GVI: Volunteer in South Africa

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About

Travel to sunny South Africa and make a difference to critical conservation and community development programs. From working with underprivileged children, to getting up close with the charismatic wildlife, there's a volunteer project for everyone in South Africa! Discover Cape Town; the Design Capital of the world, get up close and personal with the Big Five on safari and conquer the iconic Table Mountain.

Top Volunteer Projects in South Africa:

  • Assist with childcare & educational activities in a township educare center while exploring South Africa
  • Get up close and personal with Africa's large game such as lion, leopard, elephant and hyenas. Learn how to use conservation and research equipment to help locate collared predators, receive invaluable training in large animal identification, tracking and behavioral study skills.
  • Volunteers will be teaching children to surf in conjunction with coaching a range of different sports including football, netball, cricket, tennis, athletics and rugby in townships that surround the beautiful city of Cape Town.
  • Volunteer on a program in a colourful township just outside Cape Town, educating child-minders, parents and children on the importance general hygiene practices.These fun and interactive workshops are set up in an informal environment and involve lots of fun activities.
  • Provide disadvantaged children with much needed educational improvement in Cape Town and help with the conservation of wildlife in Limpopo on a private game reserve. Immerse yourself in a country known for its rich history, culture and natural beauty!
  • Discover wild South Africa when you join an international team of volunteers assisting in the research of the world’s fastest land mammal, the cheetah.

Questions & Answers

Hi, so for the cape town projects over 18 it consists of 1 day of lesson planing, normally Monday, and then the rest of the days on site. You get to site at about 9am and go to 3pm with an hour for lunch. You will most likely leave the base at about 8.20 am having had breakfast and made your lunch. In the afternoon after volunteering you have free time to go to the beach, just chill out before you...

Reviews

97%
based on 23 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.7
Showing 1 - 15 of 23
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Dannielle
10/10

The Best Experience I have had yet.

I only went for two weeks but it has changed my entire perspective on life and helped me find myself. I went over there a little lost having no idea what I truely wanted to do. I study a Bachelor in Science in Conservation and Biological Science and I came over to test if it was something I truely wanted to pursue. And man did I make my mind up. It’s 110% what I want to do an you and the team helped me come to that realisation. GVI Karongwe are so inspiring and supportive For anyone that is considering going on a GVI trip I cannot recommend it enough, even if you want a holiday, consider doing GVI, it is so rewarding and you see parts on the country and its community that wouldn’t be able to see as a mere tourist. There is no previous knowledge necessary, the team trains everyone up to get ready to hit the safari. I made life long friends on this trip from all over the world, from UK to Ireland to Columbia. We still talk atleast 1-2 twice a week. It's an experience you’ll never forget. But don't take my word for it, DO IT!

How can this program be improved?
The Program is amazing and I cannot think of a way to improve it everything is so carefully thought out the only way to improve the experience is to make sure you book for a minimum of a month as 2 weeks is just not enough. Take it from me.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Kayley
10/10

You won’t regret it!!

I stayed with GVI on an Under 18’s project in summer 2017 in Gordon’s Bay, Cape Town. Me and three other girls spent one week working in a township with pre school children, and one week travelling the Garden Route along the coast of South Africa. Our goal was to construct an eco-friendly greenhouse for a pre-school in a local township, it’s an amazing opportunity to experience the life in townships and great to play with the children as well.

As we were such a small group, we ended up getting the most amazing holiday Home for accommodation- this was separate to the adult volunteer accommodation. However I also went inside the adult accommodation and it was still really nice and had a communal feel, although it was more basic.

I’m vegetarian and the food was amazing, they have fresh meals made by a chef and cater for all dietry requirements. Tap water is drinkable. One member of our group was ill for one night however it was dealt with well and we were not staying on GVI base camp at the time so don’t worry. The rest of us were absolutely fine.

Exploring the Garden route in the second week was one of the most memorable parts of the trip! It gave us a real chance to experience as much as South Africa as possible within the second week. There were a few ethical issues based around the excursions we did, however after further investigation GVI have said they will no longer be going to certain tourist attractions (one of the safaris). I am confident they put their ethics/morals at the forefront of the projects.

