Brianna Polden

Fikelela Children's Home is a buzzing hub of enrichment. The children are incredibly welcoming, clever, and caring. It was a privilege to get to know them. There is never a moment where the volunteers are bored or struggling to find something to do. The days fly by, and bring about new developments and special moments that make working on the project incredibly fulfilling.

Via Volunteers far exceeded my expectations during my stay in South Africa. Ed and Heather are truly two of the most selfless and hard-working people I've ever met, and their dedication to supporting ethical projects while ensuring their volunteers have an unforgettable experience abroad is seamless.

Via went above and beyond, for all of their volunteers, during the 12 weeks that I spent with them. From project expectations, to itinerary changes, to recommendations for our spare time, we were always comfortable and informed every step of the way.

Thank you Via Volunteers for making my time in South Africa so memorable!

Canada | Fikelela Children's Home

Ellen Winick

The Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget! The people with whom I worked were wonderful and getting to know the chimpanzees was extraordinary! The full flavor of the South African culture came through: love, generosity, gratitude, playfulness! I was lucky enough to try so many volunteer experiences and also able to participate in staff training which taught us about chimp behavior and being good caretakers.

My volunteer tasks included: feeding vitamins/supplements to chimps in the am, cutting up fruit and vegetables and carrying buckets to visitor center for use on tours, cleaning out the chimp night rooms, assisting with tours, assisting in the visitor center including doing inventory and serving drinks, creating enrichment activities for chimps, feeding them dinner and going to farms and groceries to collect donated food for chimps as well as shop for food for the kitchen staff.

One must realize that the chimps at this sanctuary will never return to the wild, nor could I, as a volunteer, have hands-on touch with them.  Many of them were abused prior to arriving and are too unpredictable in their behavior toward humans.  Nonetheless, I could help care for them by feeding, observing and creating enrichment activities for them.  I liked my accommodations in a small cabin with wonderful meals provided.  And, though I worked a full day, I did take time for walks along the road nearby where I saw a variety of wildlife.

Via Volunteers is a top-notch volunteer organization! Ed was wonderful, before the trip, at answering my questions, no matter how many times he may have answered the same questions before and Face-timing with me to help me choose the best experience.  The written communications, including what to pack were spot-on and answered questions I didn’t even know I had!  Heather was great at communicating and showing enthusiasm for my volunteer assignment and Facebook posts while I was in South Africa.  I was honored that you shared some of your other volunteer opportunities near Cape Town with me when I was there.

USA | Jane Goodall Chimpanzee Sanctuary

Siân Hawkins

The last four weeks have gone incredibly quickly, what an amazing experience! In four weeks I have got to know (& love) the beautiful, charismatic and happy children at Fikelela. Gordons Bay is stunning and the beach is just a short walk from the accommodation whilst on project...there is so much to do!

Ed and Heather (Via Volunteers) have been absolutely amazing! They could not have been more supportive, and the genuine care and affection they show to the children shines through. Nothing was too much for them, they were more than happy to help with extra activities, from the bottom of my heart - thank you.

UK | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Leith Kaplan

I was very much thrilled with my experience at the Greater Kruger Conservation Project.  For me, it was an opportunity to learn about the practical realities of day to day conservation efforts – which means exposure to the good, the bad and the ugly.

The unpredictable nature of life in a real bush camp means that surprises are always around the corner and nothing ever goes as planned.  More often than not, it meant embarking on some type of 'adventure'.  The full time staff in camp were very enthusiastic and compassionate about their work and they quickly made you feel part of team.

A couple pieces of advice for would be volunteers over the age 40. First, if you are at the project in the Summer, temperatures can be excruciatingly warm during the day so I think the level of fitness needed to thrive in that environment is high.  Second, you need to be comfortable in the company of 18 - 25 year olds.  I very much enjoyed the company of the younger volunteers but it may not be for everyone.

You guys were absolutely super throughout my entire stay in SA.  Without your support, I highly doubt my wife would have OK’d my adventure in the first place.  As a parent of a 17 year old, I wouldn’t think twice about entrusting Via Volunteers with my daughter’s travel and experience while in SA.

USA | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Katharina Dürr

I spent 8 weeks at Baphumelele children’s home. It was a wonderful and very unique time and I would always do it again. Volunteering at Baphumelele gives you a great insight into the Xhosa culture and the life in Khayelitsha. All of these children are lovely and wonderful.

During my time at Baphumelele I went a lot to the baby house, I would recommend going there especially during the beginning of your stay. It is easier to start interacting with the babies and the younger children and through them you will get to know the older ones. All of these children love to get attention even if you just listen to them, you are making a great difference in their lives.

If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience while making this world a little brighter Baphumelele children’s home is the right place for you!

Ed and Heather from Via Volunteers are doing a wonderful job. Whenever I needed something they were there to help me out. They know South Africa and Khayelitsha very well and can give you a lot of information about the place. Via Volunteers is a great organization and a perfect opportunity for ethical volunteering. When I was looking online for an opportunity to volunteer I was very critical but Via Volunteers met all my expectations and even exceeded them. Thank you Heather and Ed for a wonderful time!

Germany | Baphumelele Children's Home

Janet Lipsi

It’s hard to quantify the value of my experience as a volunteer at Fikelela because it continues to grow with time. It opened my eyes to a world beyond my own, and the children opened my heart in ways I’m still experiencing. The work at Fikelela is dynamic—no two days are exactly alike—so flexibility and initiative are important. 

I was challenged in ways I hadn’t anticipated, but I was also supported and encouraged by every step of the way and, looking back, it’s clear that the challenging moments only made the experience more valuable.  And there were a lot of funny, joyful moments too. The children made sure of that!

This was my first time volunteering abroad and I’m glad I chose Via Volunteers. From the minute I signed on until the day I left South Africa, I was in good hands. Via’s comprehensive volunteer support material helped prepare me, and whenever I had questions or concerns, Ed and Heather were quick to respond. They guided me through my placement at Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre and they helped me make the most of my free time, suggesting and facilitating a variety of well-vetted tours and adventures.  The Scott’s personal commitment to their volunteers, to their projects and to ethical volunteering made me feel confident, supported and safe. I recommend Via to anyone considering volunteer work in South Africa.

USA | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Daniel Nee

This was the best time I had in South Africa without a doubt. Being around the animals at the Big Cat Sanctuary was an amazing experience.  I liked the physical work that was needed at the sanctuary and the people were all very nice. I can’t wait to come back.

I can’t say enough great things about Via Volunteers! They communicated regularly with my family to prepare for the trip as well as keeping me informed about rules and expectations in order to keep me safe.

USA | Big Cat Sanctuary

Jil Glesener

My time at Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre was simply amazing! It took me some time to adjust to everything, as there were a lot of new impressions during my first days, but then I figured everything out and enjoyed every single day! I loved working with the kids and playing with them.

During my first 4 weeks my afternoons were always very busy as I was teaching 2 kids in individual lessons that didn’t go to school, did reading and writing practice with 2 other boys and gave one boy a lesson with activities to strengthen his muscles, as he had a very low muscle tone (All lessons were planned by a qualified teacher on a daily basis). Then after these 4 weeks I got help from my fellow volunteer Janet and we split up the teaching lessons. Even if I couldn’t always spend a lot of time with the other children I enjoyed the lessons a lot, as they are very important and you can see the progress that the children are making.

When I had the time, I also helped the mommas with feeding the babies, changing nappies and lots of other stuff. The kids are all really cute and are used to volunteers coming and going, so they will hug you and jump on you right from the start!

8 weeks went by so fast and I really hope that I can come back one day! If you’re looking for a project where you can really make a difference and get to do a lot of different tasks, this is the perfect choice!

My experience with Via Volunteers was great! Before I went to South Africa Ed answered  every single question I had per mail within a few hours. Everything was so well organized and I didn’t have to worry about a thing while I was in South Africa. Ed and Heather are such amazing people and will help you with everything and answer every question!  They made me feel really comfortable and safe during my trip and they will surely never let you down!

Luxembourg | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Billy Joe Henderson

The children at Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre are amazing! All the mama’s there are extremely supportive if you ever need anything they are all very approachable. They will help you learn some Afrikaans and some Xhosa for those children/babies who aren’t able to understand English. It was one of the best experiences of my life! I’ve only been back 1 week and I’m already planning my next visit! 

Ed & Heather from Via Volunteers assisted me with everything I needed during my stay. They were both on hand at any time to help me out whenever I had any activities planned and were happy to guide me into the right direction in terms of finding the best value company to go with and who were the most ethical. This included Ed at one stage collecting me at 5am so I could go diving with great white sharks in Gansbaai.

If you’re looking to do volunteer work and still being able to travel around South Africa I would highly recommend using Via Volunteers. Their projects are making a massive difference in South Africa and it’s an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

UK | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Kumud Banarse

I was very lucky to get on the Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town as everything was winding down for Christmas holidays. Ed Scott turned up at Ashanti with a selection of t-shirts, and a name Badge for me. It was our first meeting, as well as being excited, I was quite apprehensive - I shouldn’t have been.  Ed was warm and welcoming, and immediately made me feel comfortable.

We drove down to Shelley Road where I was introduced to Owen who ran the Centre, and Tyrone his assistant.  The team of two who cooked and fed seventy+ homeless people every day.  I got stuck into work straight away by chopping lots of veg, and washing up.  Later I was promoted to helping with cooking, and dishing out food, where I was able to interact with the Clients, which was very interesting. All meals were cooked from donated food. Sometimes, there’re wasn’t much to cook with, but Owen always managed to produce a good basic fulfilling meal, literally from nothing.  I was very impressed, and learnt a lot, and now will be able to cook large meals! The clients always seem to enjoy the food however basic,  and appeared grateful for what they were given.

In the afternoons I helped out at the Night Shelter in Russell Street. Charlene, a very capable young lady ran the kitchen here. The cooking pots were bigger than her. Here the clients were encouraged to help. Ladies would take it in turns to help in the kitchen, and men would help with washing the big cooking utensils.

By working with these Projects, I got to know a little about what goes on in the communities of Cape Town, the commitment of volunteers, and the constraints they work within is truly something that has to be admired.  I had the privilege of meeting John Philmon, director of the Night Shelter who grew up in a Township himself, and started this night shelter from scratch-truly admirable! The members of staff of both projects and are truly committed to the work they do.  And, of course, I wouldn’t have known about these projects, had it not been for VIA Volunteers.

I would like to say a special ‘Thank you’ to Owen, Charlene, and the other members of staff who were very helpful, and made me feel so welcome - I really enjoyed working with you! Regarding advice for joining Homeless Feeding Programme - Have an open mind, and be prepared to ‘muck in!

I appreciated the continuous email, and whatsapp  communication from Ed, and other members of staff. So Ed, and Heather, thank you so much for your organization - you’re providing an invaluable service and opportunities for young people, and some old too! It is a wonderful way of learning about a country, its people, and culture-truly a very special kind of experience.

UK | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Hedvig Løge Stendal

Volunteering at Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre was simply amazing! I spent 7 incredible weeks here, and I wish I could have stayed longer. Time flies here. Before you know it you are on your way home.

In this program, you get the best of both worlds: you can explore Cape Towns magical places during the weekends and interact with wonderful children monday-friday. Every day is different and you will always have something to do. You will have lessons (planned by a qualified teacher) with some of the older children who need extra help . When I look back at my time volunteering at Fikelela, this is what I miss the most. Not only do you get to know them better, but you also get to make a difference in their lives by helping them a lot. I learned a lot about myself and others.

In addition to all of this, you will also meet a lot of people, especially during the weekends, and probably make friends for life.

Via Volunteers will help you with everything and anything during your stay. Thank you Ed and Heather for always answering questions, planning amazing educational lessons for the children, booking activities and being my ‘Cape Town parents’! I am forever grateful for this incredible experience.

Norway | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Kayleigh Hawkins

This was my second project and my second time on the Marine Conservation and EcoTourism Project. I loved every minute of it! The staff are always so welcoming and are like a second family, especially if you are there for a good few months. Getting to see Great White Sharks in an up close and personal manner, day in and day out is such a wonderful thing. And it is not all about the sharks, you can also spot dolphins, whales, seals and penguins!

The work everyone does to help in the conservation of the sharks and other marine life is incredible!  I was also very lucky to be able to spend a lot of my time with the penguins and was able to help with the rehabilitation of the them and other seabirds! If you are considering this project I would definitely recommend it, Kleinbaai is a beautiful place with so much to offer! Sharks, Whales, Penguins, Seabirds, Dolphins, Beach Clean Ups, Education, Conservation and so much more!

This is my second time booking with Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers and I still think they are both wonderful! The care and attention they give their volunteers you wouldn’t get anywhere else. If there is anything you need they will try their best to help you! From inquiring, through to booking and then arriving they are there if you need them! Everything is planned from day one, all you have to do is show up at the airport.

UK | Marine Conservation & EcoTourism Project

Friederike Strickstrock

My time at Baphumelele Children’s Home was very special and filled with experiences I’ll never forget. Everyone is very friendly and even though some of the caretakers might struggle to communicate with you because English isn’t their first language, they are very thankful and appreciating any help and also trying to support you at all times.

There is always something to do which is amazing because you can always choose for yourself where you want to help or where your support is needed the most. I created my own routine after a few days which made every day very interesting and structured at the same time and it was guaranteed not to get boring. It was challenging in the beginning to always be on one’s own initiative but I learned to love it after getting used to it! I’ve spent time with the babies as well as the older children which was nice because I’ve got to play, talk and help them on different levels, depending on their age and personality so I really got the chance to get to know them individually which made every effort so much worth it.

A big part of my experience at the project were also the other volunteers who made working hours as well as the free time wonderful, because you can share so much and create projects or activities together and have a fun time in the evenings. They’ve become friends I’ll hopefully keep for a long time.

I would definitely recommend this project to everyone who enjoys being around children. You will not only support the children and caretakers but also enrich your own personality and growth as your work will arise from your own initiative. I can assure you that your help will be much appreciated and that you’ll be in good hands.

The support I’ve received during and before my stay was amazing! As soon as I contacted Ed about wanting to volunteer at Baphumelele he made the process of applying very easy for me and I felt welcomed from the beginning.  I was always able to reach Ed via Facebook messenger if I needed information or wanted to book something which he always organized in impressively short time so I knew from the start I could rely on him. Same goes for Gary and Chantal who always dropped me off in Khayelitsha and fetched me at the end of the week, it was lovely to talk to them on a regular basis, they were always punctual, very supporting and I always had a good time with them which made me feel welcomed and safe.

Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet Heather but I want to thank all four of you for making my time in Cape Town so special.

Germany | Baphumelele Children's Home

Eline Cederkvist

It has been four wonderful weeks during my practical period at Baphumelele Children's Home. First of all, I am so grateful to get to know all the beautiful children. I was surprised that they were so good in English, and I really appreciated that we got the opportunity to communicate with them, so they could tell us their stories and create relationships based on their trust and their ability to share. The kids were inspiring, brave and strong.

It was also exciting to talk to the staff and the founder of the childrens home. I am grateful for this experience, and I would really much advice all other student to search for this project.

The support from Via Volunteers has been amazing. They were always been available and showed care for the volunteers. They were good to give us information during the stay and followed every question with nice and helpful answers. It felt safe to know that they were available if anything happened and also helpful with all the information, and help with booking for tours, restaurants and stuff. Wonderful people.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Nils Kallestad

Our stay at Baphumelele Children's Home was a great experience, from start to finish. There is a lot you can do to help the children and the people who work there, as long as you are committed and take initiative on things to do.

The people from Via Volunteers are the best in the business. The information we got in advance of our stay was helpful.  Our days in South Africa was so much fun and these guys made it easy for us to focus on our project at the childrens home. 

Also, the support and advices for our days off in Cape Town was of good quality. We are so thankful for all the support from Via Volunteers - they helped us get the best out of our stay in South Africa.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Astrid Ringdal

The experience I had volunteering for Baphumelele Children's Home was amazing. I loved it all. The people working at Baphumulele are so nice and welcoming. I really enjoyed getting to know the kids. Playing with them was really fun.

The apartment we got to stay in was really nice. We had lots of good conversations around the dinner table.
If I have to come with an advice to any possible future volunteers, I would say just go for it. Its an amazing experience you wont regret.

The help we got from Via Volunteers was outstanding. Heather and Ed did an amazing job communicating with us. They were really really helpful. I really appreciate the time they took to help us.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Hege Simonsen

I thought that by doing volunteer work I could make a difference in this world. After eight weeks at Masigcine Children’s Home I understood that I wouldn’t be able to make a difference in this world, but I could make a huge difference for 25-30 kids for eight weeks! I could give them someone to hug, play with, talk to and to share everything with for eight weeks. And that’s simply everything a kid in their situation needs. They need love. And being able to give them that for eight weeks is amazing.

