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Category: Volunteering, gap year and career break in South Africa

Volunteer at a Youth Development Centre in a township in the beach resort of Knysna, helping out with anything from basic schooling, such as reading or writing, to community projects, job skills and life skills lessons.

Your work will combine many aspects that all help to provide a caring environment where guidance and assessment is offered to children living on the streets and children at risk.

The purpose is to get the youngsters ready to be taken back into the mainstream schooling and domestic home life again again.


PRICES Please see the Prices Page - prices for all projects and all lengths are listed and you can also choose which currency you'd like to see them in.
Start Dates All year round - you choose your start and finish dates. This project is not available between 15th December and 15th January.
Duration From 1 week to 12 weeks or longer, subject to visa requirements
Requirements Minimum age 16, no qualifications necessary (just a good dose of enthusiasm).
What's included
  • Arranging your Programme
  • Full pre-departure support and assistance
  • Payment Protection Insurance
  • Accommodation
  • Daily transport to and from your project
  • Local in-country team support and backup
  • 24-hr emergency support.
What's not included
  • Flights
  • Travel Insurance
  • Cost of Visas (if a visa is required)
  • Airport pickup and return (but we can arrange this for you)
  • Food
Who can do this Project? All projects are open to all nationalities.



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You'll work closely with the children at the Centre helping out in any area you might be needed. The school term programs are run with a more educational aspect, focusing on life and job skills. The whole purpose of the various programs run by the Centre is to get them ready to be taken back into the mainstream schooling and domestic home life again, if it is at all possible. Some of the youth, though, have been out of school for so long that the chances of them finishing their school education are very bleak. It is for this reason to that it is important for them to still keep up numeracy and literacy classes.

The programmes are all presented in a fun, experimental manner with an outcome based learning environment. There are also arts and crafts programmes, computer classes, sewing and baking as part of the weekly schedule, as well as sport coaching in soccer.

In the school holidays the Centre caters for local children from the immediate community and run a holiday program. The holiday program is more fun based and can take the form of talent shows, art lessons, sports days and movie days. During the school holidays the Centre does not focus on numeracy and literacy as they let the permanent youth that attend the Centre also have a holiday from school work.

The Centre is fairly laid back, because the youngsters are there out of choice. They are quite a lively bunch but love interaction with our volunteers and it is very easy for volunteers to develop a strong connection with the youth. The centre has a very warm, friendly feel with the fulltime staff immediately making you feel like part of the family.

The best way to describe this project is to let one of our previous volunteers tell you about it in her own words. Joanne Pogorelsky volunteered at this Centre in Knysna, and this is how she describes a typical day on her project (but please note that this is one volunteer’s experience and your experience may vary according to current circumstances:

The day for me started with a 7:10 pickup and drive in the Travellers bus to Percy Mdala where I waited for the Centre to open at about 8am. I used this time to get updated from staff on anything that may have happened after I had left the day before or prepare and plan an appropriate activity for the day or week.

The kids would arrive by foot or be collected in the Centre van by the driver. Theoretically the day has a plan and overall structure but, in true African style, this was flexible and at times overlooked.

In theory the day would look something like: Arrive, wash/shower, devotion, eat, activity (skills based), free time, activity, eat, free time, sport or cooking/cleaning. The activities included beadwork, card making, adult education classes around numeracy and literacy, sports, gardening, cooking, religious teachings etc.

My favourite time was devotion where seemingly unruly, non-cooperative difficult to engage children became respectful, took their hats or head coverings off (which usually would never happen), closed their eyes and pronounced every word in Xhosa, Afrikaans or English. Often they would sing, naturally harmonize, dance and or play the drums during this time and you could feel the energy of these children as if it were tangible. My fondest memories are of the sessions where the children appeared to lose there attitude and bravado and enjoy themselves.

I would leave at 2:00, being picked up by the bus again, but the Centre went on for another couple of hours. Then of course, its home to bed, it’s an early start in the morning if you want to get in the shower before school…....

I saw my role as to assist, educate and empower the staff to care for the children and thus empower the young people to want to improve their situation and future, and it was extremely satisfying to be an integral part of this.”


The daily schedule can change depending on the needs of the Centre. During the school holidays a more fun-filled programme is put in place with activities that the children from the local community can join in with as well. Here is a sample of a possible daily schedule:


No qualifications are required for this project, but if you do have some skills in marimba classes, sewing, baking, computers, welding, pottery and any other trade skills, they are very welcome and your knowledge can be utilised in attempting to empower the youth.

