Why you should volunteer with your family in Africa

Different cultures, amazing animals, fantastic landscapes and inspirational people – everything you and your family can experience while on a family volunteering holiday.

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 than your average family holiday; it’s never too early to broaden your children’s horizons and open their eyes to new cultures and experiences.

No longer the preserve of 20-somethings and unencumbered couples, many projects will 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.

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 may not enjoy the 35 degree plus 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.

How brave are you with flying with kids? Consider the length of the flight and whether you need to take multiple flights to reach your destination. Don’t forget to load up tablets with books, puzzles and games for long flights, although warn teenagers that there might not be wifi (or electricity!) available when they arrive at the project!

2. What work do 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.

Many families want to combine a safari type holiday with volunteer work, and introduce their children to Africa’s iconic wildlife. 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 sizes. 

3. Can everyone participate in all the activities

The ideal volunteer programme is one where the whole family can get involved. So maybe put on hold the building or medical programmes if you have younger children. 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 bring genuine benefit to the programme all year round.

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 valuable conservation and community work.

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: 8 and over preferred, enquire if your children are younger.
Price: From $950 (one week)
Location: Zimbabwe, rural areas
Start dates: Mondays throughout the year

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2. Elephant Conservation & Community Outreach, 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 £950 (10 days)
Location: Namibia, Swakopmund
Start dates: July and August – enquire for specific dates

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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 £2,199 (2 weeks)
Location: Inhambane, Mozambique
Start dates: Flexible throughout the year

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Family-friendly community 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.

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.


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 post: 10 reasons to volunteer in Zimbabwe in 2019; and Why you should volunteer with your family in Namibia.

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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