By doing volunteer work through Via Volunteers, especially at Masigcine, you really get to experience the huge differences in South Africa. In the weekends you stay at Ashanti hostel and live your best life with all kinds of activities that Cape Town has to offer. And during the week you live in a township where you are helping kids who have experienced things that anyone never should have to experience. I learned a lot from this experience. I met a lot of awesome people. I had the coolest weekends with awesome activities. But most important I learned to know 27 amazing kids that I’m thinking about everyday.

If you’re ever considering doing volunteer work, then I will highly recommend Masigcine children’s home. I will also highly recommend travel through Via Volunteers. Thank you so much for all the help Ed and Heather!!

I am forever grateful for this experience. I’ll be back at Masigcine someday.

Norway | Masigcine Children's Home

Ava Spielman

My 5 weeks at Baphumelele Children’s Home were absolutely incredible and extremely eye opening. During my time, I spent most mornings in Baby house and most afternoons in either the clinic or doing homework help with the older kids. Baphumelele is an amazing space to grow for anyone interested in a youth serving profession as you get to wake up each day and make the most out of your time with any project that interests you.

During my time, I was lucky to be able to work with the child-headed home project and go into the township to help build shacks as well as sit in on their support groups to get a deeper understanding of life in Khayelitsha. To all future volunteers, do not be afraid to dive in head first and reach out to staff about other projects you can get involved with.

My biggest piece of advice to future volunteers is to stay for as long as possible and make the most of every second. Although this was my second time at Baphumelele and the mama’s teach you routine right away, it still takes a week or two to fully settle in and get to know the kids. As tiring as the days may be, take advantage of your lunch breaks to recharge in order to spend as much time as possible with the kids. The kids you will meet radiate happiness, love and passion. Not a day goes by that I do not think of the kids and the lessons they taught me.

Ed and Heather were extremely helpful and responsive both before my arrival and during my time in Cape Town. They were always available to answer any questions, set up weekend excursions and offer support when needed.

USA | Baphumelele Children's Home

Lone Mengkrogen

We were a bunch of six girls from Norway who took our final practice in nursing at Baphumelele Childrens Home for three months. We contributed with care, trust and love, and did what we could for the children in the time we were there. An amazing experience and memories of life!

Communication with Via Volunteers worked incredibly well! We got good information ahead of the trip, and were prepared for cooperation with the organization. They were helpful to us at any time, and helped with good tips and help for what we needed!

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Madeleine Løken

I experienced that the manager at St. Georges Home for Girls was very kind and helpful. Whenever I had a question he would answer me. All of the other employees was also very kind and really showed their appreciation. Quickly I connected with both employees and the children, and grew friendships that I will never forget.

Furthermore I could use my education – I had workshops with groups of 6-8 girls. In these workshops I used my knowledge from my education as a social worker. I found this very rewarding and the response was positive.

I´m happy with the information and support I got both before and during my stay. Whenever I had a question I got an answer fast.

Norway | St George's Home for Girls

Zoe Bagley

The Greater Kruger Conservation Project was amazing with lots of chances to learn new skills and make loads of new friends. We had great evenings around the fire and the chance to help work with a fantastic conservation cause.

As for any advice for future volunteers, I would say be prepared for long days and hard work, but with lots of rewarding memories and experiences!

UK | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Ally Pyne

I absolutely loved my experience volunteering with Via Volunteers in Cape Town! While in this program, I not only got to spend several exciting weekends exploring many of the city’s exciting attractions (i.e. museums, hikes, water sports, restaurants, beaches, etc.), but, more importantly, I also was able to interact with incredible children Monday-Friday through many educational initiatives that Heather and Ed had developed for the kids.

Connecting with all of the people involved with Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre was truly a heart-warming experience, and I felt that I was able to learn a ton about the place I was visiting. I am so grateful for this life-changing experience, and I would highly recommend volunteering at Fikelela for anyone who is passionate about working with young children on educational development!

I also spent 4 days on a trip to Kruger (Kruger African Wildlife Safari) following my time in Cape Town. I fell in love with the wildlife and beautiful sunsets of the bush during my time there, and I was really impressed with the accommodation for this part of my trip; there was great service and well-appointed rooms! For people interested in adding a Kruger trip onto their time, I would recommend going with someone they know, as seeing the beautiful wildlife on a safari is something I found best shared with another person.

I was especially impressed with the communication I received from Via Volunteers throughout all of my experience with them. Whether it was before the trip via email or during my stay via Facebook Messenger,  I felt that I was always in the loop and able to reach out to Heather or Ed if anything unexpected popped up. I would definitely say that communication and support was one of the most impressive aspects of Via Volunteers.

USA | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Tommaso Sala

I think that this has been the best experience of my life. My duties at the Reptile Conservation and Education project consisted in cleaning cages, handling snakes and other reptiles and most important of all in educating people to respect those animals (for example doing demonstrations and guided tours). Everything I did was under the supervision of highly qualified coordinators that never let me alone and guided and supported me step by step. My days ended with a big smile on my face, and everyday I miss this experience I had.

All the Reptile Conservation and Education team and also my volunteer friends were great people and I strongly recommend this experience to everyone who loves reptiles, but also animals in general, or just want to be helpful in some ways for nature. I also think that they, in particular, gives you the chance to gain a direct experience with animals that you will never be allowed to interact with in most of the places all around the world. I’m grateful to them for the trust and responsibility they gave me. If I’ll have the chance, I’ll return for sure!

Great support by Ed and Heather (Via Volunteers) since the beginning, from communication before leaving, to the moment I had to return home. They answered completely and efficiently every question I had and were promptly available to help me during each step of my travel. Great team and great organization, I’m fully satisfied of what they’ve done!

Italy | Reptile Conservation & Education

Jessica Birch

I spent 3 weeks with the Greater Kruger Conservation Project and could not recommend it enough. This project is by far one of the most immersive experiences I’ve come across, and without a doubt the best thing I have ever done.

The conditions are very basic, so be prepared to put any vanity to one side, but the work is interesting, varied and rewarding. There is also the added bonus of running into big 5 animals on a daily basis! The camp staff are brilliant- passionate about conservation, knowledgeable, friendly and helpful. I loved every second and wish I could’ve stayed longer.

I really can’t praise the support offered (from Via Volunteers) enough, from communications before even booking the project to support within country, Ed and Heather couldn’t have been more helpful.

UK | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Brock Schoenwald

While at first it seemed like I was only doing hard labor, the stuff we did at the Big Cat Sanctuary made sense after I learned how it operated.  It is the tough jobs that volunteers do, but you can see that all you do has a purpose and puts the animals first.

This project has a distinctive purpose and you can tell everything they do is aimed towards their mission.  They are trying to save lions and other big cats through visitors, volunteers, and government.  There is nothing fake about it and I learned a ton about this cause and also about myself during my time here.

The owners are excellent along with the support staff on the sanctuary.  They welcome all volunteers with open arms regardless of expertise and age.

Overall, the project was excellent.  I feel like I contributed to the cause at least in a small way and have learned how I can continue to help big cats back here in the US.  The support and mission was one of the best I’ve been a part of.

Don’t be afraid to jump in!  They welcome all and need all the help they can get.  It may be scary to go alone, but after the first few days I had a new family there to support me because of the small team and interactions with everyone on the sanctuary up to the two owners.  It will change your views on South Africa, big cats, and methods around the world that seems harmless.

Both Ed and Heather were very helpful and made my trip run smoothly!  They were able to schedule tons of activities before hand and the info they gave me about Cape Town helped tremendously in order to plan.

Having transportation planned was the best part of the trip.  It made it so much easier.  Being alone, it helped to have both Ed and Heather available to answer questions and help if I needed it.  My trip would have been nowhere near as memorable without having their recommendations!

Overall, Via Volunteers made this trip happen for me. I would not have been able to organize all of this on my own and having it planned out to the extent it was is what made me confident enough to travel alone.

USA | Big Cat Sanctuary

Jocelyn Bell

My experience with the Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town was an extremely positive one. This is a great way to get involved with the Cape Town Community and help people in a simple, yet very useful, way. To anybody thinking of joining this programme, my advice would be to stay for as long as you are able to! After 5 weeks, I felt like I had really gotten to know the other staff working in the kitchen, and also some of the locals who were using the service. To me, this was one of the most enjoyable aspects of the trip.

Ed and Heather were incredibly helpful throughout my stay. Any queries I had were answered thoroughly and quickly! I felt at ease during my time in Cape Town, knowing that they were just a message/phone call away. I couldn’t fault them (even if I wanted to!).

UK | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Denise Brown

I really enjoyed Cape Town. It’s a beautiful city with a lot to do. It’s pretty easy to get around using the bus or Uber. I also found it was easy to coordinate activities with other volunteers if you’re not keen to explore by yourself.

I chose to do this project because I love penguins. Volunteering at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation Programme was literally a dream come true! I loved this project and came away not only so happy to have spent time working with penguins, but with a new love for other seabirds.

To be fair, not every element of this experience is glamorous – the rehabilitation centre is a penguin hospital, so there is a lot of cleaning, and guano, and fish guts some days. It is physically demanding. But for me, it was absolutely worth it to get to work directly with the birds and contribute positively to their future.

Living with Janice, I had a lot of support. She is a wonderful host!

USA | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Homestay

Florence Herlihy

Volunteering at the Children’s Hospital Play Programme was a truly wonderful experience; it was utterly rewarding to interact with the patients in what is often clear to be a difficult time for them, and allow them to just play and enjoy themselves as normal. To ‘help make a sick child smile’, as the FOCHA motto states requires nothing but your own smile, attention and a selection of toys but means so much to the patients and their families, everyone should get involved.

The project hours aren’t demanding and the hospital is close to Cape Town so it’s the perfect way to volunteer with children, especially if you haven’t done something like it before. Plus, you get to spend a few hours simply playing, it’s so easy, enjoyable and worthwhile! As a volunteer it often helps to bring along a pack of uno, or a new puzzle or colouring books to add to the hospital's collection, to give the children as much to choose from as possible.

The support from Via Volunteers before we arrived was amazing; plenty of information about the project and the hospital, as well as Cape Town and South Africa itself, to give us ideas of where to visit and what to expect. Via Volunteers were so helpful after arrival too, providing us with more information and accompanying us on the first day of volunteering.

UK | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Aina Hansen

I am so thankful for my stay in Cape Town, Khayelitsha. It feels good to be home, but, I think about the children at Baphumelele Children's Home and all the experiences I got every single day. In the beginning, I was very insecure about travel to South Africa as a volunteer. I really wanted to do it, but I was scared. Today, I have no regrets- this is the best decision I’ve made so far.

I have learned a lot about my self, other people, the world - and how terrible unjust it is. I actually have got a new view of life. I am so lucky to have my fantastic family and friend, a home in a safe neighbourhood in a country where things and society in general work very well. This is something I took as a matter of course before my travel experience.

I really loved to work at Baphumelele. I enjoyed every minute. So thankful that I got the opportunity to help and make a little changed in this terrible world. I will absolutely come back again. After this experience, I have got it underlined: I am going to use my life to help other people.

Thanks for everything, you guys (Via Volunteers) are amazing. Keep going with the good things you do! Also thank you for the certificate. Maybe we will meet again when I am going to have practice while I am studying. I really want to do my nurse practice in Cape Town.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Lars Breyer

I did not have too high expectations as I arrived at the Reptile Conservation and Education project, but was stunned after my first days. Absolutely amazing place to learn about reptiles, especially snakes! They tought me how to care for them, how to handle them safely and at the end even let me do tours and snake demonstrations with visitors. The house I lived is insane and the value as well.

Before and during my stay Via Volunteers answered my emails within a day at latest and helped me with everything I needed help with in a nice and friendly way. They took care of everything they could, to ensure that my travel within South Africa will be as smooth as possible.

Germany | Lars Breyer

Verena Hinse

I was part of the Cape Town Children's Hospital Play Programme for 3 weeks. The first contact with the Friends of the Children’s Hospital Association (FOCHA) was amazing. It was a lovely welcome and I had a really helpful introduction for my further work. After that I directly started playing with the sick children. I had so much fun to deal with these thankful and lovely patients.

So, if you think about volunteering in this project, I can recommend you: Do it. It is a perfect project for everyone who loves children and wants to make them smile. They appreciate every single minute you deal with them and are so happy getting the opportunity to play with blocks, puzzles, paint with crayons or listen to you voice if you read to them.

I am really thankful that two of my friends recommended Via Volunteers to me. Ed and Heather are great and they do everything to make your stay perfect. In preparation of my trip I had lots of special questions and Ed always answered quick and he gave me the feeling that everything was possible without any problems. During my stay we had some trips which Ed and Heather organized perfectly and made the time special. I met so many great other volunteers with Via Volunteers.

Thank you so much for everything, Via Volunteers! You did a great job to make my stay in South Africa unforgettable!

Germany | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Eiolf Kaspersen

I have honestly had the time of my life at the Penguin Rehabilitation project. The work is hard, and not always very interesting, but it was all worth it. I really felt like I made a positive impact there, and I got to do a lot of interesting work with the birds too. Feeding penguins is great fun. I also met many great people there and made lots of friends.

The work was at times stressful, but I was there to challenge myself, so it was fine. I learned many things about myself and what I’m capable of. The people who work at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation Programme are friendly and easy to deal with. I truly felt like they appreciated our work there.

Anyone who is interested in joining should know that the work is hard, and you will sometimes have to do some rather 'dirty' jobs. However, if you’re willing to accept that these are things that have to be done, it is absolutely worth it. You may also at times find yourself having a lot of personal responsibility in situations that can be rather stressful, but you will have helpful people around you who will help you get through it.

Norway | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Backpacker

Grete Langangen

It was very nice for me to join the project at the Cape Town Children´s Hospital Play Programme. I am very impressed of the dedication and the engagement the leader and the teamleaders are showing to the children and to their work. They included me in a very good way, taught me the things I needed to learn and let me do the work when I was ready for it.

It was also very nice for me to be with the children. They are very good taken care of by the medical staff, but they are very busy. So the work the volunteering persons are doing is very important. It has been a great pleasure for me to interact with the beautiful children. If I shall give any advice, it must be: listen to the leader of The Friends of the Children´s Hospital. Put the books where the books are meant to be and the puzzles where the puzzles are meant to be. Then it will be much more easy to keep the toys in good shape!

I want very much to come back to Cape Town and the same project in November 2018!

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Anette Forland

Being a part of the Fikelela Children’s Home is an experience that I will never forget. From working with the children to learning the culture, it was eye opening to a part of the world that I have never thought of before. Everyone was really friendly and I found my time there very rewarding. Via Volunteers supported us with ideas for activities to do with the kids which meant we could keep them entertained for hours on end throughout the day.

The co-ordinators of Via Volunteers, Ed and Heather, were constantly making sure that our time in Cape-Town was the best it could be. Their placements are well organised and they have a fantastic relationship with the projects they support. They also ensure that their volunteers get to see the sights of Cape Town and enjoy the beautiful city inbetween shifts and on weekends.

I enjoyed every minute and would recommend volunteering with Via Volunteers to anyone.

Norway | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Cecilie Redisch Kvamme

My experiences at Baphumelele Childrens Home were amazing. If you choose to join this project you will get a lifetime experience. The children are so kind, sweet and well behaved and you will fall in love with them after just a few seconds. I will highly recommend everyone who loves children to join this project.

The support that I received from Via Volunteers during my stay in South-Africa was fantastic. They help you with everything and they will always be there for you if there should be anything. I only have good words to say about Via Volunteers.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Kathryn DeSantis

I had an amazing time working at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation Programme. It was very interesting work, and very hands on which I loved. I feel as though I learned a lot about the birds, and working with animals in general. This was very helpful because I am pre-vet in college right now and so this was a fun and unique way to develop my resume and confirm my interest in this field.

I am glad that I came through Via, it made it much easier to plan and helped me and my parents feel much safer with me so far from home. I found it helpful having someone else come up with the itinerary and organization before arriving. Having support and resources while there was also really nice. The preplanned Kruger trip at the end was also an amazing experience.

USA | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Homestay

Julie Jensvang

I had the best time at Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre. The children and the employees were amazing and they are really good at welcoming you with open arms.

Ed and Heather were so much of help and I don`t think I could have survived without them. I never felt unsafe or scared and if I did I knew I could talk about it to either Ed or Heather. I made so many awesome memories that I know will last a life time. If you are thinking about going to Cape Town through Via volunteers, do it! You will not regret it.

