Our top tips for family volunteering!

According to a new US report, 44% of millennials travel with their family, with 25% taking international vacations – more often than not, an ‘adventure trip’. Family volunteering is one of the safest and easiest ways to dust off your backpack, and introduce your family to new experiences and different cultures.

“Two of the greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings” 

– Hodding Carter

Perhaps you yearn for the days when you slung your backpack over your shoulder, booked your first night’s accommodation, packed a change of clothes and headed off into the unknown clutching your passport. But now you’ve got little people (and partners!) to think about when you’re booking your annual holiday, and nothing seems quite as easy.. Never fear!

There are still plenty of amazing experiences out there, which will fulfil your sense of adventure and discovery, which everyone in the family will love.

A volunteer experience brings families closer together, gives a sense of purpose to your trip while still including plenty of new, fun and exciting activities! It’s never too early to broaden your children’s horizons and open their eyes to new cultures and experiences. We are also finding families who volunteer want to disconnect from their busy, scheduled lives, get back to nature and let their children experience the wide open spaces of Africa.

Many of our partners either run separate volunteer programmes for families, or accommodate family groups into their usual activities. Meaning that you all get to help out and share a common experience, working together for the same goals.

Safety:

With safety being the top priority for families travelling abroad, we can reassure you that each of our family projects have been vetted by us (some of us parents ourselves) and are experienced in dealing with family groups. All project staff are first aid trained, and each project have strict safety procedures for family volunteers.

Three things to think about when deciding to volunteer as a family:

1. Where to go

Depending on when you want to travel, consider what the weather will be like in your chosen destination: very young children (and some adults!) may not enjoy 35º+ heat. Check what vaccinations you might need, and whether there is any risk of malaria in the region. Southern African countries including most of Namibia and some of Zimbabwe and South Africa, are malaria-free, making them ideal family volunteer destinations. With the exception of Mozambique and Victoria Falls, our family projects are not in high-risk malaria regions.

2. What work you want to do

If you want to get stuck in with the local community, help in the school, learn about home life and meet help with feeding and education projects, they are all great ways to volunteer together as a family. Children can certainly get involved pretty much every step of the way, and from our experience, kids absolutely love the community side of any project.

Many families want to combine a safari type holiday with volunteer work, and introduce their children to Africa’s iconic wildlife, but don’t want a traditional safari holiday, with long game drives and periods of downtime. There are very few child-friendly wildlife programmes in Southern Africa, but we are proud to be able to offer some excellent choices, which combine safaris, cultural exchange, community work and interaction with animals of all different shapes and sizes!

“My children and I learned so much from this experience, and I learned so much about my children. They showed me how easily adaptable they are and how much they care about all animals, it makes my heart explode with pride! Watching my children take everything in their stride and connecting to the animals, will forever make me smile.” – Danielle, Primate Conservation & Wildlife Sanctuary

3. Can everyone participate in all the activities

The ideal volunteer programme is one where the whole family can get involved doing the same useful activities. So maybe put on hold the building or medical programmes if you have younger children, and opt instead for something with lighter physical work, and more practical activities. Depending on the age of your children, some activities may need to be adapted, but our guides and staff are very used to making sure even the youngest member of the team is doing useful and exciting work!

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We have carefully selected projects that will give you the most rewarding experience and enjoyment, and which are safe and best suited to young children. These aren’t “contrived holidays” (where you do one or two days of volunteering and the rest are spent sightseeing). They are regular volunteering projects where volunteers of all ages bring genuine benefit to the programme, year round.

“We spent a week here on the volunteer program with our 9 year old twins. We’ve been around the world and have done and seen so many things, and yet this was BY FAR our best vacation ever. I was, of course, hesitant with the kids about volunteering (more because I didn’t think they would have the endurance/ability to be helpful), but thought it would be a great experience. The kids had a blast and were so thrilled to be there they didn’t want to leave to go on the relaxing safari portion of our trip afterwards!” – Ted, Rhino & Elephant Conservation

You and your family will make a genuine contribution.

Our top recommendations for family volunteer travel:

Family-friendly wildlife conservation projects:

1. Rhino & Elephant Conservation, Zimbabwe

Experience the thrill of interacting with rhinos and elephants, while doing meaningful conservation and community work.

child with rhinos

This is a hands-on conservation programme which gives families the unique opportunity to experience wild animals in a safe environment. Where else could your children touch the leathery skin of a black rhino, look an elephant in the eye and learn bushcraft and survival skills?

Minimum age: 5 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: From $900 (one week)
Location: Zimbabwe, rural areas
Start dates: Mondays throughout the year

Click to find out more.