If you have a background in counselling, social work and psychology, you could help run the Centre's adolescent development programme with the community worker. This programme runs as an after-school programme at a local high school. They have also recently launched YESA, which is an after-school programme for all the children in the local community at a nearby Civic Centre.

If you have any background in marketing, fundraising and event management, your skills in these areas could be a great help as the center is an NPO that relies on donors and fundraising to run.




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The volunteer house in Knysna is within walking distance of the town, yet set against a natural green belt. The bird life is prolific and often the local Vervet monkey troop comes to visit to entertain the volunteers with their antics. The sunset views from the top balcony of the volunteer house of the Knysna lagoon are beautiful and great way to relax after a day working at your placement or to catch up on your tan in the summer. See photo on right-hand side.

The house is large and spacious and also has a self-contained flat  downstairs for couples and families. The bedding in the two same sex dorms and the towels in their ensuite bathrooms are changed regularly every Friday by our much loved cleaner, Pretty, and there is plenty of cupboard space to store your clothing.

Facilities include a kitchen kitted out for cooking, dining area, a few bathrooms, TV, DVD player, free Wi-Fi, garden and several wooden verandahs.

There is an outside courtyard and garden in the secure grounds where you can have a typical South African barbeque known there as a ‘braai’. Make sure you try the local spicy sausage known as ‘boerewors’ and the Karoo lamb chops are to die for on a ‘braai’, but if fish is more to your taste then a fish ‘braai’ with South African ‘snoek’ is a must.

Food is not included in this project, so you will need to budget for that. The kitchen has all the cooking amenities that you might need to take advantage of preparing meals with some of the great seafood, meat, fresh fruit and vegetables South Africa has to offer.

There are supermarkets and local shops where you'll do your food shopping.

There are plenty of excellent restaurants within walking distance that offer the most incredible local and international cuisine which our volunteers rave about. Knysna is also famous for its oysters and even has an annual Oyster Festival where everyone eats and drinks far too much!

The waterfront and marina is beautiful and full of restaurants and cafes with cuisine that ranges from breakfast, coffees, cakes and snacks, through to sumptuous meals and various different nationality menus.

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The best advice you'll get from us is to try to see some of the country while you're in South Africa. It's big (huge!) and each different region is exciting and very, very beautiful.Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city in the world (I can say that, I grew up there :-)  KwaZulu-Natal comes a very close second, albeit very different. Knysna is where South Africans go on holiday, which gives you some idea of how lovely the region is. When you lie on the beach and watch dolphins jumping the waves, you'll think you're in Paradise.

 is approximately 500km from the beautiful capital city of Cape Town  and voted South Africa’s favourite town 4 years in a row! Its mountainous backdrop, impressively sized estuary and indigenous forests really give the town a natural feel to it. Although it still has that ‘small-town’ feel, Knysna is growing rapidly, and has all the amenities you could ask for such as banks, hotels, internet café’s, cinemas and shopping malls.

About 20-30 minutes' drive away from Knysna you'll find Plettenberg Bay (better known simply as Plett), which is a bit smaller than Knysna, but equally stunning.  Its' pure white beaches stretch as far as the eye can see and there is a lot to do, from whale and dolphin watching, to hiking trails and awesome nightlife.

The Garden Route is famous for all sorts of activities from adrenalin sports such as bungee jumping, skydiving and shark cage diving to more relaxed pursuits such as hiking, quad biking in the forest or visiting one of the many animal sanctuaries in the area. Your local Travellers liaison will be happy to assist you in finding interesting things to do and places to see so make the most of it!

Knysna nestles on the banks of a beautiful lagoon in the heart of the ‘Garden Route’ of South Africa. It is surrounded by a natural paradise of lush indigenous forests, tranquil lakes and golden beaches, making it a real natural wonderland.

Knysna is a vibrant town, buzzing with creativity and energy,and the pulse of good music. It's a place where the you can enjoy the mellow atmosphere of street cafes, watching the world go by. The main street is very leafy with trees along the pavements and it has a wonderful holiday atmosphere with sun umbrellas everywhere.

Most cafes have outdoors seating areas overlooking the street or on the pavements, with colourful sun umbrellas - a perfect place to sit with the sun on your face, watching passers-by ambling along, sipping a steamy cappucino or staving off the heat with a cold drink.

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