 Via Volunteers did a great job and I will definitely volunteer through them again!

Norway | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Kathy Cooper

I really enjoyed the experience of volunteering to work with the children at Fikelela. Although the facilities were basic compared to UK standards, the care and nurturing was excellent. The organization Via Volunteers (Ed and Heather) put so much love, care, support, extra educational support and play into the children’s lives and the children knew this and had great love and appreciation. With the help of donations, trendy clothes, shoes and trainers were bought for the children which they could choose for themselves when taking their turn for a sleepover. The children talked non-stop about their overnight sleepovers at Ed and Heather’s home.

As a volunteer I was supported and made to feel valued, throughout this placement, not only whilst working in the children’s home, but also with many extras, such as excursions, lunches, help with organizing sightseeing trips, getting phones topped up with data, transportation etc. We could, and did, ask for lots of information and advice which was given very willingly and expertly. We could not have been better taken care of.

The children at Fikelela really steal a piece of your heart, since returning home I cannot stop thinking of all the different children with their different charismatic personalities and I would recommend anyone who is interested to volunteer with Via Volunteers. The only negative thing that I can say is that the cottage at Gordon’s Bay was very cold (we were there in South African winter) and a heater in the lounge would have been appreciated; and I don’t usually feel the cold!!

Communication prior to arriving in South Africa was excellent. Absolutely nothing was left out. This was both informative and reassuring. Future volunteers need have no concerns, they will be looked after expertly on placement in Cape Town by both Ed and Heather.

UK | Fikelela Child and Youth Care Centre

Laura Muggleton

I found the first couple of days at the lion sanctuary difficult: the work was very physical but the staff were so friendly and the project was very well planned, I soon began to enjoy the experience. We (me and the two other volunteers) were always assigned to a member of staff with a task for a period of time - with several tasks to complete during the day. I thoroughly enjoyed clearing out the camps each morning, feeding the small animals, preparing meals for the monkeys and chimps as well as assisting with the lion feed. Carrying branches, weeding and rust proofing the wire fences were the more physical activities.

The accommodation is basic at the sanctuary but that was what I’d expected. However, I would recommend to volunteers undertaking this project in South Africa’s winter to take layers as it was very cold in the mornings and evenings but could be warm around midday if the sun was out. Woolly gloves! I wish I’d taken mine for the mornings as it was very cold at 8am. I was very thankful for my sleeping bag liner, jumpers, windproof jacket, thick walking socks, woolly hat and cap.

I would also say that you should expect the work to be physical: the French girls went directly through the sanctuary rather than Via Volunteers and were surprised by the work we were required to do. I was prepared but it was tiring. It isn’t a holiday where you just get to look at lions all day!

The stories of the lions are upsetting and working so close to them, whilst painting the fences, allowed me to appreciate the animals greatly. The experience was incredibly rewarding and the staff were right: a week really isn’t long enough. I would have loved to have stayed for another week.

I am so glad I chose Via Volunteers to do a volunteer experience because I would never have found Drakenstein without them and the work they do at the lion park is entirely ethical unlike so many places. It has really opened my eyes to wildlife conservation and made me determined to complete another project – I will ensure that is ethical.

Before I came to South Africa, Ed at Via Volunteers was excellent. He answered all the queries I had and ensured I was fully prepared for the project which made me less anxious to fly to South Africa alone! When I arrived, Heather was waiting for me which was great. The transfers from the airport and to the Lion Park were incredibly helpful and it allowed me to meet Ed too and ask questions about Cape Town. They also arranged for me to have dinner with Brianna and Julia (other volunteers) the evening I arrived so I didn’t feel lonely for my first night in South Africa. The pack of activities made planning the weekend in Cape Town before I started my project was very helpful.

I would like to say thank you for all the support you gave me before and during the project. I had an amazing experience and just wish I could’ve stayed longer! I’d also like to thank you for arranging an airport pick-up for my parents which they greatly appreciated. I know Emily loved seeing where I would be for the week so thank you also for inviting her for the ride to the lion park on the Monday!

I am so glad I took the risk to complete my Duke of Edinburgh residential in South Africa as it really was one of the best experiences of my life so far.

UK | Lion Sanctuary

Jamie Lombardo

Working with Via Volunteers at Fikelela Children's Home is probably one of the best decisions I have ever made. Working in the home was an eye-opening, rewarding experience that taught me how to work with children from many different backgrounds. These kids have taught me alot more than I have taught them! They need as much stability and guidance in their lives as possible, and that is exactly what Via Volunteers is doing.

I am grateful to have been apart of a wonderful organization, and grateful to have gotten to know each and every child. I have no negative commentary towards the experience, and hope to one day work with Via again! One piece of advice I would give future volunteers is to take initiative right away. Coming into the home and can be intimadating and chaotic, but don't feel afraid to take some control, and come up with your own activities with the kids(of course with the okay from the mamas and Via). The kids love to have structured activities every day. It is something they can look forward to.

Ed and Heather are fabulous! They are the hardest working people I know, and are there for you night and day. I'll never forget the time when Ed woke up in the morning just to drop me off to go cage diving at 4:30 a.m. They are extremely well organized, and will help you in any way possible. They are fantastic!

USA | Fikelela Children's Home

Filip Fjällström

I had a great eight weeks at Baphumelele Children's Home! Everyone was very accommodating and the children spoke surprisingly (at least to me) good english, which made it easy to communicate and connect.

Even though your fellow volunteers and the mamas will make you feel right at home from the very start by showing you the routines and how the daily life at Baphumelele works, which means there is no time being wasted at the beginning of your stay, I'd still recommend that you stay for as long as possibly can. Because it can take a while to get to really know the older children and the only thing you'll be wishing at the end of your time at Baphumelele is that you could stay longer.

The support I received from Via Volunteers was great and felt personal already from the first contact. Once in Cape Town they helped on all fronts imaginable - doing everything from recommending restaurants and booking tables to taking you on tours. Also, make sure to ask Ed or Heather if you wonder about anything regarding the culture or the history of Cape Town since they seemed to know pretty much everything worth knowing after all their years spent in the Mother City.

Sweden | Baphumelele Children's Home

Liam Healy

My time at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation project was arguably the greatest three months of my life so far. Cape Town is such an amazing city. Those who were with me at the project were some of the most wonderful people I have ever met, and working with the birds was absolutely fantastic.

However, as a warning for other volunteers who are considering this option, it is not an easy job. Realistically, you will work weekends. You will never get out at 5, and there is a lot of cleaning. There is also a lot more hands on work than one would suppose as well. I did not expect myself to be prepping meds for dying birds in the ICU or having to stick my fingers two knuckles deep down Kelp Gulls throats every day. Believe it or not though, that was the fun part and something I really enjoyed. I wish I could have extended my stay by another 6 weeks or even 3 months. I know I will be back though!

Ed and Heather (Via Volunteers) were fantastic with no issues whatsoever.

USA | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Backpacker

Sindre Hinderaker

Very nice staff at the Greater Kruger Conservation project. And the reserve was amazing. Crazy wildlife. The organizing in the camp was not the best at all times. But good enough.

Great information before departure from Via Volunteers. Felt safe and good taken care of.

Norway | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Nora Graver Møvig

I had a great experience in Cape Town. I met new friends, and I did alot of fun activities. To work at Fikelela was amazing. The children was so sweet, and I loved to work and play with them. I learned a lot about the South African culture, and it was really surprised by how alot of people manage to live with so little. If you are thinking about working as a volunteer, I would recommend it. The whole experience was amazing, and I know that I appreciate my life in Norway more, now that I have seen other living conditions. I am definitely coming back one day.

The support from Via Volunteers during my stay was very good. I felt safe all the time, and you guys always responded quickly if something came up. You did a great job!

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Selina Türk

My experience at Fikelela was a lifetime experience. I must say as a psychologist I would have stayed for a longer time to help where I saw help was needed. I tried my very best in this six weeks to implement a little structure to support the children feeling safe.

My advice is: do not start with a complex activity during your first week. The children need some time to accept you as an authority. Give them their time, be consistent with things that you say and they will fall in love with you and respect you. After this short first acquaintance you can start to plan complex activities as they need to listen to you. Otherwise this will make you feel disappointed.

It was very experiencing to join Patsy’s and Heather’s class every week. To see how the children love to learn and love to get to know things was impressing. Moreover I was impressed how much time Patsy and Heather spend to prepare their lessons. This confirmed that there are so many lovely people working at Fikelela.
When you get to know the caregivers at Fikelela you will get part of a family. Most of them are very affectionate and like to share their lifetime stories with you. I loved to listen to them and get to know the way of life in an African township. In my opinion Khayelitsha was more South Africa than anything else. I enjoyed to learn about their culture and mentality. And yes, it is different, but I think both parties can benefit from each other (if they want to!).

I realized again that the German way of life means to work as hard, as fast and as effective as you can do. To work not in the meaning of surpass oneself but to become work as your life. And I was really happy to participate in this project at this time of my life because it taught me that there is so much more in the world that can help you to find back to yourself. You come into a different world with different norms and values but you come to help, to get to know this world, to get part of it. And I promise you will get part of it!

I definitely have to say that the support from Via Volunteers was amazing! I got to know the most important things about my project before my first day and this helped me a lot, e.g. how to react in a particular situation. During my whole time in South Africa it felt like home, as Ed and Heather help you with everything you need and arrange it for you. If there is anything that makes you feel uncomfortable (and you say it), they figure out a solution and help you to solve a problem. I can support what the other volunteers said, it feels like they become your parents during your stay.

Working with children often entails the need for supervision. When Ed picked us up every day from Fikelela, this was one of my favorite things as we could talked to him about the day and specific behavior from the children. This helped me a lot to bring distance between life and volunteering and showed me that Ed and Heather are there for you even on an emotional level!

Germany | Fikelela Children's Home

Sarah Meier

My time at Baphumelele Children's Home was amazing, I truly loved the kids and enjoyed every second of my stay. I had the pleasure to stay 12 weeks and was able to get to know most of the kids pretty well. We did some great outings and shopping trips and Ed and Heather were a great help! E.g. once Ed drove us to the shopping mall with two boys to buy them shoes and clothes and it was such an awesome feeling to be able to actually make a difference somehow.

The atmosphere in the flat was great, as well. The other volunteers were amazing people and we shared so much fun as well as some tears, whenever some kids told their stories. It was really nice having some friends around going through the same feelings and having the same thoughts – volunteer work really connects people, even if you come from completely different states, countries or cultures. All in once it was the time of my life and I can only recommend joining this opportunity! I am definitely coming back ASAP!

Via Volunteers did a great job before arriving as well as during the stay. Ed and Heather did everything to make us feel comfortable and welcome and they were always just a phone call away. Whenever there were any troubles or inconveniences, they listened very well and tried to fix things right away. I was a bit afraid I’d be lonely or unhappy but with these great “host-parents” there is no need for worries! I can ensure they will take good care of you!

Germany | Baphumelele Children's Home

Charlotte Maria Dalenbrook

My experience at Baphumelele was amazing! The home is quite large, and during the time I was there, they were taking care of around 120 children. The atmosphere in the volunteer flat was really amazing. I was lucky enough to be in a group with 4 other amazing girls and we all got along really well. Living on site, also gives you the chance to wake up in the morning, decide where you want to work on that day and pretty much walk outside the door and do it.

I spent a lot of my time in the baby house, playing with the kids, helping the mamas feed the babies, reading and singing with them, and taking them outside to play. I grew really attached to them and really couldn’t wait to go see them every  day! Once my 4 weeks at Baphumelele were over, and I moved on to working at Fikelela, I always ran in to see the babies every Monday when Ed was dropping the other volunteers off, just to check in on them!

I also spent a lot of my mornings in the preschool, helping one of the teachers with the kids, preparing different tasks,  giving out the food during snack time and lunch andplaying with them during recess. All of us really enjoyed this, as the giving out the food during snack time and lunch and  our efforts were made use of immediately. Other times I helped older kids with homework, simply talked to them and got to know them and helped setup and clean both a renovated cluster and a hospice that Baphumelele was funding.

I really enjoyed spending time with the kids, and think about how they are doing every day. For anyone thinking of going to Baphumelele I would definitely recommend it. I had the most amazing time with the kids and  the other people from Via Volunteers. I will never forget how amazing the children had, and how much hope the older ones have. One pice of advice I would have is to do some fund raising before you come to the project, as although the children have all of the basics, there is always something that needs replacement or that they need.

Thank you so much Ed and Heather for all your help and support! We were all so thankful for all the support you gave us before arriving, to everything you did while we are in South Africa! I obviously saw you guys a lot more during my time at  Fikelela, but even at Baphumelele we always knew we could count on you for any advice or help if we needed to so, thank you!

Luxembourg | Baphumelele Children's Home

Charlotte Maria Dalenbrook

After already completing 4 weeks at Baphumelele Children’s home, coming to Fikelela was a lot less daunting than the first  project was. I already knew a lot more of the language, how the kids thought and what they needed, and how I could help and interact with the mamas.

Although both projects were children’s homes and both were in Khayelitsha, the two were very  different. Fikelela is a much smaller home, and has much more of a family vibe to it. I loved how the older kids were always ready to help us or the mamas with the younger ones, and if the younger ones were being a bit naughty, we could tell the older ones to translate what we wanted to say to them. I also really enjoyed working closely with one of the children there who unfortunately did not have a place in school. I could really tell how much this boy wanted to learn, and how much he enjoyed the one on one attention he was getting for that small portion of time in the day. Although it was sometimes tough to motivate him to do the lessons (planned by a qualified teacher), by my last week  in the project he was asking me when we could finally do his work! I was so proud of  him!

I spent a lot of time playing  soccer with the older kids, drawing with them, playing on the playground with all the kids, and helping the mamas feed the younger ones. Claudia and I also organized a treasure hunt for the school kids during my last week there which all of  us enjoyed. I really could go on and on about how incredible all the kids there are and how each one of them has their own unique and amazing personality. They all deserve so much and I hope that they are given the resources and opportunities to achieve everything they are capable of in the future.

For any future volunteers thinking of joining the project I would say, think no more. Just like for Baphumelele, working  with these kids for 4 weeks was amazing. Doing these two projects was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I can  honestly say I love them all as if they were my own, and I miss them more than anything! Hopefully I can come back some time soon! I would also recommend thinking of and doing different activities with the kids, as they really enjoy
some variety.

Thank you so much Ed and Heather for all your help and support! We were all so thankful for all the support you gave us before arriving, to everything you did while we are in South Africa! I obviously saw you guys a lot more during my time at  Fikelela, but even at Baphumelele we always knew we could count on you for any advice or help if we needed to, so thank you!

Luxembourg | Fikelela Children's Home

Daniel Nee

I enjoyed working in the kitchen at the Homeless Feeding Programme. In addition to helping others, I learned a few skills myself.  The number of hours spent working, however, was rather short (only did morning shift).  It was definitely a worthwhile experience.

Via Volunteers is a great organization! Even though I was in a foreign country, I never felt lost or unprepared because Ed and Heather were always there for support!

USA | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Sophie Cheung

The Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town is a wonderful, meaningful project that has close ties with the local community. Lots of positive interactions with a variety of people (students, local community members, other volunteers, the homeless).  JP made the experience particularly great with his energy, guidance and insight.

The shelter certainly had a very welcoming, open and caring atmosphere created from strong community bonds.  The experience is definitely what you make of it but having a positive attitude, general interest and desire to learn from the people you meet makes it so much more than just a “feeding” program!

Via Volunteers, you guys were amazing! Great organization and assistance with everything. I loved that you had knowledge, understanding and connections with each local project.

China | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Daniel Nee

I learned a lot during my time at Fikelela and the support I had in order to adjust to this new amazing environment.  I spent my time there watching over the kids and enjoyed playing and helping them during the day. While others did not have as much trouble, I found it somewhat challenging to communicate with the children because for many of them, English is their second or third language. 

The flexibility of the program allowed me to work with the younger kids. I found this worked better for me since communication with the little ones was often non-verbal.  Although this project was not a perfect fit for me, the experience was very valuable and I have already recommended it to my younger sister!

Via Volunteers is an outstanding organization!  The communication prior to the trip allowed me and my family to prepare for the experience and for my parents to feel comfortable about me being so far away from home. The support I received from Ed and Heather was amazing!

USA | Fikelela Children's Home

Claudia Michelini

Altogether the Fikelela project was great. The kids were amazing and being a part of this project was a privilege for me. Although, I think, that the communication between the mamas and the volunteers must improve. I know that this is difficult, due to language differences, but with tooth and nail, everything is possible!

