South Africa Childrens Hospital Volunteers
4-12 weeks from £519
- Bring fun and laughter into the lives of seriously poorly children
- Provide respite for parents and support the hospital’s dedicated team
- Give children the hope and determination to heal
- Be amazed by the resilience and bravery of the incredible children
- Explore the many wonders of Cape Town in your free time
- Make lifelong friends with other volunteers at the project
Brighten children’s lives as they undertake lengthy hospital treatment in South Africa, and become a healing hero, helping young patients get through their hospital experience with a smile. You’ll be based in southern Africa’s only child-specialist facility, where seriously ill children are admitted for life-saving treatments. Your job will be to make sure young patients still get time to play, sing, and laugh, despite their health conditions. It’s a hugely important role as many children are a long way from home and in hospital for extended periods, often unable to see family and friends on a regular basis. So, you’ll be there for them, making them smile, giving them hope, and helping them heal.
Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!
What to expect at the project
From your very first day, when you arrive at the airport, you’ll be greeted by friendly smiles. Our team will take you to your volunteer accommodation in the local suburb of Fish Hoek – a beautiful area with white sand beaches and friendly atmosphere – where you’ll receive an orientation of the local area and be briefed on what to expect from the coming weeks at your hospital placement.
The Children’s Hospital in Cape Town is the only one of its kind in the country, in fact in the whole of southern Africa, and children are brought from far and wide to receive treatment from the dedicated staff and to benefit from the outstanding specialist paediatric facilities. Many of the children are suffering from long-term illnesses or serious conditions and will be spending a long time in hospital, if not the majority of their childhoods in and out of hospital wards, and your job is to make that time easier and happier for them.
You’ll work in the hospital from Monday to Friday, between 9am and 3pm, and spend your days playing games, singing songs, reading to, and generally making the children smile. It’s really important work; it gives little patients a distraction from their condition, helps alleviate the pressure on staff of looking after a busy hospital, and gives parents time away from their children’s bedsides without the worry of leaving them alone.
Your evenings and weekends are your free time, where you’ll get to socialise with the other volunteers, chill out at the local beach, and head into Cape Town (just 45 minutes on the train) to explore, shop, try out some incredible activities, and party.
Day in the life
On day two, project staff will accompany you on the journey to the hospital, so you know where you’re going, and will introduce you to the friendly team there. You’ll be given a tour of the hospital and be introduced to some of the patients. From there, you’ll work out what sorts of duties you’ll be responsible for, so let the team know if you have any special skills or interests that you feel would be particularly good to incorporate in your time at the project.
From day three, you’ll need to make the journey to the hospital by yourself. The train only takes 45 minutes to get to Cape Town, but please remember to budget around £12 per week for travel.
You’ll begin your days at the hospital at 9am and check in with your team to find out where your help is needed most. You might be collecting toys and games from the hospital’s store room and delivering them around the wards, you might be helping with admin in the office, reading stories to a group of children, singing, playing, or simply talking to young patients to help make their time at hospital a happier experience.
We’ll try to make the best use of your time by getting you to spend time with as many children in need as is possible, but if you have a specific skill or want to make suggestions for activities to engage the children, then please do talk to the team. Perhaps you can play guitar or would like to get some of the children together to teach them a new game. All suggestions are welcome, but do run ideas past your supervisors first.
At 3pm you’ll leave the hospital to spend the rest of the day as you please, although if you’d like to spend more time at the hospital, you’re more than welcome to – extra help is always appreciated. You’ll be able to head into Cape Town city centre, to shop or eat, or if you prefer, head back to Fish Hoek, grab some groceries at the local shop, and make your own meals with your friends back at the volunteer house. You’ll have plenty of time at the weekends to go and explore, whether you want to climb Table Mountain, go cage diving with sharks, go on a safari, or enjoy a bit of downtime on the beach.
Purpose and aim of the programme and how do you benefit the programme
Cape Town’s Children’s Hospital has been open since 1956 and has become known as a world-class paediatric facility dedicated to delivering outstanding treatment, care, research, and specialist training. Because of the hospital’s excellent reputation and specialist staff and equipment, hospitals from all over southern Africa refer children here when they need the most complex treatment, which means the Children’s Hospital is often very busy, and very grateful for volunteers willing to give their time to help care for and entertain the young patients.
A lot of the children at the hospital are undergoing rigorous treatment for serious conditions, and life for them doesn’t involve having much fun. Sometimes you’ll find out that children here are a long way from their home town, and because of that don’t get to see their family or fiends very often, which can be distressing to a young child. But you’ll be there to support them, to make them feel better and take their minds off being poorly. You’ll be a friendly, smiling presence in their lives, helping to make their time, no matter how long or short, in hospital a positive experience. And you’ll likely come away in awe of their bravery and high spirits.
