GVI Community operations in South Africa are based out of Gordons Bay, a picturesque coastal village nestled at the foot of the Hottentot Hollands Mountain Range, just outside Stellenbosch and 45 minutes from Cape Town. The area is home to beautiful swimming beaches, magnificent wine farms and popular restaurants and bars. Gordons Bay is also the beginning of the scenic and well-known Garden Route, making this the perfect base to explore the best sites and activities the Cape has to offer.
Join a team of fellow international volunteers and assist with lessening the burden of intergenerational poverty, by working to assist women in township and rural communities to gain access to equal education, health care and income opportunities.
The majority of people living below the poverty line are women. Many girls around the world are still denied a basic education and women continue to dominate the world's illiterate population. By supporting women in society and giving them access to equal opportunities such as an education, jobs and health care, everyone benefits. Infant mortality rates go down, more children stay in school, incomes increase and the cycle of poverty can be broken. By volunteering on this programme with GVI, you will join a dedicated team of international volunteers assisting on sustainable and invaluable women’s empowerment initiatives. Although gender equality has come a long way for women from disadvantaged communities in South Africa, there is still quite a lot that needs to be done to ensure women have equal opportunities and skills to participate actively and effectively in South Africa’ economy. In the traditional township and rural culture, gender discrimination stems from patriarchal cultural and religious beliefs. This has spilled over into the workplace, especially in senior management roles, with only 16% held by women.
GVI aims to assist in gender equality through various educational, healthcare and income initiatives. We also aim to facilitate and encourage dialogues between empowered women, helping them to share positive stories of change and increasing the opportunity for them to become more involved in key community issues. After 20 years of democracy in South Africa, women are still struggling to compete with men, especially in the workplace. Women living in township and rural areas are often in the dark about opportunities available to them and have been socialized into taking lesser roles by traditional mind-sets. By ignoring this gender imbalance, women will continue to become less likely to be employed and increasingly vulnerable to social ailments such as poverty. In order to counteract this, GVI has set up numerous initiatives in local communities to help give women and girls a more equal future.
*Please Note: During holiday periods, all participants will join Cape Town’s school holiday program. During the school holiday period, all of GVI’s projects come together to work on at a local library to provide a safe and educational space for children of all ages. Activities here possibly include a wide range, from tutoring, reading and arts & crafts, as well as sports and wellbeing. When possible to do so, the team also runs soup kitchens on the ground in the community.
Contribute to impactful and sustainable women’s empowerment initiatives
Explore Cape Town and revel in all its natural beauty
Immerse yourself into a fascinating culture
Enjoy life in one of the world’s most beautiful cities and make a serious difference in the lives of girls and women in the local community
Hosting alternative income generation skills workshops
Educating South African women on various health topics and prenatal care
Providing additional educational support to young girls in local schools
Cancel anytime and receive a full refund minus your deposit.
Life On Base
GVI’s Capetonian operations are based in Gordons Bay, a picturesque coastal village nestled at the foot of the Hottentot Hollands Mountain Range, roughly a 45 minute drive from the city centre. The town plays host to a diverse range of community projects at our hub, which participants will get to experience in a communal, familial-type setting, both with their fellow participants as well as GVI staff.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place. Learn more.
Accommodation on GVI’s base is just a short distance away from the beach. Your South African experience will involve dorm style rooms and shared bathrooms, with facilities including a large balcony, patio in the garden as well as other communal spaces where participants can get to know their fellow participants from all over the world.
Generally, most volunteers will prepare their own breakfasts, which is usually toast or cereal. Lunches are also packed first thing in the morning, to be enjoyed while you’re working hard on the project site. When arriving to base, participants are split into teams, in order to rotate dinner duty, and also to help participants get to know their new peers from all over the world.
Being on a program with GVI means being fully immersed in the experience, so access to long distance communications are available, but it is limited. Be sure to let your loved ones know how often they can expect to hear from you. Participants typically venture to internet cafes to keep in touch but daily internet access can be provided at your own expense. Be mindful that your mobile phone may not work in South Africa, and should this be the case, you can always purchase a local sim and top up airtime at a convenience store around the corner when necessary.
Your program associated transport on location will be taken care of by the GVI staff on the ground. On our Gordon’s Bay base, you will be conveniently based just a short drive from the project site each day.
