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Places to Volunteer in Cape Town
Give back to the community and do your part
Last Update 22 June 2017
It’s no secret that South Africa still battles to find solutions to dire social and environmental problems, and more and more, the support of the general populace is crucial to overcoming these obstacles.
That said, finding the right place to volunteer in Cape Town can be an overwhelming mission. There are countless causes, non-profit organisations, community initiatives and NGOs all looking for people willing to lend a helping hand; however, to find these endeavours and to figure out how you can donate your time and you skills is another matter altogether.
Thus, to better help you give back, what follows is a list of worthy places to volunteer – complete with information about the first step you’ll need to take to start donating your time.
Wildlife and nature
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)
If you love animals and would like to make a difference in the lives of rescued and homeless furry or feathered friends, then consider becoming part of the SPCA’s special group of volunteers, also known as animal angels. There are various ways in which you can get involved, including exercising dogs, cleaning cages and grooming cats; alternatively, you can also make food and gift donations if you can’t volunteer your time.
Those interested in volunteering at the SPCA can attend a volunteer orientation session. These volunteer sessions take place once a month, and are designed to help you make an informed decision before signing up.
Corner of 1st Avenue and First Road | Grassy Park | Cape Town | +27(0)21 700 4140
Volunteer with White Shark Diving Company (WSDC)
If you’re a fan of nature’s most mysterious fish, then consider joining the expert sharky team at White Shark Diving Company (WSDC) in Gansbaai – located roughly two hours from Cape Town’s bustling CBD – as part of their Volunteer Programme. Best known as the ‘great white shark capital of the world’ – just a short distance from the mainland there is an incredibly dynamic ecosystem known as 'Shark Alley' and not to mention, thanks to the hundreds of seals that live and breed on the nearby Dyer Island – Gansbaai is well-recognised as one of the best places in the world to study great white shark behaviour and demographics and you’re (both researchers and divers) almost always guaranteed to spot a shark from the safety of the submerged cage.
WSDC’s programme offers volunteers a unique opportunity to become involved first-hand in ground-breaking research studying white shark behaviour, biology and ocean conservation. As part of the programmes, helpers will play a vital role in data collection and data management as well as will gain work experience on the company’s white shark cage diving tourist boat and quality cage diving time with the marine predators.
Those interesting in volunteering at WSDC’s must send an online application form along with a CV and short letter of motivation as to why they would like to volunteer at WSDC to [email protected]
NOTE: Preference will be given to marine biology students or applicants involved in conservation initiatives.
The South African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)
SANCCOB is a non-profit seabird rehabilitation centre in Cape Town aimed at conserving and protecting South Africa’s seabirds. The centre houses a large array of coastal birds, such as the Cormorant, the Cape Gannet, Kelp Gulls and the African Penguin. Volunteers are crucial to the organisation, as the centre only has a limited amount of permanent staff members.
Volunteers are assigned duties depending upon their experience level; though, training is compulsory before commencing duties. Training dates change regularly, so prospective volunteers should call the centre beforehand to verify the dates.
Duties include: keeping the entire centre clean and hygienic, feeding and washing the birds and assisting in the Intensive Care Unit. You can also aid the foundation by donating money or adopting a penguin for R500.
22 Pentz Drive | Table View | Cape Town | +27(0)21 557 6155
The Emma Animal Rescue Society (TEARS)
TEARS is a non-profit organisation that aims to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home lost, abandoned or abused dogs and cats. There is no limit on how long a dog or cat can stay with the organisation, but as the number of animals at the shelter increases, so does their reliance on community support. Whether you prefer the company of a wet-nosed canine or the sophisticated purr of a resident feline, TEARS will have the purrfect spot for you.
You can volunteer your time at the kennels, the cattery and the garden, or you can get involved with the general administration and fundraising initiatives.
In the (likely) event that one of these furry friends captures your heart, you can also opt for adoption. Donations, including money, food and toys will go a long way in ensuring the longevity of TEARS.
Lekkerwater Road | Sunnydale | Cape Town | +27(0)21 785 4482
Refugees and immigration
Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town
If you have a passion for helping immigrants or refugee aid, giving your time at the Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town may be the perfect fit. This multi-faceted organisation assists foreign nationals from across the continent integrate into South Africa by way of their advocacy, welfare, English school and outreach services as well as their Employment Access Programme (EAP).
The EAP sector specifically needs additional help as they assist up to 50 people each day to search for jobs, create CVs, write cover letters and a learn new skills through a series of workshops. Please note that a three-month commitment is required for this programme.
A prime opportunity to both interact with people from across Africa and make a difference in the lives of refugees, volunteering at the Scalabrini Centre is also a good way to learn the ins and outs of a charitable organisation if you’re looking to eventually work in the NGO sector.
Scalabrini Centre of Cape Town | 47 Commercial Street | City Centre | Cape Town | +27(0)21 465 6433
Friends Of the Children’s Hospital Association (FOCHA)
The Friends Of the Children’s Hospital Association is a voluntary support group to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s hospital. The purpose of the association is to provide amenities, assistance and care to the patients and families of the hospital. If you love children and you would like to become a volunteer, you will have to undergo a screening and orientation session before commencing duty with the hospital.
