A South African Gap Year is a chance to really experience diversity – from the many different cultures, to the climate and the landscapes; you will definitely not be bored.
Aptly named as the ‘Rainbow Nation’, South Africa is a country filled with opportunities and experiences to be had. With a population of over 50 million, South Africa is a home to a range of cultures, languages, traditions and so much more. The landscape varies dramatically, from the sweeping peaks of the Drakensberg and the wild scenery of Coffee Bay, to the world class safari parks there are plenty of fantastic travel opportunities.
Project Trust Volunteers are based in a variety of Projects across the country in both large cities and small towns.
In contrast to the cosmopolitan city hubs, South Africa is also home to striking economic disparity. As conspicuous as the large cities, are the small rural communities and expansive townships where people live a more basic/traditional way of life. For Volunteers with a strong interest in understanding the world around them, life in South Africa provides the perfect opportunity to experience a progressive nation that is simultaneously steeped in history/still deeply affected by its past.
There is much more to living in South Africa than going on safaris (however you will have opportunities to visit Kruger National Park and see if you can spot the Big Five). Cape Town, Durban and many of the big cities within South African contain towering skyscrapers, shopping malls and opportunities to taste the many snippets of South African cuisine.
The busy city life is a stark contrast to the natural reserves, the Wild Coast, the Wetlands and the many more pockets of natural beauty that can be found across South Africa. The busy city experiences and the contrasting rural life provide experiences for Volunteers to really gain an insight life in South Africa.
Throughout the varied land and communities, you will find a diverse mix or origins, cultures, languages and religions – making cultural diversity in South African huge. There are eleven ‘official’ languages throughout South African, providing many opportunities to for both language learning and also learning about the many cultures that this nation holds.
South Africa is one of Project Trust’s biggest overseas programmes, offering a range of opportunities for Volunteers within Teaching, Social Care, and Outward Bound.
Volunteers go to projects in care homes in large cities and small towns, schools with limited resources and fee paying schools with a range of extracurricular programmes available. We also work with specialised projects working with youth at risk, an Outward Bound project with different based around the country, a hospital project in a rural village in the Eastern Cape, projects working with young people or adults with disabilities and a private arts academy for Volunteers with advanced music, art and drama skills.
The range of projects and their locations provides an incredibly unique picture of life in the Rainbow Nation, allowing Volunteers to fully integrate into the working life of the projects and learn about life in their host community. Day to day roles can be anything from helping care for thirty babies, coaching a football team of vulnerable young people, working through a full timetable of classes in English, Science, Maths and Computing, going on a kayaking expedition or running extracurricular music or arts clubs.
When on holiday, Volunteers have opportunities to travel across South Africa but may also have opportunities to travel to the surrounding countries. You will have a chance to take in the breathtaking scenery of Table Mountain, Do the world’s 3rd larges Bungee Jump at Bloukrans Bridge, Visit the Cape of Good Hope, travel the Garden Route and experience much more of this fascinating country during your time off.
South African Volunteers should be resilient, a good team player and have the motivation to make a positive impact.
Because of the huge variety of projects, it is great if Volunteers have a platform of soft skills that they can build upon and utilise within their projects. There will also be lots of opportunities to set up extra-curricular activities, so skills in these types of activities may be beneficial. Specific skills for some of the specialised projects, like the Arts Academy or the Outward Bound projects, will also be required if this is something that you are interested in doing.
Some of the people you come across will come from tough backgrounds, or have quite emotional stories to tell. You will need to be prepared to hear these and provide the support required.
Living and working within South Africa provides opportunities to work with many people from a variety of backgrounds. Volunteers will therefore have a real insight into the way that communities within this diverse country work.
There are also opportunities to learn languages, explore the vastly diverse country and learn new skills from the many people that you meet.
The South African country programme provides challenges and opportunities for Volunteers to immerse themselves in a truly diverse ‘Rainbow Nation.’
Hannah Bowry Williams l Uganda 11/12Country Coordinator for South Africa
Hannah is a returned volunteer from Uganda 11/12. Following her year with Project Trust Hannah went on to study Social Anthropology and Development at the University of Edinburgh. Hannah has a passion for all things travel, and has enjoyed travelling throughout Southern and Eastern Africa both through opportunities at university and independently. Hannah is inspired by the culture, scenery and most importantly, the music in the countries that she has travelled. Hannah has worked with Project Trust for the past 2 ½ years as a fundraising officer, and is now excited that she can share her Project Trust enthusiasm as a Country Coordinator.