FAQs South Africa

What programs do you offer in South Africa?

New Hope Volunteers offers volunteer projects focused on education, public health, social services, day care and HIV/AIDS. We need volunteers who are dedicated and willing to immerse themselves into sometimes disturbing and always challenging situations. Volunteers are needed to act as a mentor, role-model and parent/friend figure for adults/children involved in our projects.
Our volunteer projects all originate in Cape Town and are also located throughout the Winelands and Garden Route areas.

How can I apply?

Please read New Hope Volunteer’s 4 steps of application

  • There are two options for applying to volunteer in our South Africa programs. You can apply online or you can simply download an application form, fill it out and mail it into New Hope Volunteer’s offices. Participants are required to submit their application with application fee plus the program fee for number of weeks you choose.
  • Once New Hope Volunteers receives your application, we immediately forward it to country coordinator for processing. The in-country coordinator reviews the application carefully to determine the most optimal project for you while you volunteer in South Africa. Decisions pertaining to room and board are made at this time - depending on the location of the project. The vast majority of participants stay in fully immersed in-home stays.
  • We receive the details of the participants' placements from the in-country coordinator.
  • The information is then passed on to the prospective participants along with a final invoice. The placement details contain local contact information to be used when applying for a visa and/or to get in touch with the local staff and host family.

Preparation for your volunteer vacation in South Africa should include reading about travel to South Africa, immunization, acquiring a travel visa and booking airfare for your volunteer journey to South Africa. If you face any problems, our Program Manager is always available for any assistance.

IMPORTANT: Once participants purchase airline tickets, we request flight information be forwarded to our office by fax or by email. Participants' flight information will then be forwarded to the in-country coordinator in South Africa, who will then arrange an airport pick-up.

Who will meet me at the airport?

All South Africa volunteers should to arrive at the Cape Town International Airport (CPT) Cape Town, South Africa. An in-country New Hope Volunteers representative will be at the airport to meet and greet volunteers. Volunteers must provide flight itinerary as soon as they can, for scheduling purposes. We ask that volunteers fly with all important documents, including personal placement documents, passport, visas and vaccination booklet. Please have these items accessible during travelling

What should I do if I am delayed or miss my flight?

If there’s a delay, including flight delays or missed flight, contact our office as soon as possible. We will obtain a volunteer’s revised itinerary and reschedule pick-up. If volunteers miss connecting with our staff at CPT, they should arrange a taxi and go on to the office. This information is included in personal placement details. Upon meeting the in-country representative at CPT, you will be transferred to local office and orientation will commence.

What happens if I arrive early?

We suggest South African volunteers arrive one day before project start dates. The volunteer program fee includes expenses beginning of the first day of the project (usually first or third Monday) through to the last day of the program. If volunteers arrive before the first day of the project and/or stay beyond the last day of the program, expenses will be the responsibility of the volunteer (usually $30 per day for room/food in hostel). These arrangements must be made ahead of time as space is not guaranteed.

Where Do I stay during volunteering program?

Volunteers in South Africa stay in a home stay during the culture and language immersion program. You will have a private room and be fed three meals of South African fare each day. Once the language and culture week/weeks are over, our coordinator takes you to your project for introduction. Some of the orphanages are residential projects and provide quarters and meals for volunteers. Long-term volunteers will be given the option to stay at the orphanage when it is available.
Always, the vast majority of our volunteers live with local host families where you are provided a private room and three meals. Bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared with the family and other volunteers (yes, you might have another volunteer living with you.) This also provides a local support network beyond the volunteers and program staff. Many volunteers look at their home stay as an essential ingredient in their South African experience.

What do I eat? Do you accommodate special diet?

You’ll be served 3 local meals a day. We’ll manage volunteers’ food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Some volunteers have lunch at their project. Should a volunteer have special dietary requirements (e.g. as a vegetarian or vegan), we recommend staying in our hostel and not with a host family.

What are Visa regulations in South Africa?

Before departing for South Africa, New Hope Volunteers requires volunteers to obtain a tourist visa. A tourist visa is an entry permit into the country and is required for travel into South Africa. Your local South African embassy to learn more about the proper steps in receiving a visa, visa fees and visa extensions; or contact our offices with questions.

Volunteers are solely responsible for obtaining their South African visa. New Hope Volunteers cannot be held liable for delays in the visa process.

How should I take care of my health?