Cape Town has a Mediterranean-style climate, with wet and cool winters, and dry and warm summers. The annual average temperature in Cape Town is a sunny 17 degrees and it can reach up to 30 degrees in the peak of summer, in December – February. Don’t let winter be a deterrent to you: a winter’s day in South Africa is often warmer than a summer’s day in the UK, with more than half of the year experiencing temperatures of over 21 degrees. Pack your beach slops!
Health and Hygiene
For over 20 years, GVI has prioritised the health and safety of our staff, participants, partners and local community members. In response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, GVI has created the GVI health and hygiene team to put in place new standards of cleanliness, norms and behaviours that meet or exceed international recommendations to ensure the ongoing safety of GVI’s participants, staff and communities around the world. Internationally recommended practices, such as advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the governments Australia, UK and US, continue to be monitored and the standards are likely to change if and when international advice changes.
The work GVI is contributing to across the globe remains important and the following measures allow our participants to continue to join GVI’s programs and continue impacting positively on their world and the communities we work with. The following changes to our existing protocols have been made by the GVI health and hygiene team to strengthen our health and hygiene protocols and ensure that international standard safeguards are in place to protect our participants, staff and host communities.
If you’d like to find out what the experience of joining a GVI project is really like, simply contact us and we’ll put you in touch with one of our many Alumni.
We’ll try to match you to an Alum based on your location, nationality, age, stage of academic career, gender, and program interests. This allows you to gain insights into the experience that is most relevant to you.
Depending on your location you might be able to speak to an Alum over the phone or online, or meet up with them face-to-face at a coffee shop nearby. We also run a series of small events around the world where you can speak to GVI Alumni, Ambassadors and staff members.
Follow GVI Cape-Town's Facebook page for live updates straight from the field. Get an idea of the types of projects you might be involved in, meet our staff and participants, experience life on this GVI base, hear about free time activities, and learn about the local culture and environment.
When it comes to support, we ensure that each participant is provided with unparalleled, 360 degree support, from your initial contact with the GVI Family, all the way through your program, and even after, as you become part of the GVI Alumni Team.
As part of this promise, we will ensure, whenever possible, that one of our dedicated staff will be available to meet you at the airport. In most locations, we also set up a Whatsapp group to help with managing airport arrivals. We will arrange with you prior to your departure that, should you arrive in the agreed upon pick up window, a member of our staff will be there to welcome you, easily identifiable in a GVI t-shirt or holding a GVI sign and wearing a friendly smile. This means there will be someone there to greet you as you land, and from there you will be transported to your GVI base to start your adventure and meet the rest of your team.
Please note that the above images were taken pre COVID-19. All airport pick-ups and program operations now run with enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures in place. Learn more.
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Meet the team - Senior Field Management
This is Sian, the Program Manager in Gordon’s Bay. Before joining us in Gordon’s Bay Sian previously worked as a Social Worker back in the UK and now has since traveled to 33 countries!
Meet the team - In-Country Staff
Deputy Program Manager
Meet Charlotte, who is the Assistant Program Manager at GVI’s base in Gordons Bay, Cape Town. In 2012 she took part in a GVI Community Development and Conservation Project in Kenya. After this, she went on to study Cultural Studies and Social Anthropology at the University of Kent in the UK. Charlotte has lived most of her life in Africa and is also lucky enough to have visited an array of other countries.
All of our programs have short, mid and long-term objectives that fit with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals or UN SDGs. This enables us to report on our collaborative impact across the world in a streamlined manner, measuring which UN SDGs we are making a substantial contribution to. Furthermore, this will help our local partners and communities measure and visualise their contribution to the UN SDGs.
Upon arrival to base, you will be educated about the history of the UN SDGs. You will learn about the specific goals of your location, the long-, mid- and short-term objectives, and also clarification of how your personal, shorter-term involvement contributes to these goals on a global level.
Our aim is to educate you on local and global issues, so that you continue to act as active global citizens after your program, helping to fulfil our mission of building a global network of people united by their passion to make a difference.
Our Cape Town based community development programs involve researching, planning and delivering practical skills workshops in the local community alongside the direction of local partners
We have partnered with a well-known various educare centres across Cape Town to implement and deliver educational programs to young children. We have been working with our current partners in the Nomzamo township for more than six years, and see the relationship as a long term partnership with core underlying sustainable principles. By participating on a GVI program in this region, you will also be bridging the gap between educational and developmental stimulation needed for the younger generation. We provide support where it is needed by our partners and local communities.
