- You get to see an exotic foreign country and immerse yourself in its sights, sounds and experiences
- You get to broaden your horizons and understanding of the world
- You get to move outside your comfort zone and figure out what you’re made of
- You get to discover what it means to help others and do your little bit to give back to the world we all share
- You get to practice empathy and kindness on people of different cultural backgrounds and experiences
More and more young adults are opting to take a gap year after school, before they launch themselves into the whirlwind of university, college or a full-time job. Some people will be studying AND working for a few years – whatever path you’re on, whether you’re a student or a junior employee or both, it will be the busiest time of your life!
Travel is usually the activity of choice for people opting to take a gap year. Why not use this time to have the adventure of your life, and combine your travelling plans with volunteering in an African country?
It’s no secret that the continent of Africa suffers from the hangover effects of colonialism, the plundering of natural resources, the ravages of dire economic disparities, the brutality of civil war, and the crises caused by global warming and desertification that impact fragile environments and the people and animals who live in them. We’ve all watched in horror as violent and negative images are paraded in front of our eyes on the news – Ethiopians starving because of crop failure and food relief mismanagement, Somalian and Sudanese refugees hounded out of their home countries by warring tribal factions, the brutal apartheid regime and its aftermath in South Africa, cruel poaching of vulnerable animals like Cedric the Lion – and most people decide not to set foot anywhere south of the Sahara, but stay where it’s safe and cosy!
It’s also no secret to anyone not living under a large stone in an empty field (with no TV reception or WiFi!) that good news just doesn’t sell. What you don’t see in the mainstream media are the things that make Africa truly special. Its vast beautiful landscapes, its exotic array of flora and fauna, its cultural diversity and the incredible resilience, innovation and friendliness of its people in spite of their hardships - these are just a very few of the things that confirm the saying: “You can leave Africa, but Africa never leaves you.”
Even the wealthiest and most successful of Westerners are not immune to its power. “It feels like God visits everywhere, but lives in Africa,” said actor Will Smith when he made a movie in Nigeria recently. Much of Africa is also - surprisingly, to some people who still envision the “Dark Continent” the early explorers described to rapt European audiences - fairly modern, progressive, and safe for foreign travellers and adventurers of all kinds.
Khaya Volunteer Projects can offer prospective gap year volunteers a variety of options to suit your individual needs. You can choose to help communities with education, childcare, sports, fundraising, or skills training. You can work in the bushveld with game rangers and other hardy professionals, helping to conserve the environment and vulnerable wildlife. You can help with the study of the world’s most efficient and fascinating predator, the Great White Shark, in the exhilarating south Atlantic Ocean. For every gap year student, there’s a project to suit your character and interests. And we haven’t forgotten your budget. If there’s one thing everyone remembers from their younger years, it’s that every spare coin in your pocket counts!
Khaya also offers different African destination options to gap year or student volunteers. Our home base is in South Africa – argued by many well-travelled souls to be the most beautiful country on Earth! You can help out needy communities or endangered animal species at a number of volunteer projects on the coast and inland. If your taste is for something even more exotic, head down to the tropics and the island paradise of Zanzibar, with its rich mix of cultures – influenced as much by ancient Arab traders as European explorers. Malawi is home to some of the friendliest people in the world, and you can help them out at various volunteer projects while you get to snorkel and sail in the world’s fishiest lake (Lake Malawi contains more species of fish, especially cichlids, than any other lake on Earth).
Khaya Volunteer Projects works exclusively with ethical and well-managed volunteer projects, so don’t worry about having a negative effect on the community or natural environment you decide to visit. And we are completely transparent about where your hard-earned money is going to, so there’s no risk of lining the pockets of unscrupulous voluntourism agents!
As a gap year volunteer, don’t think for a minute that you won’t be having any fun. You’ll meet plenty of other gap year travellers to play with on your time off, and there’s no shortage of things to do together – hiking, road trips, safaris, basking on the breathtaking beaches; or simply enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of foreign cultures. Many gap year volunteers form lifelong friendships and plan further volunteering trips together. Indeed, many volunteers find themselves in love with the challenges and adventures of Africa and end up staying here permanently!