South Africa

Volunteering in Townships

25th May 2018

I went to South Africa a couple of years ago with a group of friends to help volunteer with the charity COPT (you can check out their site here

53% of the South African population live in poverty. We were over there to try and make a small difference to help out some of those living in poverty. We worked in a few of the local townships in Durban on multiple project, such as:


Teaching – Between us we taught multiple Maths, English and Drama lessons from ages 4-16. All the kids seemed to be very grateful and valued the education they are provided with. Unlike in the UK, most of the kids enjoyed going to school and they wanted to learn!

After one of our days teaching, a local pupil offered to show a couple of us round her home. This was definitely an eye opening experience. Her whole family lives in a small wooden shack that has no bathroom or running water and only intermittent electricity. There were 2 rooms in total, both of which are virtually taken up by 2 single ‘beds’ that are shared between the whole family.  We were also informed us that the pile of wood next to their house had been their neighbour’s house until a week prior when it was washed away in the rain. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence amongst the township community.

She is often left to cook, clean and look after her younger siblings as well as her school work whilst her mum tries to make money. Despite all this she always has a smile on her face and will turn up to school everyday because she appreciates the opportunity she has been given. Hence why volunteers offering to teach different subjects, or provide extra curricular activities is massively appreciated. You don’t need to be super bright or a teacher yourself, but if you feel you could teach something I would definitely recommend looking into any company looking for volunteers.


Breakfast Club – 1 out of 5 children go to school without food and this scheme was set up to try and provide local children with breakfast before they make their way to school. They try to provide this service 3 days a week. However, due to the continuous stream of kids coming in and the amount of jobs that need doing in order to be able to provide a quick service regular volunteers are needed to help keep it running.


Upgrades – We helped to do a Creche upgrade. This involved a lot of paint, half of which ended up down ourselves! Many of the kids love having activity trails and hopscotch painted on the floor outside. The great thing about this is you can make them educational at the same time.


Happy’s (Mason Lincoln Special School) – This school has residents with a range of special needs, ranging from ages 8-31. Some people are living there purely because they have a skin pigmentation disorder. Others have severe special physical needs, loss of limbs or are deaf or blind. There is little support for people with disabilities, therefore families often cannot help and end up leaving their child to fend for themselves. They are almost outcast from society so are taken in by this school where they have built a close knit community, allowing them all to support one another. The charity we worked with raises funds to not only keep the school going but for occupational and physical therapists to visit. Volunteers such as ourselves are often sent in simply to play with the kids or to teach them extra curricular lessons. It’s such a wonderful experience and you can tell each and every one of them appreciates the company. On one of the days we went here we set up a ‘fun day’ for them. This included nail and face painting, decorating biscuits, football, games, puppet show and singing. Each of these activities is so simple and can be led by anyone, but it makes such a difference to their lives and is something I would highly encourage anyone to try.

Feeding Scheme – We went to the medical clinic in Kwadabeka where people can wait a whole day to try and see a doctor and generally go without food whilst waiting. We made and handed out sandwiches and fruit to as many people as we could. It was so rewarding to see people’s faces light up just from receiving something so small! Whilst we were there we learnt the following facts:

  • South Africa has the 3rd highest death rate in the world.
  • The life expectancy amongst the township population is 49, whereas in the UK it’s 80.
  • For people living in townships there is 1 doctor for every 4,000 people, compared to 1 doctor for every 370 people in the UK. Hence why people spend all day waiting to try and be seen.

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  • Reply
    kylie cre8tone
    3rd August 2018 at 6:38 am

    It’s great to have volunteer to do this kind of work… must be a unique experience to become a volunteer in such township… great effort to create the awareness..

  • Reply
    3rd August 2018 at 8:03 am

    Being a volunteer sure is important! I am so proud of you! Helping people is the best we can do on regular basis! Very important post for sure

  • Reply
    3rd August 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Wow. I knew there was poverty in South Africa, but I didn’t know it was to this extent. That’s crazy that kids with skin pigmentation disorders are sent to special schools. They’re likely not being educated to their full potential, which is sad. I work as a teacher in Spain and this article makes me want to take my entire summer there next summer.

    • Reply
      3rd August 2018 at 6:13 pm

      I know it’s so sad. I’m not sure if this is the case everywhere, but it certainly was in the area I stayed. It’s honestly such a rewarding thing trying to help at least provide them with some education, I would definitely recommend doing it if you have the chance 🙂

  • Reply
    3rd August 2018 at 10:38 pm

    Wow, it’s really a sad situation isn’t it. I would love to go and do something like this when my son is older though. I can’t believe the doctor stats, it’s bad enough waiting with our much lower rate (Australia) far less 4,000 people.

    Jackie – Organised Mum Life

  • Reply
    4th August 2018 at 5:58 am

    Great work. Loved the effort that you seem to have put in upgrading the Creche. And good that you stress the importance of the most important meal of the day!

  • Reply
    Clarice / Camping for Women
    4th August 2018 at 7:33 am

    Thank you for what you do. I have always admired the dedication, passion, and sacrifice that volunteers have. Kudos to you and keep up the good work. This world is lucky to have someone like you.

  • Reply
    4th August 2018 at 7:45 am

    I’ve felt that kind of experience too, but it was in my hometown. Your experience of volunteer is amazing, it looks like you’re passionate enough in volunteering 🙂

  • Reply
    Elizabeth O
    4th August 2018 at 8:53 pm

    The work you do is really admirable indeed. It sounds like you are so passionate about this and I am sure you make such a difference to the people you help.

  • Reply
    Fashion and Style Police
    4th August 2018 at 11:46 pm

    Good you are volunteering for this. You must have touched so many lives. Amazing work here.

  • Reply
    5th August 2018 at 3:26 am

    Such a heartwarming post,really praiseworthy and admirable. I would like to volunteer some day in africa as a medical practitioner.

  • Reply
    Backpacking Series
    5th August 2018 at 1:02 pm

    Thanks for sharing about your volunteering experience with the charity COPT. This is a nice way to get connected to a place when you travel. And you learn something new all the time! Have had a chance to volunteer in US and Thailand and would love to do it again, another place.

    • Reply
      5th August 2018 at 2:50 pm

      I’d love to volunteer in Thailand!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Prince
    5th August 2018 at 5:11 pm

    Volunteering is so great. I’ve done a bunch in China, Nepal, Africa, Mexico and Nepal. And I’m getting ready to do more in Portugal. It’s such a great thing to do! 🙂

    • Reply
      5th August 2018 at 9:06 pm

      That’s so good that you’ve been able to volunteer in multiple countries!

  • Reply
    Nidhi Fouzdar
    6th August 2018 at 12:23 pm

    Volunteering is a such a great cause. You are doing great job. Huge respect for you

  • Reply
    Mommy Sigrid
    8th August 2018 at 12:43 am

    Volunteering is a great way to open your eyes to what the world needs. If there is any available chance, I let the kids volunteer, too, so that they will realize that life is not just about them,

    • Reply
      8th August 2018 at 10:11 am

      That’s great that you get your kids to volunteer too!

  • Reply
    Becca Talbot
    13th September 2018 at 5:50 pm

    The feeding scheme at Kwadabeka medical clinic sounds like a great idea – those people waiting for treatment must have really appreciated your help x

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