Extreme Makeover – Volunteer Edition

Management decided that Aviva House needed an upgrade! Working on a building site is by no means the most fun position to be in what with angle grinders, saws, drilling into concrete and let us not forget dust. It was fun to begin with, especially when the builders started knocking out the window and we


sent a message to the boss who was overseas at the time stating “the last guest inside the room complained about ventilation – we fixed the problem”. We cracked ourselves up over that message.


The pain and frustration was more than worth it and by the middle of December 2017, the first phase had been completed.  The volunteers were troopers of note. They put up with the noise on their days off, were subjected to new toilets, basins, cupboards occupying the communal space in the house and endured sauna like conditions in their rooms when mini twisters spread dust all over the courtyard preventing them from opening windows and doors. Said dust which was also trampled inside made it impossible for our Vollies to walk around without shoes. Luckily in the evening, the house was quiet and clean and there was some semblance of normal conditions for them.

Three of the inside rooms were converted for private use. Volunteers are able to book these if you are happy to pay the additional cost to occupy that room.  These rooms are also convenient should your parents like to join you prior to you commencing volunteering or the last week you will be here.

Take a look at the before and after photographs and let us have your comments.

The drought in Cape Town has had a devastating affect on our garden and pool and before our garden was landscaped, before.after.2we had a borehole put in to assist in keeping our plants and lawn from dying under the hot African sun. The pool is still work in progress and through trial and error have managed to get it blue again. And after everything was finished and we had our house back to ourselves, we held a social evening for the volunteers to thank them for their patience – a typical South African braai!




Dorm Room Living & Travel Hacks

Dorm living as a volunteer can be fun – it is like a grown up pyjama party every night. That is, if you don’t have to get up early and trek to work. For those who need more than 8 hours sleep due to sheer exhaustion, you may need to block out some house noise.

Here are a few useful items which you consider before travelling to South Africa. In fact, “consider” should not enter the equation – the majority of these suggestions will make your volunteering experience a much more pleasant one.  So chat to the folks and family and get them to sponsor you these items as a “going-away” gift.

For When you are Travelling and beyond …..

Packing Cubes

Consider buying packing cubes to pack your clothes as this will come in handy when you are in the volunteer house. 39430566a6c80af99848520b7a81c191

Cupboard space and shelving is limited so you will find you will use your suitcase for the majority of your clothes and keeping your suitcase organised will save you a whole lot of stress and time.

Portable Charger

Though you will have time to recharge your phones in the house, going out for a day excursion, could leave you stranded without battery life on your phone.  514a3565e0683527cb9a671f664957e0We suggest you either (1) buy a battery power pack before you leave home or (2) buy one in South Africa when you arrive.

On the plane, For Chilly Evenings or Comfort on the Couch

These scarves will come in handy, especially on the plane or if you are going out and little eddies of wind funnels have whipped up bringing a chill factor which leaves you shivering.  0e4faa55cd519b4aaf5c1fe7d94ec96aAlso ideal when laying on the couch but you want to block out the sound of everything around you as you are listening to music.  8f63c726935f4595af0feca67bf92c8aComfort is never a bad idea and as you are far from home and your usual creature comforts, why not spoil yourself when you are in another country! AND, they come in designs for men too!


Comfortable Ear Phones

I have just seen these recently advertised and I think they are brilliant as they can also be used over your eyes to block out light, whilst listening to your music.  e7d4b342fe49cb69b722fbe9fe80db3fFor both the plane and whilst in dorm living conditions.  Definitely worth the money and you will be thankful when you are trying to sleep and someone is snoring loudly. They come in a Wi Fi version and also with a cord.  And in case you are wondering, we are not getting a kick-back for mentioning this but seriously volunteers, this is ideal for the house and on the plane. Remember you have many flying hours ahead of you and sometimes a long stopover before your connecting flight .


This will definitely come in handy to keep all your toiletries in one place for when your suitcase undergoes serious gravity tests at airports due to hurried baggage handlers. 541727ffc2e447f59e377f4f1ec0305cMore important, as you are living in a dorm room and though there are plenty of bathrooms in the house, space is still limited so we suggest you bring a toiletry bag with you so you can hook this over your bed each day and leave the area in the bathroom and around your bed as neat as possible for everyone.

Having said this, the Aviva Volunteer has enough shampoo, conditioner, sunblock, creams and unless you use a specific brand, we would venture to say, don’t bring any of these supplies as you are more than welcome to use what other volunteers have left behind.



Time Saving Solutions whilst you are in the House

Laundry Bag


Either buy or make a laundry bag.  The launderette is down the road and you will need to carry your laundry so is makes sense to make this comfortable for yourself. This is also a great way in keeping your dirty clothes separate from your clean clothes – makes sense, doesn’t it. Pinterest has great ideas and even a DIY laundry bag which you can get a grandmother to make for you?

Bed Storage Pouch

A great idea for storing items whilst you are lying in bed or whilst you are sleeping.  9402e84104c04a338820faeff587edccThis will also keep the area around your bed neat and you won’t end up tripping over something when you wake up in the dark and need to tip toe to the bathroom.

Day Excursions, Sightseeing or Clubbing/Eating Out

No matter how many times we have mentioned to volunteers to never act like a tourist and leave their valuables laying around, they still seem to ignore this rule especially after a couple of drinks and then end up sobbing into the glass of wine when their phones have been stolen.

We urge you to get yourself a cross-the-body-bag which will hold your money and phone when you go out and you never have to remove it even if you are doing a head banging dance at a nightclub. For day excursions, bring with you an attractive day backpack

like the examples we have included here as it will make your life so much easier and you will be able to store a valuable resource – water bottles!


Great ideas and travel hacks

There are some things that just make sense especially when you are volunteering and you want creature comforts, you need to adult and be independent and to simply bring you peace of mind. So what am I talking about?  Let’s go ……

Comfy shoes are a must when travelling but even more importantly for the volunteers who are volunteering at our African Penguin & Seabird Rehabilitation project, waterproof, non-slip shoes is a MUST.

You will be surrounded by volunteers who have phones and tablets, journals, books and charges so keeping all your technology and other useful objects in one place is the best option to not misplacing anything in the house. Another great should-have is a waterproof pouch for your phone when you head out to the beach or when you go Shark Cage diving.

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What would travelling in style be, without such innovative items which makes life and travelling a whole lot stress-free ….


Important Note: All images have been downloaded from Pinterest so credit to those peeps whose images I have used.

We hope this helps you when packing for your volunteering experience but we are always an email away if you have any questions.

Look forward to seeing you in Cape Town!


AVIVA Volunteer House


The greatest asset AVIVA Volunteers has is their Volunteer House situated in Table View, Cape Town.  If you have not had the opportunity of living in it whilst on a volunteering project with AVIVA, or seen it on our Facebook, then go check it out here http://aviva-sa.com/aviva-house-google-view.php – it is simply one of the best I have personally seen with all the usual home comforts one is used to.

Some of our Volunteers did stay at a Backpackers but once they moved over to the house, it was like “oh my giddy aunt, if I had known the house was so beautiful I would have stayed here from the moment I arrived in the city”. I kid you not.

When volunteers choose a project in other parts of the country, we try to encourage them to opt for the Cape Town Week, thus being able to sightsee the beautiful Mother City but also to get a taste of the full volunteer experience we offer international volunteers.

So go and check out the 360 degree video and share your comments with us.