The communication with Via Volunteers before arriving was great. After I applied for being a volunteer, everything was set up very quickly and the support while in South Africa was amazing. I really appreciate, that Ed and Heather put that much time and effort in their work and the only advice I would give them is to continue like that. They were excellent hosts, the cottage was amazing and I had a great time while in Cape Town.

Luxembourg | Fikelela Children's Home

Sarah Meier

I only had about two weeks in the Cape Town Children's Hospital Play Programmel but I enjoyed the time there, though. The kids in the hospital were really friendly and kind and really appreciated our help. We played a lot of games, did some puzzles or readings. Some of them had families and friends around, but there were always some who got no visitors at all. Especially for them it was great to have some attention and some people around. All in once I can recommend to join this program, but if you want to get closer to the kids, you should choose one of the children homes instead

Via Volunteers did a great job before arriving as well as during the stay. Ed and Heather did everything to make us feel comfortable and welcome and they were always just a phone call away. Whenever there were any troubles or inconveniences, they listened very well and tried to fix things right away. I was a bit afraid I’d be lonely or unhappy but with these great “host-parents” there is no need for worries! I can ensure they will take good care of you!

Germany | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Ella Jones

Working as a play volunteer in the Children’s Hospital was a very good experience andI learned a lot. What I found very interesting is the hospital itself and how different it can be, but also the relationship between parents and child. It was very nice to see how parents deal with their children especially before working in a children’s home (my next project) and as there is a big difference to home.

Via Volunteers supported me very much during my stay in South Africa, especially in the beginning. They made sure that I was settling down well and were always there if I needed anything. If it was a doctors appointment or advice. Also always having the other volunteers around, especially on the weekends, gives security and takes away the "fear" of a different country. Cape Town is a beautiful city that can be a home very soon.

Germany | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Bettina Ziltener

I had amazing two weeks at the Big Cat Sanctuary. Met great people and we were given many interesting tasks and work to do. After a few days, it already felt like a second family. The staff included us in every step, we could support them and learned a lot about the animals.

Very good support 24/7 from Via Volunteers. Thankful for all the extras Ed and Header did for me. Answering
questions and arranging tours for us. Giving us all the information at the right time.

Switzerland | Big Cat Sanctuary

Arthur Hansson

The Greater Kruger Conservation Project was a very interesting experience, and extremely close to nature.  Work performed by the staff extremely important for the fight against poaching of elephants and rhinos.  Impressive efforts laid down by them.  Extremely informative for the volunteers to participate in their daily work for the animals at the Nature Reserve!! Honor also to the quality of the dinners, mostly made at the fireplace – very good!!!

Norway | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Kayleigh Hawkins

The time that I spent at the African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation Programme gave me many valuable experiences. Don’t get me wrong its super hard work, but so rewarding when you get to release the birds back into the wild. You are taught how to handle, feed and tube the birds.

All the rehabbers are always super helpful and there for you if you ever need a hand. Just don’t expect to handle birds on the first day as you have to do all the other jobs first and it really is hard work! The skills I learnt here I will take with me forever! Thank you!

This is my second time booking with Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers and I still think they are both wonderful! The care and attention they give their volunteers you wouldn’t get anywhere else. If there is anything you need they will try their best to help you! From inquiring, through to booking and then arriving they are there if you need them! Everything is planned from day one, all you have to do is show up at the airport.

UK | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Backpacker

Ella Jones

It was very rewarding working in the Baphumelele Children’s Home. Even though it doesn’t seem like you are doing a lot sometimes, you are always helping!! Even hanging out with the kids is great for them, but also for you. They teach you too, for example not taking anything for granted.

Living in the Children’s Home and in Khayelitsha is a great experience and that way you learn a lot about the culture. My first few days in Baphumelele were overwhelming and I had a lot to take in, but the first weekend came and I was already a little sad, to leave the kids for the weekend. Going to Cape Town for the weekends is a great balance though, you have time to explore the city and relax a bit to be ready for the next week and greet the kids with a lot of energy. You will need it, because the kids are really active, always running around, chasing and finding something to do with you.

It is also nice to organise activities for them. What I would really recommend is organising an outing with some of the kids. Me and two other Volunteers took some of the kids to the beach and they were so happy, playing in the water,laughing and just getting out of the home for an afternoon was great for them, you could really see it. They will infect you with their happiness and laughter and you will never forget that day!

The children will not only be some children you worked with, but they will become your friends too and especially living so close to them during that time is not only amazing for them, but also for you. You will be the one that they ask for help and advice with all different Kinds of things and that is a good feeling. All in all working in the Children’s Home was a great experience. I loved hanging out with the older kids, helping them with their homework, playing with the younger ones and cuddling the babies and just spending my time with them in any way. I am writing this three weeks after I left the Children’s Home and I still miss the kids a lot. If I could, then I would go back immediately.

Via Volunteers supported me very much during my stay in South Africa, especially in the beginning. They made sure that I was settling down well and were always there if I needed anything. If it was a doctors appointment or advice. Also always having the other volunteers around, especially on the weekends, gives security and takes away the "fear" of a different country. Cape Town is a beautiful city that can be a home very soon.

Germany | Baphumelele Children's Home

Kristina Bakken

I loved volunteering at the Cape Town Children's Hospital Play Programme, and would love to come back in the future. I felt welcome from day one, and appreciated every second with the kids. It was both fun and meaningful.

I recommend this project to anyone who wants to do something special for kids in a vulnerable situation. It has become very popular to travel around the world and experience different cultures, and I think that joining a project like this, even if its only for a few days, is an excellent way to do this, and to make their journey even more special and meaningful. For me, it was nice to actually do something nice for someone else, and not only think about myself and having a "vacation".

I got all the information I needed beforehand, and I never felt unsure about asking if I had any questions before my arriving. Via Volunteers gave excellent support while I was in South Africa. Ed and Heather from Via Volunteers helped me with anything, from when I arrived until I left. If my cab was late, they helped me to locate the cab, if I wanted to do any activities, they helped me sign up and gave me all the information I needed, and if I had any questions, they always helped me. They were always only a phone call away, and made the whole trip feel very safe. It felt like I had a second pair of parents in SA! My trip to South Africa would not have been the same without them.

I’m very happy for choosing Via Volunteers, and very very very thankful for everything Ed and Heather did for me. If I could, I would rate them higher than 5, because they do an excellent job, both for the volunteers, and of course for their project.

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Catrin Jayne Evans

I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of the Cape Town Children's Hospital Play Programme team. I felt that I settled in so quickly. I enjoyed spending time and getting to know volunteers and staff. I learnt so much about relating with children of different ages through play, and the importance of play in each child's journey and unique experience. Having the opportunity to work in different wards proffered such diverse and valuable experience and insight into working with children.

It was also a wonderful opportunity to learn from the experiences and insight of colleagues including volunteers, nurses, and the volunteer staff team. Emmy, the volunteer co-ordinator, is brilliant and always around to offer guidance and support. Thank you to everyone - I will keep in touch and hope to return for a longer stay in the future.

Thank you so much to Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers for all your support throughout the process. Everything was really well organised and very informative. Whenever I had any questions, there would always be a speedy reply and lots of tips in the run up to my visit. Also during the visit, it was great that I was met at the airport and that time was taken to show me the local area.

Although I'm known to be an independent person, it was great to know that Ed and Heather were always most available to support if any questions did arise. Also there was great support regarding connecting with other friendly volunteers, arranging taxis and also fantastic local knowledge regarding the area and booking of tickets for trips etc. I would love to return in the future both as a volunteer and also to find out more about adopting a child.

UK | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Charlotte Alford

On arrival at the Marine Conservation and EcoTourism project, I was met by one of the volunteer coordinators, Hennie.  He immediately told me to get my swimming stuff out as I was going out on one of the diving boats.  This was the best experience.  It was nice as well, as I found out later, that the volunteers on the boat didn’t know who were the new volunteers.  This gave me the proper client experience.  Throughout the week I went out on the shark cage diving boats and whale watching boats every day we were sailing.  The crew were so friendly and gave lots of information.  Within a couple of days I felt able to discuss the various wildlife I saw with clients.  I never quite got over the fact that I was going through Shark Alley every single day.  Each and every time we went into it my heart skipped a beat.  I also had the opportunity to work at the neighboring African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary (APSS) where I prepared food and hand fed the penguins.  Was incredible to get so close to them – even when they bit and pooed on me.

On no-sea days, the volunteer coordinators, Ettiene and Hennie, organized other activities for us to do as a group of volunteers.  These included hiking in Hermanus, a beach clean-up with a local school, a trip to a few breweries and vineyards, a trip to the Southern-most tip of South Africa - Cape Aghulas and volunteer work at a local dog sanctuary, Bark.  We also dissected a grey shark.  Alongside this we went to talks held at the Great White House by scientists working in the area.

This project was a fantastic opportunity.  Over my two weeks there, I did 6 cage dives, saw countless marine species and fell in love with Gansbaai.  The volunteer coordinators looked out for our well-being and were very informative.  The staff on the boats were all lovely and I am still in touch with many of them.  I was sad to  leave such good friends behind but look forward to hopefully seeing them again in the future. 

One warning and one piece of advice for anyone wanting to do this project:Warning: - this is NOT a holiday!!! You will be working hard and playing hard.  But there are some mornings where you are on the boats at 5:30am (earlier if weather conditions make it necessary) and you will have to clean a lot of wet suits – I felt guilty wearing wet suits when I was surfing after all that cleaning.  But the rewards make every second of tiredness and effort worthwhile. Advice: - “I don’t get seasick…” Even if you have never been sea sick before, take some tablets with you! You can be on the water for 8 hours a day and the boat will be stationary for a lot of this time (which can affect you differently to when the boat is in motion).  You will also be around others that get sea sick and the smell of the chum (fish oils, blood and guts they use to attract sharks) and petrol.  The chum and petrol smell… don’t take the risk and ruin your trip.  Go for at least 2-3 weeks to get the most out of your trip.  One week may not be enough if there are a lot of no-sea days.

Ed and Heather were fantastic at sending me information about my trips, answering my many many questions and giving lots of advice for other things to do while in Cape Town.  It was fantastic to have them pick me up at the airport (with some local children) which after a long flight made me feel very safe and at ease. This was also very reassuring for my parents who have met Ed and Heather since my return and have absolutely no worries about sending me off to South Africa again knowing how well they looked after me.  It was great having the facebook chat set up so that I could communicate with other volunteers staying in Cape Town and organize things to do on the weekends I was there including a hike up Lion’s Head on my first afternoon.  Made Cape Town much less scary.  Would 100% recommend Via Volunteers and really hope that I can come back.  Can you expand to other countries as well please????

UK | Marine Conservation & EcoTourism Project

Courtney Trampush

Volunteering at the Big Cat Sanctuary was an amazing experience! Cat, Liz and the other staff were extremely friendly and has a visible passion for working the animals at the sanctuary. Everyone was extremely welcoming and it was easy to jump right in helping at the sanctuary. Working alongside the cats while getting to learn about their stories and complete projects to better enrich their lives was an extremely rewarding experience!

Thanks for everything Ed and Heather! I’m so glad I made the decision to volunteer through Via. I’ll be sure to contact you when I come back again.. and again ?

USA | Big Cat Sanctuary

Charlotte Murphy

I had the most wonderful experience through the Children’s Hospital Play Programme. I absolutely adored Emmy, the volunteer coordinator. She is wonderful and loves her volunteers with such an overwhelming passion! The rest of the staff and volunteers were wonderful and I had an amazing time working with them every day.

I was so blessed to serve the patients and their families. They were all so grateful for us, and it was a privilege to be able to play every day. The happiness that these children brought to my life is ten times the amount of happiness that I could ever have brought them. Such a life changing experience!

Ed and Heather are amazing! They were so organized and helpful, and they made my time spent in South Africa stress free. They graciously took care of any needs I may have had prior to arrival, as well as any hiccups during my stay. They are so passionate about Via Volunteers and I am grateful to have had them take care of me!

USA | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Vilma Tammerstrom

Baphumelele Children´s Home is a great project, with a lot of great people. It's very nice to live in the children's home, as you get very close to the kids, since you can see them from the early morning until they go to bed, if you want.

This project is a lot about own responsibility, and it is very rare that someone will tell you what do to, so it is a good thing if you have many ideas of activities that suits a wide range of age, as this will help to entertain the kids.

The age range 0-17 is very giving, because you will meet so many different kids, in different situations. I have during my 2 months at Baphumelele give the children all that I can, and I have got so much back from them.

Via Volunteers is a great organization, helpful and always there when you need them. If I ever had any questions during my stay, I know that Ed and Heather is just a text or a message away, and if I ever would have a problem they would solve it as soon as possible.

Sweden | Baphumelele Children's Home

Courtney Trampush

While I was initially overwhelmed at Fikelela, that quickly went away once I got to know the children and the staff. The social worker and some of the senior staff were so welcoming and supportive while I was at Fikelela. I also enjoyed that there was room to do our own activities and projects with the children which was a great way to engage them and get to better know them. Fikelela is a great opportunity for anyone who has a passion for working with children!

Ed and Heather (Via Volunteers) went above and beyond to support of their volunteers! They are extremely helpful and truly care about the work that they are doing!

USA | Fikelela Children's Home

Angy Pittarelli

It was an amazing experience to volunteer at Baphumelele Childrens Home. I learned a lot about the Xhosa culture and lifestyle, which I wouldn’t have experienced without these awesome kids! After a while it feels like they are your siblings, because you live in the Childrens Home.

You will make their day if you plan some activities for them like baking/cooking, playing soccer, art classes or just listening to music! Since Baphumelele doesn’t have a program which is organized by the social workers, you have a lot of opportunities to give your creativity full play.

Baphumelele Childrens Home is perfect for you if you also like to spend time with older children and if you always wanted to have the experience to live in a township. The fact, that you live in the project means that your working hours are more flexible than the ones at similar projects. You’ll never have complete distance to the kids. And If this is a fact you loved to read you should volunteer at Baphumelele Childrens Home in Khayelitsha. I guarantee you that it will be the most memorable weeks in your life. Just do it!

I couldn’t have asked for a better organization for my trip to South Africa. For me, Ed and Heather were my South African parents! No matter what happens, they are going to help you and find a solution for your problem. I love the fact that Via Volunteers is a small organization because it felt like we were a family.

I had an incredible time with the other volunteers in Cape Town during the weekend and I found friends for life. Ashanti Lodge Gardens is a very good located hostel with nice staff and modern facilities. It’s the perfect place to spend your weekends. The combination between volunteering in Khayelitsha and spending your weekends in the Mother City is very special! You will get to see both sides of South Africa.

It is difficult to explain the experiences you’ll make when you’re a volunteer but I can definitely say that is it going to be the most exciting weeks in your life! Enjoy every minute, you’re going to miss it!

Germany | Baphumelele Children's Home

Dorte Narum

First of all, I would like to thank Heather and Ed for making my South African experience perfect! I'm really happy with choosing Fikelela (and Via Volunteers) above other projects and organizations.

During my five weeks at Fikelela I really got to know the kids - they're fantastic! We had so much fun playing, singing, dancing(!) and reading (with the older ones) every day. It also felt very meaningful teaching one of the girls who didn't go to school. Although she struggled, you could see improvement and hard work every day. These kids have so much potential, and are so talented if you put them in the right environment. Of course, it was hard to see children with such difficult backgrounds - but it's also amazing how positive and trustful these kids are from the moment you meet them. I can definitely recommend Via Volunteers and Fikelela to people who consider volunteering. It's one of the best choices I've ever made. :-)

-Bring clothes that are easy to move around and play in! Workout clothes could be useful. :-)
-To get some calmness it can sometimes be nice to take away a small group of kids to do an activity - for example puzzles or drawing. That way you avoid chaos.
-Enjoy every minute! You're gonna miss it. :-)

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Nele Burmeister

I felt welcoming from the first day at Fikelela. The Mamas were great and they were so happy if you helped them for example with the dishes. They were a big help for me to get to know the children and the culture.
The children are so open-minded and kind! We had a lot of fun and it never was boring. Every day at Fikelela was different. You really get to know all of the children and it’s hard to leave them when you have to go home.

Via Volunteers is like a family. That’s the advantage of a tinier organization.  You never felt alone because Ed and Heather never were far away and with Ed we had a great tour guide as well. He knows so much about Cape Town!

The accommodations (Gordon’s Bay and Ashanti Lodge) were great, too. The cottage in Gordon’s Bay was clean, spacious and only two minutes’ walk away from the beach. The hostel is renovated and close to Long Street.

I’m so glad that I found Via Volunteers! I would always choose this organization again and can just recommend it.

