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ACE in Place: South Africa

Virtual Program
Dates June 26 to July 15, 2022
Program Focus

Supporting environmentally and socially responsible enterprises in South Africa with a focus on sustainable and ethical initiatives.

This program is organized by Global Vision International (GVI).

Travel is not required or permitted in connection with participation in this program. Participant must perform and complete program through remote means.


Program Leaders
  • In order to participate, student must have access to a computer and broad-band internet capabilities.  The ACE Program will not cover or reimburse participants for expenses associated with computers or internet access.

Program Overview | Service Opportunities | Program Requirements | Program Details

Program Overview

During their three weeks participating in ACE in Place South Africa, students will virtually work with SA Harvest or Ocean Pledge on a predefined service project. Both these organisations have identified challenges in South Africa and are finding innovative ways to tackle and respond to them in a sustainable and impactful manner. ACE participants will have the unique opportunity to work together as a small team (4-6 per team) with fellow Duke and Stanford student-athletes and will also work closely with senior members/ founders in these organisations on a real-world project. The ACE team will be guided by an experienced GVI Supervisor and supported by an in-country contact who will share their insight and passion for their country.

The ACE in Place South Africa program will be run on a part-time basis (roughly 20 hours per week) over the 3-weeks and include 2 hours of scheduled meetings every day with two hours of unscheduled time for project work. The scheduled meetings build on our highly successful virtual internship programs that have been running since June 2020 and have been structured to provide a balance of different virtual sessions throughout the week including supervisor check-ins, reflection sessions, meetings with the organisation, masterclasses, and cultural immersion activities. The scheduled meetings also aim to balance working with the community partner with learning about South Africa. As this is a virtual program, you will have the opportunity to virtually experience some of the different cultures around South Africa and engage first-hand with some of their complexities. Learn about the history of Malay slaves through a Cape Malay cooking class, learn new dance moves as you understand the significance of dance and different coloured beads in Zulu culture, and learn about the importance of language and Xhosa initiation rites from a white Sangoma-initiate.

GVI has partnered with SA Harvest since the need for organisations like them has proved invaluable during Covid-19. SA Harvest has gone from supplying 5,000 to 80,000 meals a week since the pandemic hit and a lockdown was imposed in March 2020. In May 2021, they reached the incredible milestone of 5 million meals served in just 18 months. There is still so much more they want to achieve though and they are continually expanding and finding ways to double that milestone. GVI has partnered with Ocean Pledge to support its mission to make a difference to South Africa’s current status as the 11th largest contributor of marine plastic. Ocean Pledge’s projects are geared toward turning awareness into action, to shift the paradigms in perceptions and behaviours which contribute to our throw-away culture and this is something we can all learn from and implement in our lives.


Students will be expected to devote roughly 20 hours per week (that is 60 hours in total over the 3 week period) to the program activities and project work:

  • 10 hrs/wk of scheduled activities such as project orientation, group meetings, supervisor check-ins, cultural enrichment activities, and facilitated project workshopping. Group activities will be scheduled during the week (Monday –Friday) for approximately two hours per day in the morning to accommodate for differences between South Africa and US time zones. Most activities and sessions will be scheduled approx. between 7-11 am PDT / 10 am-1 pm EDT.
  • 10 hrs/wk of independent/group service project work (day-to-day allocation of time is flexible)

Student’s availability will be requested after they are selected for the program and the group schedule will be adapted as much as possible to fit availability. To get an idea of what to expect on a day-to-day basis, view a draft schedule.

Service Opportunities

GVI is a leader in experiential education abroad and has been providing impact-driven programs in sustainable development for more than twenty years. We are rated for our commitment to ethical and sustainable practices on the ground. In June 2020 GVI launched virtual internships to continue supporting our community partners and in December 2020 ran our first virtual service prototype with ACE. Our virtual programs provide a unique opportunity to develop soft skills, intercultural competencies, understanding of global issues, local contexts and best practice in sustainable development.

For ACE in Place South Africa 2022 GVI is partnering with SA Harvest and Ocean Pledge again.

About SA Harvest

SA Harvest was our partner for ACE in Place South Africa in 2021.  The organization’s mission is to end hunger in South Africa. SA Harvest does this through food rescue, education, engagement, and innovation. In South Africa, 20 million people go to bed hungry every night while 10 million tons of food (enough to feed these community members three nutritious meals a day for over a year) is wasted every year. SA Harvest is implementing systemic solutions to the root causes of hunger, which limit the access of millions to affordable, nutritious food. This includes projects like small-scale farm projects and last-mile distribution centres that empower Community Based Organisations to be entrepreneurial and ultimately self-sufficient. In addition, they are also developing a world-class technology platform for coordinated use by the entire industry to ensure transparency, efficiency, the safety of all those receiving food and scalability, not only for SA Harvest, but for all organisations involved in addressing issues of food security.

Last year’s service project focused on conducting research on the lack of nutrition in impoverished areas in South Africa, including a focus on early childhood development; providing recommendations on nutrition required to better bolster these diets and providing recommendations on educating people in impoverished areas about the importance of nutrition.

