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Ithemba Special Day Care Centre blank

Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Quick Info

Ithemba means hope in isiXhosa, the local language spoken in this area of South Africa. Ithemba is a special day care centre for mentally - and often physically - disabled children aged between 6-18 years. The intention of a special day care centre like this is to give disabled children the attention and support they need  - knowledge, time and means are usually insufficient in townships. 

Minimum Duration 8 weeks
Cost From 160 Euro per week
Minimum age 18 years
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Ithemba means hope in isiXhosa, the local language spoken in this area of South Africa. Ithemba is a special day care centre for mentally - and often physically - disabled children aged between 6-18 years. The intention of a special day care centre like this is to give disabled children the attention and support they need  - knowledge, time and means are usually insufficient in townships.

As well as education and attention, Ithemba offers teaching of basic life skills. In this way, the children gain more independence. This is a very useful and positive development (especially for disabled children) as they can maintain themselves better in society. Furthermore, Ithemba tries to include parents in the program to expand their knowledge of different disabilities and how to cope with them.

Ithemba came into existence in September 1988, when 3 local community members were discussing the fact that mentally disabled children didn’t have the opportunity to educate and develop themselves - because there was no special day care centre. To examine the real need for such a centre, they enumerated the level of demand within the townships. Parents of mentally disabled children were asked for their opinion. Apparently, the parents encountered a lot of problems which they were unable to tackle themselves. The biggest problems were: lack of attention, lack of tools, stalled development and no independence. The early founders of Ithemba concluded that the existing level of demand for a special day care centre was huge - and proceeded to put the original idea into reality.

They started a centre for disabled township children that at first was run from an empty ward at the hospital. As more parents heard about the centre, the numbers of children attending increased. The ward became too crowded and the founders of Ithemba realised the need to build their own centre.

Today Ithemba has its own centre with 3 classrooms, a therapy room, office, kitchen and volunteer offices, playground and gardens around the premises - providing daily support to up to 44 children with a team of 3 teachers, class assistants, a cook, Centre Manager and other supporting staff.


To be a dynamic movement which supports handicapped children in attaining optimal mental wellbeing and quality of life in society.


We actively work with the community to achieve the highest possible level of mental health for all by:

  • Enabling people to identify mental health needs and responding appropriately (i.e. communicate with parents, analyse children’s home, supply ergonomic devices);
  • Developing equal caring services for people having difficulty coping with everyday life and those with mental handicaps (i.e. supplying day care, life skills education and transportation);
  • Creating public awareness of mental health issues and striving for recognition and protection of mental health rights (i.e. external activities to church or beach to promote understanding and integration).

The existence and continuity of Ithemba can only be assured because of our loyal staff. They create an environment where the children can learn several skills and develop themselves by offering a structured program.

Project needs 

As a Non-Profit Organization (NPO), Ithemba relies heavily on subsidies, parents’ contributions and donations. Next to the need for support by active involvement of volunteers, Ithemba also has ongoing financial needs such as:

  • Kitchen supplies such as cooking gas, utensils, etc.
  • Craft and drawing materials (crayons, pencils, paint etc.)
  • Toothpaste and brushes
  • First aid supplies such as plasters and bandages
  • Gardening needs such as tools, seeds and so on.

If you would like to prepare your stay at Ithemba by doing some fundraising,  they will be most grateful for your support!

Tasks and activities

Any volunteers at Ithemba will be required to have:

  • Experience with working with disabilities
  • A minimum of 8 weeks to volunteer
  • Proactive approach to tasks and activities

Daily activities

The support of volunteer and trainees will consist of several tasks:

  • Individual work: physiotherapy/speech therapy/occupational therapy
  • Give lessons in class (teachers will translate)
  • Arrange outings for a group of children
  • Daily life activities: going to the shop, learn to look out for traffic, behaving safely in their environment
  • Basic mathematics, reading and writing, counting, alphabet
  • Creative work
  • Garden work:  watering plants and vegetables
  • Self-help skills:  toilet training, washing, dressing, shoelaces, buttons, brushing teeth
  • Colouring, painting, any other suitable form of handwork
  • Board and card games
  • Sports and games: ball skills, new games
  • Domestic skills: cleaning, sweeping, wiping, washing

Working days and hours

You will work Monday-Thursday from about 8h00-14h30, while Friday is from 8h00-12h00 and weekends are off. Some days might start earlier or later and in summertime, due to the heat, hours can change.

A general schedule is as follows:


Departure from Volunteer House
Arrival group 1- Going to the toilet/bathroom and individual work


Arrival group 2


Morning greeting, exercises, prayers (everyone is involved)


Breakfast - helping children that struggle with feeding


Lesson of the day - including numeracy/colours/theme of the month


Creative activities - garden work (help of volunteers and assistants)


Outdoor sports, games, singing, organized plays (mostly supported by volunteers)


Sounds and communications – words - story time


Lunch – supported by volunteers and assistants


Teeth brushing


Departure group 1 (volunteers take charge of group 2 until their departure)


Pick up to go home

School Holidays

Please note that Ithemba will be closed for the school holidays throughout the year, and that during those weeks,any volunteers will be supporting holiday programs for the youth at one of our other projects - Izizwe Projects.