Germany | Fikelela Children's Home

Benton Staab

Via Volunteers rocks! I'm part of the Greater Kruger Monitoring Project. A week into it and I am loving it. I have worked in mending fences, clearing downed trees from the reserve fences, camera trap monitoring, and alien vegetation clearing. I've seen 6 rhinos and many elephants along with many other species.

The team here is extremely passionate about this program. We all went out to dinner last night as it rained for the first time in months so a celebration was needed! The living conditions in the camp are somewhat primitive but you are too busy and having too much fun to care. This is one of the greatest experiences of my life.

USA | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Dr. Rebecca Lauer

Working at the Reptile Conservation and Education project was a wonderful experience!! You get a lot of hands-on experience with the animals, the staff is wonderful and accommodating, and the house you stay in is great!! I have nothing but good things to say about the experience and would highly encourage anyone thinking about it to do it!

One word of advice is that some days at the centre are very busy and time gets away from you, so if there is something you want to do or learn speak up. The staff is more than willing to help you get experience and learn, but you need to speak up about it as time goes by pretty quickly there!

Via Volunteers was absolutely wonderful! This was by far the most stress and hassle free trip I have ever been on! They had everything arranged ahead of time, so it was very easy to get to where you needed to be. If it is your first time in Africa, Via Volunteers is a good way to start, as they make things as easy as possible.

USA | Reptile Conservation & Education

Aysegül Ekinci

It was very amazing experience. The nature, the people, everything were unique. I did lots of things I have never done before and it was great! It is also chance to know yourself... I strongly advice to everyone to meet this experience. I do not think that I can do this at another place like that.

I guess Ed answered my billions e-mails, he was very helpful. Whenever I needed support he was there. Also Heather is very nice, they both made me feel comfortable. You definitely should meet them :) 

Turkey | Lion Sanctuary

Karen Andreasen

My experience far exceeded my expectations.  I attribute this mostly to the privilege of working with Craig and Leonie.  They are completely dedicated to all aspects of conservation in the reserve. They are laser focused on eradicating poaching of rhinos and elephants. The entire team is ready to do what needs to be done every date to ensure the animals are protected.  Their commitment and passion is evident in everything they do.  I was grateful and inspired by my time on the Greater Kruger Conservation Project.

The volunteers are very involved in the day-to-day business at the reserve. We retrieved data from camera traps, some volunteers recorded critical data that is needed to track the location, health and habits of animals (particularly the rhinoceros) helped to repair fences so animals would not be able to get through to an area that would put them at risk, and we had the awesome experience of assisting in relocating cheetah that had broken through the fence. 

Every day is different.  Things regularly occurred so that our focus shifted to what was most needed. I can conclude by saying that I have every intention to return to volunteer again and do my small part in supporting their conservation efforts.

Ed, in particular, was invaluable and the communications from Via Volunteers was also just what was needed to be fully prepared.  Thank you!

USA | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Fabiola Maria Cecchini

My 4 weeks at Fikelela Children’s Home were amazing: I had an experience that will always stay in my heart. Everything exceeded my expectations! The volunteer work was  incredibly rewarding. I learned so much from the kids and I felt like I was able to actually affect a positive change in their lives as well. I spent all the afternoons playing with children, feeding the babies and helping mamas to fold kids’ clothes.

My favorite part of the day was the evening, during which I used to read stories to the girls and to sing lullaby to them. It was very tiring and challenging but I can never forget the warm smiles the children gave me! To future volunteers: be patient, full of love and smiling: this is what children need! Sometimes kids can be noisy but it’s normal: just tell the mamas and they’ll help you!

I really can’t translate in words my emotions and I don’t know how to convince you except to say that this experience was one of the best in my life and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I used that time to reflect on myself and the world: I had a fantastic chance to meet new people, to feel useful and to improve my English; so I truly recommend this project and I wish that you’ll have the incredible experience I had (I’m sure you will)!

I really recommend this organization!! I had the fortune to have two fantastic coordinators (Ed and Heather) who have always help me, also in difficult moments! My biggest problem was concerned with the communication: my English is very bad and initially I felt stressed and stupid but they reassured me and they assigned me the duties appropriate to me. As a Fikelela’s volunteer, I had the opportunity to see my coordinators every day (except on weekends) and to learn a lots of things about South Africa. I’ll never thank them enough for the support they gave me!

Italy | Fikelela Children's Home

Dr Mark Wright

A truly excellent experience. The staff, camp, and entire atmosphere were wonderful. One gets to interact and work with dedicated conservationists engaged in the very serious matter of poacher prevention; participate in reserve management tasks including animal monitoring, invasive weed management, removal of trees knocked over onto ‘roads’ by elephants, boundary fence maintenance, and snare removal, for example. There is plenty of opportunity to appreciate the fact that you are in a conservation area with large African animals (and small ones) every day, as one engages in the various activities that the reserve staff is undertaking.

The volunteer camp is an excellent experience – it is completely integrated with the reserve – no fences! All manner of animals may be encountered in and around the camp. One comes to appreciate every-day luxuries such as running water while staying in the camp – elephants disrupt the water supply regularly! The food in the camp is excellent – prepared over an open fire every night. And the staff members in the camp are endlessly great fun to hang out with in the evenings.

Via Volunteers are very engaged with their clients. I was impressed how communicative they were during planning our trip, and the way they arranged everything down to the finest details. We didn't need to worry about anything. And once in SA, Via were immediately responsive – we needed a doctor while travelling to the project (in rather rural parts of SA), and Ed made plans for us in a most efficient and helpful way.

Their support is really comprehensive - we were picked up at the airport in Cape Town and taken to our accommodation – all very efficient! Great vehicle! Their level of commitment and caring for volunteers is excellent.

Via Volunteers have a reputation for supporting only ethical volunteer opportunities – and they live up to that reputation

In addition to our volunteer experience with the Greater Kruger Conservation Project, we got to observe some of Via’s Cape Town projects at children’s homes. Their close involvement with the projects was remarkable.

USA | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Iselin Brunes Flenstad

So glad I got the chance to volunteer at Baphumelele Children’s Home. I met so many good people. It was interesting to learn about Baphumelele and their projects. Having time with the children at Baphumelele, helping out in the community and getting to know so many people meant a lot to me. It is something I`ll never forget.

Heather and Ed were good support while I was at the project. It was easy to contact them, and they tried their best to help.  Via Volunteers did a good job, and I`ll go back to Baphumelele through them next year.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Thea Sofie Haugerud

I think the Baphumelele Children's Home Project was very good, I learned a lot. About the culture and the children and how lucky I am to have the opportunity to become whatever I want to be and to have a safe future. My advice is to make sure that you could speak English properly and be aware that its going to be hard the first few days. But it`s totally worth it :)

I think Via Volunteers gave me a very good experience of the trip, they took really good care of me. I felt like I was taking care of and that they were listening to me :)
Very good :o)

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Helena Skoog

I had a great experience at Fikelela Children's Home and would definitely recommend this project to anyone that are considering to volunteer. By being at the children’s home you get a whole new perspective on life and the world that we live in. You get to see and hear so many awful things that, at least I, wouldn’t imagine that people could do to their children. Despite of all of the horrible things the children at Fikelela has gone through, they meet you with the biggest smiles every day. They really appreciate that someone is there to play with them and to give them individually attention.

When you get to know them you will see a lot of different, but amazing personalities and every single one of them is beautiful in their own way. If you join this project you will learn a lot about yourself, but also the South-African history and culture, and you get a unique insight in a completely different community than you are used to. I think everyone of us should volunteer to help those who are not as lucky as us. The children will appreciate this so much, and as will you. You will get an experience that will be with you for the rest of your life.

The project is perfectly combined with the weekends off to explore Cape Town. During the weekends, you will get to see a whole different side of South-Africa, and I will guarantee you that you will have a lot of fun with the other volunteers. There are so many activities to do in and around Cape Town, so you won’t be bored while being there!

Ed and Heather, who runs VIA volunteers, are also amazing. They help you with everything and made me feel so safe and good taken care of while in South-Africa. I couldn’t have asked for a better support while I was in South-Africa. They always responded to messages quickly and helped us with anything we needed. I was impressed of how much they did for us, both when it came to transportation, and booking activities, and the fact that they are so invested and involved at Fikelela. Your effort really makes a huge difference for the kids there.

I always felt really safe while in South-Africa because of VIA, and I knew that if it was anything I could contact you and that you took care of us. Before I arrived I didn’t expect to be taken such good care of and that we would get to know you that well. Thank you for amazing support!!

I would definitely recommend the project at Fikelela, and to work at this project (or any other project) through Via Volunteers.

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Daniel Häusler

The African Penguin & Seabird Rehabilitation Project was really something else! It’s a very good experience and working together with the team and the Seabirds is so much fun! I’d like to come back and do it again. Since it is volunteer work I think SANCCOB could support some private issues a bit better, but It’s also plausible that they can’t always afford it to give that extra-luxury.

I have learned so much about the African penguins and the other seabirds and I’m qualified to feed and tube them and give them the right medication which is more than I hoped for. You can really work sooo good with the animals there and you learn a lot, not only about them but also yourself. It’s definitely an experience which should be shared by many many people!

The communication and the support from Heather and Ed at Via Volunteers were really awesome. It started with a tour through Cape Town, to get us to know the best places. While we worked there, they held contact (and even when we were at home in Germany again). They are sooo lovely and are really burning for their job. They supported us when we had some little trouble and believed in us, which was very helpful. Also thank you very much again for the special made cake on my birthday. I really enjoyed meeting you through Via Volunteers and I hope to see you guys back next time. Best Volunteer-supporting agency above all! 

Germany | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Backpacker

Michaela Anne Kelly

Being a part of the Fikelela Children’s Home is an experience that I will never forget. From working with the children to learning the culture, it was eye opening to a part of the world that I have never thought of before.

Some advice for future volunteers is to be open to learning. Try to acquire the language, and don’t be afraid to ask the children or the mamas to help. Also, volunteer at the project for as long as time allows you; I only was there for 4 short weeks. I felt as soon as I was getting used to the language and the routine of the day, it was time for me to leave. This is an amazing time in your life, and cherish every single moment.

There are not enough words to explain the support that Via Volunteers gave me during my stay in South Africa. Ed and Heather are the most wonderful and most giving people that I have met. They are constantly checking in on their volunteers to make sure they are comfortable and have everything they need. From booking activities to restaurant reservations to retrieving medicine, if there was anything I needed Ed and Heather were there.

They are very dedicated to the volunteers and the projects that they work with.  The work they do is inspiring, and I wouldn’t have wanted to complete my volunteering with any other organization or people. I highly suggest Via Volunteers to anyone who is interested in volunteering in South Africa.

USA | Fikelela Children's Home

Laura Alison Osborne

The Fikelela Children's Home Project was one of the most wonderful and amazing experiences in my whole life! The children were so adorable and working with them was totally wonderful. Of course it’s sometimes challenging, because working with about 30-40 children is sometimes hard and exhausting, which is completely normal! But It was a good kind of exhausting! Playing, living with the children and caring for them for 4 weeks was just my most happy and wonderful experience!!!  I love the children from the bottom of my heart and I definitely would do it again any time!

I went to South Africa for working with Via Volunteers with my friend Veronique. Heather and Ed were so friendly and supportive! If we had any question before or during our stay we definitely received answers. They drove us every day, from our accommodation to the children’s home and in the evening back again. They spent so much time with us! Veronique and I felt very safe and secure working in the Townships, since we got so much support and advice from them! I’m so grateful for what they have all done for us! Thank you so much Heather and Ed!

Germany | Fikelela Children's Home

Kayleigh Hawkins

I started off just booking 5 weeks with the Marine Conservation and EcoTourism Project and ended up booking an extra 4 weeks. I really enjoyed my time there and learnt so much! I went there for the sharks and came back with a new found love for Penguins and Seabirds. It’s really helped me realise what I would like to do as a career and I have already booked to return.

The project staff are so friendly and welcoming and I have made some great friends along the way. What the company do for great white sharks, the marine big 5 research and African Penguin conservation is wonderful.

Via Volunteers are truly amazing and Ed and Heather are super supportive and helpful. From the very first day that I enquired about a trip to South Africa to when I returned back to the UK. If anyone would ever be interested in volunteering in South Africa, be it with wildlife or something else, then I would hand on my heart recommend these guys!

UK | Marine Conservation & EcoTourism Project

Sophie Barrett

My experience at Baphumlele Children's Home was fantastic. I had a lot of fun getting to know the kids and helping them and the mamas in any way. All the kids are amazing and they really appreciate the volunteers being there. I’ve created many memories I will never forget. As I said, the kids (and the staff) really enjoy you being there, so communicate with them, play with them, help them, and you can develop great connections.

Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers were very supportive of me and all the other volunteers. They made sure we had everything we needed and kindly booked any activities we were interested in while in Cape Town. They are such a great team and I definitely want to come back to volunteer someday!

USA | Baphumelele Children's Home

Nora Møller Didriksen

I loved volunteering at Fikelela Children's Home. The first week I was there, I was the only volunteer and I got to know the children and the mamas really well. I loved spending time with the children. You could really see how much they appreciated that we spent time with them. Even if we were just playing around, feeding, doing homework or bathing, we saw that they also liked spending time with us, so that was amazing. I felt that I actually made a difference in their daily life at Fikelela just being there with them, so that was amazing.

As volunteers, you can help with teaching the children and helping the doctor when she's there. Helping with their learning was really nice. It's amazing helping them learning new stuff and seeing their faces when they made it, so it's a really nice experience. Also helping with the doctor was really nice. You get to learn a lot about medicine and the children. I really liked that too.

As you may understand, I loved spending time at Fikelela and the four weeks that I were there, just flew by way too fast. It's really fun being with the children and I think you get a lot from the experience. The project is really giving and I felt like I really helped, so that was nice.

The children are amazing and it's impossible not to love them. They're so nice to be with and I think working there was really giving. You should really try it out, because it's really worth it. I recommend spending a few weeks there at least. I was four weeks there, but it wasn't enough. I wish I could stay longer, so I will come back!

Fikelela's an amazing place so you should volunteer if you can. It's totally worth it!

Via Volunteers, you're the best!

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Caitlin Wright

This project was great, one really gets to experience what life is living on a national park. We also got to learn about what the staff does for the park regarding conservation. We got to experience the national park from outside a car by walking around in the bush while sweeping for snares, and got to be around other people who truly care about the wellbeing of the animals and the park as a whole. Some advice that I would give to anyone doing this project is to learn as much as you can, have fun, but also always be alert and safe.

Via Volunteers was very helpful, they picked us up and dropped us off at the airport, and made sure we were taken care of during the entire trip. They were also able to find a doctor for me in a rural, out of the way, little town while we were on our way to the Reserve.

USA | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Azim Momin

My main task was to arrive every day at the Soup Kitchen where I helped prepare breakfast or lunch for the approximately 40 residents of the local community that came to receive what would be for most their only meal of the day.  I helped hand out hot plates of food to them and enjoyed interacting with them by sharing stories and experiences so that we could get to know each other better.  After the meals were served and eaten, I remained at the Soup Kitchen and helped clean the dishes, sweep the floor, put the tables and chairs back to where they were previously arranged.

On several afternoons, I extended my stay in the Soup Kitchen where I also helped sort donated clothing items for later distribution to those in need.  I also participated in the after-school programme for underprivileged children where I helped several with their homework and played group games to keep them entertained.My advice to those who choose to participate in the Homeless Feeding Programme is to keep your time commitment to help out every day because most weekdays there is only one or two other staff to manage the Soup Kitchen and your helping hand is tremendously valued.  Also strive to keep an open mind and a mature emotional state because you will hear a lot of sad and difficult stories from the individuals who come to receive food assistance daily.

I received excellent communication by emails from before my trip to Cape Town, South Africa.  Emails to Via Volunteers staff were answered promptly (within 1 business day) and I appreciated the orientation materials that were sent to me to assist in my preparation for my trip to South Africa.  I was picked up at the airport upon arrival without any issues and was provided ample guidance during my first couple of days in Cape Town before I officially started my project on Monday.

USA | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Nicole Hoffman

Volunteering at the Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town for two weeks has been one of the most rewarding things that I have done in my lifetime. To be able to help put an essential meal on the table for those hungry and in need, to learn about their daily struggle and provide support, and to see firsthand how some have beat the odds and overcome poverty, homelessness, and substance abuse, was beyond inspiring.

I had the opportunity to work with some amazing people, including Uncle JP (with his celebrity status) and Green Eyes, who are the perfect examples of the purpose of a shelter – to empower people to improve the dire situation in which they find themselves. Not only did we pick up food donations (thank you Woolworths) and serve the food (with the joy of providing a second helping more times than not) to hungry and homeless people in need (at both a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter), but we were also able provide them with a skillset such as knitting (at the Ladies Café) to help them start their own mini-business.

