow us to build the highest quality programs in the most cost-effective manner. Additionally, considering that the majority of international volunteers come from North America and Europe, our being an American company led by North Americans and Europeans lets us reach volunteers very easily. Instead of spending resources on marketing we can focus on building our programs and supporting our volunteers.

To learn more, we encourage you to read a post by UBELONG Founder Cedric Hodgeman, in which he talks about the affordability of the UBELONG Volunteer Abroad program.