Ithemba Special Daycare

Volunteers will assist at a special day care centre for mentally - and often physically - disabled children aged between 6-18 years.

Minimum Duration: 8 weeks
Cost: From 160 Euro per week
Minimum Age: 18 years


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. 

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Fundraising to volunteer abroad for free
Volunteer World
WYSE Travel Confederation
SAYTC - South African Youth Travel Confederation
Khaya Volunteer Projects application
Lilizela Provincial Visitor Experience Award