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Volunteers walking on beach in South Africa

Community, Environment & Wildlife, From the Field

Looking after a Community during the lockdown in South Africa

June 26th 2020

Tagged: Community development, Covid-19, South Africa

Every year, volunteers flock to South Africa where they take part in vital research and awareness campaigns at the Ocean Research Conservation Project in Plettenberg Bay. Their contributions, along with a throng of curious tourists, play an essential part in funding the conservation efforts, as well as supporting the Plettenberg – lovingly known as Plett – community.

Due to the current Covid-19 crisis, all of this is now under threat. With no funding, the team at the project will be unable to continue their research on local marine species and support vulnerable people in the community.

Volunteers whale watching in South AfricaVolunteer in South Africa | Volunteer with Whales | Working AbroadPlettenburg Bay is thriving with sea life. It’s home to a variety of marine species including Humpback Whales, Killer Whales, Dolphins, Great White Sharks and Southern Right Whales, to name a few. The Ocean Research project is responsible for researching and monitoring marine life, and maintaining a healthy and sustainable co-existence between the sea creatures and the residents of Plettenberg Bay. Being in such a beautiful location, it’s not difficult to attract volunteers who are keen to provide help with researching, river cleaning, conservation education, coastal awareness campaigns and more.

They also lend a hand in local soup kitchens, schools and creches. In a normal year, the project would have a few volunteers in May to collecting data and helping the community. By June and July, they are fully booked and are able to ensure the smooth running of their various projects during the busiest time of year.

However, with severe travel restrictions and social distancing rules, there is nobody to provide this much-needed assistance and no tourism to keep the projects moving. Although there is plenty of research to be done, there is no means to collect it and thus ongoing monitoring, studying and data collections or marine life will be compromised.

“We have 15 staff members at the project and we are trying our utmost to keep afloat, as we have absolutely no funding coming in. If it folds, it’s a major problem as we fund so many projects like Siyakula, Lunchbox, Field Band and many more. It’s scary for all.”

Tessa volunteer at ORCA community projectVolunteer in South Africa | Volunteer with Whales | Working AbroadAnother major concern is the impact Covid-19 will have on community development. The townships in Plettenburg Bay have limited resources and are considered underprivileged, meaning funded programmes, such as the Ocean Research project look after, are essential to their welfare. Many schools are funded by organisations that rely on donations and the project currently help pay for fifteen teachers. With no income coming in, many jobs are on the line.

The Sabrina Love Foundation and Afrika Tikkun have been working together to ensure the safety of their communities during the Covid-19 crisis. Both non-profits work to improve the lives of vulnerable children and their families. They provide more holistic types of programmes of education and development, designed to ensure a bright future for the people they support.

During the pandemic, they’ve been finding innovative ways to continue helping their communities. For example, as the team members at The Sabrina Love Foundation are unable to visit families, they have been using WhatsApp to send resources, including activities and learning materials. What’s more, both charities have been providing food to the more disadvantaged members of the community:

“A total of 1,033 boxes of vegetables were sent to approximately 40 soup kitchens. Seven other townships will also receive vegetable parcels.”

This work is so important to the health and safety of South Africa’s most vulnerable. In such challenging times, people have been learning to adapt and find ways to support one another, however, resources are sparse and time is limited. Like many of the projects explored in this blog series, money is being stretched to the limits, food is scarce and staff members are struggling to keep their families afloat, let alone the organisations that they support. It is a terrifying time for everybody.

Written by WorkingAbroad blogger, Amy Burchill

To make a donation to any of our project partners, please click here to donate under PayPal – and remember to write in your reference which project you would like the donation to be given to. It should be the project name so e.g. the Ocean Research, SA.

You can also donate directly to the project here or to the Sabrina Love Foundation here

If you are able to join the project as a volunteer later this year or in 2021, then even better! The volunteer project runs throughout the year, and we have made volunteer dates available all the way till August 2021. You can find more info via the project page and if you are ready to join already, you can fill in the online application form by clicking on APPLY NOW. 

About the Author

WorkingAbroad Projects

Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.