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Frequently Asked Questions

Information for parents

There is a lot of information below, so if you prefer, you can download and print a copy of this to read at leisure.

Sending your son or daughter abroad for the first time can be a worrying experience for any parent. A new country, new people, many new experiences for them to discover, and all this without daily physical contact and support from you!

At AVIVA, we take our volunteer�s safety and well being very seriously, and have over�eight years of experience looking after volunteers of all ages, the majority of whom have never been overseas before arriving in South Africa. To date, all of our volunteers have returned home safely after volunteering with us.

About 80% of our volunteers are females aged between 18-25 years old, and whilst some of our volunteers travel with a friend, the vast majority travel to South Africa alone.

Our volunteers can look forward to a warm welcome in South Africa, not only from the AVIVA team, but also from other volunteers, who already share a common interest with them.� We have worked hard to provide a first class service for our volunteers and we are�widely recognised as South Africa's leading volunteer organisation.

Acting on feedback from volunteers has been an important part of our success, and over the years we have learned the main reasons why volunteers choose to arrange their volunteering experience with us, and why they are happy to recommend us to family and friends.� These reasons include, but are not limited to:

1. Personal attention & in-country support

Because our volunteer's welfare is important to us, we have invested in dedicated and passionate staff to make sure that we can provide your son or daughter with the best possible experience - AVIVA now has the largest and most experienced volunteer support team in South Africa - no other organisation provides the depth of support or attention to detail that we do.

We also maintain our own volunteer accommodation in Cape Town, with a full-time Volunteer Coordinator and Housekeeper. AVIVA House provides a safe, clean and comfortable home from home for our volunteers.

Our experienced Volunteer Coordinators can help your son or daughter with anything from recommendations for things to do, to organising exciting overland trips to explore the rest of Africa. Their local knowledge will be invaluable while they are learning to find their way around, and in the unlikely event that they find themselves in any difficulty, it�s reassuring to know your son or daughter will always have someone to call on.

Every member of AVIVA adheres to a strict Code of Conduct, which provides ethical guidelines for our interactions with volunteers, project partners and each other. Our Code of Conduct is integral to everything we do and ensures that we provide a consistently high level of service to our volunteers.

2. Great value - with lots of included benefits and no hidden extras

When your son or daughter books a project with AVIVA, you can relax in the knowledge that they will not need to worry about having to find their own way around in a new country, and can instead look forward to enjoying their South African experience.

Most projects�include all�project transfers, accommodation (and meals on many projects), project fees, orientation, supervision, training, certificate and more.�Every volunteer arriving in Cape Town receives a comprehensive welcome brief from a member of the AVIVA team...

You will find details of benefits included with each project on our web site � detailed project information sheets can also be downloaded from each project page on our web site.

3. Wide choice of well researched projects

AVIVA is committed to supporting sustainable community, wildlife and conservation projects while providing volunteers with a life changing volunteering experience in South Africa. We believe that volunteering promotes self-growth, cultural understanding, and provides international volunteers with a unique opportunity to really experience a country first hand.

We have researched and evaluated a wide range of projects across the country to provide your son or daughter with the best possible choice when it comes to selecting a project that closely matches their area of interest or passion.

We only work with grass roots projects that have evolved to meet real needs in the local community and environment - so you can be sure that your son or daughter will be contributing their time to a worthwhile and rewarding cause, and can make a meaningful contribution to its growth and future well being.

It is very important that your son or daughter's presence at a project is beneficial not only for the project, but also for them. Too many projects around the world have been 'created' to meet volunteer demand, and provide very little in the way of structure or anything to do. For this reason, every project partner we work with first goes through a strict evaluation procedure to ensure that the project is valid; has genuine aims; can provide a rewarding experience, and has a sustainable plan for�future development.

We believe that by working in partnership with projects that are genuinely committed to their cause, we can provide your son or daughter with a unique travel experience that not only matches, but exceeds their expectations.

4. AVIVA is based in South Africa

It is normally the case that volunteer organisations based in the UK, USA and elsewhere have only one representative in South Africa to provide support to volunteers throughout the whole country.

With AVIVA, your son or daughter will have access to support and advice from our entire team, all of whom are resident in South Africa. Not only does this provide peace of mind for you, it also ensures that no matter where your son or daughter is, they will be able to contact us quickly and can rely on that depth of support to assist them. The value of this is often overlooked until it is actually needed.