Our Partners In Cape Town
GVI Cape Town Long-term Objectives:
1. Improving the quality of education in Nomzamo and Zola.
2. Promoting gender equality in the local community
3. Increasing the health, self-sufficiency and wellbeing of community members with less resources available to them.
4. Increasing in-country capacity by providing long term training to help the local community achieve their long term sustainability objectives.
The best decisions in international development and conservation cannot be made without accurate and up-to-date data or informed research. Our many field teams around the world collaborate with local and international partners to analyse data and draw conclusions. In addition, many of our participants have used research they have collected on their various GVI projects to complete their Masters, Doctorate, or postdoctoral studies. We also run a fellowship program which connects postdoctoral researchers at globally-respected universities with our many sustainable development programs around the world to support their research and ensure continuous improvement of our best practices on base.
A GVI program is an investment in your career. No matter which you choose, you will be working toward improving your employability by mastering new social skills, gaining further technical expertise and earning qualifications in many cases. Most of our staff are, in fact, GVI Alumni, and we have helped many of our Alumni discover, move toward, and earn their own personal dream jobs. Each program includes introductory workshops, ongoing presentations, as well as on-the-ground professional support provided by our very own trained staff members. In addition, our training programs are critical for helping us to ensure the long-term impact of our sustainable development projects around the world.
For All GVI Participants
Introduction to GVI as a whole and the work in your specific location. Learn about the short, mid, and long-term objectives of the sustainable development projects at your base, which United Nations Development Goals they impact most directly, and which local partners we work with.
Health and Safety Training
Learn about the Emergency Action Plans in place at your base, the full Risk Assessment, and best practices for personal safety.
Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection Training
Learn about the importance of child and vulnerable adult protection best practices and how to apply them while on project.
For All Participants at Cape Town
Learn strategies for reflecting on, developing and facilitating educational programs. Learn how to plan engaging, meaningful lessons, and how to manage a classroom.
Your Program Specific Training
Introduction to Women’s Empowerment
This training starts with an overview of the challenges faced by women and girls in South Africa. You will then learn about the courses and lessons conducted in the local community in collaboration with local partners. How data is collected to monitor the ongoing impact of the project will also be discussed. Then GVI staff will discuss with you the logistical and admin tasks that are required on the project and a role will be assigned to you. You will receive a rundown of your role and your weekly schedule. Participants working on this project are also introduced to cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when working on gender equality issues in the local community.
GVI Online Community Development course (optional)
In this course, you’ll explore the most common pitfalls of community development initiatives so that you can avoid them. You’ll also learn how to carry out community development work effectively and ethically and how local context impacts program development. After successfully completing the course, which you have the option of doing prior to your in-country program, you’ll receive a certificate from the University of Richmond.
This online course, valued at €345, is included in all volunteering programs. Full course details can be found here.
Joining a program not only allows participants to collaborate with communities or work toward preserving unique ecosystems but it also offers plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding area or travel further to see what other parts of the region have to offer.
Long term field staff are a great source of advice, and have helped us put together the following information on local travel options. Many decide to travel before or after their experience (subject to immigration restrictions), solidifying the lifetime friendships established on program. Please note that the below suggestions are not included in the program fee, and are for the individual to organise at their own expense.
Bungee Jumping and Ziplining:
Awe-inspiring canyons dot the Drakensberg range, and many use the opportunity to experience the exhilarating thrill of bungee jumping for the first time. If you aren’t ready to dive headfirst into the canyons you can glide overhead, using the many zipline tours available in the area. This is an excellent way to see the spectacular landscape from a bird’s eye perspective.
Cape Point Nature Reserve
Participants are able to see various antelope, zebra, ostrich, seals and possibly even whales! Plan a picnic lunch on one of the reserves beautiful beaches too while you’re at it.
Cape Point Penguin Visit
If you’re planning a nice day trip for a Saturday, you should consider a trip to Cape Point and a visit to an African Penguin colony shortly after.
South African Landmarks
Robben Island, Table Mountain, The District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope or the Green Market Square craft markets are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences, which participants are encouraged to read more about ahead of their travels to South Africa.
Kruger National Park
Where roughly 2 million hectares of unrivaled diversity of life forms fuses with historical and archaeological sights – this is real Africa.