Child safety and organisation is outstanding. No phones on project, everything is done to the highest standard. I was even put in contact with other volunteers before project and organised flights to Cape Town with another girl. GVI make you feel so comfortable and it really is like living with a big family (cliché I know!!)

I was worried about getting home sick but it was absolutely fine, there’s WiFi and opportunity to message family/friends.

GVI really tried to make my project memorable and I’m so glad I was brave enough to do it! Would recommend it to anyone and I definitely want to do another project in the future.

How can this program be improved?
Options to make the programme longer and spend more time with the children / on project.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Isla
10/10

Brilliant time in South Africa!

I had a fantastic time in South Africa, coordinating a holiday sports programme at the local primary school and doing construction in a local crèche. It feels great knowing I took part in such an amazing project, and managed to make a difference in the community as well as leaving something permanent behind. My time in Cape Town has taught me so much about myself and has allowed me to take part in activities I never thought I was capable of. I've loved working in the community and making a change, and I've had so much fun along the way. I'd thoroughly recommend GVI Cape Town, and I'd love to go on another GVI programme and help even more!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Erin
10/10

Trip of a Lifetime!

This trip has opened my eyes. Working with children, and working in their poor environments has made me stop thinking about all the negatives in my life and to start focusing on the positive and instead of counting what I don’t have, to start counting what I do. But most importantly it made me realise, that I am incredibly lucky to have a home, a decent government, a healthcare system that everyone has access to, an education, a family who love me and opportunities, I can go to college or university if I want, it’s my choice, and it’s a choice not many get and after this trip, I am so thankful to be privileged enough to have an option. GVI has shown me something that I don’t think I will ever forget.

Yes, I recommend this program
Chloe
10/10

You have two hands, one is for yourself and the other is to help others, the greatest gift you can give anyone is your time!

GVI is definitely the best thing I have ever done. It has improved my self-esteem as well as my confidence massively. The programme was very eye opening and a good way to compare what we have in England and how little they have in Cape Town and to be grateful of our luxuries. It has given me confidence to work with children of all capabilities and backgrounds. The children were so grateful for everything and especially for your time. You also gain a lot of free time especially at the weekends so you are free to explore the country. I did ticked off so many things off my bucket list including shark cage diving, boulders beach, table mountain the list is endless.

The support from GVI has been amazing and if anybody wants to volunteer abroad I would definitely recommend the company as they help you every step of the way from booking to arriving in Cape Town to coming home, they have it covered. I have just booked my second adventure with GVI but this time it is a 6 month internship in Costa Rica!

Yes, I recommend this program
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shareef
8/10

GVI South Africa

I choose to volunteer Karongwe, South Africa program for a month this past September. I found it quite exciting as well as educational. The experience made my passion for wildlife conservation even stronger (I also participated in an another conservation in Namibia in the past). The staff was very helpful. Base Manager Leah was very open and helped with adjusting to the new environment as well as staff members Greg, Malen, and others. Learning behaviors of animals up close and personal gave additional appreciation for wildlife for me. Also, the community program ran by staff member Faith was excellent. Teaching local kids in Africa and helping build schools is a great way to combine the the conservation efforts. I plan on going to the GVI Thailand marine conservation next year.

How can this program be improved?
Additional resources like more trucks for research work.
Yes, I recommend this program
Tom
10/10

Wildlife Research Expedition in South Africa

I’ll start with just a brief history of myself I’m 31 years old, left school at 18, decided against going to university and since then worked within the retail sector as a floor manager.
I have no previous education in relation to wildlife or wildlife conservation but I have always had a keen interest, just never really knew where to begin.
The decision to quit my job and try something new was slightly daunting, but I can happily say that I made the right decision. My experience with GVI has given me the direction and inspiration I’ve always lacked to get more involved and hopefully have a career doing something I feel so passionate about.