We recommend visiting some of the following websites for health and safety information:
WHO website for international travelers (http://www.who.int/csr/ihr/en/)

General Health Tips for volunteers in South Africa

  • Public water is not considered safe to drink in most of South Africa. When traveling to the beaches or very rural areas, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or sealed bottles. Tap water should not be considered safe at the beaches, nor are drinking fountains, fountain drinks (soda pop) and ice cubes. If purchasing pre-packaged water isn’t possible, make water safer by both filtering through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. Filters and tablets are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Buy bottled water from respectable outlets/vendors to guard against an upset stomach. Make sure that the seal of the bottle is intact as it is not uncommon for local street merchants to sell tap water in resealed bottles.
  • The most common health complaint in any developing nation is an ailing digestive system. In many cases, the illness may be attributed merely to a change in diet, but occasional cases of food poisoning can occur, whereby the symptoms occur very quickly, severely and explosively. These are seldom serious or extended illnesses, but medical treatment should be sought if it occurs.
  • Avoid eating food from road side stalls/vendors. Don't eat unpeeled fruits or fruits that have already been cut by unknown handlers on the street. If you must eat food at a place that you have doubts about, make sure the food is served hot.
  • If you require any prescription drugs, bring enough for the duration of your stay in South Africa. They will need to be carried in their original prescription bottle and the prescription must be in your name.
  • It is advisable that you carry a small health kit which should include remedy for upset stomach, some antiseptic cream, hydration powder, deer mosquito repellant, sun block, band aids, etc.

What vaccinations do you recommend before travelling to South Africa?

We recommend all volunteer/participants visit the Center for Disease Control's website (www.cdc.gov ) for traveler's health recommendations. Your travel doctor will be knowledgeable about current epidemics and should be consulted.

See a personal doctor at least 4-6 weeks before travelling to allow time for shots to be effective. If it is less than 4 weeks before travelling, volunteers should still see a doctor. It might not be too late to get volunteers shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications

The following vaccines may be recommended for volunteers travel to Southern Africa. Discuss volunteers travel plans and personal health with a health-care provider to determine which vaccines volunteers will need.

  • Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • Malaria: your risk of malaria may be high in all countries in Southern Africa, including cities. See your health care provider for a prescription ant malarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Southern Africa.
  • Rabies, if you might have extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • Typhoid vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria, measles, and a one-time dose of polio vaccine for adults.

What is the exchange rate?

Find the Exchange Rate for South African Rand at http://www.xe.com/ucc/

Where should I change my dollars?

With a favorable exchange rate for many international currencies, volunteers usually find South Africa a very inexpensive destination when compared with Europe and North America. And an easy one - financial institutions are world-class, with no shortage of banks, Bureau de Change and automatic tellers. South Africa’s unit of currency is the rand, which is divided into 100 cents. Coins come in denominations of 5c, 10c, 20c, 50c, R1, R2 and R5 and notes in denominations of R10, R20, R50, R100 and R200. The airport offers convenient, international-standard banking, Forex and car rental services.

Cash and travelers checks are suggested to settle most accounts. Volunteers will have trouble paying with traveler's checks, but volunteers will be able to exchange them at local banks or post offices. Traveler's checks are recommended as a safe way to carry money with volunteers, make sure volunteers write down the check numbers and contact information volunteers need to cancel stolen checks. Different brands of traveler's checks work better in different countries so consult volunteers local financial institution about which company volunteers should buy volunteers checks from.

Can I use my debit card or credit card?

Travelers should have a credit card for large or emergency purchases. Cash advances at the ATM are simple, yet volunteers should notify their home bank of their intent to travel to South Africa to avoid accounts being flagged for unusual activity. Also, volunteers should confirm their banks’ international ATM charges.

The ATM is mainly the Cirrus Network. When using ATM's volunteers are advised to go alone, be cautious and aware when conducting the transaction, travel directly from the bank back to volunteer’s home and to keep cash in a reliable and safe place. When volunteers are carrying cash, break it up into different amounts and keep it in different pockets places on their person in case of robbery.

Visa, MasterCard and American Express are accepted in some of the larger stores and hotels in larger cities but may not be widely accepted in smaller cities and not at all in the villages.

How much money should I bring?

How much money volunteers bring depends on personal spending habits. Thrifty people can get by on less than $15/day. Volunteers should remember to budget money for free time travel in addition to personal daily use.

