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ACE in Place: South Africa

Virtual Program
Dates June 27 to July 16, 2021
Program Focus

Supporting wildlife conservation, community development and public health programs 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 RequirementsProgram Details

Program Overview

GVI has worked in South Africa for over 6 years and has continued to support our community partners during the global pandemic by providing successful virtual programs over the past 8 months. Students will have the option to choose a service focus area to support, although service projects will often cover more than one area. Possible service focuses may include: environmental conservation (specifically wildlife conservation), sustainability, community development, or public health (more specifically socio-economic components that impact general public health in South Africa). Just as with our in-country programs, every virtual project that GVI coordinates has a clear link to United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to ensure a sustainable, long-term impact using a grassroots approach.

During their three weeks participating in the virtual service program, students will have the opportunity to work with NGOs, nonprofits, and social enterprises on a sustainable development service project in South Africa. They will learn about the country and culture and will have regular meetings with senior members of the community partner organization. The program will include a pre-departure webinar, orientation, service project work, check-ins, reflection sessions, masterclasses, and cultural immersion activities.


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 has partnered with a range of organizations that address sustainable development challenges in South Africa. Specifically the organizations that we support focus on the following service areas:

  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Sustainability
  • Community Development
  • Public Health (specifically see SA Harvest under potential organizations)

When applying for the ACE in Place: South Africa virtual service program, students will be able to indicate their preferred service focus in order of preference e.g. first preference may be wildlife conservation; second preference may be public health, and third may be community development. 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.

Depending on interest, up to four virtual service groups will be composed for South Africa. 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. A project brief will be shared with students before the program starts so that they understand the work they will be engaging in. 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.

Students will be informed which service focus they have been assigned after they have been selected for the ACE in Place: South Africa virtual service program. Some service projects will work across more than one service focus area. For example, if you work with SA Harvest, your project may cover both the community development and public health focus areas.

Service projects could include program management; research; marketing, media and communications; fundraising; advocacy and awareness; or a multi-focus project. Examples may include:

  • Create a draft launch plan for Ocean Pledge’s restaurant program
  • Produce a marketing strategy for the launch of Ocean Pledge’s restaurant program
  • Help SA Harvest to tackle food security in South Africa

Potential partners that students may work with include:

  • Endangered Wildlife Trust and more specifically the Bearded Vulture Project: The Bearded Vulture Project focuses on the protection and conservation of vultures and reducing their imminent risk of extinction.
  • SA Harvest: SA Harvest is creating a food rescue and distribution platform that will ultimately enable the organization to realize its mission to ensure that every South African is able to access adequate nutritious food on a daily basis. This platform is based on four pillars – food rescue, education, engagement, and innovation.
  • Ocean Pledge (partner for the ACE Virtual Prototype held in December 2020): Ocean Pledge is an initiative that’s geared towards turning awareness into action, to shift the paradigms in perceptions and behaviors which contribute to our throw-away culture. Ocean Pledge is dedicated to making a difference to South Africa’s current status as the 11th largest contributor of marine plastic.
  • Ywaste: Ywaste is a social enterprise which offers clients an opportunity to divert up to 98% of waste generated away from landfills. They recycle both organic and non-organic waste and their aim is to be the leader in waste management in South Africa, as they are the closest to a zero-waste model.

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.

The main online platform that will be used throughout the program is zoom 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 Suggestions

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 in the field of conservation, community development or public health is required to join this program.

Service projects will be assigned according to the focus area of the students and adapted to their experience and interests. In their applications, students are encouraged to list any interests or skills such as video editing, social media platforms, or website development.

As this is a virtual service program, background checks or drug tests are not required as students will not be engaging with any vulnerable populations.

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

Personal 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

Many different peoples make up South Africa, each with their own language and history. The country has 11 official languages and many more unofficial ones. This colorful mix of cultures gives South Africa its nickname “rainbow nation.”

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 internship supervisors and support teams. Students are responsible for reading the content of our communications sent to your email account.

As mentioned above, students will have access to a dedicated online ACE platform that will include their program and daily schedules for reference.

Comprehensive pre-departure preparation and orientation will be provided to students to ensure that they have sufficient context of the partner organization and knowledge of the country. This will include:

  • 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 partner 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.

Experienced GVI staff will virtually introduce students to local cultures and environments, enabling supported cultural immersion and the fostering of global citizenship and intercultural understanding. Staff will guide the students 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.

Where possible, students will be able to meet with different stakeholders of the community partner organizations and GVI staff members in that country in order to get a holistic understanding of the organization and its various parts.

Virtual cultural immersion activities will be scheduled throughout the program. Potential activities may include a virtual cooking class, language lessons, and a virtual wildlife conservation tour. Cultural immersion activities will be planned for all ACE in Place: South Africa participants regardless  of their project group  to participate in together so students can engage with participants from other teams throughout the program.

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