The small country of Swaziland has some of the most interesting traditions, festivals, and friendly, laidback people in all of Africa. Home to a stable history and peaceful reputation, Swaziland is unfortunately plagued by one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates and unemployment rates. By volunteering in Swaziland, individuals can contribute to truly important projects and programs, and make a lasting impact on local communities as well as the nation’s economy and future.
Swaziland is one of smallest countries in Southern Hemisphere, sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa. Blessed with plenty of natural beauty, it not surprising that Swaziland is filled with a large number of nature reserves and national parks, especially for a country of its size. However, Swaziland also hosts a handful of serious societal issues, including a high unemployment rate and limited government welfare programs, which means there are many underprivileged communities in need of volunteer support.
Located in northwest Swaziland, and also known as “The valley of heaven”, Ezulwini Valley is one of the busiest areas in the country, in terms of tourism. Most volunteering opportunities in the Ezulwini Valley are focused on hospitality, tourism, and (surprise, surprise) conservation, and based in Lobamba, which is the nation’s political capital.
Rural communities located throughout Swaziland are least likely to receive support from the national government, which leads to an incredibly high unemployment rate, but more importantly extreme poverty. At the same time, there are several reserves and national parks in the rural areas of Swaziland, where wild animals and many endangered species are given great care and the focus of the nation’s preservation efforts.
Volunteering in Swaziland
There are a variety of volunteer programs in Swaziland, especially for those interested in conservation, education, and community development projects. No matter where you choose to volunteer abroad in Swaziland, you will surely be given the chance to impact the lives of locals in both small and large ways, so be sure to take full advantage of every minute!
Conservation. Volunteers interested in wildlife preservation will be able to get plenty of hands-on experience with wildlife fieldwork and research in Swaziland. National parks and nature reserves stretch across the country, from the mountains to the sea. Volunteers will have the opportunity to work with professional conservationists, researchers, and ecologists on a variety of conservation projects. Conservation volunteering in Swaziland is particularly advantageous for volunteers who wish to boost their career in biology, zoology, marine biology, botany, or other related fields. Volunteers will also be able to contribute to the preservation and conservation of some species which are unique to the country, and not found anywhere else in the world.
Community Service. Those who volunteer in Swaziland in community related programs will likely be working with local organizations to build better futures for families and children living in less privileged communities. Volunteer tasks may include, but are not limited to, assisting with the construction of classrooms or homes, helping with care of children in orphanages or senior citizens in homes for the elderly, or providing healthcare services in local clinics. If you truly want to make a difference in Swaziland by contributing to the elimination of social challenges for families in greatest need, community service placements are for you.
Education. Becoming a volunteer teacher in Swaziland will allow individuals to work with children from low-income areas that have limited access to education. Schools are generally overcrowded and lack funding; thus, any type of volunteer support is very helpful for local teachers and administrators. Volunteers are often assigned in schools to act as teaching assistants or co-teachers, working alongside local teaching staff. Those who want to volunteer in Swaziland in schools and other educational setting should be prepared to be flexible and teach a range of subjects.
Costs & Affordability
Volunteer programs in Swaziland range in length from a few weeks to a few months, and typically cost a minimum of $1000 (although costs will be dependent on program length). Overall, volunteer programs in Swaziland can be very cheap. Flight costs will vary depending on where volunteers originate from, but can cost as little as $500 for some volunteers.
In terms of expenses upon arrival, a one bedroom, furnished apartment in a larger city in Swaziland costs an average of $400 per month. However, rent costs are cheaper in smaller cities. When it comes to daily costs of living, volunteers will find that it is quite easy to live on $10 a day. Volunteers can find basic meals for $4 and a bottle of water for $1. Overall, living and volunteering in Swaziland can be expensive or cheap, it all depends on the lifestyle each volunteer chooses to live.
Accommodation & Visas
Generally, volunteer programs in Swaziland will include housing, meals, pre-departure orientation, and assistance on the ground. Those who want to seek out their own housing arrangements may find it is quite difficult to find available accommodation, especially in smaller towns, so it is best to stick with the advice of your program provider.
Those who decide to volunteer in Swaziland’s remote areas will typically be provided with homestay accommodation or housing with other volunteers near their placement location. Be sure to ask your host organization about accommodation options before arrival to find out what place will work best for you.
Volunteering in Swaziland requires different visas depending on the duration of your stay and your nationality. For citizens of the U.S., UK, and most European countries, a pre-arranged visa may not be required if the volunteer program last for less than two months, in which case volunteers can obtain a tourist visa for free upon arrival. For longer volunteer programs in Swaziland, volunteers will need to apply for a temporary residence visa in most cases. Since visa requirements vary by country of origin, it is best to ask your host organization to assist you with the process or contact a Swazi embassy or consulate in your home country.
Benefits & Challenges
Adjustment. The high percentage of people that are unemployed and living in extreme poverty in Swaziland, mixed with the lack of infrastructure and industrialization, may present volunteers with some moments of culture shock upon arrival. More than three quarters of the local population lives on less than $2 per day, so volunteers will need to come to terms with the immense poverty they will be surrounded by daily.
Climate & Geography. Weather conditions vary from region to region in Swaziland, as there are communities that sit at higher level elevations that are slightly colder than the rest of the country. The mountainous region of the country tends to be more wet, while in the central area and lowlands are stereotypically dry. Swaziland technically has a tropical and subtropical climate, so volunteers should prepare their clothing choices accordingly.
Make a Difference. You time as a volunteer in Swaziland will definitely leave an impact on both you and the locals you work with. Volunteers will be challenged and exposed to the hardships faced by local families, as they take time to give back and help improve their lives. Locals will appreciate the generosity of international volunteers, and be inspired by their assistance in any regard.