The day to day life on base involves going out on drive each morning (5am) and afternoon (3pm) with the main focus of tracking the animals using telemetry and collecting data. This is where you will get up close with an array of animals including the big 5 (lion, leopard, cheetah, elephant, rhino) so be sure to bring a camera you will definitely need it. Twenty minutes into my very first drive we encountered a mother cheetah and her four beautiful eight week old cubs about 50 meters away feeding on a freshly killed Impala.

The impact of the program on the ground was a privilege to be a part of, waking up at 4.30am for morning drive and not knowing what you might see is a great feeling to wake up to. Everything you do on a day to day basis is a learning experience, but its done in a such a way that you don’t realise its happening. No classroom or website could have taught me in a month what I learnt during my time on Karongwe and not just the surrounding wildlife, but conservation, culture and history.
The staff were all phenomenal and went above and beyond to make everyone feel at home and within two days it was. Facilities on base are basic, depending on the weather you could go without power for a couple of days and the elephants love to play with the water pump which meant we had no showers for 24 hours. I personally dont look back on these as negatives and just the reality of being where you are and becoming fully immersed in the experience.
Saturday night is braai (bbq) and an opportunity to enjoy a few drinks, sit around a huge fire and take in the nights sky, seeing the Milky Way spread across the sky is something you to experience yourself. Sunday is your day off with the opportunity to take a day trip out (Kruger national park) or simply relax on the veranda, nothing more surreal than reading a book and noticing two giraffes walk into your yard.

To anybody taking a gap year or looking for a career break or simply wanting to try something new I cannot recommend GVI enough, you will meet some incredible people and get to be apart of something truly worthwhile and rewarding.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Katie
10/10

Internship to PhD research project

In September 2016 I took part in the short term internship programme in South Africa with GVI as part of my master’s placement course at Bournemouth University. I spent two months working closely with a team of dedicated conservationists within the South African bushveld and conducted valuable research on the wildlife dynamics in a reserve environment. The internship enabled me to develop an array of skills, including radio telemetry and tracking skills. Vital behavioural data at a species level was also conducted to achieve a better understanding of predator and herbivore species. There was also a strong focus on reserve management which is vital in ensuring the survival of species. I was exposed to broader global research working with industry professionals and gain an insight the vital ongoing conservation work within this region.

Since the internship I have been in regular contact with the internship leader, who has been co-supervising the development of a doctoral research project than I will be conducting from September 2017. The internship allowed me to focus on a subject that I wanted to pursue at a PhD level, which was only achievable through the skills I gained whilst being an intern. I was encouraged from day one by the internship leader Robbie Mann, who has supported my project ideas and shows commitment and drive for knowledge.

The doctoral project I propose to do along with the ongoing support from GVI and across departments at Bournemouth University considers a network of significant research themes. These include ecosystem level conservation, environmental education and sustainable development, which are important for high impact scientific output papers. I have been readily communicating at outreach events for families and general public as well as prestigious events, meeting with CEOs of wildlife conservation trusts and other various external organisations. I have also recently been nominated to receive the Freedom of the City of London award which will be presented later this year for my contribution to zoology and conservation.

Had I not had the support and encouragement that began with the two month internship and since continued, I would not have been able to reflect this when liaising with potential collaborators and even conveying research projects to esteemed professors within my university and other organisations. I am certain that the developments of upcoming research projects will have a great outreach through publications and engagement. This internship was an invaluable development for me, and I can’t convey enough how much the support is appreciated.

No, I don't recommend this program
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Mara
10/10

GVI Karongwe

My time at GVI Karongwe was by far the most rewarding experience I could have asked for. When I first arrived I was terrified as this had been the furthest from home I had gone alone. By the end of my first hour on base I was laughing among strangers turned friends while we played volleyball. The people I was lucky enough to meet truly made my time there phenomenal. I now have friends from around the globe who share in my passion for conservation and other animal related sciences. The work we did while on Karongwe was engaging and exciting. I participated in the intern program in which we would set camera traps every week and receive lectures both on and off base about different conservation efforts in practice around us. The breadth of knowledge I left with was far greater than I could have ever wished for. The staff each had an infectious appetite for learning which made their teaching engaging and productive. Every day there were two drives on the reserve during which time we would take data on our sightings as well as the sightings called in by the surrounding lodges. The information we acquired was later transformed into maps showing the movement of species throughout the reserve and it also helped us to ensure the safety and well being of all of the animals. Having your work turned into a product you can see and appreciate made participating in the research rewarding. Even the drives on which we saw few mammals we were kept engaged as the staff encouraged us to become birders, tree-identifiers, and avid trackers. No time was wasted time with GVI. I was always learning and loving my opportunity to do so.

