South Africa Literacy Volunteers

4-12 weeks from £649

Trip Highlights

  • Give underprivileged youngsters a better standard of education and a brighter future.
  • Work on your classroom skills and rediscover your love of books!
  • Check out the many sights and sounds of Cape Town!

Trip Summary

This project presents a great opportunity to experience the real South Africa in a small community near Cape Town, as well as making a massive difference to local children’s lives. You can play a significant role in improving the education of impoverished youngsters by helping them learn to read and write.

South Africa has put the past behind it and built a new future based around equality and opportunity for all. However there are still divisions in the society, most dramatically in literacy levels between rich and poor which exclude many from the new South Africa. The child literacy initiative aims to get children to fall in love with books and improve the reading skills of 5 to 12 year olds. The project teaches children the basic skills that will enable them to receive a full and rewarding education. This is a great chance to make learning fun and share your love of books with young children living in the Cape Town area.

Interested and want to find out more? Download more trip information and detailed itinerary HERE!

Trip Info

The project aims to improve children’s attitude to reading and hopes to help children love books by recruiting and training volunteers to help children aged 5-12 who find reading difficult.

Those of us that love to read have enjoyed privileges most of us have taken for granted; parents who read bedtime stories, books in English lying around the house or at the very least, an adult in the family able to read and write English. Whereas many South African children have parents who can’t read or write English and who, therefore, can’t help them to learn. Yet, without this, children tend to fall behind their peers, losing confidence and self esteem. With the loss of confidence comes the loss of pleasure: children who don’t feel confident about their reading simply don’t like reading, or books.

And why should they? For many of those children, reading has only ever been torture and humiliation. Those that don’t read outside of school have only ever had the school’s books imposed on them, and those books may not interest them. They’ve never had the opportunity to choose what interests them, and to explore that.

Volunteers are placed with children pre-selected by the school’s head teacher. They sit in the library, or a quiet place outside of the classroom, and read with those children individually for half an hour at a time, twice a week.

This project is very informal and is focused on creating a relaxed atmosphere for the child to be able to enjoy their reading. You will be working on a one to one basis with children in libraries and building a valuable rapport with the children and staff at schools.

The project survives through a volunteer workforce that gives their time to this valuable cause.

Most of the children come from disadvantaged areas. South Africa is facing schools where the average class size is 42. A recent international progress in literacy study (PIRLS, 2006) has revealed that almost 80% of South African learners have not developed basic reading skills by the time they reach Grade 5. The study, conducted in 40 countries across the world, showed that South African learners were up to two years behind the literacy standards set by their international counterparts.

Put simply, the more volunteers they have, the more learners they can assist!

You will be reading and playing with the children for half an hour, twice a week for each child, working one on one with children, reading to them, encouraging them to read back and boosting confidence in speaking and reading English.

Your typical working hours on this project will be from Monday to Friday, 9am until 1pm, but any extra time you can give will be appreciated as well as any other skills you can share.

Day 1: Arrive into Cape Town
Today you will be met at the airport and taken to our volunteer house in Fish Hoek. You’ll need to arrive in before 4.15pm so that you’re all ready for the orientation which kicks off at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Fish Hoek should take around 45 minutes and if you keep your eyes open you might get to see Table Mountain on the way! The orientation will take you through what it’s going to be like at your project, do’s and don’ts, how to stay safe and it’s your prime opportunity to ask any burning questions that you haven’t yet had answered. After the orientation you’ll have some time to relax and prepare before your first day at the project tomorrow.

If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Cape Town before 4.15pm then we’d recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pick-up for you including one night’s accommodation, please give us a call for more information.

Day 2: Meet the kids!
Today is the first day on your project, where you’ll get to know your fellow volunteers and staff, not forgetting the beautiful children! Starting out from your accommodation, the team will make sure you know what you’re doing and where you’re going, they’ll also introduce you to the staff at the project who’ll be your main contacts while you’re working. The journey from your accommodation to the project is on public multi-people taxis and it will take about 15 minutes.

On Day 2 volunteers need to go for their Help2Read Training which is facilitated at The Help2Read offices and not the school.  Training start at 09:30 – 14:00.  Tea and sandwiches are served during break.  A shuttle will collect them at the volunteer house on Day 2 and also bring them back after training – this transfer is included.

Day 3 -5: Get into the swing
Your first day at the project will be all about settling in and getting to know how things work.  You'll start to learn the ropes this week, it’s your chance to get stuck in and show everyone including yourself, what you’re made of!

