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Voluntourism Spotlight: Edge of Africa’s Community Work in South Africa

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In Knysna, South Africa, west of Cape Town, there is award-winning private volunteer organization, Edge of Africa, that aims to do something a bit different. While “voluntourism” isn’t their favorite term, program participants focus on empowerment through sports development and commerce projects. Check back every Wednesday for more voluntourism opportunities and tune into Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio on Saturday for more information.

Founded in 2007 by Dayne Davey, a zoologist with a background working in conservation and community projects in Zimbabwe and Zambia, Edge of Africa practices ethos of empowerment, not charity or handouts. Davey notes:

I wanted to create an organization that could be proud of the work it facilitated. I had seen that the ‘voluntourism’ (I despise that word!) industry was making a large amount of money, and had first had experience of very little investment into the local community. I wanted to make sure that both the communities and volunteers could see a tangible difference through their involvement.

Over the years they have developed educational modules, launched various community and conservation projects dealing with poverty alleviation, health  issues, education, business empowerment, nutrition, sports and more. The organization’s team includes both conservation specialists (biologists, zoologists and field guides) and community workers (nurses, social workers and teachers).

While there are numerous initiatives, the Sports Coaching and Community Initiative and  “Recycling Swop Shop” stand out. For this initiative, volunteers support community projects in the morning and assist with sports clinics in the afternoons. By joining this initiative you’ll be part of the following volunteer projects:

  • Sports Development Helping to keep the children in the community active and fit, and keep them away from negative influences.  Football is the most popular sport, but other options are available.
  • Recycling Swap Shop This initiative teaches children the value of goods and the concept of working for goods through a recycling exchange incentive scheme. Local children under 18 years and under earn exchange recyclable materials for tokens with which they “buy” donated items such as clothes and toiletries. Volunteers may be involved in the running of the shop; data entry relating to the project; and marketing of the project.
  • Interactive Educational Program–This project aims to educate local children about HIV/AIDS and other social issues surrounding this epidemic. Programs use art and drama to educate.
  • Motor Skills Development–This project encourages motor skills development in children in a fun and interactive way. In addition, team work and communication and other social skills are strengthened.

Edge of Africa operates without any official funding. Instead, the organization relies on team members and volunteers. Opportunities are available year-round for all ages and nationalities. Volunteer commitments range from two to eight weeks with fees starting at $1264 and include accommodations, meals, travel arrangements within Africa and additional incidentals. Click here for full details on all EdgeofAfrica programs.

By Kari Adwell for