2. Elephant Conservation & Community Outreach, Namibia

Family volunteers in Namibia

A unique chance for families to volunteer in Namibia, monitor the desert elephant and help overcome the human-elephant conflict. This is a very hands-on programme where you and your family will spend a week working on building and school projects within rural communities, and a week tracking and monitoring herds of rare desert-adapted elephants through the stunning Namibian bush.

Minimum age: 8 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: From £895 (10 days)
Location: Namibia, Swakopmund
Start dates: Limited places available for August 2020. Bookings now being taken for Easter, July and August 2021

Click to find out more.

3. Marine Conservation, Mozambique

Mozambique is the perfect place to learn to dive and the clear blue waters are home to large populations of whale sharks and manta rays. In addition to your training and research dives, families will also work in the local community, helping with beach clean-ups, swimming lessons and conservation education. In your spare time, go snorkelling, sail on a traditional dhow and learn to surf!

Minimum age: 12 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: From $2,295 (2 weeks)
Location: Inhambane, Mozambique
Start dates: Mondays throughout the year

Click to find out more.

4. Primate Conservation & Wildlife Sanctuary, Zimbabwe

Family volunteer with baboon

One of the only small animal sanctuary’s in Africa to accept family volunteers and it is definitely an experience you and your family will love. The sanctuary is home to Zimbabwe’s only dedicated primate rehabilitation facility, and is also home to a range of animals, large and small, including zebra, antelope, ostrich, baboons, monkeys, birds, warthogs and dogs! Families are set to work feeding, cleaning, caring for orphans and working with animals destined for release. It is a truly heart-warming project where you can see the impact you are all having straightaway.

Minimum age: 5 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: From $795 (2 weeks)
Location: Zimbabwe
Start dates: Flexible throughout the year

Click to find out more.

Family-friendly community volunteer projects:

Many families would like their children to contribute to the welfare and education of vulnerable and needy children. We advise against orphanage volunteering as these children often already have attachment issues, and short term volunteers, no matter how kind and caring during their stay, simply abandon these children once they go home.

Try and help children and communities through assistance with ongoing education and literacy programmes, and sustainable development projects – which do not promote a hand-out culture.

1. Community Outreach, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

This project is an amazing opportunity for children of all ages to learn about other cultures, as you engage with schoolchildren, teachers, community leaders, families and farmers. Get a fresh perspective and appreciate different ways of life. This programme will be tailored to your family and the needs of the community, and you will get involved with the most needy of community members, according to what work is most required when you arrive.

Minimum age: 10 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: from $730 (1 week)
Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Start dates: Flexible throughout the year

Click to find out more.

2. Teaching & Big 5 Conservation, Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe

A great combination of teaching work, community engagement and wildlife conservation activities. You’ll live in the heart of a Big 5 wildlife conservancy in one of Zimbabwe’s most stunning wilderness areas, home to rhinos, elephants and African wild dogs. Families will help in the local school with literacy, sports and feeding programmes, and experience everyday life in an unfenced, family-run wildlife reserve.

Minimum age: 8 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: dependent on project duration and family size
Location: Save Valley, South East Zimbabwe
Start dates: Flexible throughout the year

Click to find out more.

“And at the end of the day, your feet should be dirty, your hair messy and your eyes sparkling”

– Shanti

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FAQ’s of family volunteering:

Is Africa safe?

Health and safety is a top priority on all our projects. Volunteers are supervised in all activities and, unless stated, have a staff member present or on site 24 hours a day. You will always be collected from the airport or your lodgings upon arrival and not left to find your own transport to the programme. We monitor all our project locations for local safety and will not send anyone into a potentially unstable situation. Some of our projects are in malaria regions and so will require prophylactics to be taken as directed by your doctor or local travel clinic.

Read our blog posts: 10 reasons to volunteer in Zimbabwe in 2019; and Why you should volunteer with your family in Namibia.
Or click here to read all our family volunteering articles.

Where will I stay?

Accommodation varies from camping under the stars to comfortable volunteer houses. Families will generally be accommodated together, either in their own cottage or in a shared room or tent.

What is the minimum and maximum age?

We encourage volunteers to contribute for as long as you are healthy and mobile. Families with young children are welcome on all the projects listed on this page and each individual project has its own minimum age, depending on the location of the programme and the work which needs to be done.

Children under 12 should be be prepared to work closely with their families on projects and all children under 18 must be accompanied by at least one parent. We absolutely welcome non-traditional families on all our family volunteer programmes.

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For more information, to ask any questions, or to reserve your place on any of our family volunteer projects, please get in touch!

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