Being based in South Africa also means that we do not have expensive offices to maintain overseas, ensuring that your son or daughter's entire volunteer fee goes directly into supporting the local economy, creating much needed jobs, and providing essential support for many grass roots organisations in South Africa.

5. Quick response to applications & enquiries

One of the first things you will notice with AVIVA is that we don�t like to keep our volunteers waiting. Our busy Cape Town team work hard to ensure that you receive replies to your applications and email enquiries by the next working day if not sooner.

We will provide your son or daughter with simple guidelines and useful information to help them prepare for their trip to South Africa, and if you or your son or daughter have any questions or need advice on anything before they travel, you will be more than welcome to contact us at any time by phone, email, or online chat via our web site.

For volunteers looking to stay in South Africa for longer than 90 days, we can also provide assistance and a letter of support for their Visa Application and provide them with guidance on completing the application form.

6. Personal growth

Many volunteers sign up for a project without thinking about what they will gain from the experience, but gain they certainly do. Personal growth is a hidden benefit that many volunteers only become aware of during their stay, or when they look back on their experience and realise just how much they have achieved.

Volunteering in South Africa presents volunteers with many beneficial opportunities for self-growth, improving their understanding of other cultures, improving their ability for tolerance and understanding of others, developing new skills and talents, gaining self-confidence and making new friends.

It is very likely that you will notice positive developments in areas of your son or daughter's personal growth when they return home. For example, we have seen many volunteers arrive with a shy demeanour, with some experiencing low levels of self-esteem or self-worth. Without exception, we have seen those same volunteers blossom into confident young individuals during their stay. Volunteering does that - there is no other type of travel experience that can match volunteering for these beneficial and far reaching effects.

Many previous volunteers have used their project time to help them decide on future career paths or areas of study, and in all cases, your son or daughter will have a very useful addition to their resume which can help them stand above the competition.

Without doubt, the vast majority of volunteers leave us feeling that they have gained more from their experience than they have been able to give � not because they have been idle, but because they have been exposed to so many different types of experiences during their stay.

In summary, some of the benefits your son or daughter will receive through volunteering include:

  • Making a direct contribution to a worthwhile cause
  • An impressive and unusual addition to their Resume/CV
  • An opportunity to discover their own hidden talents
  • Developing their own character, confidence and abilities
  • Seeing the world with a global perspective
  • Meeting likeminded people from around the world
  • Experiencing new cultures and lifestyle
  • A great, fun experience, with lasting good memories
  • A wide range of spare time activities
  • An experience that goes far beyond tourism
  • An excellent way to help them to decide on future study or career choices

I have more questions!!!

Our Frequently Asked Questions section contains a great deal of useful advice for volunteers, but for your convenience, we have summarised the main questions that parents have asked us below:

Will my son or daughter be safe?

We have gone to great lengths to ensure that your son or daughter is safe throughout their stay by arranging secure transfers and escorts, approved accommodation and thoroughly researching our projects.

Wherever your son or daughter is based during their stay, they will have access to advice and assistance from our team, our project partners, and will always have someone to call on in an emergency.

UK business travellers voted Cape Town as the safest long haul travel destination. Cape Town is also known for being the most open-minded and relaxed city in South Africa and perhaps the safest city in Africa for international visitors.

It is also worth remembering that the�2010 FIFA World Cup hosted in South Africa was regarded as�the best ever, and passed without incident.�South Africa is the only country to have�hosted the Football, Rugby & Cricket World Cups, and no other country has successfully hosted more international sporting events in the past 15 years. Millions of tourists visit South Africa every year and enjoy a trouble free stay.

That said it is advisable to take sensible precautions when travelling around as you would anywhere in the world. Try to avoid walking alone at night, avoid wearing obviously flashy jewellery and expensive cameras around your neck, don't leave valuables unattended and so on.

The use of public transport after dark is not recommended (volunteers use metered taxis instead) and volunteers should travel first class on the train during the day (very cheap). The Police and their horses are very visible in central Cape Town (as are the mind-boggling number of traffic wardens on every street) and we are always happy to advise volunteers if they have any personal safety concerns before or during their visit.

