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What type of volunteering should I do with children in Cape Town?

Article by Zaytoen Domingo

Zaytoen Domingo

Posted: October 7, 2020

Have you asked yourself, “what type of volunteering should I do?” If you are heading to the Mother City, or if you are from Cape Town and want to get involved, here’s everything you need to know.

Gordon’s Bay is a small town situated along the coast, 45 minutes away from central Cape Town. The town is near to three close communities, Nomzamo, Lwandle and Zola.

The learners from these three communities come together at A.C.J. Phakade Primary School and at a local creche (a nursery school for toddlers). Both are located in Nomzamo. 

Because of the many eager feet, the primary school has an uncommonly large amount of children in a class. Even though the learners love to share, they could use a lot more resources than are currently available to them.


A grade R child learns to match pairs on our early childhood development program.


Gordon’s Bay is the hub for GVI’s community volunteering program in Cape Town, South Africa. The program focuses on tutoring, sports and early childhood development. 

The aim of the program is to improve skills, increase opportunities, make speaking and learning in English easier, and to offer additional support to learners and teachers.

The team of volunteers is just as eager to lend a hand at enhancing opportunities for the students. 

Let’s find out a bit more about the community volunteering program.


A grade 4 child asks interns Maria and Lily questions for his survey exercise while learning about data handling in our teaching program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


During term time, the community volunteering program offers tutoring for learners from the local primary school. Tutoring is done through one-on-one lessons between a volunteer and learner.

The primary school has fewer teachers and resources than is needed for the size of their classrooms, with about 45 learners in one class. One-on-one tutoring helps learners to catch up with the rest of the class.

Volunteers work with learners in grade 3 and 4. The children in the community are taught in their home language, isiXhosa, up until they reach grade 4. 

They are then introduced to English and the school curriculum moves from their home language to a fully English syllabus. This transition can be difficult for the learners. 

This is where tutors come in to lend a hand. Learners who need support are identified by their teachers. 

Some of the learners need tutoring because they are falling behind their classmates. Other learners need tutoring because they are learning a lot faster than their peers and are no longer stimulated by the classwork. 


Intern Lily helps a grade 3 child to learn about different animals during their tutoring session.


Tutoring is offered to meet specific and individual goals. An assessment is done at the beginning of the tutoring program to find out which areas a learner needs assistance with.

At the end of the tutoring program, assessments are done to monitor how much they have progressed in those areas. Assessments are done using graded reading books, spelling tests, and writing comprehension exercises.

Tutors aim to keep these assessments and all their lessons fun, individualised and interactive. When a learner struggles with a particular part of the curriculum, it falls outside of their comfort zone. 

That’s why it’s important for tutors to make learning less scary. One way to do this is to do creative and tactile learning. 

For example, for an English creative writing lesson, tutors will use props. They will make a small door with cardboard and put small objects behind it. The learners then have to open the door and make up a story based on the object behind the door. 

Fun and engaging lessons like this help learners to be excited about coming to school.


A grade 5 child practises their soccer skills during the sports program.


Sports classes are usually not a priority in the school program because of the focus on basic education. The community volunteering program hopes to encourage physical development through sports.

The volunteers mainly work with older learners on this program because they already have some experience communicating in English. This makes communication easier between volunteers and learners.

Grade 6 children take part in hurdle races on the sports program.

Volunteers begin sports lessons by explaining what the aims are, such as learning to throw a ball. When a lesson ends, learners are tested on what they learnt. 

Sports classes are important because they ensure that learners have the opportunity to practise skills like teamwork. Sports are also essential for learners who aren’t academically strong, so that they have the opportunity to develop their self-esteem.


Intern Will and volunteer Tatum teach children about the skeleton as part of the sports program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


This is achieved by giving them alternatives to excel outside of the classroom. When the weather is bad, learners do health awareness classes with volunteers.

These classes include lessons on why stretching is important, how to maintain healthy eating habits and why exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Young women in the classes are often reluctant to participate because most of them think sports isn’t for girls. That’s why GVI encourages women volunteers to join the program to help motivate these learners. 

Early childhood development

Volunteer Elicia and coordinator Federico add music and singing to make storytime extra fun on the early childhood development program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


GVI volunteers work with five creches, one in Lwandle, one in Zola, and three in Nomzamo. Time spent at each of the five creches is split between each day of the week. 

This is done to spread support and to avoid building dependency by being at the same place every day. Volunteering at a creche for only one day a week avoids the risk of children getting attached to volunteers. 

Volunteers work with young children aged four to five. Lessons at local creches are planned in line with the school schedule. 