Kalahari Desert and Historical Zululand
The culture richness and diverse beauty of the Kalahari Desert and historic Zululand is often quite hard to put into words, but is an activity to be planned as part of greater cultural immersion and in an effort to expand your horizons, to solidify your global citizen status.
The Drakensberg mountain is a spectacular hotspot in the country and a must-see tourist destination while you are in South Africa.
The Cederberg Mountain Range is an exquisite sight to see for the adventure enthusiasts. Walk or hike your way through an experience that quite frankly, is only done justice in person, and not on photographs.
In Cape Town, participants have easy access to the famous Garden Route and most participants come back raving after a weekend trip on the open road in the beautiful region.
Visit a private game reserve which is located one and a half hours from Cape Town. Here you will enjoy lunch and an afternoon safari before returning home. Transfers to and from the project accommodation are included. There are many other fantastic trips in the area around Cape Town that can easily be arranged once in-country such as shark cage diving, skydiving, wine tasting tours, Hermanus day trips for whale watching (seasonal) or a typical township experience.
Engaging intimately with a new context teaches not only global awareness but adaptability and critical thinking, skills highly valued in the modern marketplace. Local and cultural immersion is encouraged on all our programs around the world, and is also one of the most enjoyable aspects of your experience. Luckily, there are many activities you can get involved with in your free time, or before and after your program. On our community programs the focus is on cultural topics, while on marine or wildlife programs the emphasis is more on the environmental element. Use your evenings and weekends to explore diverse and eclectic topics like Theravada Buddhism in Laos or how plastic pollution and climate change affects Indian Ocean coral.
Cape Town immersion
Cape Town is a bustling melting pot of culture, considering it is a fairly complex, multicultural city with a fascinating history. There are many activities you could participate in while visiting the region, including township tours, taking language lessons, visiting the V&A Waterfront, going for a walk on the sea promenade, going whale watching in the bay, as well as exploring the various local cuisines on offer in the multitude of suburbs across the city.
The country has celebrated over twenty years of democracy, usher in by the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela in a historical moment in 1994. South Africa is often referred to as the rainbow nation to describe the country’s multicultural diversity, especially in the wake of apartheid and this is something participants are encouraged to learn more about both before and during their time visiting the country and engaging with the local population.
South Africa is the largest country in Southern Africa and the 25th largest country in the world by land area, with a diverse cultural population of over 56 million people.
The population of South Africa is made of a diverse number of ethnic groups and cultures. There are also eleven official languages.
Below is a list of core ethics and best practices we believe are essential to the operation of high quality, ethical volunteer and sustainable development programs. We believe that all responsible volunteer and sustainable development operations should focus upon these principles. If you are considering volunteering, these are some of the key considerations you should question, to ensure that your time and money contributes towards positive change.
We want to constantly develop our own understanding of ethical best practice. In so doing, we aim to provide an exemplary industry standard for other education institutions, international development organisations, and social enterprises. Our Badge of Ethics stands for the drive to always do good, better. Find out more, click on the Badge below.
Our 10 Ethical Commitments
Locally Driven, Collaborative Projects
We aim to design all our projects in collaboration with local organizations and communities and ensure that they are locally driven.
Clear Objectives & Sustainable Outcomes
We aim to clearly define short-, mid-, and long-term objectives with sustainable outcomes for all our projects.
We aim to track, record, and publish the impact of each of our projects.
Working Against Dependency
We aim to build in-country capacity by assisting local organizations in becoming self-sustaining.
Responsible Exit Strategies
For each local organization we work with, we aim to have a plan in place for withdrawing support responsibly.
Clear Roles & Specialized Training
We aim to ensure that ever participant is assigned a clear role and that they are fully trained and supported to carry out their work by specialized staff.
Respect for all
In all our actions we aim to respect the skills and efforts of all and seek to protect the rights, culture and dignity of everyone who engages with GVI.
We work to ensure that credit for the results of any project, along with any data collected, research conducted, or Intellectual Property developed, remains the property of local organizations.
Transitioning from the Orphanage Model
We do not condone and aim to withdraw support of orphanages and residential care centers.
Child and Vulnerable adult policies
We will live by our Child Protection and Vulnerable Adult policies.