Potential service projects could include:

  • Create a campaign for SA Harvest based on interpretation of the data they have on food waste and nutrition. They are looking for ways to translate this data into interesting, engaging formats they can share with their corporate donors, food donors, and the general public. The goal of this campaign is to show the data in a new, relatable light that enables people to understand and connect with the issue of food waste.
  • Research and develop a way to calculate how much carbon and methane they have offset so far through their food saving efforts. They will use this information to help share the impact of their work with the general public, their benefactors, and their food donors.
  • Assist SA Harvest with researching and writing proposals for the UN Climate Change Conference in 2022.

About Ocean Pledge

Ocean Pledge was our partner for the ACE Virtual Prototype held in December 2020 and is an initiative geared towards turning awareness into action, to shift the paradigms in perceptions and behaviours which contribute to throw-away culture. Ocean Pledge is dedicated to making a difference to South Africa’s current status as 11th largest contributor of marine plastic. To do this Ocean Pledge has three main focus areas. Firstly, by providing education, alternatives, and best practice guidelines to owners and staff at restaurants to mitigate waste at the source. Secondly, by educating youth, adults, and corporations through their educational content around single-use plastic and the impact of choices on the ocean environment. And lastly, through research. Ocean Pledge conducts research based on human behaviour sciences to provide consumer insights to inform strategy on the mentioned focus areas and to further drive change.

Potential service projects could include:

  • Contribute to the research and design of Ocean Pledge’s Restaurant Program.
  • Research and detail South African partners that Ocean Pledge may want to involve in this initiative. Consider the benefits of partnering with businesses such as Uber Eats, Just Eat etc.
  • Complete research on similar global initiatives worldwide to understand any best practice that can be used for Ocean Pledge.
  • Develop a marketing plan to promote Ocean Pledge.

Virtual Service Program

When applying for the ACE in Place: South Africa program, students will be able to indicate their preferred partner organization and any specific interests or skills that they will bring to the program. Service groups will consist of 4-6 students who will be working together as a team on a service project, although some project work may be completed independently depending on the project. Final group placements will be assigned after acceptance into the ACE in Place South Africa program and will be selected based on interest, past experience as described in resumes, availability, and group capacity.

A project brief (or choice of project brief) will be shared with students one month before the program starts so that they are aware of the service project and what to expect before starting. This brief includes information about the organization that you will be working with, information about your service project, what success will look like, and additional resources. The final service deliverable will be collaboratively developed with the community partner organization throughout the program. The service program will end with a final project presentation where the team will present their work to the partner organization. This is one of the highlights of the program as it is a culmination of your time on the project and will include final thank you’s and a final reflection session before we say our tearful goodbyes! ​

Program Requirements

Virtual Volunteer Environment

In order to complete the virtual service program, students will need a current email account and access to a computer and broad-band internet. It is assumed that participants are familiar with using a computer and accessing the Internet.

Zoom will be the main platform used for the scheduled meetings. Students will also have access to their own ACE website that will provide information on various components of the program and include the schedules for each service project.

Students can use whichever tools they are most comfortable with for the project work such as MS Office or Google Drive. This will be up to their discretion although GVI uses Google Drive and so resources and information will be shared through that platform. Students may wish to use Google Docs to effectively collaborate and communicate ideas on their service project with their group.

Language Requirements

None required. Partners are all either native speakers or fluent in English. However, learning local languages provides additional opportunities for cultural exchange. If possible, it is recommended that participants try and learn some basic phrases in the local language of isiXhosa or Afrikaans before the program begins.

​Other Skills

No previous experience or qualifications are in the field of conservation, community development, or public health is required to join this program. SA Harvest and Ocean Pledge are excited to be working with ACE student-athletes who are encouraged to discuss their interests or skills such as climate change, sustainable development, video editing, social media platforms, or website development in their application. These will be shared with the project partners and the service project may be adapted to the interests and experience of the team collaboratively with the project partner.

Participants who come to this project with an open mind, interest in the work that the partner is doing and passion to assist this work will gain the most out of this experience.

Previous coursework in South African history, culture, music, and literature is not required but is strongly encouraged.

Personal Competencies

Ideal participants will be flexible, enthusiastic team players with the following competencies:

  • Commitment to honest and ethical behaviors: Actively seeks to understand and adhere to the values, policies, procedures, and protocols of ACE and their host organization/community; lives up to commitments and promises they make to others.
  • Ability to work productively on a supervised team: The ability to respond to feedback and critique from ACE teammates and supervisors with maturity and openness to improvement, ability to listen actively and communicate courteously, ability to respond with patience and perseverance to new or unanticipated situations and obstacles, accepts responsibility for their actions, balances personal expectations of the volunteer experience with the realities of working on short-term projects in virtual cultural settings that are new to them.
  • Self-reliance and self-confidence: Understands and meets their own physical and emotional needs in virtual environments with an age-appropriate mixture of optimism and realism
  • Empathy and cultural sensitivity: Effectively and respectfully communicates and interacts with people of different ages, races, religions, and cultures; demonstrates curiosity about the lives of others without judgment.
  • Problem solving and goal orientations: Possesses strong analytical skills and an interest in producing deliverable end-projects for a community partner organization.

