Rural Healthcare and Education in South Africa

Assist with health promotion activities alongside nurses and caregivers in the rural villages surrounding the beautiful area of St. Lucia, South Africa. Provide much needed home-based care, educate about nutrition and raise awareness about diseases such as HIV.

Program Overview

Through this program you’ll enjoy living and volunteering in St Lucia, South Africa, a small coastal community surrounded by beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife – a UNESCO World Heritage location. Surrounding the beautiful area of St. Lucia are rural villages inhabited by thousands of people with scarce healthcare resources. Working alongside community health workers, care givers and medical professionals, volunteers provide both direct treatment as well as awareness and prevention of HIV, tuberculosis and lifestyle/social issues such as family planning and nutrition. This project gives you the opportunity to engage with people – young and old – to make a positive impact while at the same time undergoing an unforgettable, life-changing experience.

In South Africa there are plenty of myths surrounding the issue of HIV/AIDS. Education is vital in preventing the spread of infection and breaking down stigma. Not many people know how to prevent infection, and even fewer people know how to deal with the virus once they have it. Many South Africans still lack the education that could help fight many of the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including how to prolong their lives by practicing healthy living and taking medication in the right doses. Discrimination against those who are HIV positive is also still prevalent, which perpetuates the cycle of infection. In addition to HIV/AIDS awareness, the project also addresses numerous other health and nutrition issues through education, prevention and treatment.

The following are common project activities, which vary depending on local needs and volunteer skills and interests:

  • Clinical Assistance
  • Home-Based Care
  • Nutrition
  • Home Assistance
  • Gardening
  • Building & Refurbishing
  • HIV/AIDS Education and Support
  • Family Empowerment / Other Support Groups

In addition to rewarding volunteer work, participants enjoy comfortable accommodations, social and cultural activities in the local community, and optional sightseeing tours and trips in the area’s abundant parks and reserves. Volunteers are supported by staff who look after their daily needs and project work, as well as a cook and housekeeper at the volunteer accommodations.

Project Details:

  • Project Activities: Vary based on volunteer experience and local needs, but include education, prevention and treatment of health issues; clinical experience / observation; nutrition program assistance; garden maintenance; building and refurbishing; other local demands / topics
  • Project Availability: Year-round. Arrival and departure dates are generally offered every second Sunday. Please contact CISaustralia for details regarding official arrival/departure dates.
  • Project Duration: We recommend you choose a 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12-week placement
  • Working Hours: Monday to Friday, approximately 6.5 hours per day (not including lunch break)
  • Location: St Lucia, Zululand, South Africa (2.5 hours drive from Durban)
  • Excursions: Weekends are typically free for you to explore the diverse surroundings. On-site staff are available to organise outings with volunteers (at additional expense), and can also advise on areas and activities of interests.
  • Support: 24-hour on-site support from our Site Coordinator, Project Leaders and Continent Site Director (in Cape Town)
  • A valid Police Check or Working With Children Check is required
  • Minimum Age: 18+
  • Language: English


Expect to be impressed by this program, from its spectacular natural surroundings to its exposure to local culture and people in considerable need, plus its organisation and ability to host overseas volunteers with professionalism and comfort.

Some of the many aspects to get excited about include:

  • Assist in rural clinics and gain insight into local rural healthcare services
  • Be part of a unique and intimate experience of home-based care for patients with local caregivers
  • Enrich and educate through health-promoting workshops and support groups
  • Help raise awareness of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and how people can live positively with HIV
  • Immerse yourself in the local Zulu culture, enjoy a Zulu language lesson and learn all about the traditional customs
  • Spend your weekends on safari, go out on game drives and have the opportunity to spot lions, elephants, rhinos and more!
  • The Indian Ocean is just down the road – its stunning beaches and warm waters are filled with a variety of marine life including whales and turtles!
  • Take a walk down to Sunset Jetty and enjoy the spectacular African sunsets – you never know, you might see a hippo or two in the estuary while you’re there
  • Make friends for life with other international volunteers!