After having completed my time with GVI I am now in the process of applying to programs in which I can continue to satiate my appetite for knowledge surrounding conservation in the bush. The staff and program have left me with a new sense of excitement surrounding learning and working for a greater cause. I am forever thankful for how my time with GVI has so positively impacted my life.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Maddie
9/10

Unforgettable Experience with GVI Cape Town

I spent six months as a volunteer / intern at GVI South Africa Cape Town and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
I was exposed to a different lifestyle and culture in a new setting while on project, but also had the luxury of feeling 'at home' in our apartments. Throughout my time there, I learned so much about South Africa, it's history, life in the townships, and South African school and healthcare systems. I got to experience life as a childcare worker, teacher, sports and surfing coach, and so much more. I was able to interact with so many people from the local community and learn about what they value in their culture. The experience helped me broaden my perspectives as an educator and opened my eyes to the impact of poverty in educational settings. The children that we worked with are absolutely amazing (albeit crazy at times) and I've missed them every day since I left. Their way of life, their sense of humor, their appreciation for small things, and their excitement to interact with the volunteers - they all leave a lasting impression on your heart. They might drive you insane but be prepared for an overload of cuteness!

When I wasn't working on project, I was able to explore my surroundings - Gordon's Bay, Cape Town, and other areas within driving distance. I frequently used uber to get around because it was safe and affordable. There was always something to do on the weekends - beautiful beaches, scenic hikes, outdoor markets, shopping, cultural activities, and abundant nightlife. There were also so many opportunities for thrill-seekers like myself. Over the course of my six months, I was able to go shark-cage diving, go sand-boarding, walk with elephants, go on safari, explore a cave, and jump off of the highest commercial bungee jump in the world. It's safe to say that there was a never a dull moment in South Africa!
The living conditions and accommodations met or exceeded my expectations in most aspects. We had running water and hot showers. We had bunk beds and some personal storage space. The kitchen and living room spaces were communal and comfortable enough. No wifi, no TV (which I think are GOOD things) and no air conditioning (just a little sweaty at times in that South African heat). Any issues that I faced with cleanliness or hygiene were usually the result of some messy housemates. There was basic food items available to us, homemade dinner 4 nights out of the week, and the option to walk to the supermarket or restaurants (all of which were right down the road). We weren't living in luxury by any means, but I was overly grateful for the place I got to call home for six months (especially in comparison to the community in which we were working in - looking at it in that perspective always helped me stay grounded).
One of the best things about the program is that it hails volunteers and staff members from all over the globe. As an American, I didn't want to have a typical "study abroad" type experience with people who were all my age and from my similar background. GVI was amazing because I got to live and work with people who came from all different backgrounds. There were people younger than me, my age, and people much older than me. Everyone had their own story and had something interesting to contribute to our group. I learned a lot by interacting with all of these different types of people and I am so happy to say that I made some amazing life-long friends along the way.

How can this program be improved?
Expanding relationships with new or existing project partners to ensure a long-lasting impact on the community and meaningful experience for volunteers, no matter when they arrive on project. More accurate and up-to-date online descriptions of the work that will be done on each project so that volunteers have a better understanding of what to expect before they arrive.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Talya
8/10