Your help is so important in this project, because, whilst the children are getting the best medical treatment possible, they are often missing out onsocial interaction, which can be hard psychologically for young patients that don’t fully understand their illness and lengthy treatments. You’ll get to work, although it won’t feel like actual work, with a fantastically supportive team of medical professionals and volunteer coordinators who will place you with children in desperate need of a friendly distraction, and will give you the tools you’ll need to make young patient’s hospital experience positive. And although you won’t actually be taking part in any kind of medical assistance, some would argue that a happy and healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body, and you’ll be making sure the children are as happy as they can be.
- Arrival airport transfer
- In-country orientation
- Worthwhile volunteer project
- Local in-country team support
- 24/7 emergency contact
- Travel Insurance
- Return airport transfer
- Local transport
You'll be staying in a fantastic volunteer house for the duration of your stay, where you’ll share a dorm-style room with up to five other volunteers (not all necessarily from the same project as you). The house has three bathrooms that include western-style toilets and hot water. There are also a number of communal areas including a comfortable lounge with sofas, large dining area, a balcony, and a garden area with barbecue and swimming pool. Wi-fi is also available, which you’ll be required to pay for upfront on arrival (100R/£6.50 per week). While in the house you will be responsible for keeping the place clean so please tidy up after yourself, especially in the kitchen.
Lockers are available, so you can store valuables at the accommodation,but you’ll need to supply your own padlock and keys. There isn't a washing machine at the house but there is a laundry service close by, which costs around 50R/£3 per load. A supermarket, shops, and bank are all in close proximity to the volunteer house.
Please note: you will be required to pay a security deposit of 1,000R/£61.50 to the in-country team on arrival, so please make sure you have budgeted for this. Your deposit will be returned to you when you leave the accommodation at the end of your programme as long everything is left as you found it.
Meals aren’t included as part of your programme, apart from the evening meal on the first night, but there is a communal kitchen complete with cookers, lots of fridge space, microwave, toaster, and other kitchen utensils for cooking, although you’re more than welcome to order takeaway instead!
You should arrange your flight to South Africa to arrive at Cape Town International Airport (CPT) before 4pm on your programme start date. You'll be met at the airport by the friendly programme staff, who will take you to your accommodation. You can depart at any time on your programme end date.
To arrange your flights, contact our fantastic flights team on 01892 277037 or email them at [email protected] They will be able to search for the best flight offers to your chosen destinations, so you can plan and organise your trip in one place. Just make sure you give them your full name, as stated in your passport, along with your chosen departure dates, return dates, and any other details you want to include.
It is important that once you have booked your flights you add these details to your online account or, alternatively, you can contact us with your departure date, the flight number and arrival time at your destination.
Minimum age for this programme is 18 years.
Nationals of the EU, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand don't require a visa to enter South Africa, though South African Immigration does ask that you have two completely blank consecutive pages in your passport. As long as you hold a valid passport (and a valid return ticket) you will be granted a temporary visitor's permit on arrival, allowing visitors to stay in South Africa for up to three months (90 days). You should also ensure that your passport will still be in date for six months after your return.
DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service)
Because you’ll be spending a lot of your time working with children, you’ll need to undergo an enhanced DBS check and will need to have a clean criminal record.
DBS checks may list past convictions, cautions, reprimands, warnings, and if applicable will show whether or not you have been barred from working with certain vulnerable groups. Non-conviction information such as fixed penalties may also be included.
There is an additional cost for the DBS check, please speak to your travel advisor at the time of booking. The DBS process is in three stages:
1. Once we receive your booking payment, you will then be sent an online application link for the DBS check, which you will need to complete.
2. Once you have completed the application, the DBS will need verification of your identity – to do this you will need to take three original documents to your nearest crown post office and use their DBS and ID verification service. This costs approximately £5 and is payable directly to the Post Office.
3. It can take up to two weeks for your DBS to be processed, which will be sent to you directly in the post.
Are Meals Included?
Meals aren’t included in this programme, other than the welcome meal on your first day. The kitchen has everything you need including cookers, fridge space, microwave, toaster, kettle, and kitchen utensils. You can eat at the dining room table or on the balcony. There’s even a barbeque outside, which is the best way to cook on a warm evening. You can also get takeaways from town, which is around ten minutes’ walk away.
Do I Need To Bring My Own Bedding?
Bedding is provided at the volunteer house, but depending on the time of year, you might want an extra layer, so if you’re joining the project during South Africa’s winter months (June to August), you might want to consider bringing a sleeping bag with you. Towels won’t be provided, so make sure you have one with you.
Do I Need To Be Medically Trained Or Have Had Experience Working In A Hospital?
No. You won’t be getting involved in any medical treatments or procedures during your time at the children’s hospital, so previous experience working in a hospital is not required. All we ask is that you’re happy and enthusiastic, and willing to play with, read to, and sing with the children. Lots of enthusiasm is a must for assisting in play therapy, along with helping out on the wards and in the fundraising shop!