Volunteers do lessons on different topics every week, but maths and English are the focuses. For example, the topic of farmyard animals can be incorporated into maths by teaching learners to count cows. 

It’s a must that lessons are kept fun and engaging by doing things like singing songs and dancing. Storytime is also included to expand learners’ English. 


Volunteers use matching games to help students to learn opposites and English words.


Volunteers will read stories in English and the teacher will translate in isiXhosa. Other lessons are kept creative to encourage fine and gross motor skill development. 

Creativity is especially vital because English isn’t the learner’s first language. The primary reason for being at creches is that learners are only taught English when they reach grade 4, so the program aims to give learners a headstart for an easier transition.

The earlier you start learning a second language the better. Local teachers do not always have above basic English skills and are usually not confident to teach English. 

Volunteers on the other hand don’t all understand isiXhosa. This provides a mutual learning opportunity between volunteers and teachers.

That’s why GVI encourages first-language English volunteers to join the volunteer program. 

How do we plan and implement the volunteer program?

Volunteer Frank helps a Grade 4 student in one to one tutoring as part of our teaching program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


Tutoring is offered in English and maths. The program follows the national curriculum to ensure that all learners receive equal education and opportunities. 

Volunteers and staff meet up in free periods in the school timetable for education workshops where they discuss teaching styles and lesson planning. 

The lessons for the early childhood development program are planned a week in advance. Volunteers and teachers will plan worksheets together. 

The worksheets are used in the classroom and are planned to encourage creativity as much as possible. This can be done by adding fun activities like matching animal names to their pictures. 

Teachers are in charge of lessons and volunteers are there for assistance. But we also encourage volunteers to take the lead sometimes and eventually plan lessons themselves, to gain teaching experience.

Each lesson has a different objective. At the beginning of the year, the team of volunteers and staff look at the previous year’s developmental targets. 

From this report, they assess which goals were met. The team will then use this as a guideline to build the new academic year’s objectives. 

The overarching objective across the whole program is to fulfil the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (UN SDG) 4: Quality Education

How is the Cape Town volunteer program sustainable?

Volunteer Cat practises throwing and catching skills with grade 4 children on our sports program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


The volunteer program tries to make sure that volunteers are not providing the core of the support. This is done so that the lessons can continue to run when volunteers leave.

One way of doing this is by supporting the teachers to lead the lessons and only providing assistance where needed. Tutors in primary schools also work with different classes every day to avoid dependence. 

Tutoring offers learners an extra opportunity to develop in maths and English. Volunteers want to encourage independence by putting learners in a position where they no longer need outside support. 

This is ensured through need-focused tutoring, which means that tutoring is offered for specific, individual struggles. Once a learner can master the areas they previously struggled with, they will no longer need tutoring.

Sports programs are more difficult. Ideally, the community volunteering program wants schools to run their own sports programs, but this is a long-term goal that will need a lot more resources. 

The aim of the sports program is to make schools and learners excited about sports and the importance of healthy lifestyles. 

Why should I volunteer abroad on this program?

Intern Marie-Ange helps the children on our early childhood development program to learn to tell the time using an interactive clock. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


If you want to gain teaching experience, this volunteer program is perfect for you. You can work with children and gain practical teaching hours.

You will also have the opportunity to learn new skills like lesson planning, leadership, and communication. You will achieve personal development goals, learn about communal living, and make international friendships.

As a volunteer abroad, you get international experience too. Cape Town is a great place to visit with many places to see over the weekend during your time off. It’s a cosmopolitan city, with diverse cultures brought together through a shared love for Capetonian heritage.

You can enjoy music and food, and through your work in Gordon’s Bay you’ll learn about cultures different to your own.

What does the volunteer program need from me?

Volunteer Ollie uses team-building games to help the class work together during our sports program. This image was taken pre-COVID-19.


The community volunteering program needs consistent and passionate volunteers. Without this, extra lessons like sports can’t run.

Tutoring and additional support will also not be available. This means that learners who are not academically strong won’t get to excel to their full potential. 

Volunteers on the sports programs need to be interested in sport and have lots of energy. If you want to experience managing large groups, working with older learners on the sports program is also a good idea.

The type of volunteer perfect for this community volunteering program is anyone who loves working with children, has tons of energy, and can be creative and silly. 

If you love children and want teaching experience, become a volunteer with GVI.

Zaytoen Domingo is a junior content writer for GVI, and an alum of the GVI Writing Academy. The Writing Academy is a skills-development program that pairs development editors with budding travel writers. Learn more about the program here.


By Zaytoen Domingo

Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.
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