Unemployment rates are high and, as a result, a large percentage of those living in Africa live in poverty. When in a city or urban area in Africa, beggars are commonplace and anyone with a heart feels compelled to help out somehow.
From a conservation point-of-view, the world is getting hotter and animals are becoming extinct, especially in Africa. There are plenty of ways to help out here, too, and ensure that future generations can experience the spectacular beauty of Africa, and the wild animals who call it ‘home’.
Here we give ideas of how best to make a difference and leave something good behind.
Helping the Homeless
While it seems unkind not to give money to beggars, there are many options other than donating cash. Most cities have organisations which offer help, food and shelter to those living on the street and most of them sell vouchers and/or welcome donations. Many of the organisations sell their vouchers online, so you can buy them before your trip.
Streetsleeper ‘upcycle advertising billboards destined for landfill into survival sleeping bags, transforming the negative impact of waste into immediate relief for those living on the street while promoting social upliftment through dialogue and storytelling.’ It’s a win-win-win situation: upcycling, skills development/employment and providing a warm, dry sleeping bag to the homeless. While Streetsleeper is based in Cape Town, bags can be bought (preferably ten or more to balance courier costs) and sent elsewhere.
Get involved and offer your time at any one of the numerous soup kitchens in most African cities. A helping hand, even if just for a day, gives some relief to those who work tirelessly at these incredible organisations.
Here are just a few places that offer help to the homeless in South Africa:
- The Haven, Cape Town
- The Homestead (kids), Cape Town
- JOSH, Johannesburg
- Nkosinathi Project, Durban
- The Nest, Durban
- Salvation Army, Countrywide
Giving to Schools
It doesn’t take a Rocket Scientist to work out that the key to decreasing poverty is education. Many schools, especially in the more rural areas in Africa, are under-resourced, under-staffed and, often, in a state of disrepair.
Stationary – ball point pens, pencils, books and paper – are always welcome. Take a day and organise a visit to a school and meet the teachers and kids. Even better, organise a group of you and paint a classroom, repair desks, put up a swing in the tree … the options are endless and your skills, whatever they may be, are in great demand. Please remember though, these are children at school, be sensitive to local custom and the vulnerability of kids. An appointment must be made.
A number of larger organisations involved in education in Africa can be contacted, like Ikamva Youth, the Ubuntu Education Fund and Kliptown Youth Program. It is also possible to sponsor a child’s education through various organisations like Child Africa, Project Luangwa and the African Scholars Fund.
Conservation and the Environment
Giving back to nature – the very thing that makes an African safari so spectacular – can be done in a huge number of ways. Firstly, don’t support those that aren’t behaving in a manner that conserves e.g. canned lion hunting (and petting cubs etc.) and elephant rides. See our Safari Anti-Bucket List for more info on what to avoid and why.
Help by cleaning up rubbish. Clean-Up South Africa lists various groups who meet to keep SA’s beautiful bits free of rubbish. Most importantly, do your bit by not littering! Clean C in Cape Town has monthly beach clean-ups around the peninsula on the first Saturday each month. Join the one at Blouberg and enjoy this view:
If you want to help conserve the animals that call Africa home, the options are endless, too. Be sure to do your homework, though, and support those that are truly for conservation, as opposed to those that are just there to make money. Some ideas include ‘fostering’ an elephant at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, ‘adopting’ a penguin chick at SANCCOB or supporting rhino conservation.
What’s a safari in Africa without a few wonderful pieces of African art or craft to take home as a souvenir? Here, too, you can give back to local communities by buying directly from the artist or crafter. Africa has incredible craftsmen and artists! See our blog on curio-buying for some handy hints.
Support places like Mulberry Mongoose, based in the South Luangwa valley, who make gorgeous jewellery, including some made from snare-wire collected by the anti-poaching patrols, and Shanga, outside Arusha, with their incredibly skilled disabled artists.
Mozzi Nets, Clothes and Shoes: Baggage Space Swapping
Make space for the gorgeous, locally-made gifts to take home by leaving things behind. Another win-win situation.
Malaria is a problem in many southern and east African countries. While most establishments in malaria areas supply mosquito nets, it’s always wise to come prepared. Bring your own mozzie net and give it to someone before you leave.
Fill any space when you pack your suitcase at home. Donations of toiletries, stationary, clothes and shoes are always welcome at schools, orphanages and other care organisations. Again, the space you free up is perfect for souvenirs to take home!
Off-Set your Carbon Footprint
By far the biggest contribution to the environment possible, is off-setting your carbon footprint (the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, usually expressed in equivalent tons of carbon dioxide). A flight for one person from London to Johannesburg via Dubai produces 4.4 tons of CO2. The maximum amount of CO2 produced per person per year to counteract climate change should be 2 tons. Per year!
So, how can you off-set it?
Plant trees! Trees produce oxygen while sequestering carbon dioxide. And that’s beside all the other good things they do like provide shade, homes for animals and birds and prevent soil erosion. And there are plenty of fantastic organisations who’ll do it for you, like Trees for Africa and Greenpop. If you’re up for it, you can join one of their tree planting trips – an amazing experience! – or you can just donate and buy trees for them to plant.
Whether you’re local or foreign, donate time and skills or money, support kids, fight poverty, back conservation or help animals, every little bit counts toward making Africa, and the world, a better place.