Sample Itinerary

The following is a rough outline of activities in a typical weekday:

  • 7:00am: Rise and shine! Eat breakfast and begin to get ready for your project
  • 8:30am: Depart the volunteer house to head to morning projects. Examples include: Clinic, Clinic Pick-Ups, Support Group, Home-Based Care, Home Assistance
  • 9:00am: Start of your work day
  • 12:00pm: Lunch break! You will be picked up from your project and taken to the volunteer house for lunch
  • 1:30pm: Depart for afternoon projects. Examples include: Physio, Healthcare Planning, Family Empowerment, Support Group, Nutrition
  • 4:30pm: End of the working day. You will be picked up from your project and taken back to the volunteer house
  • 5:50pm: Dinner at the volunteer house where evenings are very sociable affairs! Evening activities could include: Stroll to Sunset Jetty for Sundowners, Go on a hippo hunt, iSimangaliso Night game drive, or relax at the volunteer house

Weekends are free to relax and explore the surrounding area or head out on an extended excursion with fellow volunteers. We know you’re going to be working hard during the week days, but we want you to enjoy your downtime in the evenings and on the weekends. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a day trip – or even overnight trip! – and go on a safari with an experienced guide in one of the surrounding Big 5 Game Reserves
  • Have a beach day, with a picnic and go snorkelling, and have the chance to spot some amazing marine life
  • Go on an iconic hippo and croc tour
  • Enjoy a fantastic cultural evening learning to dance and play drums Zulu style
  • Get an extra stamp on your passport. Go on a weekend trip to Mozambique and have the chance to swim with wild dolphins
  • Stroll to the local cafes for a coffee, smoothie, milkshake and a homemade cake
  • Take a walk to the beach or the estuary to watch the African sunsets with hippos in the background

The Volunteer's Role

Surrounding the town of St Lucia are rural village communities inhabited by 70,000 people with scarce healthcare facilities. Clinics are far and few with limited resources and drugs; many have only family members as a support. You will become involved at the grassroots level – with an eye-opening insight of the difficulties and struggles often faced by those most in need – by working alongside nurses and caregivers who intimately understand the current issues.

The prevalence and impact of HIV, tuberculosis, malnutrition, diabetes and high blood pressure are just some of the issues, and reflects the importance of the work you will do as a volunteer to support, educate and raise awareness within this rural landscape.

This project welcomes all volunteers, with or without previous healthcare/medical experience or qualifications and is for anyone interested in learning about healthcare and participating in health promotion activities. Some prior reading on HIV is highly recommended and a competent level of both written and spoken English is essential in order to communicate effectively with the patients, clinic staff and local caregivers.

Some of the core projects you may be involved in are:

Local clinics are the first point of call for many ailing individuals, and are predominantly run by nurses with doctors visiting once a month. There are several departments, including outpatients for adults and children, HIV and TB services, pharmacy and maternity, but these can be severely overcrowded. Volunteers are a huge help, freeing up nurses to consult and treat patients while volunteers manage the intake desk, take blood pressure and weight and direct patients to the correct departments.

Home-based care has brought hope to the lives of many people in the villages of Khula and Eswenalisha by increasing access to provisional healthcare. Alongside local caregivers, volunteers visit homes in these communities to support chronically ill or injured patients that are too sick or poor to get to the clinics. Track progress and assist in administering nutrition programs to malnourished individuals – many with tuberculosis and HIV. This can at first be challenging and confronting but you will gain a wonderful chance to establish a deep relationship with those often forgotten members of the community.

Some patients on home-based care and in the Family Empowerment Program are also in need of additional assistance in their homes. The people helped may be elderly, very unwell or disabled. This is an incredibly rewarding project for all involved, providing support that makes a difference to patient’s day-to-day lives. Home assistance depends on the individual needs of the family, but could include helping with moving those who are infirm, cleaning, washing clothes, carrying out house repairs and building/maintaining gardens.

An important addition of this program’s services in the local community is to offer HIV education opportunities. Approximately 92% of the local population is living with HIV/AIDS. Communities are never referred to as being “infected” with HIV, as it affects not only the people who have HIV/AIDS, but their families as well. An informative, structured course is delivered that volunteers can add value and passion to. The effect is to pass on knowledge and educate children and local community members in a non-stigmatised manner.

