There is a growing number of tourists worldwide who want to make meaningful contributions in the countries and cities they visit. This often takes the form of “voluntourism”, where travellers get involved in projects ranging from social upliftment to conservation. At first glance, it’s hard to see anything amiss with the concept, but it is a contentious issue, and for good reason. It’s important to be aware of the potential issues, so that you can choose an organisation that makes a postive impact on the people, environment, flora, and fauna in Cape Town.
When looking for volunteer programmes, here are a few questions to ask yourself:
- How long will you be around for? Remember that if you’re working with people—especially children—the relationships are important and need to be nurtured over some time.
- Who runs the organisation? It’s always better to support community-run initiatives, because they’re more sustainable and often do more long-lasting work.
- Why are you doing this? Is it for the Instagram likes, or are you genuinely interested in sharing your passion and skills?
- Is the organisation making money, and if so, where is that money going? It’s always better if the funds are going right back into the initiative.
Thankfully, there are many organisations that are run by thoughtful and passionate individuals, where you can devote your time and skills to excellent causes without doing damage.
One of the best places to find volunteering opportunities is the NGO sector, and websites like NGO Pulse can help place you in the right kind of organisation.
Imzu Tours invite tourists to enjoy a homestay in Khayelitsha where they can volunteer their time to assist with local community projects. The time spent is flexible and for tourists who wish to contribute while holidaying in Cape Town, Imzu Tours is one of many tour operators who can advise tourists on how they can give back – either through volunteering of time or by donation.
Travellers who want to make a difference by contributing their time and skills to the natural world and its endangered flora and fauna, will find a variety of programmes and activities on offer in Cape Town. This beautiful city with its oceans and mountains that compete with urban living feels the impact on both land and sea. Volunteering at wildlife sanctuaries, working on marine conservation programmes or urban greening are just a few of the programmes that volunteers can get involved in. A fantastic adventure is to be had with International Marine Volunteers, who work with great white sharks, African penguins, and marine protection.
There are many options available to tourists who wish to book a volunteering trip to Cape Town and it is recommended that you do a lot of research, check the operator’s credentials, look at referrals and satisfy yourself that the project or programme you join is sustainable and that the good that you do remains long after your departure. If you do all that, your volunteering experience in Cape Town will be amazing, you will make lifelong friends and you will have made a positive difference in the world.