How does New Hope Volunteers help me when I am in the field? How can I maintain communication?

Once your volunteer program begins, our local staff members stay in constant touch with you. However, when volunteers are staying far from our in-country office, our staff will visit every 2-4 weeks (if possible) and volunteers are always welcome at the office. We recommend that volunteers stop by the office once a week. If your project is located a substantial distance from our offices, then our local staff communicates by either email and/or phone. We are available for you at the local office via email and phone for your entire trip. It’s our job to make sure that you are safe.

How do I communicate with my family back home?

Internet centers, telephone booths and post offices are easily available in Dar es Salaam and most localities around the project where you will be placed.

What is the climate like in South Africa?

Refer to following websites for information on weather conditions in South Africa:

Yahoo Weather forecast (http://weather.yahoo.com)

Weather channel ( http://www.weather.com )

Weather Underground (http://www.wunderground.com)

The climate in South Africa is generally warm and dry. In the winter, the temperature only occasionally falls below freezing. In the summer months - December, January and February- the temperature in the drier regions may rise above 40ºC (104ºF). This land of great contrasts includes regions of extreme dryness and tremendous rainfall. The heaviest rainfall occurs along the eastern coastline. As much as 6 feet of rain may be recorded in one year in this region. In the extreme northwest part of the country, in parts of the Kalahari Desert, there is virtually no rain at all.

I recommend inserting storm info pertaining to Cape Town’s horrid storms. Cape Town is located on the Atlantic Coast and is South Africa’s major seaport. It has pleasant and dry climate most of the year and beautiful beaches. The ocean water is cold and the constant winds create tremendously strong and unruly currents keeping most people from swimming in the ocean.

What items should I bring?

Most items of daily use are available in South Africa at a reasonably inexpensive price. However, we suggest volunteers pack the following items:

  • Camera
  • Mobile phone
  • Mosquito and insect repellents
  • Sunscreen, SPFs
  • Work gloves
  • Books about South Africa
  • Map of South Africa
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Electricity adapter/converter
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
  • Tote bag or backpack
  • Towel
  • Swimsuit
  • Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas
  • Raingear (especially during the rainy season)

Passport and Documents

Volunteers should hold a valid passport and necessary documents while traveling in South Africa. Please carry photocopies of passport and travelers checks while in South Africa, to make replacement easy if they are lost. Leave additional copies at home with a friend or relative. These can be faxed to volunteers in an event of an emergency if documentation goes missing.


If volunteers are taking prescription medications, please do not forget to pack enough medicine for the entire trip. Various brands of medicines may not be available in South Africa and may require volunteers to see a South African doctor to obtain a local prescription.


Normal leather shoes or tennis shoes, which can be easily cleaned, are appropriate for working in the project placements. Volunteers will want light comfortable footwear for evening walks and other leisure activities.


Rule of thumb - bring items which wouldn’t be missed if lost or ruined. T-shirts, jeans and shorts are common. Bring a bathing suit. Please note that while it may get quite warm during the day, it may get chilly after dark and volunteers may need a sweater or lightweight jacket in summer, and a heavier jacket in winter..

Medical Kit

It is always useful to carry a small personal medical kit. This should include: Band-Aids (aka plasters), personal medication, fungicidal foot powder/cream, antiseptic cream, mild painkiller (aspirin), tweezers, scissors etc.

Insect Repellent

Do not forget to bring insect repellent and use it often to reduce the possibility of mosquito-borne illness, if volunteers are traveling in the jungle find a repellant with DEET, the more the better


Please do not forget to pack a flashlight, as some villages won't have electricity after dark and volunteers may have to use an outdoor bathroom (at night) at some point. Also pack a camera, film and maybe a personal stereo. Volunteers may wish to bring a diary, pens and pencils and a book to read on the plane. Bring a rain coat during the rainy season.

What gift should I bring for my host family/project?

It is common courtesy to bring a small gift for the staff who will be your hosts. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring a gift it can simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a t-shirt with a hometown/country logo, pictures of your family and local post cards.

If you want to bring gifts for your project and if you are working for an orphanage or a school, please bring pencils, pens and paper, art supplies like markers and construction paper pads, as well as games for the children to enjoy. Remember that every child will need these items so you may wish to bring enough for a number of children.