Program Details

The ACE in Place South Africa 2022 virtual program will be focused on the southernmost country in Africa. South Africa is a country with an intricate history, culture, and tradition, containing some of the oldest archaeological and human-fossil sites in the world, and rooted in diverse nature, offering the full spectrum of habitat types (from dense green forests to arid deserts, and everything in-between), making it ideal for thousands of species including The Big 5. Its pluralistic makeup is reflected in the constitution’s recognition of 11 official languages, the fourth-highest number in the world.

South Africans are passionate about music, often using song and dance to express social and political ideas. They’re also known worldwide for their skill in sports, including rugby, cricket, golf, and soccer. In 2010, South Africa became the first African nation to host the World Cup.

South Africa has been a democratic republic since holding its first truly open election on April 27, 1994. Natural resources, agriculture, tourism, and manufacturing have made South Africa one of  the largest economies on the continent. However, crime, poverty and inequality remain widespread, with about a quarter of the population unemployed and living on less than US$1.25 a day.

From aardvarks to zebras, South Africa is full of wildlife. The country takes up only about one percent of Earth’s land surface, but is home to almost 10 percent of the world’s known bird, fish, and plant species and about 6 percent of its mammal and reptile species. South Africa works to preserve its wildlife with dozens of protected land and marine areas, including the famous Kruger National Park in the north, as well as nearly 9,000 privately-owned game reserves throughout the country. Nevertheless, many of South Africa’s animals are hurt by illegal hunting and loss of habitat, and dozens of species are in danger of extinction, including the black rhinoceros, the cheetah, and the African wild dog.

In addition, climate change is an important issue for South Africa: it is a major contributor to climate change as the 14th largest emitter of greenhouse gases as of 2018 (in large part due to its coal industry) and is vulnerable to many of its impacts because of its water-insecure environment and vulnerable communities.

GVI uses email as our official means of communication. This includes program welcome emails, service information and correspondence from our supervisors and support teams. Students are responsible for reading the content of our communications sent to their email account.

Students will have access to a dedicated online ACE platform that will include their program and daily schedules for reference.

​In order to ensure you are supported throughout ACE in Place and equipped with the tools you need to make the most out of the program you will receive a comprehensive orientation and introduction. This will include:

  • Two Pre-program Webinars: To introduce the team to each other, the service brief and the program partner.
  • Welcome Presentation: Run through the program in detail and introduce the various components & GVI staff who will be working with and supporting students.
  • Location Presentation: Discuss key cultural aspects such as cultural norms, country information, language, religion, & socio-economic conditions.
  • Community Partner & Service Project Brief: Detailed introduction of community partner and service project as well as time for the team to plan out project work for the week.
  • Regular Community Partner Meetings: Meet with service/project partners to better understand the organization, importance of the project and ask them questions.

Throughout all of these sessions, we encourage communication and so students are recommended to ask questions where needed.

GVI believes that it is extremely important for participants to take part in facilitated reflection sessions throughout their service program. Throughout ACE in Place South Africa you will participate in a range of activities and discussions which will allow you to reflect on your time. This is an important part of developing your understanding as well as gaining as much as you can from the experience and to foster global citizenship and intercultural understanding. Experienced GVI staff will guide you through the learning process, including presentations, discussions, and dedicated reflection time.

Reflection topics may include:

  • Team Building Sessions
  • Cultural Sensitivity and Community Work
  • Culture Shock
  • Stereotypes & Perceptions
  • Sustainability
  • Global Health
  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

Regular check-ins will be scheduled throughout the program, where successes or challenges will be discussed.

​Virtual cultural immersion activities have been included throughout the program as they are an integral component in promoting intercultural understanding and appreciation and providing a different perspective on the service project you are working on.

The following activities were included in last year’s program and may be included again this year:

  • Learn about the history of Malay history in South Africa through a Cape Malay cooking class
  • Learn new dance moves as you understand the significance of dance and different coloured beads in Zulu culture
  • Learn about the importance of language and Xhosa initiation rites from a white Sangoma-initiate
  • Learn about wildlife conservation in South Africa from a conservationist and why we should care about pangolins and vultures.

During the program students will learn:

  • To overcome personal and work-related challenges.
  • To work as part of a virtual team and resolve conflict.
  • About local issues and how they relate to global issues and their communities at home.
  • New skills and gain practical experience relevant to their chosen project.
  • How international NGOs and organizations are structured and the challenges they may face.

You will receive a detailed service project brief before your start date. In addition, you may benefit from learning more about local history, culture and customs before you start your program.


  • A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1995)
  • Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography-The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa by Mark Mathabane (1998)
  • Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (2016)
  • isiXhosa Phrase Video