Johannesburg does have a reputation for violent crime, although this tends to be�localised to the townships (shanty towns) outside the city. We do not have any projects based in Johannesburg, and of the many volunteers that travel via Johannesburg to reach their projects, none of them have encountered crime or have had their personal safety compromised in any way.

It is worth noting that statistics from South Africa Tourism consistently show that visitor�s perceptions of crime in South Africa improve greatly once they have spent some time in the country.

On some projects, there will be inherent risks of working with children or wildlife, but these risks are minimised through correct training, supervision and procedures. Your son or daughter may also wish to take part in some adventurous activities during their stay so it is always a good idea to have adequate travel insurance in place before they travel anywhere. Travel insurance doesn't have to be expensive and there are no end of great deals available for volunteers, gap year students and multi-trip travellers for you to take advantage of.

Are there any health risks that we should be aware of?

South Africa boasts high hygiene standards with safe drinking water (South African tap water is rated as the 3rd best in the world) available in most tourist areas and whilst Aids is a problem throughout Africa, your son or daughter will only put themselves at risk of contracting HIV if they partake in unprotected sex or intravenous drug taking.

There is a low risk of contracting malaria if your son or daughter is visiting Kruger National Park, parts of Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Northwest and Northern provinces.

The decision whether or not to take precautions against malaria is a personal one, especially as the drugs prescribed for this can have unpleasant side-effects and are often unsuitable for long term use. Local inhabitants and the majority of volunteers visiting malarial areas, instead choose to cover up arms and legs during early mornings and the evenings, often using a mosquito repellent spray for any other areas of exposed skin.

A small number of AVIVA projects and courses are situated in low-risk malarial areas and these are listed below:

  • Balule Conservation Project
  • Endangered Wildlife Monitoring Project
  • Wildlife Ranger Course

It must be stressed that these are low risk areas, and to date, we have had no incidents of volunteers contracting malaria in South Africa.

The most serious health risk your son or daughter is likely to face is from the South African sun, which can be unforgiving at any time of the year, so they should come prepared with adequate sunscreen, UV filter sunglasses and a hat (or purchase them soon after they arrive). If your son or daughter is particularly fair of skin, they should be careful not to overdo the sunbathing, even 10 minutes under the summer sun is long enough to burn if they are not used to it!

Although there are no compulsory inoculations required for travelling to South Africa from the West, it would be wise to ensure that your son or daughter's polio and tetanus vaccinations are up to date.

What happens if my�son or daughter�becomes ill or needs�medical attention?

We will ensure that your son or daughter receives medical treatment at the earliest opportunity and arrange doctor or hospital visits as required. Medical facilities in South Africa are very good, with a quality of care that far exceeds that found in many first world countries.

We will also assist your son or daughter with completing insurance claims and will inform you immediately should they become seriously ill, or otherwise need medical attention.

Can I volunteer with my son or daughter?

Yes. Many projects are suitable for parent/child combinations, and can provide for a rich bonding experience that neither of you will ever forget.

Can I visit my�son or daughter�during their stay?

Yes, although this may depend on the project location and the availability of accommodation for you. This will never be a problem for projects based in and around Cape Town, but if for example, your son or daughter is on the Balule Conservation project - this is located deep within a game reserve and has limited� accommodation available.

For the most time though, visits are nearly always possible, so if you would like to arrange to visit your son or daughter, or perhaps spend a week or more with them in Cape Town before or after their project, we will be very happy to help you with the arrangements.

How can I contact my�son or daughter�in an emergency?

If you have any problems contacting your son or daughter directly, you can contact a member of the AVIVA team (24 hours a day for emergencies), 365 days of the year. We will make sure your messages get through to them wherever they are. You are also welcome to enquire after your son or daughter at any time.

Emergency contact numbers:

+27 (0)21 557 4312
Michelle or Andrew (AVIVA Head Office in Cape Town - During normal office hours)

+27 (0)82 707 8533
Megan (Volunteer Coordinator for AVIVA House in Table View, Cape Town)

If your�son or daughter�is staying with us in Cape Town, you�can also contact them on the following number:

+27 (0)21 556 2385
AVIVA House in Table View

We hope this information has been helpful to you. If we can assist you, please�contact us at any time.