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.


ELLA JONES (19)
Germany | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Kayleigh Hawkins

This was my second project and my second time on the Great White Sharks and Marine Conservation 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.


KAYLEIGH HAWKINS (28)
UK | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

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.


BETTINA ZILTENER (25)
Switzerland | Big Cat Sanctuary

Arthur Hansson

The Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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!!!


ARTHUR HANSSON (69)
Norway | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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.


KAYLEIGH HAWKINS (28)
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.


ELLA JONES (19)
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.


KRISTINA BAKKEN (20)
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.


CATRIN JAYNE EVANS (32)
UK | Cape Town Children's Hospital - Play Programme

Charlotte Alford

On arrival at the Great White Shark and Marine Conservation 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????


CHARLOTTE ALFORD (23)
UK | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

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 ?


COURTNEY TRAMPUSH (27)
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!


CHARLOTTE MURPHY (27)
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.


VILMA TAMMERSTROM (19)
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!


COURTNEY TRAMPUSH (27)
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!


ANGY PITTARELLI (19)
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. :-)

Advice:
-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. :-)


DORTE NARUM (19)
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.


NELE BURMEISTER (18)
Germany | Fikelela Children's Home

Benton Staab

Via Volunteers rocks! I'm part of the Elephant and Rhino 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.


BENTON STAAB (49)
USA | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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.


DR. REBECCA LAUER (28)
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 :) 


AYSEGüL EKINCI (27)
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 Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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!


KAREN ANDREASEN (66)
USA | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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!


FABIOLA MARIA CECCHINI (17)
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 Elephant and Rhino Monitoring project, we got to observe some of Via’s Cape Town projects at children’s homes. Their close involvement with the projects was remarkable.


DR MARK WRIGHT (52)
USA | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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.


ISELIN BRUNES FLENSTAD (19)
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)


THEA SOFIE HAUGERUD (28)
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.


HELENA SKOOG (19)
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! 


DANIEL HäUSLER (25)
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.


MICHAELA ANNE KELLY (26)
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!


LAURA ALISON OSBORNE (17)
Germany | Fikelela Children's Home

Kayleigh Hawkins

I started off just booking 5 weeks with the Great White Shark and Marine Conservation 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!


KAYLEIGH HAWKINS (28)
UK | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

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!


SOPHIE BARRETT (19)
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!


NORA MøLLER DIDRIKSEN (19)
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.


CAITLIN WRIGHT (17)
USA | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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.


AZIM MOMIN (32)
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.


NICOLE HOFFMAN (36)
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!


TAYLAH BRUCE (20)
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 :-)


TRINE HOLM LARSEN (31)
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!!!


SOPHIA TUTINO (32)
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.


THERESE RANGO NILSEN (21)
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!


TORI SHAY SOUSA (24)
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.


SELENE RAMER (18)
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.


AMALIE KLOVEROD (19)
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.


MAJA KATRINE ESTIL (19)
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 :)


LIYANA ROSLI ASMARA (30)
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


KATHY THOMAS (62)
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!


KRISTIN NORDAUNE (26)
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.


FLAMINIA NUCCI (48)
Italy | Lion Sanctuary

Martina Dellino

Very well organized and excellent stuff. Amazing people!

 


MARTINA DELLINO (22)
Italy | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

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.


ROD SCOTT (55)
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.


VANESSA BELLO (43)
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 :)


CHARLIE SCOTT (18)
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.


MINA SKOGEN (20)
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.


RONAN KEILTHY (18)
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.


ERICA VOLPATO (31)
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!


PEDRO MUGNAI (27)
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.

Watch Maren's video interview on YouTube


MAREN HAUG (19)
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!

Watch Amy's video interview on YouTube


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!


JANINE ATKINS (55)
Australia | Elephant and Rhino Monitoring 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.


EMILY LACHMANN (18)
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!

Watch Danielle's full video interview on YouTube


DANIELLE REDMOND (34)
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!


JON UHLVING (25)
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


ROSE PAULSEN (24)
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! :-)


REBEKKA STOKKE (22)
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! 


JURATE RUKSTELAITE (25)
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.


HELENE THORING (34)
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.


IDA PAULSEN (25)
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


RITA SORGARD (24)
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..."

Watch Tuva's full video interview on YouTube


TUVA BAERO-HILDE (19)
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


THEA MYKLEBUST GRONNESBY (19)
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!


ANNA THOMASSEN (18)
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!

Watch Alex's video on YouTube


ALEX STEPNIEWSKI (19)
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!


ANNA THOMASSEN (18)
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!


LUCIE GILLEN (21)
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


VILDE GLOPPESTAD (21)
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


MELISSA KERR (20)
UK | Nazareth House - Caring for Children and the Elderly

Bella Zeldis

Volunteering at the Elephant & Rhino Monitoring 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.


BELLA ZELDIS (20)
New Zealand | Elephant & Rhino Monitoring 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!!!

Watch Amy's video interview on YouTube


AMY FREER (19)
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!


ANNA THOMASSEN (18)
Norway | Fikelela Children's Home

Christina Trader

What a great experience! I just completed three weeks of volunteering with the Great White Shark and Marine Conservation 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


CHRISTINA TRADER (42)
USA | Great White Sharks & Marine Conservation

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!


TINA AREFJORD (25)
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.


HENRIETTE JOHANSEN (22)
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


ANNA THOMASSEN (18)
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.


SILVIA MARTHINSEN (22)
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


CAMILLA MARTINSEN (22)
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!


AYDAN GREATRICK (20)
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.


DAPHNE SHELLY D'CRUZ (26)
France | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation

Mary Jones

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


MARY JONES (40)
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.


DR ZOE ALEXANDER (45)
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.


SIAN HAWKINS (26)
UK

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.


JESSICA HORST (22)
USA

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!


GIDSKEN ASBOLL (24)
Norway

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...


JUDY PARKER (48)
UK | African Penguin and Seabird Rehabilitation