Literacy is a serious issue in South Africa. One in four adults is illiterate, and many school children are unable to read and write in English. Imagine how hard life must be for people who can't read English: they're frustrated every day by street signs, restaurant menus and posters, they'll miss out on the entire world of computers, and they're not as employable as they could be. Volunteers don't replace good teaching; they add to it, playing the role of a literate adult in the child's life with time and attention just for them.

Day 6-7: It’s the weekend!
The weekend is yours to do as you please. You certainly won’t run out of activities to keep yourself occupied in the surrounding areas. With places like Table Mountain, Cape Point, Kirstenbosch, botanical gardens and Boulders beach just a short distance from your accommodation, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Following weeks
You’ll be working Monday to Friday at your project, with the weekends all your own!

Now that you’ve been shown the ropes, make sure you take some time to get to know the staff and children; understand more about how and why the project exists and carve out your own niche to help shape your experience.

Your last day
Having said goodbye to all your new friends you’ll transfer back to the airport on this day. The return transfer from Fish Hoek to Cape Town International is not covered within your project fee but our regular transfer company will be able to sort the journey back for you, the costs will be around US$35 / 250 Rand and this is easily arranged in country.

More Trip Info

What's Included

  • Arrival airport transfer
  • Accommodation
  • In-country orientation
  • Local in-country team
  • 24hr emergency support

What's Not Included

  • Flights
  • Visas
  • Travel Insurance
  • Return Airport transfer
  • Local Transport to and from the project (Approx. R30 per day)
  • Food

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I've done this trip

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Overall Rating 7/10

Charlotte Batty

How would you rate your overall experience?

Please rate the service received from our team before departure

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What were the highlights of your trip?

The project - seeing my kids improve as time went on.

Is there anything else you would have liked to have added to your itinerary?

Wifi and transport included in the price of the accommodation.

Tips for other travellers?

Expect nothing, Appreciate everything, Don't complain.

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Accommodation & Meals

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 BBQ and swimming pool. Wifi is also available, and is paid for upfront on arrival (100R/£6.5 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 close to the volunteer house.

Please note that there is a security deposit that will need to be paid to the in-country team on arrival, so please make sure you have budgeted for this. The deposit needs to be paid in your local currency and needs to be the equivalent of 1,000R/£61.50. Your deposit will be returned when you leave the accommodation at the end of your project 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!

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South Africa flights

Your flight to South Africa should arrive at Cape Town airport on your programme start date before 4pm, to ensure you are all ready for your orientation which will begin at 5pm on your programme start date. Your return flight or onward travel should be arranged 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. 




Visa Information

Real Gap Experience are not visa experts and it is your responsibility to ensure you have the correct travel documents before your trip starts. We advise you check the visa and general entry requirements with the relevant embassy before travel.

UK passport holders

For UK passport holders you do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.

Non-UK passport holders

If you are not a UK passport holder, you will need to contact your nearest Embassy, High Commission, Consulate for South Africa to check your requirements.

It is your responsibility to arrange the correct visa/s for your time away.

Visa courier service

If you prefer to use a specialist visa courier service to apply for your visa on your behalf, we recommend Visa Central who can offer you assistance and advice, making your visa application straight forward.

To investigate costs for this service click here to select the country or countries that you wish to travel to.

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Eligibility & FAQ's

Minimum age is 18 years, maximum decided on health and fitness of participant..

Please note: you may be the only volunteer at your chosen project at any one time. However, each of our Cape Town volunteer projects share the same accommodation. Therefore, if there are volunteers on our other programmes you will be able to spend your spare time and evenings with them. If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact us


You have booked a programme which requires an enhanced Disclosure Barring Service check to be completed. We can carry this out for you if you book this with us and your travel advisor will explain the charges at the time of booking. If you are from outside the UK you will need to provide us with a recent police record check from your home country.

How Many Volunteers Will I Be Staying With?

We have a fantastic volunteer house in Fish Hoek where all of our volunteers stay who are volunteering on various projects around Cape Town. There is also a volunteer house next door with volunteers from our sister company so there will be plenty of people to relax or go out with at the weekends and in the evenings.

How Much Spending Money Should I Take?

We would recommend budgeting for around £80-£100 per week to cover food, extra activities/tours at the weekends, souvenirs etc. It completely depends on what you are looking to do in your free time!

Can I Get In Touch With Other Volunteers Before I Go?

Yes! We provide a 'buddy list' of others email addresses joining you in Cape Town on the same start date.

More Eligibility & FAQ's

Dates & Prices

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  • The leading UK gap year company