More about South Africa:


Several decades of Apartheid have ended and the generation born after the peaceful resolution of its oppression is growing up with far better opportunities in education, work and society. But apartheid will remain a defining factor of South African history during which Black Africans were removed from entire districts in the middle of the night. Some were left, with their belongings, on the sidewalks with nowhere to go but others were taken to concentration camps where they endured incredible suffering, murder and disease. The atrocities lasted through two long governances until 1989 when F.W. de Klerk responded to the legislation of absolute segregation and began its unraveling. The definitive change occurred with the release of political prisoners, namely Nelson Mandela and an intense, valuable negotiation about the future of South Africa. The two men were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for seeing a peaceful end to generations of segregation. Then in April of 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. The country has incredible natural resources and has attracted billions of dollars in foreign investment since sanctions were lifted. The challenges for South Africa remain fierce. It will have to overcome illiteracy, poverty and HIV/AIDS to become a truly free and equal nation.


The land of South Africa shares a northwest border with Namibia and Botswana in the Kalahari Desert where the geography is arid, dry and without rain all year round. The cool Atlantic Ocean sizzles and spits at the shore in the far northwest corner of this northern border. The northeastern border with Zimbabwe and Mozambique is a much more diverse fauna of brilliant flowers and biodiversity. The other 1,739 mile border is shared with only ocean.

The South African geography boasts warm eastern coasts and chill Atlantic coasts in the west. The north borders fall in some of the hottest, harshest deserts of the world, the Kalahari and Namib. The less drastic plateaus and rolling hills give a balance to the land. The geographic range of South Africa is completed by mountains that run for several hundred kilometers inland along the coasts.


Much of South Africa’s cuisine can be considered “western”. The produce, meat and dairy sections of their grocery stores are very similar to America’s; however, flavors or consistencies of food considered a western staple may seem different. Additionally, many western standards are not available, but often a more delicious and unique South African substitute can be found! For example, a typical South African snack food is biltong. Made of meat that has been dried, biltong is similar to meat jerky. It can be made of any kind of meat, even ostrich, antelope or crocodile.

The pleasant climate of South Africa makes it possible to cook outdoors most of the year. South Africans often enjoy a “braai” (barbeque) typically including sausage spiced with traditional family recipes.

In and around Cape Town there are air beachside eateries which serve fish and volunteers can find specialty eateries for all kinds of food volunteers may crave. In the Cape, volunteers can find dishes of exotic Asian spices on local produce, curries and staple smooth-maize porridge called Pap. Indian is a very popular cuisine.


South Africa is a multi-lingual country. Besides the 11 officially recognized languages, scores of others are spoken here, as the country lies at the crossroads of southern Africa.
South Africa’s Constitution guarantees equal status to 11 official languages to cater for the country's diverse peoples and their cultures. These are:

  • Afrikaans
  • English
  • isiNdebele
  • isiXhosa
  • isiZulu
  • Sepedi
  • Sesotho
  • Setswana
  • siSwati
  • Tshivenda
  • Xitsonga

English is generally understood across the country, being the most commonly used language in official and commercial public life. However, it only ranks joint fifth out of 11 as a home language.
South Africa is a nation of over 46-million people of diverse origins, cultures, languages and beliefs.

According to the mid-2005 estimates from Statistics South Africa, the country's population stands at approximately 46.9-million, up from the census 2001 count of 44.8-million.
Africans are in the majority at 37.2-million, constituting 79.4% of the total population. The white population is estimated at 4.4-million (9.3%), the coloured population at 4.1-million (8.8%) and the Indian/Asian population at 1.1-million (2.5%).

While more than three-quarters of South Africa’s population is African or black, this category is neither culturally nor linguistically homogenous. Nine of the country's 11 official languages are African, reflecting a variety of tribal/cultural groupings which nonetheless have a great deal in common in terms of background, culture and descent.
Africans include: the Nguni people, comprising the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele and Swazi; the Sotho-Tswana people, comprising the Southern, Northern and Western Sotho (Tswana); the Tsonga; and the Venda.

South Africa’s white population descends largely from the colonial immigrants of the late 17th, 18th and 19th centuries - Dutch, German, French Huguenot and British. Linguistically it is divided into Afrikaans- and English-speaking groups, although many small communities that have immigrated over the last century retain the use of other languages.
The label "colored" is a contentious one, but still used for people of mixed race descended from slaves brought in from East and central Africa, the indigenous Khoisan who lived in the Cape at the time, indigenous Africans and whites. The majority speak Afrikaans.


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