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Volunteer Work in Africa

Volunteering in Africa

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If you're looking for volunteer work in Africa there are plenty of opportunities available. This page includes information on the different types of volunteer opportunities available in Africa, what to expect when volunteering in Africa and stories from volunteers who have worked in Africa.

There are descriptions of volunteer job sites and volunteer organizations in Africa that I personally recommend.

There's also a list of development organizations which offer volunteer and paid opportunities in Africa.

Getting Paid or Not

Volunteering means something different to almost every organization you come across. Some agencies will cover your flight and cost of living while you are working and some are true "volunteer" projects and expect you to cover all costs for the privilege of the experience.

If you are looking for a more meaningful way to spend a few months in Africa than simply traveling around, volunteering is a wonderful way to spend your time. Most jobs that last less than a year or so are going to be the ones you have to pay for. Jobs that require a commitment of more than a year will often offer a basic stipend to cover some of your costs.

Whether you get paid and how much you get paid will also depend on your skills and how much they are in demand. Most paid volunteer opportunities in Africa are available to those who have a university education and/or a practical skill. Engineers, doctors, nurses, environmentalists, emergency relief personnel and teachers are among the most asked for by volunteer agencies. If an organization doesn't require you to have specific skills then you will usually have to pay your own expenses as a volunteer.

Note:
In general most organizations working in Africa try and recruit as many local people as possible rather than foreigners, since the projects should continue long after you have returned home. So don't take it personally if your intention to help people in Africa is rejected, it may just be that a local person is better suited to do the job.

What to Expect When You Volunteer in Africa

  • Basic Conditions. Most volunteer opportunities take place in rural areas where you may not have ready access to running water and electricity. Housing can be very basic and you will likely be staying with local families.

  • Cultural Adaptability. As in most countries in the world rural communities are usually more traditional than urban centers. As you will be working closely with the local population you will have to dress and behave in accordance with what is acceptable locally. General pace of life and work is much slower than in the west. Don't expect any organization to run efficiently and without glitches.

  • Getting Sick. If you're spending more than just a few weeks in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, your chances of getting malaria or bilharzia will also increase. Make sure you take all the medicine and precautions you need. The organization you work with should brief you about health issues and don't forget that local nurses and doctors will have plenty of experience with these common afflictions (probably more so than your doctor at home). Initially you may also have some problems getting used to different foods and water.

  • Personal Growth. Anyone who has volunteered in Africa will probably tell you that the biggest impact their project had was not on the community but on themselves. Spending time immersed in another culture will change the way you look at life and is part of the appeal of volunteering.

Volunteer Stories and experiences:

Before you decide to volunteer in Africa you may be interested to learn what the typical experiences are of people already in the field. Here is a collection of volunteer stories and experiences from Africa.

There are many services offering volunteers and travelers the opportunity to keep an online diary of their experiences. An excellent resource is Travelblog which you an scroll through and find some good tips about working, traveling and living in Africa. A quick search found David Damberger for example, on assignment with Engineers without Borders.

Note: Work Permits in Africa

Many people who travel around Africa may wish to stay and work. But just as in Europe or the US, every African country will require you to get an official work permit. In most cases these laws exist to stop foreigners getting jobs that local people may be qualified for. Unemployment is bad enough throughout Africa, so don't take a job that a local person could do.

Volunteer Work in Africa

Page Two: Finding a Volunteer Job in Africa and Recommended Organisations

Page Three: More Volunteer Organisations Working in Africa

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