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Volunteering your Skills for Social Impact in Africa

March 2020

If you’re looking to visit Africa, the biggest continent on earth, you might be interested in volunteering your skills. Volunteering is a great way to travel and experience local cultures in a more meaningful way, as you’ll not only be giving back to the community you are immersing yourself in but also learn a lot more about their way of life.

It’s best to volunteer with African-led organizations, so that you are certain your skills are being put to good use and to best help the community: in all areas of volunteering, members of the community know best about what they need help with. The destiny of African countries will always be led by Africans – but if you have a particular skillset, you may be very useful and able to help! So, have a look around and see what skills are being asked for – this is called Experteering, the process of skills-based volunteering, and is really all any volunteer should be doing.

Finding the Right Volunteer Project in Africa

Africa has been growing since the global financial crisis of 2008. One statistic notes that 66% of the 2 billion people in Africa will be of working age by 2050 – this is a huge change in demographic, and in opportunity, so they will then need many more jobs created and will need to attain the skills and education to carry them out before then, something volunteers help with. Search for legitimate projects that are safe, community-orientated and will create long-term impact.

To ensure a volunteer project is legitimate, you should be asking the following questions:

  1. Does this project use my real skills?
  2. Is this a job a local could be doing – is it possible that I’m taking a local person’s job, rather than genuinely volunteering my skills?
  3. Will my efforts leave a lasting impact on the organization and community?
  4. Are the goals and objectives of the organization locally driven?
  5. Is the organization reputable?

Examples of Volunteering Projects in Africa

“By asking the above questions, you can ensure your project is genuinely useful and impactful. You should be looking for projects that allow you to help organizations increase their manufacturing efficiency, agricultural efficiency, improve education systems or pass on skills directly through teaching and mentoring,” says Sheila O’Connor, a business writer at Australianhelp and Academized.

Here are some examples of skills you may have that are currently in high demand from social impact organizations in Africa:

  • Increasing agricultural efficiency in Kenya with operations skills
  • Increase access to microloans in Uganda with business or economic skills
  • Volunteer your product design skills to manufacturing workforce in Kenya
  • Volunteer your web design skills
  • Volunteer your entrepreneurial skills

Explore volunteer opportunities with Asante Africa Foundation: https://asanteafrica.org/opportunities/

Best Practices While Volunteering in Africa

Once in Africa, you should try to stick to volunteering best practices.

“Always support locally initiated projects, train local staff to take over your job when you go, spend more time teaching than actively ‘doing’, be aware of what is best for the host organization rather than yourself, and embrace cultural differences rather than struggling to fit Western ideas in a non-Western context.” Notes Shyla Duffy, a project manager at Paperfellows and Oxessays.

Cultural and Communication Tips to be an Effective Volunteer in Africa

Wherever you volunteer abroad, you will inevitably meet with cultural differences and other ways of doing things. This is something to be celebrated – in African nations, for example, you may find people are more collectivistic and high-context, whereas Westerners are more individualistic and low-context. This means you may have to spend time looking at the bigger picture and the context of a situation rather than at direct orders.

The Price of Volunteering Abroad

Considering the cost of getting a passport, other documentation and flights on top of the cost of meals, transport and accommodation with your chosen volunteering provider, the act of volunteering abroad can get expensive – well into the thousands, in fact. Therefore it’s worth budgeting and breaking the cost down;

A cheaper flight from San Francisco to Cape Town is $2,349, whereas a similar flight from Denver to Cape Town is $2,390. However, this kind of flight from New York City to Cape Town is merely $1,969.

You’ll also need to make sure you have your passport – $110 if new, with an application fee of $30 and execution fee of $35. A visa is not usually required.

This brings the total to over $2,000 already.

Then there is the cost of your chosen volunteering program – the South African environmental and wildlife conservation program AVIVA charges $1,140 for two weeks’ volunteering, including transport and food. The similar children’s education and community development program GVI costs $1,200, also including the same.

Most volunteering programs out there should include food and accommodation in the price.

To find great and well-known volunteer opportunities, you can check out VSO International (Voluntary Service Overseas), MovingWorlds, Cuso International and Peace Corps.

Remote Volunteering

Therefore, considering the expense of physically volunteering abroad, you may find that you can make a more valuable contribution by volunteering skills like remotely.

Over on Asante Africa Foundation’s website, there are many current opportunities to volunteer your writing, fundraising, social media managing, SEO and other skills. This requires much less of an investment.

https://asanteafrica.org/opportunities/

Do Your Research

Whether you choose to go abroad to volunteer or volunteer remotely, before you head to the airport or give over details, it’s strongly advised to check out reviews and first-hand accounts of your chosen program’s organization, on a reputable reviewing website like Trustpilot or Feefo, where past volunteers and staff tell it like it is, rating aspects of how the program went for them after it ends – what was best and what was worst.

Finishing Your Project and Recapping Your Story

On return from your trip, or at the end of your remote project, you will no doubt want to share your project and story – maybe to help with future fundraising or raise awareness. Share your story with as many people as possible to inspire individuals with skillsets to go abroad and share them just like yourself!

If all this has inspired you to volunteer with us in a way that suits you, feel free to browse our current opportunities.

Ellie Coverdale, a writer for Ukwritings.com and Essayroo.com, is passionate about travel and lifestyle topics. She has travel to many countries and loves to share her experiences with her audience. She enjoys helping readers get the travel bug and discover new places. Ellie also writes and teaches for the Boomessays.com.