Under 18's Volunteer and Adventure Experience in South Africa

I had the best summer volunteering in the Under 18s program in Cape town. I had initially chosen this program because I wanted the opportunity to go have an independent holiday abroad and volunteer. GVI gave me this and much more! During my 2 weeks there I got to see the impact every volunteer makes, whether you stay for 2 weeks or 6 months. Nothing beats the feeling of finishing a project, for me it was water tank stands, and seeing how happy the children and creator of the orphanage were when they now had clean rain water. I got to try new things, such as brick laying, mixing cement, canoeing, seeing whales and penguins. The garden route tour was incredible and you really get a chance to explore the country through an adventure week, authentic food and quiz nights. I think the most important thing about GVI is that even when you leave you are a part of a community. You meet people who went on your program months or years later and they can tell you how that child is doing or that project is doing, because it is continuous.
Remember to bring warm clothes, sunglasses a hot water bottle and a strong pair or walking boots as SA has 4 season in 1 day, but you are just 10 minuets from the beach with 4 scoops of ice-cream for 40 rand.
I makes you so happy for what you have got and so inspired to try and do more. You will always be apart of GVI and the experience will just make you want to go on more projects or just never leave. I am still involved as an ambassador and plan to go agin next summer.

I will never be a waste regardless of what project you get to do. Who wouldn't want to travel meaningfully, make a difference and have an unforgettable experience!

How can this program be improved?
More access to authentic food and life style, as time it felt a bit western like going shopping in a mall rather than a market- but that is South Africa.
Yes, I recommend this program
James
9/10

A thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable experience, one I hope to go back to.

Came back from two weeks volunteering with GVI at the Childcare and Healthcare project in Cape Town, South Africa. I was originally only meant to stay for one week but was so impressed by the standard of good work being done of project and the excellent set-up that the GVI staff maintained there that I wasn't prepared to leave. As it was, leaving was very difficult being as invested as I was just in those two weeks in the wide range of teaching, childcare, and healthcare opportunities available. i'm deeply grateful to GVI for this opportunity and look forward to going back to this project in the future one way or another.

How can this program be improved?
Expanding the project to work with more schools, there was enough volunteers to work with more potentials partners.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Erik
10/10

Wildlife Research in South Africa Expedition: studying Africa's large predators up close and personal

It was early April 2007 when I started the Global Vision International research expedition. Karongwe Private Game Reserve, situated in the Limpopo province in South Africa, is the home of a permanent team of researchers, which is supplemented on a regular basis with volunteers from all around the world and I was one of them. The research is focused on the interactions between the larger carnivores, so daily we would trek down the resident lions, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and of course the leopards. During the first week we weren’t able to get a glimpse of any of the leopards, known to call Karongwe home. We were especially interested in a female leopard called Tilo and her two young cubs. One morning we were trekking Tilo but couldn’t go on when we hit a large drainage ditch (Karongwe is made up of several old farms). We could hear her calling her cubs and we could clearly hear that something was wrong for she sounded stressed. Later that day we were trekking her again through the dense bush when all of a sudden we heard the squeals of a warthog. So we were on the right course but would we be able to see her and her cubs this time? The grass was getting higher when I spotted movement in front of the vehicle and shouted to the driver/ guide to stop immediately. As the driver hit the brakes a leopard, we later determined was the elusive Tilo, broke cover and dashed away from the car, settling some forty metres away. In front of the car was what appeared to be the carcass of a freshly killed warthog. But appearances can be deceiving for the warthog got up, looked around and ran off. He ran off in the direction of the waiting Tilo, who tackled the warthog and made the kill. Afterwards she disappeared into the undergrowth. We decided to come back later. After spending some time with the resident lion pride on their freshly killed impala we went back to the warthog carcass. It took us awhile to relocate it because the carcass had been moved and when we finally found it, there was no sign of the leopard. After staring at the carcass for several minutes, at a distance of course, we saw some movement: a baby leopard walked over and around the carcass like he had killed it himself. We spotted only one cub but we couldn’t be sure. We feared that the other cub had died and that that was the reason Tilo was calling that morning.

