This is a very special project close to our hearts. The Youth Development and Social Work volunteer in the townships of Knysna started for children living on the streets as a safe daily drop-off centre. Over the years it has grown to assist mediating and giving support and training between the youth, families and schools and has now expanded to all youth at risk in the town of Knysna in South Africa. It is the perfect project for those interested in social work, life skills, sport, drama, art therapy, music, education, psychology and counselling. Many of the youth that attend the centre have learning disabilities and come from backgrounds with many economic issues. Together with qualified childcare and social workers, the aim is to get them back into the schools if possible and with the long-term goal of gearing them towards being self-sufficient upstanding members of society despite the challenges they have faced at such an early age.

Starting daysStarting days are Monday to Friday in the South African school term (see below for dates). A more fun-based holiday program is also available in school holidays. Closed from the 15th of December to the 15th of January.
Minimum Requirements2 weeks and longer subject to visa requirements. A minimum age of 18 years old and older.
Cost£1150 for 2 weeks and £350 for each additional week
What is includedFood, accommodation, meeting you at the airport, airport collection and drop-off, weekly transport to and from your project, a Sunday welcome or farewell braai (BBQ), a Saturday tour outing, donation to the project, pre-departure support and admin, in-country staff, t-shirt and 24-emergency help
What is not includedFlights, visas, travel insurance, spending money
Best forGappers, career breakers, families, post-retirement gappers, couples, creative arts lovers. We would especially appreciate teachers, social workers, psychologists, counsellors, teachers and sports educators (studying or qualified)

Project Description

Volunteer with Youth Development and Social Work with a team of caring childcare workers in South Africa at a daily drop-off centre for youth at risk. This is fantastic project for educators, counsellors, social work, psychologists or those with similar interests. The main duty for volunteers is to assist and support the childcare workers in their daily programs with the youth who are there voluntary.

The centre is set in one of the poorer areas of Knysna, the town in which the project is based, and the youth that attend the centre are fetched every morning and dropped off in the afternoon. There are daily programs with the youth which range from life skills, art therapy, sports, numeracy, literacy, reading, music to personal development and more which volunteers assist the staff on the ground with.

As many of the youth are school dropouts, the Youth Development and Social Work volunteer project runs in the school term with the long term aim of facilitating the youth back into local schools – if at all possible – and preparing them to deal with the challenges that they face in the education system, in life and to. become self-sustainable adults for the future

Many of the youth have challenges at school due to learning disabilities, which in the long run ends up with them dropping out of school. The childcare workers try and address those challenges so that help can be given. They also actively give parenting sessions so that families are equipped to be a solid support structure.

We love any volunteers with a passion for youth upliftment and helping with socio-economic issues so any skills or just enthusiasm will be of a great benefit. Please let us know if you have any special interests or talents that we can utilise to enhance your time and to benefit the project.

School terms for 2024

1st17th of January20th of March
2nd3rd of April14th of June
3rd9th of July20th of September
4th15th of October11th of December

Dates from the 27th of July to the 10th of August 2024 are fully booked.

Typical Day subject to change

7.30 to 8am- Get up, get ready and have a bite to eat. It is advisable to prepare a snack for the day especially if you are staying for the after-school group. 

8.30am – Be collected at your volunteer accommodation and taken to the centre. The youth that attend the centre will be arriving around the same time after being collected from 8am and they will also make sure the centre is tidy for the day’s activities

9am – Sylvia the cook serves the youth a nutritious breakfast to give them energy for the day. This is the perfect time to get acquainted with the youth and form a rapport. You can also assist Sylvia if you have some ideas for a fun breakfast- or even prepare a typical breakfast found in your country. After breakfast some of the youth will take care of the chore of washing dishes

9.30am- Now it is time for a fun short session of motivation  which has lots of singing and dancing to set the mood for the day and get energy levels up. It is also a great icebreaker for new volunteers and new youth registered at the centre

10am- The daily sessions now start and depending on the day of the week could be any of numeracy lessons, literacy lessons, art therapy in the form of working with clay or banner painting projects, personal development sessions dealing with topics like anger management, peer group pressure, substance abuse, children’s rights, bullying and skills development like cooking and sewing 

13pm- Lunch is served for the youth followed by some last minute chores of making sure the dishes are done and the centre is tidy. After lunch is a perfect time to enjoy some sports development with the youth before they get dropped off for the day

2 to 2.30pm- The youth are dropped off for the day and you will be fetched and taken back to your volunteer accommodation unless you are staying for the after-school club. Your time is now your own for a little shopping, sightseeing or other activities that the project offers like helping with homework at a local children’s safe house

After-school activities

There are a few activities that you can take part in after-school. You can either help with the children at the local safe house with their homework, assist with grassroots soccer coaching, visit the local elephant park, do some shopping, have lunch at the Waterfront on the estuary edge, hike the Pledge nature reserve or just getting a well-deserved nap as the children can be exhausting as they have so much energy. Please note that after-school activities do not take place every afternoon.


The volunteer accommodation is a self-catering apartment in the town of Knysna close to shopping malls, restaurants, take-aways, gyms, nightlife, entertainment areas and essential services. There is security and the area is safe to walk around. Accommodation is either shared with another volunteer or single depending on volunteer numbers with each apartment having bedrooms with either double or twin beds, kitchen, lounge area with a TV, bathroom with a shower, basin and toilet. There is also WIFI. Couples, friends, and families can be accommodated.


