Volunteering can be an incredibly enriching and educational experience. The trick to getting the most out of your chosen volunteer project is to maximise what you put in. Quite simply, your focus should not only be on you, the volunteer - it should be on those you want to help and support; whether you are working in childcare, conservation, community building, or whichever organization you choose.
Your main goal as a volunteer should be to benefit local community and wildlife projects as much as is possible for you. Sadly, there are many volunteer agencies that don’t prioritise the benefits to their projects, and instead focus on sending as many volunteers over as possible. ‘Bums in seats’ mentality! We at Khaya focus on quality over quantity, with ethical volunteering and gap year policies. Our goal is to allow our volunteers to maximise the benefits to the various volunteer projects as much as possible by adhering to the following principles.
Khaya collaborates with local partners
At Khaya we only offer projects we know thoroughly and have screened properly. A good volunteer project pursues a long-term commitment towards the local community, works according to sustainable principles and involves locals in its organisation. We ensure that our volunteer projects tackle relevant problems, offer rational solutions and achieve well-formulated long-term results.
We are against neo-colonialism – we don’t force our ideas of help on the local people; it’s about what they feel they need, not what we think they need. We also sniff out the ‘bad egg’ volunteer projects – you won’t be wasting your money, time and energy on a fruitless enterprise that is going to rip off or otherwise abuse the community, or you as a volunteer.
Communication and collaboration with the local community ensures we invest money and aid in the right form of support. Local workers are actively employed and trained, so they are able eventually to keep the project alive and ticking over without foreign assistance. We don’t foster dependency on international volunteers because we believe in the timeless adage ‘don’t just give the people fish – teach them to fish’.
Khaya offers a clear and personal work structure
Choosing the right volunteer project means you will maximise your contribution, collaborate to achieve something valuable, and not waste your time or money. Khaya offers answers to all your volunteering questions within 48 hours and will allocate a staff member to offer you personal service.
We employ volunteer coordinators that will figure out who you are, what your specific mindset and abilities are, and where these could be put to the best possible use. We believe good volunteer management creates successful volunteering, which creates successful projects, which helps create successful communities.
Our main goal is to send your skill set and personal needs to where they will be needed the most and utilised the best. This way, you are granted a well-defined place within the project's organisational structure (you truly ‘belong’), and you as a volunteer can offer real and constructive support.
Khaya offers direct and transparent financial guidelines
If you want to volunteer, you pay a certain fee to cover your costs. You obviously don’t want to use resources that projects are already lacking; and at Khaya, while a part of your volunteering fee goes to administration and logistical costs, but a fair share goes directly to the project itself.
Khaya supports a variety of volunteering projects and individuals financially on a monthly basis through the non-profit Izizwe Projects. This organization focusses on uplifting communities in and around Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
Some organisations like to shout about ‘trust funds’ and ‘NGOs’. Yes, in theory they send money to the volunteering project - but how much exactly? Ten percent, one percent, even less? Khaya strives to be as transparent as possible. There are no secrets about what happens to your money. The percentage of your fee that goes to admin costs, accommodation, food, staffing and project donations is communicated honestly and openly. Your money won’t be disappearing into some deep, mysterious pocket!
Khaya strives to inform you correctly
Honesty is very important at Khaya. Volun-tourism is challenging and will not always be a 100% positive experience. We acknowledge this – yes, things can go wrong, but if they do, we know how to tackle those challenges head-on and fearlessly.
Some volunteering agencies will promise you that you can save the world, ‘change’ Africa, save the starving millions or bring about world peace! These promises are not only unrealistic but also untrue. They create unrealistic expectations – which are the biggest challenge of good volunteering practices worldwide. Creating wrong expectations creates disappointment – and who can give their all in the face of disappointment? We aren’t wizards or gurus, and volunteering in developing countries is, needless to say, not an exact science and not always easy. We might not be able to foresee everything that could happen, and we don’t gloss over the truth. But what Khaya does is give you the means to make a conscious choice when volunteering, by providing you with as much correct and detailed information as possible.
We also aren’t afraid of constructive criticism in this regard! If you think we can improve our policy or have any comment, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we will do our best to change where possible.
Khaya supports ethical wildlife management practices
We do not in any way support, endorse or encourage projects that engage in harmful practices to animals and the environment. Canned hunting is rife in South Africa and we oppose this, as well as activities that support this industry (cub petting, walking with lions, etc). We ensure that the wildlife projects we are affiliated with are run ethically, and volunteers are guaranteed an enriching wildlife experience which has a positive impact on the bigger picture of animal welfare and conservation. Unfortunately some volunteer projects out there, especially with lions, are run purely as a for-profit industry, and either don’t know or don’t care about what happens with the animals down the line. Our staff at Khaya will be able to offer you information about projects that have been blacklisted by concerned volunteers who have experienced their practices first-hand.
There are wildlife projects throughout Africa that work tirelessly alongside nature instead of against it, often with minimal funding and while facing big challenges. Their goal is to help minimize the effects of human habitation on the environment. Some are also actively involved in educating the local inhabitants about the importance of the environment, and that wild animals are not a commodity but deserving of a life that was intended for them by nature. Let Khaya put you in touch with the projects that desperately need the time and resources of volunteers and please consider carefully before joining any project claiming to 'save the African lion' as by joining these projects you wil directly and indirectly support the canned hunting industry where the lion cubs you looked after will be shot for profit in the hunting industry.