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 the expansive townships where people live a more basic/traditional way of life. For Volunteers with a strong interest in gaining deeper understanding of the world around them, life in South Africa provides the perfect opportunity to experience a progressive nation that is simultaneously steeped in history and still deeply affected by its past. The history and politics of the country is still evident in all aspects of everyday life.
Cape Town, Durban and many of the big cities within South African contain towering skyscrapers, music venues, shopping malls and opportunities to taste the many snippets of South African cuisine. You will be able to try delacies such as bunnychow, potjiekos, bobotie and will certainly attend a number of braais.
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. 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 worlds 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.
Throughout the varied land and communities, you will find a diverse mix of origins, cultures, languages and religions. There are eleven ‘official’ languages throughout South African, providing many opportunities to for language learning – Volunteers often return home with high levels of Xhosa, Zulu or Afrikaans.
South Africa is one of Project Trust’s biggest overseas programmes, offering a range of opportunities for Volunteers within Teaching, Social Care, Medical Work 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.
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, some of whom have had a very challenging start in life. Volunteers will therefore gain a real insight into the way that communities work within this diverse country.
There are also opportunities to learn languages, explore the vastly diverse country and learn new skills from the many people that you meet.
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.