You will also receive a food allowance for your basic food essentials to prepare meals. You will be taken for a grocery shop as part of your induction on your arrival. This means that you can choose the specific food if you have set dietary requirements. There is a kitchen for preparing meals.


You will need to fly into George Airport for your airport collection where you will be met by your Volunteer International Adventures representative and driven to your volunteer accommodation in Knysna.

Knysna is one of South Africa’s favourite towns based around the beautiful Knysna estuary with views of the iconic headlands. It is not known as the jewel of the Garden Route for nothing and is surrounded by magical forests, farmlands and a breath-taking coastline dotted with blue flag beaches which are great for swimming, barbecuing or just simply watching dolphins surfing in the waves. It is also home to the famous elusive Knysna elephant which are the most southern free roaming elephants in the world and there are still hot debates about the numbers with some saying there is only one left and others a small herd of about four.

The area that Knysna is situated is the Garden Route of the province of the Western Cape and it is a dream for animal lovers and extreme sports enthusiasts as there are numerous private wildlife reserves, national parks, whale watching, predator sanctuaries, primate sanctuaries, elephant sanctuaries, wolf sanctuaries, skydiving, paragliding, sandboarding, numerous interesting markets and so much more so boredom is not an option.

Our projects take place mainly in the local townships in the poorer areas where we do our best to try and lighten the load for the teachers, schools and NPOs assisting in the area with hands on help and financial support

For more information or to book, either fill in the contact form or please email

“After a long career in social work in Scotland, this was a wonderful reminder of the value that social work services and community development can bring to areas of deprivation. A reminder too that this value doesn’t just depend upon financial resources but upon the personal resources that individual people bring – particularly respect, wisdom, compassion, empathy and humour. In the face of limited practical and financial resources compared to the UK, this remarkable project clearly delivers on its goals for young people and their families and for their community.

The staff and the young people themselves were very welcoming and very willing to give their time to talk, to explain and to ask questions. I most definitely feel that I got more out of the experience than they did, but this did not seem to diminish their enthusiasm. I was very aware of the significant challenges the young people in the project were facing but by the end of the placement, I could see that in spite of that, young people are pretty much the same wherever they are. So full of potential, full of hopes and dreams and the energy to realise them if they have the chance. An inspiration to me in so many ways”

– Nan Smith, Scotland

If you like this project with children, you may also be interested in our Safe House Kids Fun Holiday volunteer project in South Africa in the school holidays. Read more…

“As a newly qualified self-esteem and confidence coach, this was an incredible opportunity for me to test out what works and what doesn’t while also giving my time, energy and skillset to an incredibly worthwhile project.

It was a bit of a culture shock when I first arrived but the team were so welcoming and the kids were so interested in getting to know a new person. They also all want to be there which is a testament to the project and keeps them safe and on the right track. During my time on the project, I was part of so many different things and had the opportunity to immerse myself in all the services they offer and duties they carry out. From playing games, to worksheets, to home visits and discussions about the challenges the children and, by extension the project, are facing to keep these children safe and preparing them for their next steps – no day was the same and it was very varied and gave a clear picture of what was going on.

The kids that attend the centre are incredible. They all have dreams and aspirations and if we can help them gain and cultivate the right skills and attitudes, they will get there. They love going there, they’re always happy and smiling and enjoying themselves. The team have a really beautiful way of speaking to the children with respect and discipline, making the children understand the importance of going to school and their behaviour in order to stay there. I’d love to go back and work with the centre some more in the future and see how they are getting on. Each child is so capable and they can reach their goals with the right attitude and support. The team have a tough job but they do it wonderfully. It was one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences of my life and I feel so grateful to have been able to have this opportunity.

Socially, I cannot sing Knysna’s praises enough. A beautiful little town with plenty to do. The local people were so welcoming and lovely, I made so many friends and it truly felt like a home from home. Sharon was an amazing volunteer co-ordinator and became a friend. She welcomed me to town like a visiting family member and I am so grateful to her for everything. It was a very tough place to leave and I can’t wait to return! If you are looking for a life changing, exciting and rewarding experience, this is the project for you. Volunteer International Adventures are a great company to go with and make everything so easy!”

– Becci Donn, England, 2021

My experience with the Social Work, Education & Youth Development project with Sharon and Rustin was life-changing. It was meant just to be a stop on a year-long participatory research project. I planned to commit to a month with this organization and ended up extending twice. Needless to say, my expectations for this project were exceeded in every category. Social impact and activities: If you prioritize local-community centered, ethical and grassroots organizations, this project has to be at the top of your list. The organization itself supports at-risk youth and the kids themselves are talented, engaged and earnest. You will spend much of your time learning from and laughing with bright young people while facilitating programs that nurture their development. In your off time, you can immerse yourself in the outdoors (some of my favorites included ziplining, game drives and nature reserve hikes) and explore part of the Garden Route or even just hang out in town with your new friends at many of the locally owned cafes. Location, safety and support: Knysna is a gorgeous, easily navigable and friendly town. People know one another and in that way, it is a great place to connect with folks with similar interests. There is a great sense of community, people’s networks are often interwoven with each others and acquaintances become like family at an unprecedented rate. Overall, I encourage anyone who’s interested in either the broad category of social welfare or even just has an interest in visiting South Africa to come and learn and experience under the guidance of Sharon and Rustin who go above and beyond to provide you with the best experience. Their generosity with their time and efforts and their passion for this work is evident in the way they organize this project and others for and with their community. Working with organizers as dedicated as they are and a community that is so engaged is really an incredible opportunity not to be missed.

Stevie Hoesel, American, 2023