It took me the entire two weeks to sort through clothing donations, but after much organizing I was able to create outfits that the homeless could feel confident walking the streets in. And I became an “auntie” to so many underprivileged kids in the Salt River community through the after school program, teaching them math and playing with them while they munched on popcorn. With a helping hand we can all help make the world a better place and help those with hardships triumph over adversity.

It’s so easy to help… and the lives that you touch in just a few days time mean so much to so many in need. Don’t hesitate… you’ll get back twice as much as you give.

USA | Homeless Feeding Programme in Cape Town

Taylah Bruce

I only had a week with the Great White Shark project but it was so much fun and absolutely incredible to get up close with the White Sharks. Everyone working for and volunteering for the project were amazing people and all contributed to the awesome experience I had in Gansbaai. One week did not give enough time to do everything so I would definitely recommend staying at least 3-4 weeks to get more involved in the research and conservation part of it as well as going on the shark diving trips.

Ed at Via Volunteers gave us a lot of info before arriving in Cape Town and kept us up to date with everything. When we arrived we were given a lovely quick tour of the town and heaps of helpful tips. He also helped us organise activities before the project and checked up on us during it! Thanks so much for you help, had an amazing time!

Australia | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

Trine Holm Larsen

This experience at Baphumelele Children's Home made a big impact on me. Especially the cultural differences affected me much more than I thought it would. It made me wonder. It was not always easy to cope with things, and it was not always easy just to close your eyes, when you saw something that you did not want to see. Because of the language of the caretakers, and the often poor understanding of English, it was sometimes difficult for us to communicate properly, and there was a lot of misunderstandings. Still there were some of the caretakers, who really did their best, and tried their best to communicate with us. There was no doubt, that these people did an amazing job, and when you saw the reaction of the child, there was no doubt.

The main leaders, John and Lira, was a very big support for us. They were both Amazing, they did a fantastic job, to keep it all going. There is no doubt, that they are doing this, not just because it’s their job, but also because they love what they are doing. This is their life.

The children were amazing too, always happy and always joyful. They did not have much stuff, and there was a big need for everything, and still they were the happiest children I have ever seen. Small things do make a difference!

Now when I'm home, I’m thinking of them everyday. I’m so happy I took this challenge! I recommend this project to everyone openminded, those who might need a new perspective on things, and those who want to make someones life a little better. Even though it’s just for a while, there is no doubt, that it will make a huge difference for the child.

While in Africa, the support from Via Volunteers was amazing, nothing to complain about. At our arrival, I felt more than welcome. We got a lot of advice of what to do, and what not to do, and how to be safe! Ed and Heather were a big help for us, and did an excellent job, helping us booking/planning stuff, making calls/sending emails, and last but not least, driving us around all the time. Thank you!

I’m not finished with South Africa :-)

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Sophia Tutino

The Children's Hospital Play Programme was a very good experience.

Playing with children was a very good learning for me personally. When you first arrive, you might think it will just be about playing but it is more than that. You really need to be thoughtful of which toys to take for which age category or which kind of ward you will be going to. And I must admit, it may sound easy but I found it quite challenging at first. You do not really know the children, they also are for the most part very tired and ill so you need to pick and choose the toys that will catch their attention and interest them. Some toys may be of interest for a few minutes and then get boring so you need to arrive at the ward prepared to be able to change games, even with the same child.

Going to the different wards was a very unique experience. I have to say I am lucky to have been born where I was born. I am also lucky to have never been visiting anyone at a children's hospital even back home. So when you apply for the Play programme in a children's hospital, you do not realize what you are going to go through. Once you enter each ward, you realize how many illnesses the children can have and it is very hard emotionally to see that. However, I have learnt so much about the different wards and the different doctors in the wards.

The children are angels. When you meet the children, you do not see an ill child. You see a child. No matter how hard it is to see him/her in the state he/she is in, you want to put a smile to his/her face. It does take some time for some children to open up, trust and play with you but this is normal. Once the child feels comfortable with you then you spend such an nice time. What a nice feeling when you manage to make them smile!! For the time of a game, you take them away from their pain.

The team was very helpful, nice and pro. Emmy was very nice and very present everyday.

From the first day I called the office, to the day I landed in Cape Town and to the day I took off from Cape Town, I was in good hands with Via Volunteers. Ed and Heather have been from day one very efficient, pro-actif, nice, responsive, responsible, helpful and fun to deal with. Before arriving in Cape Town, all the paperwork was very smooth and quickly dealt with; when landing I felt at home straight way. Ed and Heather really have made my stay memorable thanks to them as well. I was safe, I felt I had family and I have had no problems whatsoever thanks to them both.The project is very well organised and I like the various projects you manage - they all are equally interesting. I would be delighted to come back to South Africa to work on a differnet project soon.

I could write so much more.... Thank you again Ed and Heather for your amazing help with this unforgettable experience!!!

France | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Therese Rango Nilsen

I was at Baphumelele volunteering for the second time in January 2016 for 12 weeks and it was truly amazing to be back. I got to come back after two years and see all the kids again, it was so strange to see how much they all have grown. My sponsor kid was all of the sudden taller than me, but he was still the same amazing, happy kid that I met in 2014.

Baphumelele is a great children's home to be at, to work at. The kids there are great, they teach you a lot even if they are a lot younger than you are. Even if they don't have a lot they are still happy and playing with what they've got. If it's playing soccer with a tennisball, draw, play cards or anything else, they keep finding a way to have something to do.

The people that work there in the office, the social workers and the ladies working in the clusters are very kind and intelligent people. They do all they can to help these kids and I think they do a really good job.

My experience both with the kids and with the people working at Baphumelele have been very good. I got a lot out of 12 weeks there. Usually in the mornings I was at Baphumelele educare helping out as sort of an assistant teacher, helping the kids with school work and helping the teachers with whatever they needed help with.

I helped out in babyhouse with things like playing with the babies, feeding and putting them to bed. I was down in Greenhouse helping the social workers with cleaning up, organizing the food for the clusters, giving out school uniforms and stationery and many other things that they needed help with. I also got to go to the farm to help out with getting the rooms ready for the teens to move in and I got to go out in Khayelitsha to help demolishing a shack for a family so we could build a new one for them.

I organized an outing for some of the kids so me and two of the other volunteers could take them to the swimming pool in Sea Point to have a fun day swimming and then take them to eat dinner. In addition to this I got the chance to come with the preschool on an outing with all the 5-6 year olds that go to school there, we went to a park to play and had snacks.

We got to make a holiday program for the kids when easter holiday came, we had movie days, painting, soccer tournament, waterballoon war and many other thing to do with the kids. I got to do a lot with all the kids both at Baphumelele children's home and Baphumelele educare.

For everyone that is considering to volunteer I would recommend Baphumelele, it is a lot to get used to, but when you do you will have a great time there. Don't be afraid to ask for help or ask if there is something you can do to help. Everyone that works there is very helpful and it's okey to ask the kids for help as well. They are really helpful and just take your time to get to know them. When you get to know them, they will also feel more comfortable around you.

Ed and Heather are truly amazing people, they talk really good care of you and will help you with whatever it might be. While I was volunteering with Via Volunteers I got to know Ed and Heather, to see what they do and how they do it. They are taking care of all the volunteers that come to Cape Town. Picking up from the airport, getting them settled in at the lodge and in the volunteer flat at Baphumelele, they make sure that you have all you need, and if you are missing something they will help you get it. In all they make you feel really safe and at home. I am really glad that I chose to volunteer with Via Volunteers. Even after I finished my 12
weeks I've kept in contact with Ed and Heather.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Tori Shay Sousa

It was an invaluable experience volunteering at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. I loved being able to put a smile on a child’s face and seeing a child laugh, especially considering their circumstances. The staff there were amazing! It was also really nice to get the opportunity to meet other volunteers from around the world.

I felt so grateful to have the constant support of both Ed and Heather, especially because I was traveling alone and had never stepped foot in Africa before. While making preparations for my volunteer trip, Ed and Heather answered all of my questions and concerns in a prompt manner. While in Africa, they aided me with everything ranging from booking excursions to contacting taxis if they were late getting me to and from the hospital, etc. Via Volunteers is a lovely organization!

USA | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Selene Ramer

My experience with the African penguins was the best thing I ever had the chance to do. The program was very hands on, and within 2 weeks I was feeding, tubing and administering medications to the penguins. I miss the little guys everyday. All of the staff and volunteers/interns were very friendly and helpful. My advice to anyone who wants to join the program is to be prepared to do a lot of manual work and cleaning.

The support from Via Volunteers was excellent. I remember emailing with Ed from about a year before I joined the project. It was also really nice to have a contact in South Africa that could recommend activities.

USA | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation - Homestay

Amalie Kloverod

I went to South Africa with expectations to see a new country, learn about another culture and to help out at an orphanage. I left South Africa with another perspective on happiness and appreciation of life. I got friends all around the world and a lot of great memories. And I got to share all of my love to the children at Baphumelele Children’s Home.

It has been half a year since my trip, and I still think about the country and people almost every day.

I am so grateful for Ed and Heather who helped and supported me throughout my stay. I admire them for the work they are doing, and how they take care of their volunteers.

My time in South Africa was the most exiting, challenging, giving and amazing months of my life. I am so grateful for that.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Maja Katrine Estil

I can honestly say that volunteering at Fikelela Children’s Home has been one of the greatest decisions of my life. The children’s home is a wonderful place that cares for orphans or children that have been victims of sexual, physical or mental abuse. Being there has given me a whole new perspective on life and has made me think about things I have never thought about before.

Your job as a volunteer at Fikelela is not only helping with the chores that need to be done, but also giving the children that extra love and attention that they otherwise do not receive. It is amazing to see how the children grow when they just receive that extra love. There is no better feeling in the world than feeling like your presence has made a difference. The children you will meet are truly incredible. They have been through so much, yet they love, laugh and trust easier than anyone. They have taught me so much more than I could ever imagine, and I believe I am a changed person because of this experience.

To anyone who is thinking about joining Fikelela Children’s Home, I would without a doubt advise you to do it. I can promise you that you will not regret it, and that it will be an experience you will never forget.

Via Volunteers is an absolutely amazing organization. The projects they offer are all wonderful and ethical. It is a small and personal organization, so you can be sure you will be well looked after. The volunteer coordinators, Ed and Heather, will always go out of their way to make sure you have a great volunteer experience. It is a true comfort to know that they are always right there if you need them. I would without a doubt recommend Via volunteers to everyone who is thinking about doing some volunteer work in Africa.

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Liyana Rosli Asmara

I had the opportunity to embark on a volunteering programme at the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital from 14th to 18th September. Despite of the short volunteer period, it has been one of the most fruitful, eye opener moments for me.

I was lucky to receive a warm welcome from the volunteer family at the hospital. Everyone was very helpful and full of positivity thus it helps to give a good start to each day. In the hospital, I learn to engage with the parents and patients. Language barrier is not an excuse. I learn through warm presence and sincerity, the patients would always drawn to you and look forward to be playing with you again and that always motivates me to wanting to do more.

I also learn the value of resilience from these kids. Having be able to shift to different ward unit, it taught me a lot on how patients cope with pain differently. When I see the countless tears, the strong smiles and some traumatizing moments, I feel bitter thinking how ungrateful I have been all this while and it is time to actively count my moments of blessing. Nonetheless, I feel highly satisfied especially when I get to see a patient smile because of me and to receive a thank you message from senior nurse for making the patients happy.

My words to those who wish to join the play programme project; Life is not about what you get but it is about what you give. Enjoy the experience, have fun learn and relearn. You never know the split second of smile can brush off tiny drops of tears away :)

I think Via Volunteers should have its name as Via 'Family' Volunteers because I feel more like having a family than having volunteers around me. Via volunteers impresses me a lot with excellent coordination, and active update to know the well being of each volunteer.

Via Volunteers does not only open my eyes to voluntourism in Cape Town, but it gives me the opportunity to view life and reality in Cape Town and South Africa on the larger scale.

To Ed, thank you for the wonderful moment, I will always remember the Rooibos Tea with milk as the beginning to my enlightenment in Cape Town, South Africa. To Heather, our meeting was short, but I feel grateful to be given the opportunity to meet such a warm and friendly lady. Hope to see you again soon, otherwise in future :)

Singapore | Cape Town Children's Hospital

Kathy Thomas

The staff at St George's Home for Girls are caring people and the girls clearly feel safe and loved. I spent afternoons helping with homework, reading to/with the younger girls, playing, exercising (walking and soccer), teaching basic math, and giving hugs.

Being able to live in the heart of Cape Town, have safe and reliable transport to St George, free time to see all that the Western Cape has to offer made this awesome experience even better.

My advice:
1) communicate with Graeme (Director) and Delia (Social Worker) at St George. They know everything about the girls and what works best with them.
2) come prepared with ideas. There are days that a fun project is just what is needed. Teach them something you are good at - poetry, baking, juggling, paint by numbers... anything that isn’t dangerous. And be prepared to bring the project supplies.
3) The girls will steal your heart and change your perspective on life.
4) Enjoy.

Ed and Heather Scott are excellent at helping you plan, adjust, explore, and get the most out of your experience. From pick up at the airport until drop off, you will have caring and attentive support. I would entrust them with your college student or grandmother!

Read more about Kathy's South African experience in her beautifully written blog:
Purposeful Travel

USA | St. George's Home for Girls

Kristin Nordaune

To be a part of the Baphumelele family was an experience for life, and I will never forget. Even though Baphumelele has major economical challenges, they always smile and have a good spirit. That’s an attitude everyone can learn from!

At the same time it has been interesting to see this kind of work from another cultural perspective, and also to see different cultures working together towards the same goal, despite the big challenges different cultures sometimes contributes to. I learned that culture and traditions is so important in some cases that educations and knowledge is put aside.

From a social worker's perspective I learned a lot about working side by side with completely different cultures, and that experience is one that I definitively will use in my work and life here in Norway.

To the lucky one that one day will join the Baphumelele family; show interest in their life, culture and work. Try to join as many projects that you can, so you can see all the work Baphumelele do. If you can, speak to Lira as much as you can, she´s amazing and I learned a lot from her. And of course, enjoy your time with children and the amazing City of Cape Town. I will never forget! Thank you so much Ed and Heather!

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Flaminia Nucci

I think that there is something sacred in the meeting with wild animals. If you are also ready to work hard, the Lion Sanctuary will give you this rare opportunity!

The support we received from Via Volunteers before and during our stay was even better than our expecations.

Italy | Lion Sanctuary

Martina Dellino

Very well organized and excellent stuff. Amazing people!


Italy | Marine Conservation & EcoTourism Project

Rod Scott

My daughter Charlotte has just completed nine fabulous weeks in South Africa. She has dived with Great White Sharks, studied and looked after Lions, Tigers and other big cats and spent time in the bush tracking Rhino and Elephants keeping them safe from poachers.

In her spare time she has been sky diving, hiking up Table mountain, swimming in mountain lakes in the bush and lots more. If you or anyone you know would love to do all this then contact Via Volunteers. They are brilliant and will take care of everything.

UK | Parent of Charlotte

Vanessa Bello

The Lion Sanctuary has been a great experience for me; it helped me a lot to understand things about myself I could not see in my everyday life at home among my things and usual habits.

The animals are fantastic and all the people and the staff there take care of them with love, affection and competence.

The lions roaring at night is something I'll never forget, above all when awakening at home during the night in city life noises!!

The support from Via Volunteers has always been excellent, before and during my stay.

Italy | Lion Sanctuary

Charlie Scott

When people look for a big cat sanctuary most people want the interaction and many don’t understand why you shouldn’t interact. Here you realise that you don't need to stroke them and feel them in order to be with these cats. Watching the sun set over the mountains with Neptune roaring next to me or walking in the mornings alongside the enclosure with Raise, you feel these cats incredible power. The freedom which the sanctuary team give you with these animals allows you to spend lots of time with all of these beautiful cats.

