Voluntourism in Cape Town: The Report

Voluntourism in Cape Town: Mother City’s complete offer unpacked

To officially end Project Cape Town in style, the Volunteer Correct foundation presents her research report. In order to produce their films and articles, the foundation investigated all offers of voluntourism in Cape Town. Read the full report right away, or read the headlines here below.

Cape Town is immensely popular as destination for international volunteering. Nowhere in the world are luxury and sqalor that much part of the same everyday reality. The city is often branded as ‘the most beatiful city in the world’: sun, sea, culture and affordable hotels with swimming pools. On the other side is the daunting socio-economic challenges that are being faced in the sprawling townships of the Cape Town Metropolitan area.

These coinciding realities create an effective market for ‘voluntourism’: the irresitable pull of ‘doing good’ and ‘having fun’ at the same time. And this need is being catered for. Over a 100 websites offer voluntourism in Cape Town alone.

Voluntourism in Cape Town

But what do these organisations actually do? How much do they charge for their services? Who profits from the payments that the volunteers make? Are the underpriviledged locals even being assisted? These questions inspired the research Volunteer Correct undertook for Project Cape Town. Niko Winkel combined all the data and concluded the following:

  • Qualifications are irrelevant. By far the majority of the organisations do not require any qualifications from their volunteers they recruit. Everyone, regardless of age or qualifications, can take a trip to Cape Town to volunteer.
  • Local is usually cheaper. Locally based, South African, smaller and non-profit organisations are considerably cheaper than international, large and for-profit organisations.
  • Reason for pricing differences unclear. The differences in price between the different organisations offering volunteer opportunities is extremely large. A closer inspection of the details that the organisations make available online do not explain the cause of the differences.
  • Pie charts offer fake transparency. The way in which organisations disclose their finances (for instance by using pie charts) in reality help to actually obfuscate their financial structure.

These findings offer are the beginning of a road that will lead to more transparency. To be more authoritative on the subject, more research is necessary. But in these findings Volunteer Correct finds encouragement and identifies a right to exist. The report that Niko Winkel compiled from the online research about voluntourism in Cape Town, including the organisations and their pricing structures, can be read in full detail (including the figures) on Volunteer Correct’s website: read the full report now.

Do you have any questions? Do not hesitate and mail us at info@volunteercorrect.org. Want to stay updated? Like our Facebook page and stay in the loop!

This post is also available in nl_NL.

3 comments on “Voluntourism in Cape Town: The Report”

  1. Sabrina Reply

    I read your “research” doc. I’m interested in volunteering, too, for a couple of months in Cape Town. It’s clear that most volunteers are using placement agencies that work for profit. There are costs for accommodation and other services like meals and transportation. Plus these organizations need to cover their costs for marketing and make a profit. When you book with an agency in Europe, they likely will get a commission, too.

    At the end you can try to find a place directly with a volunteering organization without having much guarantees. I don’t have the time for that and when I already pay so much for the flight, I want that it works out well. I will likely take an English course and volunteer with Ailola Cape Town. I know that I can save some bucks if I organize everything myself like for example finding a private English teacher and finding a local volunteering project but I want peace of mind. At the end everyone needs to decide what’s best for him.


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  3. Hanna Louw Reply

    Hello there!

    My name is Hanna Louw and I would love to share with you about the adventure travel packages and volunteering opportunities that we offer to people from abroad who would love to explore South Africa and gain a fulfilling experience.

    I myself am a South African and USA citizen that has lived overseas for 18 years of my life and decided to move back to South Africa 6 years ago to fulfill my passion for helping those less privileged.

    Our company is based in Port Elizabeth on a lovely piece of land and the community development projects is based on working with schools in the area where the children attending are from the local townships.

    Our community development projects include building classrooms at the school, helping with school maintenance, assisting the teachers in the classroom, developing an organic garden, team work activities, engaging in physical activities with the students etc.

    We are spreading the word of our passion for leaving a positive footprint in South Africa.

    I am in Cape Town for business and I would love to meet with you either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday while I am still in the area to discuss more in detail of the travel packages and volunteering projects that we have to offer.

    Thank you and have a lovely day!

    Hanna Louw with Free Walker

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