Duties include reading to and playing with the various patients of the hospital. Volunteers generally commit to one day per week, between 9am and 12pm. On Tuesdays and Thursdays these hours are extended to an afternoon session which runs from 2pm to 4pm. Some of the other services FOCHA offers include supplying families with food parcels, clothing and toiletries, as well as birthday parties for in- and outpatients throughout the year.
Klipfontein Road | Rondebosch | Cape Town | +27(0)21 658 5243
The Help2Read initiative aims to recruit, train and support literate adult volunteers from local communities in an effort to, ultimately, help disadvantaged primary school children who struggle to read.
The volunteer readers work on a one-to-one basis with children. Their reading sessions take place once a week, and usually last half an hour. In order to become a volunteer, you have to meet certain requirements: you have to be over the age of 18, be able to speak, write and read English proficiently and you have to undergo a criminal background check.
Volunteers undergo a one-day training course for free! This course will equip them with the skills to understand and assist a struggling learner with their reading. The volunteer is then able to encourage the love of reading, build self-esteem and improve literacy skills. You can also volunteer at the Help2Read fundraisers, or help with daily administration tasks at the Help2Read office.
The Earthchild Project is a non-profit organisation that works with previously disadvantaged schools across the Western Cape to teach kids to love and respect themselves and our precious planet. Volunteers are charged with helping with the various after-school activities, such as the Off the Mat initiative. Off the Mat aims to inspire conscious activism and ignite social grassroots change through the power of yoga. The Earthchild Project has constructed a classroom for children to enjoy yoga and life-skill classes through the money raised by the yoga initiative. If you wish to become a volunteer, you will first have to attend an interview and briefing with the volunteer coordinator at each of the two focus schools (in Lavender Hill and Khayelitsha). Thereafter, you can decide where you would like to be placed. The initiative also offers workshops and practical tips to facilitate an effective working relationship with the children.
156 Main Road | Muizenberg | Cape Town | +27(0)21 788 1711
This Cape Town-born social enterprise is devoted to raising environmental awareness, planting in under-greened communities and combating climate change. As a volunteer, you can get your hands dirty by planting trees at schools, in deforested areas and in communities. Volunteers are responsible for educating children about the importance of their natural environment, and about how they can play an active role in preserving it. Volunteers must be 17 years or older and in good health. Another way in which you can support the initiative is by donating an indigenous tree for only R120. Companies interested in team-building can approach the Greenpop initiative and organise their own plant days.
63 Wale St | Bo Kaap | Cape Town| +27(0)21 461 9265
Zandvlei Trust is a registered non-profit organisation that aims to promote the conservation of the indigenous fauna and flora of the Zandvlei wetland in Muizenberg. One of the ongoing projects in dire need of volunteers is the clearing of exotic invasive vegetation in the Zandvlei area. Volunteers are expected to remove the invasive vegetation -Port Jackson, Rooikrans and Black Wattle - every second Saturday afternoon for two hours. Anyone can become a volunteer, and no expertise is needed.
Tokai | Cape Town | +27(0)21 712 1434
Charities for women
Sisters Incorporated is a private welfare organisation that houses South African women who are the victims of domestic violence. Volunteers are in high demand and required to transport residents to the local hospitals, to collect donations, maintain the garden and help with fundraising. Volunteers visit Sisters Incorporated once a week to carry out a workshop with the residents. The aim of these workshops is to educate women on their human rights and empower them for their return to life outside of Sisters Incorporated.
The company relies mainly on donations from community members, including office supplies, clothes, toys and household cleaning products.
32 Ascot Road | Kenilworth | Cape Town | +27(0)21 797 4190
Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust
The Rape Crisis Centre is aimed at bridging the gap between survivors of rape and the justice system by advocating for law reform and through intensive counselling.
If you are interested in volunteering at the centre, you will need to complete a six week volunteer training programme, followed by one month’s orientation and a five-month practical training course. Once you have completed these elements you become a member of Rape Crisis and get a certificate. Potential volunteers have to commit to a minimum of eight hours per month for the period of one year, and can signup here.
23 Trill Road | Observatory | Cape Town | + 27(0)21 447 1467
Saartjie Bartman Centre for Women & Children (SBCWC)
A one-stop centre for women and children who are survivors of abuse, SBCWC provides safe accommodation, childcare services, legal advice and research in gender-based violence. Volunteers visit children over the weekends, pick up food and other donations, or work in the gardens. If you are a trained counsellor you can assist with intake assessments of the women who walk into the centre for help. Specific training and supervision is provided by Saartjie Baartman staff.
Klipfontein Road | Cape Town | +27(0)21 633 5287
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Want to give back, but hard-pressed for free time? Consider donating money to one of these Cape Town charities, or rather round up some of your old clothes and drop them off at one of these needy venues. Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.