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 child care 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£1100 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 duties for volunteers is to assist and support the social worker and auxiliary social worker in their daily programs with the youth who are there voluntary. For those wishing to do this project as a social work internship for their practical credits, this can be arranged.

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 social and 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.

Occasionally adolescent development programs are run in nearby schools to try and prevent future dropping out of schools by leaners who are struggling

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 utilize to enhance your time and to benefit the project

School terms for 2022

1st12th of January17th of March
2nd05th of April24th of June
3rd19th of July30th of September
4th11th of October14th of December

School terms for 2023

1st11th of January24th of March
2nd12th of April23rd of June
3rd18th of July29th of September
4th10th of October13th of December

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, the after-school club with the youth development centre, 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 either at a charming 3-star bed and breakfast or 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 room or apartment having its own bedroom with either double or twin beds, a TV, bathroom with a shower, basin and toilet. There is a braai facility and kitchen for meals. 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 at both volunteer accommodations.


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