Frequently Asked Questions
- Q. What does the volunteer cost cover?
A. It includes accommodation, 3 meals, transport to projects and a selection of the various free time activities. The occasional meal out and any additional activities you arrange yourself will be at your own cost.
- Q. What should I bring?
A. Apart from the obvious! Below are some things you will need:
- Comfortable clothes such as shorts, tracksuit pants and t-shirts
- Clothes you don't mind getting dirty for in the garden
- There are some hikes in and around Port St Johns so hiking shoes may come in handy
- Swim wear & Sun tan lotion
- Rain Jacket
- Warm Sweater
- Insect Repellent
Buy supplies online, by following this link to make a purchase, Amazon will pay us a referal fee!
- Q. How do I get to Port St Johns?
A. The closest airport is Umtata airport, which is where you will be picked up from. More detailed directions.
- Q. How long should I stay for?
A. As long as you want! However the longer you stay, the more you will get out of your experience. We recommend staying for at least a minimum of 2 weeks, but we find those volunteers that have stayed for 4-6 weeks (or longer) leave here feeling a greater sense of fulfilment. Both in what they have taught and what they have received.
- Q. What is the weather like?
A. The weather here is very unpredictable! We are in a tropical climate so expect hot, humid days, alongside heavy rains and thunderstorms. We experience the four seasons of the southern hemisphere. These are Dec - Feb (Summer), Mar - May (Autumn), June - Aug (Winter), Sept - Nov (Spring). However it doesn't get all that cold in Winter with temperatures staying at around 18 degrees Celsius.
- Q. Should I bring anything with me for the kids / community?
A. Although it is not necessary to bring anything, anything you can bring will be greatly appreciated. Some ideas are:
- Stationary for the school e.g. Crayons, pencils, pens
- Things for crafts, e.g. pipe cleaners, crepe paper, wool, knitting needles
- Clothes - both kids and adults clothes
- Sports equipment, e.g football, cricket set, frisbee, skipping rope
- Essential oils, massage lotions, yoga mats etc for the healing centre
- Seeds for the perma-culture gardens, preferably organic
- Fancy dress items for fundraising events
- Q. What preparation can I do before I come to understand the community I'll be working with?
A. Nelson Mandela's book, The Long Walk To Freedom, is about the people of this area so is a great read. Also any literature on the Xhosa people can help in understanding the people of the area.
Reading up on permaculture, sustainability, renewable energy, organic and healing plants will help for your time in your village.
Getting ideas for any lessons, games, songs and poems for the school will definitely come in handy.
A lot of people can speak English in Port St Johns, but the local people like it if you can say a few things in Xhosa, so a basic phrase book is a good idea.
- Q. Is Port St Johns safe?
Like anywhere, as long as you use your common sense its very safe. We suggest that you don't walk around at night, but other than that in the 2.5 years that we've had volunteers here we haven't had a problem.
- Q. Are there doctors for if I get sick?
Yes, there are 3 doctors surgery's in town. A visit will only cost you R180, which includes consultation and any medicine that is needed.
- Q. How easy will it be able to use a credit card in Port St. Johns?
You can use it in the supermarkets and in one or two of the restaurants.
- Q. How much money would you suggest that I bring with me?
Most of the costs are covered with the volunteer fees. You will only need extra money for a meal out if you feel like it, treats such as chocolate etc.. and any additional freetime activities you may want to do such as horse riding or boat trips (roughly around R200 each). There are cash machines in town and volunteers usually are able to draw from them using their pin code. Visa debit card works that way. Therefore it is better not to travel with too much cash and just draw from the machine as and when needed.
- Q. Is the water chlorinated and how accessible and easy is it to get bottled water?
The water is chlorinated and is safe to drink from the tap but if you are concerned about doing this there is plenty of bottled water available in the local supermarkets.
- Q. What type of emergency medical facilities (ie hospitals) are available and how close are they to Port St. Johns? The web site says doctors are available in Port St. Johns. Do you know whether doctors and hospitals accept American insurance or do you pay and get reimbursed?
There is a hospital in the town but it is government run and so doesn't have such great facilities. They can plaster broken bones, stitch deep cuts etc.. but for anything more serious we recommend the private hospital which is nicer and more equipped. This is situated in Umtata about 1 hour from us. The government hospital is free of charge and the private hospital does accept credit cards. Medical bills need to be paid up front and then claimed back later from your insurance policy. A visit to the doctors for antibiotics etc.. will cost R200.
The cost for a visit to the hospital will depend on the nature of the illness.
- Q. What type of electrical current is present so that batteries for cameras/cell phones can be charged?
The electrical supply is 220 volts. In most cases you just need a coverter plug to either South African (Socket type M) or the usual rounded two pin European plug (Socket type C).
- Q. How easy would it be for me to get (rent or buy) a cell phone In Port St. Johns and is cell service accessible in the Sisonke school area? Would you suggest a sattlelite phone instead, if a land cell phone is not a good option? We definitely would like to be able to communicate with our families in an emergency situation.
If your usual cell phone is unlocked then you could just get a sim card here for a couple of Rand. It needs to be registered using your passport and then it takes around 20 hours before it is activated. If your usual phone doesn't work you can buy a cheap phone for around R300. Cell phone reception is very good here so no worries there.
The internet cafe in town has SKYPE available so if you want a longer cheaper chat you can always arrange a time for speaking to friends or family.