Other projects that you may have the opportunity to assist with:

Each week volunteers will be given the opportunity to become involved in community support groups. As part of this uplifting project, volunteers help deliver basic health, lifestyle and nutrition information to a group of adults of all ages. As a volunteer, you can encourage the group to seek out positive lifestyle habits and to support each other and their community. Through this activity, you will get to know the people who regularly come to discuss their daily struggles and see life from a different perspective.

To help encourage positive and healthy living, volunteers also assist in creating and maintaining vegetable gardens for community members in need. These will supply people with much needed healthy food and encourage them to be more self-sufficient.

This amazing community outreach project is only made possible through the help of volunteers and it is a unique insight into how traditional Zulu families live. Volunteers bond with each family and learn more about the daily struggles they face, as well as provide essential help in the form of education, nutrition, refurbishment and general home assistance. In 2015, this project provided multiple beds, toilets, gardens and access to clean drinking water to a variety of families.

Community buildings in the local villages tend to be run-down, particularly in the more rural and remote areas. This project has succeeded in refurbishing community buildings such as schools, orphanages and day care centres that are in desperate need of repair.

*HIV and AIDS 
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker and the person becomes more susceptible to infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS; antiretroviral drugs can slow down the process even further. We highly recommend that you do some research before your program, as HIV is widespread across Africa, with an estimated 24.7 million people living with the virus on the continent. A good source of information is “28 stories of AIDS Africa”, by Stephanie Nolan. The book is available on Amazon.


The program is organised to keep you busy between volunteer work and social and cultural engagements during the week; however, weekends are typically free for you to explore the diverse surroundings. On-site staff are available to organise outings with volunteers, and can also advise on additional interests.

While there are no excursions included on this program, there are a number of cultural activities and places of interest volunteers can choose to visit on their own (at own expense).

The following are trips commonly undertaken by volunteers, which can be arranged by program staff (at additional costs):

Day Trips (optional)

  • Zulu Cultural Night
  • Hippo and Croc Tour
  • iSimangaliso Night Game Drive
  • Surfing/snorkeling at Cape Vidal (introduction lesson)
  • Whale Watching (Seasonal: June-November)
  • Hluhluwe/Umfolozi Game Drive
  • Horse Ride
  • Elephant Interaction
  • Cheetah Centre

Weekend Trips (optional)

  • Thanda Private Game Reserve
  • Mozambique Dolphin Swim
  • Other weekend trip options include: Turtle Tours (seasonal: November-March), Kosi Bay, Sodwana Bay, Swaziland, Battlefields, Drakensberg


St Lucia is located near beautiful beaches, lush coastal forests, savannas and wetlands. The abundance of wildlife and natural beauty in this area of South Africa is incredible. During your stay, you will have some fantastic opportunities to explore some of what this area has to offer. With the warm Indian Ocean and Big 5 Game Reserves all around, amazing marine and wildlife can be found everywhere!

St Lucia is a cute little tourist town. It has a variety of restaurants, coffee shops, roadside craft markets and a supermarket. It is easy to get around St Lucia on foot, but it is also possible to hire a bike/car if you want to see more. St Lucia is home to the highest concentrations of hippos and Nile crocodiles in Southern Africa with approximately 1,200 Nile crocodiles and 800 hippos. It’s not uncommon to see hippos wondering about the streets at night eating the grass!


During the program, volunteers stay in a shared volunteer house. The house has 3 bedrooms and currently accommodates between 8 and 14 volunteers.

The volunteer house is located in the centre of town on the main road when you enter St Lucia. It’s directly across from a grocery store (Spar), ATM, service station, and within a two-block radius of at least five restaurants. A two-minute walk to a pharmacy, bank branch and local fruit and curio market. There is a night guard and a safe in the office.

The house is surrounded by a large tropical garden which is perfect to relax in. There is also a beautiful pool, lounge / dining area and a braai area (Afrikaans for “barbecue”). If you fancy going for a walk in your down time, it takes only 30 minutes to get to a beautiful beach or to see the breathtaking sunsets over the estuary.