As an organization, GVI is committed to striving toward best practice, and to educating both our potential participants, our partners, and the world at large about them. Both the volunteering and sustainable development sectors are increasingly, and rightly, under scrutiny. Many recent local and global articles highlight poor practices and questionable ethics. GVI is widely recognized for striving to apply global best practice in the volunteering, education and sustainable development sectors throughout our operations by reputable organizations such as ChildSafe.
However, global best practice is always evolving and we dedicate both time and resources to engage with internationally respected experts and learn from the latest research to ensure our programs both fulfil their potential to create maximum positive impact, and minimise their potential to create unintentional negative impact. Along with and as part of the sustainable development and volunteering community, we are constantly learning and applying this learning to practice. We do not always get everything right, but we seek feedback from our community members, partners, participants and our staff, and react accordingly. We know are already doing a great job, and feedback we have received confirms this, but we aim to do even better and are continuously refining our operations to improve upon our already excellent reputation.
‘If only every student could do this. It changes your life in all the right ways,’ says Chris Heritage, parent of Luke Heritage, one of our teen volunteers who has participated on two GVI programs, one in Costa Rica and another in South Africa.
We are a parent-run organisation that is incredibly serious about health and safety, and increasing the impact, as well as the long-term career benefits of our programs. Our programs help young people develop the skills to select a career path that is personally fulfilling, and live a life aligned to the well-being of our planet and the global community.
Ken and Linda Jeffrey, whose son Sam volunteered with GVI in Thailand, talk about how the experience affected Sam. He also went on to volunteer with GVI again in South Africa. ‘I know it sounds like a cliche but in a sense, he did go away as a boy and he came back as a young man. Both of us could recommend GVI without any hesitation to any other parent thinking about exploring an opportunity for their children to explore the world and to see different parts of it.’
Parent Info Pack
Download the Parent Pack and learn more about:
Our staff: All our projects are run by staff, selected, vetted, trained, and managed by our central office. Health and safety: Our safety practices include a child and vulnerable adult protection policy and high participant ratios. Staying in touch: See what’s happening on base, by following a hub’s dedicated Facebook page. Free parent consultations: We would love to talk to you about exciting opportunities available for your child.
Support & Safety
We won’t sugarcoat it — traveling abroad is usually a complex process that carries an element of risk. But this is exactly why we’re passionate about providing extensive support throughout the process as well as the highest safety standards during the in-country phase. We believe that volunteering abroad should not only be impactful, but an enjoyable experience that carries as little risk as possible. This is exactly how we’ve been able to maintain our reputation as the most highly respected volunteering organisations in the sector over the past two decades.
Enhanced cleaning and social-distancing measures are in place throughout each GVI program. Learn more.
Once a participant books, they will be assigned a personal support coordinator who will oversee their pre-departure journey. The support coordinator helps to bridge the gap between program enrolment and arrival at one of our field bases. Your personal support coordinator will ensure that you are provided with all the necessary information required to apply for visas, background checks, and any other documentation.
Upon arrival at the airport, participants will be greeted by a GVI staff member. All GVI staff are our own and all our programs around the world are run by our staff. All GVI field staff are background checked, Emergency First Response and safety trained. The minimum staff to participant ratio on GVI’s programs is one to six, although on several bases we have a ratio of one to three. When finishing the experience, participants will provide feedback on all aspects of their program.
It takes courage to book a GVI program, get on a flight, and head off to somewhere new. Volunteering offers a level of cultural immersion that typical backpacking or holidays just can’t achieve. This is why thousands of people around the world participate in paid GVI programs.
As the saying goes: ‘Expect the best, plan for the worst’. Cliched or not, we take it to heart. This tenet is at the core of how GVI operates when it comes to promoting the health and safety of our participants, staff, and local community members at all of our 20+ bases around the world.
The weather isn’t just a topic for polite small-talk here at GVI. We have emergency action plans in place for all scenarios. So when the weather, or other natural forces, takes a nasty turn, we are prepared to respond to stormy situations.
Once GVI has matched a participant to a program that suits their passions and goals, our team aims to set the right expectations for them. In the event that false expectations around a program are created, the GVI team takes immediate action to ensure that the situation rectified.
24-hour emergency phone
24-hour in-country support
Access to Alumni Services and Discounts
Airport pick-up (unless otherwise stated)
All necessary project equipment and materials
All necessary project training by experienced staff
Long term experienced staff
Meals while on project (except on work placements for long term internships)