The accommodation is so comfortable and feels like a home away from home, the energy on the farm is unlike any other. The sunsets are also incredible. I recommend spending as many of these with the animals as this is the most magical time. There's a good balance of work and play; the excursions I did while at the Big Cat Sanctuary included cheese and wine tasting, a spa day, horse riding along the beach and shark cage diving. For people looking to do this project, do it and do it with all your heart. The sanctuary team and the animals will give you memories you will cherish forever. I know I will be back :)

Via Volunteers is amazing :) simply amazing. Ed is very quick at responding to emails and answers all of your questions prior to arrival. Because Ed and Heather have taken the time to hand pick each project you are ensured a streamlined and stress free time! I even had an issue with one of my transfers from my hostel to the airport, rang Ed at 6 in the morning and he spoke to the hostel and sorted it out. Thankfully I made my connection and having Ed and Heather as a constant support while in South Africa always made me feel very safe. Very sad to leave them behind but I know I will be back to South Africa shortly to see them and volunteer some more :)

UK | Big Cat Sanctuary

Mina Skogen

I had the most fantastic time in Cape Town, and couldn't have asked for more.

My time at the children's hospital and Fikelela was truly amazing. An experience of a life time. My colleagues, the children, the care workers and other volunteers from all over the world made my stay complete. Everything was well organized and safe. I didn't feel alone or scared once. I think the balance of work and free-time was well timed. I got to see everything I wanted to see and experience.

That is also much thanks to Ed & Heather at Via Volunteers. I'm so grateful for all the car-trips, restaurant visits and joyful moments. I will never forget it. I will also let you know that I have been recommending Via Volunteers to so many. The messages were seriously ticking in when I got home, from people that loved the pictures and wanted to do the same! So you may meet some girls from Gjøvik in the nearest future :) Thank you for updating me about how the children are doing. It means a lot. Feels like I'm not that far away from there.

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital and Fikelela Children's Home

Ronan Keilthy

One of the best projects I have had the privilege of working with. As an avid reptile enthusiast, the reptile centre has been an awesome place for me to gain new experience and foster my passion.

I have learned so much from the two months that I have been there, and it was all down to the great people on the ground. They are extremely knowledgeable and are great at teaching and passing on valuable information that most people cannot get on a regular basis.

If you have even a passing interest in reptiles, I would highly recommend this project. Two months disappeared very quickly and I can honestly say that South Africa has been one of the most enjoyable trips of my life.

Via Volunteers has been very helpful and extremely organized with getting me to South Africa and through the project that I enrolled in. I would definitely recommend them to do most anything in South Africa.

Singapore | Reptile Conservation & Education

Erica Volpato

I'm Erica, from Brazil. I'm 32 years old and I spent 8 wonderful weeks with Baphumelele Children's Home in January to March 2015.

The support of the Social Workers and some of the care workers was really good and they were so kind with me and with the kids. It's amazing the job that they do there.

Since I adapted to the routine I could enjoy my time with the babies during the morning, which was my favorite place on the project. Another place that I enjoyed to help was the Clements house with the small babies. They need special care and it was wonderful to help and learn with the nurses how to care for them properly.

During the afternoons I spent my time with the kids, doing homework and some activities that I propose to them as inside and outside games. They are so active and clever, I felt great in help and I received back so much love from them.

I developed some good friendship and could learn more about their background and tried to give some tip for life to them. I feel so grateful for this opportunity and I would like to go back and have the opportunity to meet these kids in the future, to see how they are growing up and developing.

My main tips are: Try to stay as long as you can in the project, because you will learn more and enjoy more your time there. Be nice with all the people and they will be nice with you as well. All the love that you give them you will receive back in double. Propose some simple activities/games to do with the kids and try to teach them the activities/games as well, then they can keep playing even after you leave.

Work in Baphumelele changed my perspective of happiness, filled my heart of compassion and opened my eyes about how much more we can easy do for help others.

Via Volunteers gave me all support that I needed for this personal project. The work that they do is amazing. Ed and Heather are very kind and helpful since my first contact before the travel until today, because we keep our friendship even after the end of my journey in South Africa. The reception on the airport was lovely and the arrangements for guided tours and their own tours by Cape Town and around were awesome.

During the whole stay at Baphumelele they were following and orientating my activities on the project and as well as my personal needs, like support with medical problems that I had. I just have to say congratulations for their dedication and love for the work and thank you so much for support me on this incredible journey as volunteer at Baphumelele Children’s home and tourist in South Africa.

Brazil | Baphumelele Children's Home

Pedro Mugnai

Working as a volunteer at the Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation Project was an incredible experience. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and change the way I used to see things, the project gave me more than that.  I had the pleasure of spending time with funny, tricky monkeys and people who are absolutely passionate and committed to what they do, and learn from them.

It was definitely an experience that changed my life, worth every second. Thanks to all who were with me in this experience.

Save my words, I will be back!

Brazil | Vervet Monkey Rehabilitation

Maren Haug

I just loved being on this project. Via Volunteers were very helpful with all the things I needed and supported me. It was really fun working at Fikelela Children's Home. All the children are so cute and wonderful. You will learn so much about yourself and the world. And I recommend you to travel alone.

I think all the information I got from Via Volunteers before I went to South Africa were great. Meanwhile in my stay, they gave me a lot of information about things to do and about the children's home. I learned a lot on my trip.

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Jill Freer

My daughter volunteered with Via Volunteers in Cape Town last summer. I was extremely nervous for her to be travelling alone but Via Volunteers were on hand from beginning to end to look out for her. They kept me up to date on what she was doing through their Facebook page which reassured me and stopped me worrying so much!

Ed and Heather were also on hand at all times of day outside Amy's volunteering hours and were only ever a phone call away if she needed them during her weekends at Ashanti Lodge. It was so reassuring to see how well Ed and Heather look after their volunteers. I would definitely recommend them and want to tell all worried parents that your young volunteer will be in safe hands!

JILL FREER (Parent of Amy)
UK | Fikelela Children's Home

Janine Atkins

If you had asked me to review on the first day I would have said 'get me out of here'.  We arrived to no toilets or water thanks to the elephants and their sneaky habit of tearing out the water pipes. We were unprepared for that, although we should have been as it was stated clearly in the information given that it was a possibility.  Feeling somewhat like spoilt brats we endured the first few days of 'roughing it'. The camp is exactly as described. Its basic so be prepared for that.  After a few days of not showering I had an epiphany, everyone in the camp was in the same situation! So I just relaxed and suddenly everything was easier.  

Nightly entertainment is provided by Craig, the warden.  He is a humorous and extremely experienced ranger with so much knowledge to share.  The days are long.  Up at around 6:30 and out by 7:30.  But oh the sights, you will see the most amazing animals. So many animals. From the moment we were picked up at the, gate a huge giraffe ambled alongside us.  One night we were notified that there was a pride of lions on a road in the area. We all jumped into a 4WD and headed off. To see 6 or 7 lions just lazing on the road is an incredible sight. 

There were also humorous moments. We had to call a restaurant one night to let them know we would be late for our booking as we had an elephant resting on our car. Not something that happens every day.   I find it hard to put into words just how amazing it is. The staff are the most dedicated group of individuals you will ever meet.  They are completely focused on the animals and doing everything they can to save them.  I am truly in awe and felt a little 'pedestrian' in comparison.  All I can say is go. Do yourself a favour and go. You will not regret it.  My only regret was that I did not stay longer.

I would have no problem recommending Via Volunteers to anyone, in fact I already have. Several people have been interested in knowing how I came to be at the project and I have passed on details.  From my initial enquiry back in 2014, Ed has been amazingly helpful. I asked lots of questions and he always responded promptly. And never complained. I will be back in South Africa again as I love the people, the culture and the offerings there.  You will be hounded by me again!


Australia | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Emily Lachmann

I spent 6 weeks volunteering at Fikelela Children's Home in Khayelitsha followed by 3 weeks volunteering at the Red Cross Children's Hospital in Cape Town. I also had a 3 week holiday at the end of my placements. I had so many varied experiences: from staying on a colonial farm and volunteering in a township to staying at a youth hostel in central Cape Town and volunteering in a busy hospital. Overall I enjoyed this time so much and it has taught me many useful skills and opened my eyes to different cultures and how resilient people living with so little are.

Fikelela Children's Home is a very special project where volunteers get to make a real difference to the lives of the children. Around forty 0-8 year olds live there so working there for several weeks/months means you can get to know all the children and their personalities very well. As well as playing with the children and helping with basic tasks such as feeding/bathing volunteers get to assist teachers and doctors who visit the home. Although the first couple of weeks here were hard as I gained the trust of the staff and learned to use my own initiative when planning activities volunteering here is probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Volunteers work from 2pm-7pm everyday and it is very full on during this time as the children have so much energy and always crave attention!   

I also very much enjoyed my time spent at Red Cross Children's Hospital. The set up at this project was very different: at Fikelela it was just me or me and another volunteer who was volunteering through Via Volunteers. However at Red Cross there are many volunteers both local and international. The Friends of the Children's Hospital organize the volunteers and everyone is very friendly. As a volunteer you bring toys around the wards and play with the children, often at their beds. There is flexibility for volunteers to choose whether to always go to the same ward and to spend time with the same patients or to visit many areas of the hospital. I would recommend this to someone intending to go into a healthcare profession, as it is a great way to see the workings of a hospital as well as to help the patients. The volunteer hours are 9am-12pm with a half an hour tea break and 2pm-4pm.

I would advise prospective volunteers to join either project with an open mind and to be adaptable and flexible. If you are friendly and communicative then everything will be fine! I think it is also important to be prepared to cope with some very sad situations and meet children from extremely deprived backgrounds or children who are very sick.

The support I had from Ed and Heather Scott of Via Volunteers was incredible throughout my stay. They settle you into the project and make sure your accommodation, food and transport is all set up. I felt I could have contacted them with any problem I had and although I did not fall ill some of the other volunteers did whilst I was there and Ed and Heather got them to a Doctor and sorted ASAP. They also help you to make the most of your time in Cape Town, suggesting things for you to do in your spare time and helping you to organize trips on weekends. Via Volunteers is a local South African volunteering organization and they are run purely by Ed and Heather who are both very personally involved in the projects. This means you know your money is going to the projects themselves and that you are making a worthwhile contribution as a volunteer.

Overall I would recommend volunteering to anyone who wants a challenging but unique and rewarding experience. If you have a longer amount of time to spend then that is even better as it allows you to really get to know South Africa and have a much deeper understanding of the cultures and peoples than most tourists.

UK | Fikelela Children's Home and Cape Town Children's Hospital

Danielle Redmond

Fikelela Children's Home has been an amazing experience for me. You will love it here!

UK | Fikelela Children's Home

Jon Uhlving

The PADI Course was really interesting and we had lots of good times! We did some theory, pool and shore dives and ended it all off with diving on some wrecks. It was very interesting seeing the marine life under water, something you normally don’t do and which is unknown to many people. It was definitely worth it! I also went for surfing lessons and it’s definitely harder than it looks! I enjoyed hiking up Platteklip Gorge and made it in the record time of 55 minutes!

Norway | Scuba Diving Course in Cape Town

Rose Paulsen

It is with great pleasure that I review my experience at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital. The experience truly changed my perspective on the fundamental happiness and appreciation of life. Although the personal differences the children generated was of unlimited meaning, one of the greatest factors was seeing the difference you made on the children, their day, as well as they’re parents.

I do believe that my stay, not only with the children but equally important with the South African people has been life altering. I’ve never experienced such a high level of compassion, support and love from fellow humans.

When I reflect on my experience I’m filled with a deep and heartfelt belonging for the country, culture and its people. However, the experience was also quite hard mentally, the close and daily interaction with dying and sick children was unparalleled. On the other hand you always left the day feeling good and appreciative, and despite feeling an underlying level of sorrow, the compassion and love from the children makes it an overall positive experience.

Furthermore, I primarily worked with the children at the burn unit and oncology. This allowed me to get very attached to the children and their parents, as these divisions were quite small in comparison to respective departments. This was of great meaning for me personally, as I at the beginning felt a little bit lost in this big hospital.

There are so many amazing adventures to explore while being in Cape Town, as a globe trotter I can with out a doubt conclude Cape Town as the number one recommended travel destination.

For the future volunteer: Do it! The only thing you will regret is the length of your stay, South Africa is like the well-known restaurant Mama Africa – you’re never quite finished. Truly an amazing and life altering experience.

Having Via Volunteers as a support system / information system while being located in South Africa has been highly appreciated.

Watch Rose's video interview on YouTube

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Rebekka Stokke

Working as a volunteer at Baphumelele was absolutely fantastic. It was rewarding and I learned a lot about others and myself. Taking part in a completely different culture can be challenging but also exciting. One really puts things in perspective, and you get to see how big the differences are in the world. All the children are so adorable, and I really miss them!

I worked as a volunteer for four weeks, but I wish I could stay longer. Time went by so fast, and I really had the time of my life while I was there. This is something I could have done again and I highly recommend it to others. Thanks for this time South Africa, hope to see you again soon!

PS: a special thanks to two wonderful persons, Ed and Heather, who ensured that our stay in South Africa is a memory we will never forget! :-)

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Jurate Rukstelaite

What an amazing experience! It's so hard to find the right words to describe my experience, because it's just WOW!  100% worth to do it! I’ve met so many nice people, had an incredible time, learnt a lot about SA culture and got an opportunity to see real Africa, not just through tourist’s glasses.

It was so nice to spend my afternoons with kids at Fikelela Children's Home; they made my time there even more special, because you get to see a part of their personalities, they give you real smiles or real tears (whatever comes that day), something what is not possible to buy or to book. So many good memories and faces that I will never forget.

I am so happy that I could be a part of it and so lucky that I did it together with Via Volunteers. Everything was so well organized and the care you gave us was really over my expectations! There is really nothing that I would change about the whole trip or actually I would change one thing - I would stay longer!
Thank you! 

Lithuania | Fikelela Children's Home

Helene Thoring

Before I came to Cape Town I was excited about what I would see, experience and how the children and the other volunteers would be. I had nothing to worry about. Everyone I met during my 7 weeks in Cape Town and Baphumelele Children's Home was so welcoming and I felt at home right from the beginning.

The children at Baphumelele Children's Home touched my heart in a way that I will never forget, and during my stay I had more fun and learned more about myself than I ever thought possible and I hope I'm a better person because of it.

Ed and Heather from Via Volunteers went beyond their duties and helped us in every way possible – I am forever grateful for all the work they did and for an experience that I will recommend to everyone.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Ida Paulsen

My experience with the play programme at Red Cross Children's Hospital, overall, was definitely a positive one. The importance of the work, and the relationships with the children, and their families, is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

The flexibility of the program made me able to experience Cape Town (from a tourist perspective), and still feel like I was part of something larger. The staff was helpful, caring, and always available. Keep up the good work!

Overall I am extremely pleased with the whole experience, and would definitely recommend it to others.

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Rita Sorgard

I have had an amazing five weeks here. I have experienced much and learned a lot about the culture and of course about myself. It’s so lovely that we have got the chance to meet all the children and staff at Baphumelele Children’s Home. Every one of them has impacted on us with their happiness and kindness. I have loved every minute here in Cape Town. It is a city with much to see and experience.

Thanks to Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers for all your help and everything you did for us during our stay. You have been amazing!

Watch Rita's video interview on YouTube

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Tuva Baero-Hilde

"I have so many good memories. I was really nervous and I wasn't sure if I wanted to do this, but now I'm so glad that I did and it has been an excellent experience..."

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Thea Myklebust Gronnesby

To be a volunteer is the best thing I have ever decided to do! I got to experience a lot, and I learned a lot about myself as well. I didn’t think that I could be so fond of someone in such a short time, but I was very wrong… It took me about half a day to fall in love with the children. They are so beautiful, and so brave, when you think about everything that they have gone through.

Baphumelele is a very good childrens home. They think about the children all the time, and the workers there are always trying to help the children in the best way they can. I would highly recommend Baphumelele to other people that are thinking about volunteering!

I was not afraid at all to travel alone to South Africa, because I knew that Ed and Heather from Via Volunteers would be there to welcome me at the airport, and help me throughout my stay. They always helped us in the best way they could, and were very kind! I felt very safe in Africa, because I always knew that I had someone there who I could talk to if I had any problems. Ed and Heather are good by nature, and they always think about others before themselves. I am very grateful that I got to meet them, and I am proud to say that I know them because in my eyes, they are everyday heroes! I hope that I can come back one day!
Love Thea

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Anna Thomassen

I wish I could have had more time at the Children's Hospital because it's such an amazing project! It has a great routine and especially if you're interested in something related to medicine (or not), then this is the perfect project, because there's not a lot of places where you can actually work in a hospital for a longer space of time and get that close to the children.

This is just such an amazing experience because you can interact with children who are sick but they are just like any other children so it's very easy to forget that they are suffering from something. Working in a hospital is quite a different experience from working in a children's home but I wish I could have stayed here for longer!

I can't thank Via Volunteers enough for everything you have done for me! The suggestions you've made for places to go and things to do have just made my stay here so much more exciting! I wish I could stay forever and it's a bit unfortunate that Cape Town is so far from home!