The food served is a mixture of international and South African cuisine. Volunteers are provided with three meals a day, except on Saturday and Sundays. On these days there is always plenty of yummy leftovers in the fridge, a variety of different restaurants to eat at or if you feel like cooking, you can go and grab some ingredients from one of the supermarkets in town. Breakfast is continental-style on a self-serve basis and usually consists of cereals, yoghurt, toast, tea and coffee. Lunch and dinner is normally a hot cooked meal. There are three rotating menus with a mixture of local and international dishes. We can cater for most dietary requirements – please advise CISaustralia in advance of any special requirements.

The volunteer house is staffed with a cook and housekeeper, and all bedding is provided (volunteers should bring their own towels).

Volunteers should note that at times St Lucia experiences electricity blackout periods and hot water showers may not be available all the time. There is Wi-Fi available at the house for a small fee, plus local cafes and restaurants have internet access for paying customers.

Click here to view photos of the St Lucia accommodation

Why Volunteer with CISaustralia

CISaustralia believes strongly in supporting volunteer initiatives across the world that promote sustainable and long-term societal, environmental and economic change to benefit and empower local communities.

While the term volunteering is widely known and accepted, we prefer to use the term Experiential Service Learning. This better relates to our philosophy surrounding close community engagement as well as a focus on projects that have a long-term approach and a range of positive impacts for both communities and our students. Over 98% of CISaustralia participants receive academic credit for their program abroad, which fosters a more culturally immersive and deeper reflective experience.

CISaustralia volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. While not every program will achieve all seventeen of the UN goals, your role as a volunteer will have a positive impact by doing work that really matters. We partner with organisations that have in-depth, first-hand knowledge and close relationships with local communities. Prior to your departure, our team in Australia will prepare you with extensive resources so you feel supported every step of the way. You will also be supported throughout your entire overseas program by our fantastic and experienced in country staff. 

Volunteering abroad is a life-changing experience, enabling you to learn and grow on many personal and professional levels, to broaden your perspective on the world and to become a global citizen. CISaustralia prides itself in having the strongest global partners who are socially responsible and equally committed to their local communities and ethical practices. We love what we do at CISaustralia and are here to provide you with the support you need to successfully volunteer abroad – so that you can contribute to positively changing the lives of others, and yourself, along the way. Get ready for an exciting once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Read more: Why Volunteer Abroad with CISaustralia?

Program Fee & Dates

2-12 weeks - Year Round
Application deadline is 60 days prior to commencement. Arrival and departure dates are generally offered every second Sunday. Please contact CISaustralia for official program dates.
Program Fee A$ 2,999
OS-HELP A$ 6,913


Program fees include the following:
  • Volunteer placement and supervision – covers resources, materials, equipment and operational costs to host volunteers
  • CISaustralia support services before, during and after the program
  • Academic advising
  • Financial advice
  • Assistance with travel arrangements
  • Pre-departure guide and session
  • Airport pick-up and drop-off* from Durban (on specified program dates within designated times)
  • Arrival orientation
  • Accommodation – shared volunteer house for the duration of the program
  • Meals – 3 meals every weekday, plus breakfast on Saturday and Sunday
  • Daily transport to and from project sites
  • Full-time housekeeping service
  • Booking and/or logistical assistance for optional excursions (excursions at additional expense)
  • 24/7 on-site support – Site Coordinator, Project Leaders and Continent Site Director
  • CISaustralia Certificate of Completion

*If participating in the program for an odd number of weeks (i.e. 3, 5, 7, 9 & 11-week placements) volunteers will need to pay for a private departure transfer from St. Lucia to King Shaka International airport (Durban) as the project’s scheduled transfer only runs every 2 weeks. The cost is ZAR $1500 one-way (approx. AUD $140) and can be paid directly to the on-site team prior to departure in ZAR only. If there are a couple of volunteers departing on the same day and traveling to Durban, the cost can be split between volunteers.

What is not included:

  • Flights
  • Health and travel insurance
  • Visa fees
  • Police check (if required)
  • Vaccinations (if required)
  • Saturday and Sunday lunch and dinner
  • Extra travel/excursions (other than those mentioned above)

Please do not book flights until you have received the dates in your acceptance paperwork and you are confirmed on the program.

CISaustralia reserves the right to alter fees at any time due to currency fluctuations and/or fee changes made by our partners.

Adventure Awaits

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