TRIP REVIEW: Surfing South Africa to Help Out

The downfall of many volunteer organizations is cost. All too often there will be a $1000+ price tag on a trip that lasts only a week or two, not included airfare. This isn’t news, so it should come as no surprise that there are people out there who are working to fix this. One of these people is Daniel Radcliffe (no, not the actor). After collecting a Masters of Business, Daniel decided that it was time to give back to the world. He began to research volunteer trips. He too ran into this roadblock, but unlike someone like me who will simple notice the problem and then write about it, Daniel decided to do something. International Volunteer HQ was founded upon his return to New Zealand in 2007. “IVHQ was born with the goal of providing safe, affordable and high quality placements in areas where there is a real need for volunteers.” One of these places is South Africa.

It’s easy to read a statistic or to watch a documentary and think that we understand. Sure, we have problems here in the United States, there’s inequality and poverty everywhere, but, honestly, we cannot imagine what some citizens of the world live through. In South Africa the average life expectancy of a white South African is 71 years. The average life expectancy for the black population is 48 years. In 2005 it was estimated that 31% of the female population was infected with HIV, most of them black. There are 1,200,000 orphans. These are numbers and statistics, I could throw them onto a graph and you would see the vast differences, but you still wouldn’t know, you would still be using your imagination. Over there, it’s a reality. South Africa needs help and, if you feel so inclined, you can give it.

IVHQ sends volunteers to South Africa on the first and third Monday of each month. They normally arrive in groups of twenty to fifty people and the assist the community in an astounding variety of ways. Participants can involve themselves in a teaching project, in childcare, computer training, sports development and, an organization after my own heart, a surf outreach program.

Maybe you’re wondering what good a surf outreach program would do for children when they could be receiving extra medical attention or extra food and shelter. In the words of Ellen Varoy, Marketing and Media Coordinator for IVHQ, “The Surf Outreach program is designed to provide these children with an after school activity, keeping them off the streets of Cape Town and placing them in a safe and encouraging environment. Through the program, these children have the opportunity to learn new skills, take up new challenges, gain confidence and interact with our international volunteers, who the children look up to as role models.” It’s not about whether or not these kids learn to surf. It’s about showing them that there are people who care. It’s about being a ray of light on an otherwise bleak horizon. As a surfer would say, it’s about sharing the stoke. Would these children benefit more from help that focused on their health and nourishment? On the spreadsheet, probably, but where would they go after that? I say give them role models, give them hope and teach them that they can overcome. That, in my opinion, will last much longer than a loaf of bread.

The cost of IVHQ trips is one of the things that makes this organization so great. Prospective volunteers for the surf outreach program only have to pay $320 for one week. Longer periods of time require more money, being capped off at six months for $4580. This does not included airfare or visas or spending money. Also, if you want to participate in the surf outreach program you must know how to swim. I just thought I would point that out. If you are interested in any of the other programs offered for South Africa, you can find more information here

IVHQ is a fantastic option for people who want to volunteer for an affordable price. A full range of trips can be found at their website, As usual, if you were interested in the trip, but don’t think it’s for you, check back with next week for the next article in our series of trip reviews.

For testimonials by volunteers who completed the surf outreach program, check out: Testimonials  

To check out a video from the trip click here.


KINO CROOKE spent the last three years juggling school and travel. He most recently spent the last two months traveling across Spain before moving to New York to work with CATALYST.

The Serial Volunteer

Looking back, the majority of my most clairvoyant, my most grandiose and my most sincere moments have occurred when I’m flying 30,000 feet in the air. Darting through wispy white clouds, soaring over cerulean blue, and marveling at just how many parking lots we as a species require; also very quickly becomes a time of self-reflection and truth (granted, this is all provided you have a window seat).  On August 7th, 2011 flying home to New York City from the Dominican Republic, my partner had one of these moments. 

“I don’t want to be a serial volunteer,” she said after a particularly long spell spent looking out that magical aperture.  

Unsure of whether she was stating her resolution to never work at a breakfast food production company, I asked what she meant.

“I don’t want to continue jumping from volunteer organization to volunteer organization, never donating more than a few moments of my time,” she said. “How can we truly have a lasting positive impact if we never spend the time getting to know the nuances of an organization and the community that it works with?”

We’d spent the better half of two years volunteering with different organizations, always managing to find something wrong with each—something that would push us to continue our search for the perfect place, the perfect spot, the perfect fit.  At this rate, we were set to continue jumping around the globe merely dipping our toes in the humanitarian aid world.  And, for some people this is fine.  This can actually be an economical way to travel with the added benefit of supporting good organizations.  However our goal from the beginning was to find somewhere that we could help to create lasting and empowering change. 

Remembering this, I realized she was right. If we were serious about helping to create that lasting change, we would need to stop trying to find the perfect organization, because the perfect organization doesn’t exist—they change and evolve the same way people do. The same way our thought process of volunteering was evolving those 30,000 feet above the earth. Maybe if we invested ourselves in one organization and truly took the time to get to know the people of the community we were trying to help; maybe then we would find what we were looking for—impact.  But that wouldn’t happen if we kept jumping around.     

“I don’t want to be a serial volunteer either,” I said. 

And alive with the excitement that comes from life changing realizations, we talked all the way back home of our now imminent return to the Dominican Republic.


Adam Salvitti Gucwa is a seasoned traveler, entrepreneur and student whose volunteer focus centers around education and the Dominican Republic

How Do You Define "Global Citizen?"

Being a global citizen means starting to think of ourselves as a global community, when it comes to things like poverty, clean water, education, etc.  Imagine every child on the planet being born with the same rights to life. The nonprofit organization GLOBAL CITIZEN makes progress on these topics easier… check out their website where you can connect, and win points and badges for taking actions. GLOBAL CITIZEN is powered by the Global Poverty Project.


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