January 30th, 2017

5 things you should know about volunteering in Africa

Volunteering internationally is exciting. There’s your assignment to complete, counterparts to meet, new and thrilling places to visit and myriad other memorable occurrences in between.

While all assignments require a high degree of research and preparation in the lead up to ensure ease of travel and movement, there are some countries that require additional time and consideration. Tanzania and South Africa are two such countries.

AVI’s Mobilisation Services Manager Dionne Jolly provides some top advice and considerations if you’re interested in volunteering in Africa, as well as some must-visit places that should pique your interest (if we haven’t already!) 

Australian volunteer Faith-Tara Bellich visiting the Mandala Centre.jpg

  1. Passports

    “Make sure your passport is valid for the length of the assignment plus six months,” she says. This is true not just for assignments in Africa, but for most international travel across the globe. Passport photos are also essential. “They’re almost always required for different parts of your application so we recommend always getting a few extras done to ensure you’re covered,” says Dionne.

    Once you have received a conditional offer for your assignment and are in the mobilisation process, your passport needs to stay grounded.

    “You may need to submit your passport to AVI and various official bodies including country embassies, the Australian immigration department and Australian Federal Police (AFP) during this time, so we advise that people don’t travel and are easily contactable,” says Dionne.

  2. Certified documents

    You may need to have documents such as birth certificates, academic qualifications and marriage or divorce documents certified. Below is a list of some of the people and professions able to certify documents:

    - Medical practitioners including doctors, nurses, optometrists, physiotherapists, psychologists, chiropractors, dentists and pharmacists
    - Legal practitioners, bailiffs, court clerks, magistrates and judges
    - Members of the Institute of Chartered Accountants In Australia, the Australian Society of Certified Practising Accountants or the National Institute of Accountants

    You can find a complete list here.


    A woman in South Africa


  3. Police checks

    Some countries in Africa – South Africa, for example - require not only the standard AFP clearance certificate but international police clearance from every country in which you’ve lived for more than 12 months since the age of 18. “This is perhaps the most time consuming element of applying to volunteer in Africa, so if this applies to you, start the process as soon as possible,” says Dionne.

  4. Mighty Mount Kilimanjaro

    Its Africa’s highest mountain, it gets a shout-out from Toto in their track “Africa” and if you’re volunteering in Tanzania then you have the opportunity to get up close and personal with it. At 5895 metres high, it’s no Everest or Denali, and a slower, less intense incline means it's considered one of the more manageable mountain hikes. There are also a number of routes on offer to suit varying ability levels. Altitude sickness is a serious consideration, but if this can be avoided or treated, then you’ll be privy to exquisite animals and birds, landscapes and views. 

    Mt Kilimanjaro

  5. Safari in South Africa

    It’s hard to look past Kruger National Park in terms of unforgettable activities if you’re volunteering in South Africa (or close by). Home to hundreds of species of mammals, birds, reptiles, trees, flowers and historical sites, you can tour the park by from the sky, on foot or from the safety of a four-wheeled drive. Two hours from Swaziland, four hours from Johannesburg and Pretoria, and a more significant 17 hours from Cape Town, wherever you are in the region it is worth the journey. 

    Africa landscape


Being organised and informed when applying to volunteer overseas will ensure the time before your departure is easy and free of hassle or worry, leaving you time to contemplate the more exciting parts of this life-changing experience.