The UCT English Language Centre email account receives a lot of enquiries every day. Mostly, people enquire about our English classes in Cape Town, and then we receive a lot of emails about our teacher training course. But, every so often we also receive enquiries from people looking to make the most of their time in Cape Town after their English courses at UCT by giving back to the people/animals, or helping out in any way they can. Philanthropy!
ELC recently had a visit from Jonathan, the founder and owner of Volunteering Cape Town. He took the time to explain his company to us and the services he offers people looking to volunteer in Cape Town. We liked Jonathan because we could see his passion for what he is doing and his genuine interest in wanting to help his community, and to allow others to join him on his mission to make a difference in the lives of others (both humans and animals). He explains more about the area in which his company operates in (Hout Bay), the types of NGOs active in this area and the many different things on offer for international guests.
“A Different Way
The town of Hout Bay (“Wood Bay”) is situated in a valley 20km south of Cape Town on the Atlantic Seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. There are only three ways in and out of the valley. The fact that it is geographically set apart from the rest of the city has caused its residents to refer to their valley as the “Republic of Hout Bay”. If you enter from the Constantia Nek side you will be greeted by a sign that welcomes you to the said republic. Visitors can even get a “passport” that entitles them to various specials and discounts in the town. The two other entrances to the bay: Chapman’s Peak Drive, and Victoria Drive, both wind their way alongside the shore of the Atlantic Ocean and are amongst the most stunning strips of road to be seen in the whole of South Africa. Hout Bayans don’t mind coming home. The rest of the population don’t mind coming in. Most don’t like leaving.
Hout Bay can, in many ways, be seen as a microcosm of South Africa. Although very much integrated as a community, the residential areas are still as separate from each other as they were in the bad old days of Apartheid. The three main ethnic groups, those of European decent, those of African descent, and those of mixed race live in different areas of the valley. The African descendants live in what is effectively a slum, or “township” where living conditions are poor and most of the population live close to the breadline. Here, disease, alcoholism and malnutrition are some of the most pressing problems. Those of mixed race descent, who are traditionally a fishing community, live in the shadow of Hangberg mountain, above the working harbour. The major challenges here are drugs and gangsterism. The community of European descendants consists mainly of middle class white South Africans and wealthy Europeans who own opulent holiday houses here.
The disadvantaged communities of Hout Bay are in desperate need of help. There is hope though, in the form of the some 80 NGOs in the valley. These range from fire and ambulance services, to after school daycare facilities for disadvantaged kids to community projects that aim to empower communities by facilitating the making of arts and crafts. There are also projects for domestic animals as well one which aims to protect the natural environment. Foreign volunteers from all over the world play a large part in supporting some of these community projects. Travellers from Brazil, Australia, the UK and Germany all choose to come and help out in Hout Bay. They come principally to volunteer at these projects, but also to partake of the many and varied tourist activities on offer. These include Blue Flag beaches, walks through forests on the way up to the famed Table Mountain, beach horse rides, one of the most popular markets in Cape Town and many world class hotels. There is so much to do here, the topic requires a new sentence: boat rides, snorkelling with seals, a wine route, a canopy tour, Africa’s largest wildlife sanctuary, surfing, fishing boat charters, a museum and even a wine route which includes South Africa’s oldest wine farm.
Tourists who opt to visit Hout Bay as volunteers have the best of both worlds. They experience the sense of self-worth that comes from giving, whilst at the same time partaking of all that Hout Bay and Cape Town have to offer. This modern kind of volunteering tourism has a name: voluntourism. It’s a growing industry amongst, not only millennials, but most other age groups as well. One organization that facilitates these volunteering holidays is ‘Volunteering Cape Town’. “