Daily guidance

First of all you will be guided by one of our Volunteer Coordinators who will pick you up from the airport, show you around the city and prepare your work activities with the projects before you start, supervise during your stay and evaluate after you leave. The coordinators will transfer you to and from the project, make sure the shopping is done and organise fun outings for the weekends. The coordinator lives at the volunteer home and will be looking after your needs in any way. They have lots of experience and have volunteered themselves.

At Ithemba your work will be supervised by the Centre Manager who will introduce you and create your schedule.

Other volunteers

You most likely won’t be alone when volunteering at Ithemba Day Care, and will meet both local and international volunteers. We get volunteers from all over the world -  from the USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, the UK and many other countries. 

Our volunteer house is situated at 27B Marshall Road, Humewood, 6013, Port Elizabeth.

The volunteer house lies in the popular beach front area of Humewood, and is only a five minute walk away from the beach. Shops, beachfront cafés, restaurants and access to other facilities are all within easy reach. It’s the perfect location to enjoy the beach after work or during weekends. 

The volunteer house offers spacious living conditions and is shared with other volunteers who work at Door of Hope, Missionvale Care Centre and Izizwe Township Projects -  making it the perfect place to enjoy your stay with other volunteers from all over the world.

It is fully furnished and has all the facilities needed and more; two kitchens, two washing machines, a dining room and TV lounge, a garden with a swimming pool to cool off, great views of the ocean and 9 bedrooms offering a variety of sleeping options. Wireless internet is free; just bring your own laptop or any other device to access the Wi-Fi network.

We even have a fulltime cleaning lady, as we believe in offering local employment and also in offering clean and well-looked-after accommodation. All bedding is provided, but no towels, so please bring your own.

Depending on how busy it is, you will share a room with other volunteers -  some rooms are very large, which offer dorm style accommodation (4 beds in a room), others are a bit smaller for only 2 volunteers sharing. Male and female volunteers will have separate rooms and bathrooms to use. We have a total of 6 bathrooms in the house.

If you would like to have a private room, we will gladly see if we can arrange that for a small surcharge per week. Couples and older volunteers will have preference for private rooms if available, but if you want to be guaranteed a private room we will charge this extra fee. Let us know if you want more information.


Three meals per day are included and we work on a set menu per week. There is free coffee, tea and cordial juice available at any time. For breakfast you will have toast, fruit yoghurt, cereal and/or eggs. For lunch you can have sandwiches with cheese, marmalade, cold meats or other spreads.

There will be  variety in our dinners, since all of the volunteers have different skills and preferences. So, if you would like to show off your cooking skills, then please do! 

Please tell our coordinators about any vegetarian requirements or food allergies.   


Included in your fee is your daily transport. We have well-looked-after vehicles, which are properly insured and driven by our drivers who all have required Professional Driving Permits. 

Transport to and from the volunteer house and the project is included, but if you want to go out after work or at the weekend, you will be able to walk during the day or use a taxi or Uber at night, at your own expense.

Living with other Volunteers

As a volunteer from Khaya Volunteer Projects, you will be staying in a house with many different nationalities - which means you will eat together, work together and so on. We arrange an informal social on a weekly basis where you can relax and have some fun, getting to know other volunteers as well as your coordinators.

Every Friday is "Casual Day" and after your volunteering at your project we have our "Khaya Social Outing" - free of charge of course. 

 The outing is weather permitting. It can range from a trip to the beach where we can have a picnic and swim; we can go for a walk or a hike; to the city centre or even some retail therapy at the shopping mall. Or a pre-weekend drink at a pub - a good way to start your weekend after a long week of volunteering!



8 weeks € 1,785.00 $1,900.00 £1,565.00
Extra Weeks € 160.00 $170.00 £175.00

Included in the full Volunteering Fee:

  • Information and assistance before departure
  • Pick up upon arrival and drop off at the end of your stay
  • Welcome pack with information guide, free SIM-card, maps, etc. upon arrival
  • City Tour and Introduction Programme
  • Accommodation in volunteer house close to the beach
    (7 nights per week of volunteering booked)
  • Onsite volunteer coordinator available 24/7
  • 3 basic meals a day
  • 15% direct donation to the project’s needs
  • Transfers to and from the project daily
  • Offer of weekend trips and outings (extra costs apply) to enjoy yourself on the weekends

 Excluded are the following:

  • Private Luxuries (snacks, cool drinks, alcohol etc.)
  • Costs for weekend outings to safari parks etc.
  • Air tickets
  • Insurance

Where does my money go?

At Khaya we believe in transparency and openness about where your money goes and how the fees are made up. Your fees go to a variety of costs  (both short-term and long-term )  and cover staff costs,  volunteer house (even when it is empty it needs to be paid for), and transport - but also includes a direct donation of 15% to the project. 

We believe that the projects we work with need more than just your hands, they need money to keep their doors open, and pay for rent and electricity. That is why we believe that we need to include a monetary donation with the fees, so we can truly help to sustain our projects with their biggest needs.

If you have any questions about our fees, please do contact us and we can gladly explain more about this.

Starting dates

Starting your volunteer work is on Mondays only. If you will be arriving before Monday, we will gladly assist with accommodation and your pick up - extra days will be charged prorata.

On Monday, you will be given your introduction and shown around the area, so that on Tuesday you can start your volunteering work.

Participation is per full weeks only and the project will be closed for about 3 weeks over Christmas and New Year’s every year.