Norway | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Alex Stepniewski

My experience in Cape Town with Via Volunteers was amazing! I got to do so many things I would not have expected to do in my life. I got to work with the kids (at Fikelela Children's Home) up to the age of 8 years old and I got to be in their life and just make a big difference. I also completed an Early Childhood Development Course and the PADI diving course. Cape Town in South Africa is just an amazing place. I love it and I can't wait till I get back!

Heather and Ed were supportive and encouraging throughout my stay. I had wonderful experiences when I was in the Cape. The children at Fikelela will always be in my heart. My experiences will influence me for life. Thank you for making my stay a memorable one. Can’t thank you, enough!

Canada | Fikelela Children's Home

Anna Thomassen

My stay at St Georges Home for Girls was just amazing! I bonded so closely with the girls there and we became such good friends! The girls range from 5-18 years of age. There are a lot of older girls there and they are a bit difficult to get close to in the beginging because they see you as 'just one of those volunteers' but the minute you break the code and get to know them and they know you're stayig there for a longer period of time, it's so amazing.

It's probably the most difficult place where I've had to say goodbye to the girls because I actually developed a friendship with them more than me just being there to help them. We actually bonded, had a sleep over and lots of other fun stuff. It was great!

I don't think I could have done this without Via Volunteers because they've organised everything for me  both before-hand and during my stay and they just made it possible for me to do all the things I've done! Thank you Via Volunteers for three absolutely amazing months!

Norway | St George's Home for Girls

Lucie Gillen

It meant a lot to me working at Baphumelele Children’s Home because I’m studying to be a nurse and want to work at the children’s department at the hospital back in Norway and found this experience very useful. It has also challenged me as a person seeing that this trip is something I usually only dreamed about doing without daring.

For others thinking about joining I have three words for you: ‘Just do it!’  It’s been such an amazing trip and you won’t regret it. Working with Via Volunteers has been beyond great. They are so helpful and will take very good care of you!

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Vilde Gloppestad

This experience at Baphumelele Children’s Home has been wonderful! I learned a lot about South African culture, language etc. As a nursing student, I really think that this experience will make me a better person and nurse. This experience has made a great impression on me and I will never forget this journey.

If someone is in doubt about travelling – just do it! You won’t regret it. Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers have been wonderful. I am so grateful for all of their help, booking activities for us and driving us around. Thank You!

Watch Vilde's video interview on YouTube

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Melissa Kerr

I couldn’t have asked for a better volunteer experience. From making the decision to spend my summer holidays in Cape Town, both Ed and Heather were there to answer any questions and put both myself and my parents at ease.

I arrived in Cape Town with a very warm welcome at the airport and a tour around the city. Throughout my trip I had continued support from Ed and Heather who visited regularly at Nazareth House to make sure I had settled in.

Volunteering at Nazareth house, a home for children and the elderly in Cape Town was an incredible experience. I worked in the children’s section. Everybody was very friendly and I soon felt a part of the family. It was a great experience to work with a different culture. I helped the carers with bathing, feeding, changing and stimulation with the babies and then planned other activities for the older children, including baking, making bracelets and a trip to the aquarium.

I stayed for 12 weeks at Ashanti Lodge, which is a short bus ride away or about 20 minute walk from Nazareth House. At first I was unsure about living in a dormitory for 12 weeks, but I wouldn’t have changed it. I met people from all over the world and made some lifelong friends. All of the staff at Ashanti were very helpful and always looked out for me.

In addition to this Ed and Heather were sure to link up other volunteers that were staying at Ashanti to make sure you weren't alone. The 3 months passed by so fast. And there is no doubt that I will return to Cape Town again in the future.

Watch Melissa's full video interview on YouTube

Read Melissa's article on the York St. John University website

UK | Nazareth House - Caring for Children and the Elderly

Bella Zeldis

Volunteering at the Greater Kruger Conservation Project was definitely one of the greatest experiences and definitely the highlight of my trip to Africa. Not only did I learn a huge amount about wildlife conservation in South Africa, but I also learnt a great deal about myself, including the fact that showering only once a week to conserve water and living without electricity isn't so bad after all!

Craig and the crew at the reserve were super welcoming and were a big part of the reason why my time there was so enjoyable. Everyday I was out in the bush with the rangers mostly checking camera traps all over the reserve or using telemetry to track the rhinos, with the added bonus of seeing a huge range of wildlife roaming the area while on the job.

Every evening we would have time to chill out and discuss the day with a campfire and a braai, there is no better way to experience the African wilderness!

I couldn't recommend this project enough to anyone who has a love for animals and wants to be part of a passionate team that is doing a great deal to protect the rhinos.

New Zealand | Greater Kruger Conservation Project

Amy Freer

Via Volunteers are an amazing organisation who offer their volunteers full support 24/7. Their placements are well organised and they have a fantastic relationship with the projects they support. They also ensure that their volunteers get to see the sights of Cape Town and enjoy the beautiful city inbetween shifts and on weekends.

I volunteered at Fikelela Childrens Home, a beautiful home in the heart of the township of Khayelitsha. Everyone was really friendly and I found my time there very rewarding. Via Volunteers supported me with ideas for activities to do with the kids which meant I could keep them entertained for hours on end throughout the day.

Ed and Heather (the co-ordinators of Via Volunteers) were constantly making sure that my time there was the best it could be and that my impact on the kids there was long-lasting. I enjoyed every minute and would recommend volunteering with Via Volunteers to anyone. You definitely won't regret it!!!

UK | Fikelela Children's Home

Anna Thomassen

My stay at Fikelela Childrens Home was such a joy! I worked with children from 0-8 years old. It took some time to get close to them because of the language difference (they speak Xhosa) but they always run up to you and hug you. It was so great to actually get to know the children and to interact with them; to learn about them and who they are, so they weren't just faces, they were identities who had characters with so much to share.

It was really great to learn about the Xhosa culture itself because when you come to Cape Town it's easy to just speak with English people and not really see and meet the other people who are also a big part of Cape Town. You really get to live and experience the Xhosa culture while working in Khayelitsha.

Also, it was such fun to be creative and research the different activities that you could do with the children. We would make the activities for the children (Fikelela doesn't have many resources) and then do these activites with them. When you arrive at Fikelela, the older children are still at school and the babies who have been sleeping start waking up. I would usually play a bit with the babies at this time, taking them outside so they could have some fresh air. The older ones arrive around 2:30pm and after they've eaten, they all want your attention and it's all lots of fun!

Cape Town is a great way to start any year abroad especially when you've had the support of Via Volunteers who just make sure that you're OK and you can talk to them if there's anything you're wondering about!

Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Christina Trader

What a great experience! I just completed three weeks of volunteering with the Marine Conservation and EcoTourism Project through Via Volunteers. From the start, this has been a pleasant and exciting adventure.

After spending a few days in Cape Town I ventured off to Kleinbaai to work with shark specialists, experience shark cage diving and working with the local communities. Seeing the sharks so close and having the opportunity to learn about these apex predators was absolutely rewarding.

If you have the chance to participate in this project, it's incredible. Via Volunteers is a great organization, they are very thorough and make sure that you get involved with the wonderful wildlife of South Africa.

Ed and Heather were very helpful from the start and made sure that everything was perfect the whole time I was there. I can't thank them enough for the wonderful hospitality and providing such a great experience!!

Watch Crissy's video interview on YouTube

USA | Marine Conservation & EcoTourism Project

Tina Arefjord

It has been a pleasure to be with you guys and get to know you. You’ve been so welcoming and nice to us. It has been an experience for life, learning to know a different culture, language and ways to see life. Bring warm clothes and learn some Xhosa words because the children at Baphumelele Children’s Home don’t know much English. Thank you Via Volunteers and Baphumelele for everything!

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Henriette Johansen

My volunteering experience at Baphumelele Children’s Home in Cape Town is one of the most exciting, fun, challenging and educative experiences I have ever had.

It all started in October 2014, when Rebekka and I arrived at Cape Town International Airport. In the arrivals hall we were met by Ed and Heather from Via Volunteers. They took really good care of us and were very helpful with whatever we needed help with during our stay in Cape Town. They picked us up at the airport and drove us to Ashanti Lodge, where we stayed when we were not at the children’s home. They gave us relevant information about Cape Town and about the volunteering project, helped us arrange activities in the weekends and did everything they could to make our stay in Cape Town as good as possible.

At Baphumelele Children’s home we got to help out with different activities. We spent the mornings in either Clemens House or Baby House, as the older children went to school in the mornings. At Clemens House they provide short term respite care for children suffering from HIV/AIDS, TB and other chronic diseases, and the children come from both the children’s home and from the township. There we got to assist with activities like child care, medication, mealtimes and we also got to play a lot with the children. The mornings at Baby House also consisted of activities like child care, feeding, fun activities and games.

The afternoons at Baphumelele were spent at Clemens, Baby House or in one of the cluster homes where the older children live. Rebekka and I spent most of the afternoons in Cluster 2, with eight lovely boys aged 4-7 years. It did not take long before we got a good relationship with the children, and seeing their faces light up every day when we met them, quickly became the highlight the day. We got to do different fun activities with the children, and my best memory from my volunteering experience is when we took all the boys out on an excursion. We booked a taxi and drove to a McDonalds nearby. The boys got to play in the playroom for a while, before they all got a Happy Meal and an ice cream. All the boys smiled from ear to ear this day and they thanked us several times for taking them out for the day. Never before have I seen such grateful and happy children! When all the eight boys stood in a row and sang us a farewell song on our last shift at Baphumelele, I felt tears in my eyes. It was incredibly touching and sad when they were done singing, clung to us and refused us to leave…

It has been more than a month now since I came home from South Africa, and I still think about the children almost every day - how they are doing now and what impression they made on me. I miss their laughter, joy and hugs! By working as a volunteer I have learned a lot, both about myself and about so much else. We have met many wonderful people who have let us take part in their lives, we have got to learn about a different culture and we have challenged ourselves. It really puts things in perspective when you see how happy, grateful and light-hearted the people in Khayelitsha are despite the conditions they are living in. Through this experience I have learned to appreciate what I have and the little things in life more. We are left with an incredible number of memories from our stay in South Africa, and working as a volunteer is a valuable experience that I certainly would not be without. I really hope that I get the opportunity to come back one day.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Anna Thomassen

My scuba diving week was without doubt one of the most amazing weeks of my life. The thrill, the personal challenges and the outcome was so incredible! And it felt so good to combine this with all the volunteer work I was doing. Ed and Heather know Cape Town and all the projects really well so they can give great recommendations on what to do or what not to do. Even just during your stay in Cape Town, they have so many ideas for what you can do which is not always the normal touristy stuff so I think I've gotten a lot more out of my stay by doing it through Via Volunteers than what I would have done without them.

An excerpt from Anna's blog...

The best day of my life (PS. I saw sharks). It was the last day of our scuba diving Open Water course and I would probably rank it as one of the top 10 days in my life. I still can’t believe it really took place, it did indeed feel like it was a bit too good to be true and I feel extremely privileged and lucky to have experienced that day.

I was up at 5:45 because we were going to get out on the water before the wind started getting too strong. We were going down to 18m, to see a shipwreck. The ship had actually been a part of the D-Day attacks in Normandy under WW2. It was time to do something I had never done before…again.

After a quick briefing on the boat, the count went 1, 2, 3 and back we rolled into the water. We definitely weren’t, but we really felt we looked quite professional :) We had to go under water quite quickly after we rolled into the water and so down, down and down we went and suddenly my computer read 18 metres! After a great 30 minute dive down at 18m, up we went to change our air tanks and then down we went again to do some more exploring on the shipwreck. We stayed down for another 30 minutes before we were out of air. We then went back to land and had a small break because we had been asked to come with on a shark dive!!! It isn’t normally a part of the course, but Pisces Divers were so kind to us that Helena and I were allowed to tag along. We were going to dive with sharks; no cage, no special protection, just me and the shark – ahh!

But oh my, was it so aaamazing!! The kind of shark we swam with is called a sevengill spotted cow shark. I still can’t believe this big looking shark swam right in front of my nose! We saw about 10 sharks, and lots more sea creatures. After about 30 minutes, we were getting low on air, so unfortunately we had to go up. I could’ve swam with those sharks for ever and ever – it was just such a truly amazing experience!

I hope I can get in a couple more dives here in Cape Town before I leave, because I’ve already fallen in love with scuba diving. Despite the cold water, everything about scuba diving is so fun, thrilling, and exciting! We had officially passed our course and it had just been such an incredible day!

Watch Anna's video interview on YouTube

Norway | Scuba Diving Course in Cape Town

Silvia Marthinsen

This has been five amazing weeks and I want to thank Via Volunteers for being so welcoming and helpful! This means a lot when we are travelling to the other side of the world. A few words of advice: Bring warm clothes to wear at Baphumelele Children’s Home and learn some Xhosa words before you arrive.

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Camilla Martinsen

These five weeks have been amazing. We have experienced a lot and we have loved every minute. Baphumelele Children’s Home is the best place I have ever been to. All the children and all the staff were lovely and I will never regret that I traveled there.

Ed and Heather at Via Volunteers have also been amazing. They have helped us with all sorts of things like all the bookings for tours and outings, shopping and driving. Thank you!

Watch Camilla's video interview on YouTube

Norway | Baphumelele Children's Home

Aydan Greatrick

Volunteering in South Africa has given me some of the most worthwhile experiences of my life. The friends I have made are certainly now friends for life and the memories I have of my time in South Africa are invaluable. Regardless of what project you take part in I can guarantee you will love your time here – South Africa is amazing, Cape Town is amazing!

UK | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

Daphne Shelly D'Cruz

I am confident that Via Volunteers is the right choice for anyone looking to make their stay in South Africa memorable. Volunteering with the penguins at SANCCOB was an amazing experience and gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the Rainbow Nation and immerse myself in this vibrant multicultural society.

France | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation

Mary Jones

You will never be more looked after, a life changing experience!!!

New Zealand

Dr Zoe Alexander

I have known Ed Scott for seven years and endorse Via Volunteers for the following reasons: Ed's tourist organisation benefits local communities, through the projects he is committed to. He is transparent in his payments to projects, he will go out of his way to make sure you have the experience you expect and support you when you need assistance. Ed is a man of high ethical standards; you will be in good hands by using Via Volunteers to connect you to worthwhile projects.

Dr Zoe Alexander, specialist in volunteer tourism.

South Africa

Sian Hawkins

Volunteering in South Africa has been incredible and truly life changing. Travelling alone could have been daunting but I was well looked after by Ed. He was super helpful; organising further trips and giving advice - nothing was too much for him! He really does want you to have the best experience. I hope to be back soon for a third trip to this beautiful and diverse country.


Jessica Horst

I could not have picked a better person to organize my volunteer experience in South Africa. From the very beginning, when I first inquired about the volunteer experience, Ed was helpful and responsive. Long before I landed in Cape Town, I knew that I was in good hands.

Throughout my two months there, this was constantly reaffirmed. Ed worked closely with the staff at the children’s home to ensure that the experience was meaningful and beneficial for everyone involved. My time there quickly cemented itself as one of the most memorable experiences of my life – the relationships I made with the children, staff, and other volunteers were incredibly rewarding.

Ed continually went above and beyond to make my experience the most worthwhile, and even more impressively, that level of support did not stop when I left South Africa. He has remained a constant source of support and guidance in the two years since my volunteer experience and I would recommend Ed and Via Volunteers wholeheartedly to anyone.


Gidsken Asboll

Volunteering in South Africa is the most amazing experience I have had so far. It was the first time I travelled alone, but with all the care and great support from Ed, I could never have had a better adventure.

It is an experience that has been truly life changing for me, both in the ways that I grew as a person but also that I got to take part in a project where I could help so many people. I worked at a children’s home for three months, and the people working there with me, became my second family.

There’s so much love (it almost sounds like a cliché), but in the end it doesn’t feel like a job anymore – you become part of their lives, and it becomes your life too. All the memories and moments, both with the volunteer crew and the children, are invaluable, and I can’t do anything but recommend the person reading this to do the same. I would do it again if I could, and I definitely hope that I one day will!


Judy Parker

I spent the most wonderful 3 months at SANCCOB in Cape Town, a bird rehabilitation centre for penguins and other seabirds. I had originally planned to come home after those 3 months but decided on travelling and volunteering further. Ed was a star, an ex-pat living in Cape Town with a vast knowledge of the country. His help was just brilliant! I continued my travels for a further 1 1/2 years and revisited SANCCOB twice during that time! You just can't get enough of them cheeky penguins! Thanks Ed, I will never forget my amazing time there...

UK | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation