One of the most appealing African destinations for volunteering is Cape Verde (official name in Portuguese: Cabo Verde). The group of ten volcanic islands off the coast of West Africa measures 4000 square kilometers and are inhabited by about half a million people. Cape Verde is independent from Portugal since 1975. Since its latitude is similar to Central…
Most first-time travelers to Africa are worried and fear the unknown. “Africa” is often treated as a single country (Sarah Palin!) when it is in fact one of the largests continents. True, there is always bad news: Ebola, malaria, poverty, extremism, droughts, but we shouldn’t forget that most regions of Africa are perfectly safe to travel. Countries like Senegal, Namibia, Botswana, Malawi, Morocco, Cape Verde, or Madagascar are very safe travel destinations – and offer great volunteering opportunitiestoo.
Other places, like Kenya (except for the north east), Ethiopia (except the east) Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Cameroon, or Mozambique are reasonably safe. True, there are countries we wouldn’t recommend a volunteer to go, such as Mali, Niger, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Nigeria, Angolo, or the DRC Congo, but you already figured that out.
The point is that Africa is so much bigger and that a skilled volunteer can make a real contribution. If you repair a computer or a piece of broken equipment, that could mean a lot for a small organization that couldn’t afford to bring in a technician. If you bring some bags of clothes and books, you might catalyze hidden talents. If you tell a group of adolescents a story that makes them aware of the dangers they are exposed to – you might be saving lives.
You can of course go through an organization, and sometimes, that is the better way. But you can also just buy a plane ticket and go. I once hitch-hiked from Spain down to Senegal, went into a slum area of Dakar, and helped promote a local youth artist group. Not to boast about it, but these are things that are really easy to do, and add value to our lives.
Volunteering in Africa is always a great adventure, that you will remember long after you leave.