Several weeks went by and we had occasional sightings of Tilo and her cub; our worst fears had come true, Tilo had only one cub. One morning we were trekking Tilo again and doing some serious off-roading when we spotted her in the yellow grass looking straight at us. We wanted to get a closer look and see if her cub was with her but the driver/ guide told us that there was a big rock between us and the leopard and that he couldn’t get around it. The rock didn’t look too big to us. But was it a rock? It looked odd. While we were writing down our observations Tilo kept looking in our direction and stayed out in the open, which was unusual for this shy animal. When Tilo picked something up in her mouth it became clear to us that we had misinterpreted the entire situation because what she had picked up was the head of an enormous 14 feet African rock python. What we had assumed was a rock was the body of the python filled with a fresh kill. We realised that we were witnessing something amazing. We edged a little bit closer to get a better look and noticed that the leopard cub was there with his mother, hiding in the grass. After Tilo made sure that the snake was dead by biting it repeatedly on the neck, her cub started playing with the dead python’s head. What an awesome sight. When we returned that night to see what the leopards had done with the dead snake we observed something quite unusual: the python was still in one piece, except for a large tear in its abdomen. The leopard had removed and eaten what was inside the python. So the question on our minds was: has Tilo killed the python to protect her one remaining cub or had she killed it for the easy meal inside its stomach? Whatever the reason it was an unique sighting we will never forget.

How can this program be improved?
I had a great time, learned a lot, seen amazing things and made friends for life. The old farmhouse we stayed at wasn't luxurious (back in 2007) but what can you expect in the middle of the African Bush...
Yes, I recommend this program
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Sarah
10/10

The Experience of a Lifetime

I completed a six month Wildlife Conservation Internship in South Africa with GVI, and it was phenomenal.

The staff are incredibly friendly, helpful and great fun to be around. Their knowledge is amazing, and they were always willing to answer questions, and helped us organise side trips to places like Kruger National Park.

I looked forward to getting up early, it's not hard when you know you're about to spend most of your day in the South African bush, tracking focus animals like cheetah and lion. And alongside, you get to see the high array of flora and fauna in the bush, birds, antelope, you name it, you'll probably have a chance to see it!

Everyone got involved around base, helping out with cooking, cleaning, and none of it felt like a chore! Base was fairly basic, but really comfortable and surrounded by like-minded people. You sleep in dorm-style accommodation which is great fun, and there's a chill out area where you can relax in the evening and between drives.

There was such a range of things to get involved with, from learning how to record data to learning how to use radio telemetry. For someone who has completed a Zoology degree after volunteering with GVI, I can certainly say that the things I learnt with GVI helped me no end at university! My experience in fieldwork with GVI led to me being able to go back to South Africa to do my final year dissertation, something which would not have been an option without having volunteered previously with GVI!

South Africa is a beautiful country, and travelling with GVI got me hooked. I can't wait to travel with them again! Saving every penny I can to get back out there to experience another country!

How can this program be improved?
Nothing springs to mind!! I just wish I could have stayed even longer than I did!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Diane
10/10

Never too Old to Volunteer

As a 52 year old past international volunteer through Rotary International I admit I wanted to do this volunteer experience for both selfish and altruistic reasons. Selfishly I have always wanted to travel to Africa and go on a safari. Volunteering I have found addicting and has left me with powerful feelings for people from other cultures and other life experiences than my own. I signed on to this particular program because of the selfish reasons and because I felt I could use my past teaching experience to possibly help others. When asked how I enjoyed my trip I have found that the more exclamation words I use (Fantastic! Life changing! Amazing! Awesome!), the enthusiasm I feel of my experience is best communicated. I enjoyed the raw beauty of South Africa – pristine beaches next to mountains with clouds below the peaks next to colorful wine country. The weekend adventures (including my safari!) were memorable and my picture portfolio proves this. My fellow volunteers from Australia and United States and England and Columbia and Scotland made the trip so much fun. (I like to say I gain another son or daughter in every country I visit). Teaching subtraction with carrying to my 4th grade boys and playing dice with them and seeing their progress was well worth the days of flying to get there. I am so lucky to have been able to experience this South Africa teaching project. Thank you!

Yes, I recommend this program

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About Global Vision International (GVI)

GVI is an award-winning organisation that tackles critical local and global issues by operating education and training programs on sustainable development projects around the world.

Formed in 1997, we have been operating our award-winning...