Volunteer Building Projects in South Africa
- Placement locations: Lavender Hill township, Cape Town
- Role: Building a community centre and assisting with on-going community projects in the township
- Requirements: None
- Accommodation: Host family
- Length of placement: From 1 week
- Start dates: Flexible, however the project is closed from mid-December to mid-January
Volunteering with Projects Abroad on the General Building Project in South Africa is a great way to involve yourself with practical work where you can see the tangible results of your efforts. You do not need any previous construction experience and this project is suitable for everyone, whether you are a gap year student, career breaker, or just looking for something worthwhile to do during a vacation.
The project is based in Cape Town, where you will work toward constructing an eco-friendly community centre in the Lavender Hill township. This is a deeply underprivileged area and you are encouraged to participate in a variety of community projects taking place in the township, in addition to the building work.
Building in Cape Town, South Africa
As a General Building Project volunteer, you will assist with all levels of building and construction work under the guidance and supervision of our experienced building manager. The buildings are made using an eco-bag system. These eco-bags are filled with sand and by using this technique, it is possible to build better quality structures for less money, while also using Earth-friendly materials such as recycled rubble and eco-timber beams.
These construction techniques are simple to master and are ideal for sites with limited facilities. No electricity is required at the site and only minimal amounts of water and cement are necessary.
The main focus of the project is on improving inadequate facilities. Our volunteers are currently working on building a community centre in the Village Heights area of Lavender Hill. The centre will serve as a multi-purpose building with its own toilet and kitchen. Since 2010, our volunteers have built a day care centre for children from the community, toilets with their own underground bio-chemical drop sewerage system, an enclosed washing area with fresh running water, a fully-enclosed and secure play area for the children, a high wall around the building for security, and a concrete patio which will lead to the communal garden. Future proposed projects include a building which will house arts, culture, dance, drama, and music facilities and an extension to the communal garden.
The work you do will vary, but might include digging foundations, mixing cement, placing the eco-bags to build walls, building a roof, plastering, and putting the finishing coat of paint on a completed structure.
Although you do not need previous experience to take part in this project, you should be in shape and prepared for working outdoors in a variety of weather conditions. If you do have relevant skills, we will be sure to use those skills to benefit the community.
When building is not possible due to adverse weather conditions, alternative activities are organized, such as a visit to an eco-beam factory or viewing some of the diverse architecture used in buildings around Cape Town.
Community Work in South Africa with Projects Abroad
All building work takes place in the mornings and afternoons. In the afternoons you also have the option to get involved with community activities. For these activities you can either look after the children present on site, or, once or twice a week you can work with volunteers from the Nutrition Project which involves looking looking after our organic garden, researching nutritious recipes that can be prepared with our produce, preparing the food, and feeding the children. Our plans also include clearing a nearby site in order to transform it into a sports field and then get the children involved in physical education. We are also aiming to educate the local community about organic food growing and basic permaculture techniques. Please note that it is not possible to work with volunteers from the Nutrition Project every day.
You can read more detailed information about the aims of the project in our South Africa Building Management Plan.
The General Building Project in South Africa is available for less than a month if you don't have time to join us for a month or more. This project has been selected by our local colleagues as being suitable for shorter durations for both the host community and the volunteer. Although you will gain valuable cultural insight and work intensely within the local community please be aware that you may not be able to make the same impact as someone participating for a longer period.
The project is available all year round in Cape Town, apart from mid-December to mid-January, when the site is closed for the holiday period.
While you’re in South Africa, you might also consider joining a 1 week Conservation & Environment Project. For more information, please visit our African Bushveld Conservation & Environment Project in South Africa page. Our Combinations Page explains how you can combine not only projects, but also destinations.
If you are a high school student and first-time traveler you may want to consider our High School Special programs in South Africa.
If you are aged 50 and above you may want to consider our Grown-up Special program in South Africa.