Skip to main content

ACE in South Africa

Gordon's Bay, South Africa
Dates June 13 to July 4, 2020
Program Focus

Note: After COVID-19 led to the cancellation of international travel in March 2020, ACE developed “ACE in Place” – an optional five-week online engagement experience for our 2020 accepted student-athletes. Information about 2021 programs will be updated later this fall.

Assisting in running a sports school holiday program for children and community workshops for adults in the informal communities of Nomzamo and Zola Townships near Gordon’s Bay.

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

Program Leaders
  • Daily gym access; Gym includes weights, cardio, and fitness classes; Practice field

Program Overview | Service Opportunities | Program Requirements |
| Program Details

Program Overview

During their three weeks in Gordon’s Bay, students will work with GVI to coordinate a school holiday program focused on health and physical education at a local community centre. GVI works in the townships of Nomzamo and Zola, informal communities 40 minutes from Cape Town and in the small seaside suburb of Gordon’s Bay.  Having been involved in the area since 2009 (and in South Africa for almost 15 years), GIV has established relationships with, ACJ Primary School, Nomzamo Community Centre, Anointed Multipurpose Centre and several local pre-schools amongst others.

GVI provides educational programs for the children in the various centers and schools through activity-based education, teaching, healthcare, and sporting activities.  GVI’s involvement is year-round and our full-time field staff work with the community and local partners to ensure the sustainability of the work we do. Every 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.

Service Opportunities

The GVI South African Community Development program has five focus areas: teaching, early childhood development, healthcare, women’s empowerment, and sports. During their time here, ACE volunteers will get involved in setting up and running a school holiday program with the local community members. Based on the needs of the community, volunteers could lead workshops with local women which could vary from computer skills to CV writing.

The school holiday program will vary based on the chosen audience; however, the program will allow volunteers to use their various individual skillsets and exhibit their strengths as a united team.  In the past, volunteer groups have completed a sports and well-being holiday program with the local school children to provide opportunities to try particular sports which may not be part of their normal curriculum. Depending on the size of our audience, volunteers may lead these activity-based educational classes in informal groups or in 1-on-1 sessions.

For example, last year’s ACE group volunteered part of their time (2 weeks) at the local community centre and held a holiday athletics program. During their stay, the ACE group designed the school holiday program working alongside GVI staff to make sure the program aligned with our long-term objectives to leave a sustainable impact on the ground. Students planned and facilitated sports and health activities and also provided the children with a hot meal as part of the program. For the third week, the ACE group spent their morning teaching the local women in the community basic computer and interview skills to increase their employability. In the afternoons, the group delivered first aid and health workshops to local community members. This was an ideal example of how a group of individuals can come together for a common cause, challenge themselves with a task, learn to work together as a team, and ultimately make a difference.

The ACE program will be a full mix of time devoted to the volunteer projects, teambuilding, cultural enrichment activities, reflection and discussion sessions, all geared towards making this the experience of a lifetime. Service projects may take place in the following work settings: schools, offices and outdoors.  Time will be built into the schedule for daily workouts.

Students will work together as a team throughout their time in South Africa. Students will not be placed in individual assignments; instead, they will use their skills and experience to organize and implement a sports program. There will be numerous opportunities for students to hone their leadership skills and to take point on various aspects of the program.

Program Requirements


Language & Other Prerequisites

No prior experience in community development, childcare, or teaching is necessary; however, students with these skills or at least an interest in them will be highly beneficial to this program.  Previous coursework in South African history, culture, music, and literature is not required but is strongly encouraged. All participants will be required to complete a Criminal Background Check prior to their arrival on the program. Local community members will have differing levels of English language and this may be limited with some of the younger children. If possible, it is recommended that participants try and learn some basic phrases in the local language isiXhosa before arrival.

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 manage stress in novel environments – seeks to recognize and regulate stress reactions in themselves and calmly practice coping strategies that work for them; seeks help from others when they feel overwhelmed
  • Self-reliance and self-confidence – understands and meets their own physical and emotional needs in new 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, e.g., construction of buildings or physical structures, etc.


Program Details

Gordon’s Bay is situated on the northeastern corner of False Bay about 50 km or 40 minutes by car from Cape Town. It’s a harbor town surrounded by The Hottentots-Holland Mountains on two sides, with stunning views of the back of Table Mountain while overlooking False Bay. There will be times when the group will venture into the city of Cape Town for pre-arranged cultural enrichment activities, but the majority of time will be spent in Gordon’s Bay.

Gordon’s Bay is a popular holiday town with many South African families venturing to the seaside location during the summer vacation season. ACE volunteers will be arriving during South Africa’s winter season, so while things might be a bit quieter, you’ll have amazing views without the crowds. During June and July in South Africa you can experience 4 seasons in one day. Temperatures can range from the mid 70’s during the day to 30’s during the night. You’ll definitely want to pack clothes that you can layer throughout the day!

Students will be housed in basic same sex, dorm style accommodations with shared bathrooms. There will be a communal area for meal preparation, relaxing, socializing, and project work preparations. The accommodation has electricity, showers and western style toilets. Laundry service is also offered on-site once per week and is covered by GVI. Due to the difference in housing structure, keep in mind that accommodation can get cold at night so wearing layers is recommended.

Three meals a day will be served and prepared by either local community members, GVI staff and/or the students themselves.

  • Breakfast: ‘help yourself’ – options include cereal, porridge, fruit, toast with cheeses and spreads, etc.
  • Lunch: usually a packed lunch prepared that morning by the students – sandwiches, salad, fruit, etc.
  • Dinner: a cooked hearty and healthy dinner; will typically be more traditional South African meals with a mix of Western style food

Students will be able to help themselves to fruit, basic snacks and drinking water throughout the day. There may be times when the students go out for the odd meal, which will be included in the program. Students may wish to bring extra spending money for supplementary food and snacks that can be purchased at a nearby grocery store. In general, most dietary restrictions and preferences can be accommodated. If you have any specific concerns, please contact the ACE office to discuss whether or not your dietary needs can be reasonably accommodated at this program site.

There will be access to Wi-Fi in Gordon’s Bay town center at internet cafes, restaurants. Internet will be limited or non-existent at the students’ accommodation. Furthermore, internet is generally harder to access and tends to be more expensive and is often a slower connection than what students may be used to at home.

All students will be provided with a cell phone and local sim card to use during their stay to make local calls and additional airtime can easily be bought at local grocery stores. All GVI onsite field staff carry cell/mobile phones at all times and are reachable via the 24 hour GVI Emergency Contact number. Senior GVI staff are based in-country (Cape Town central).

While students are permitted to bring their own cell phone, camera, laptop to the program, GVI is not liable for any damage, lost, or stolen items during the stay. Due to GVI’s Health & Safety and Child Protection Policy, technological equipment will not be permitted on the project site (including cell phones, cameras, etc.).

Students will travel in a fully-insured and seat-belted minibus with a licensed and experienced driver to and from their community partner sites, the gym, and on weekend enrichment activities. Depending on traffic, it will take the students around 20 minutes from their accommodation to arrive at the local community project sites.

Students will be provided with time for training amongst project work schedule.  A local gym ( is located a short drive away from the accommodation and project sites.  The gym allows students access to cardio machines, weights, and a variety of fitness classes.  Students will be provided with a short-term gym membership. There may be the option to access a local playing field certain afternoons after service work.

The typical weekly schedule may change, but students can expect something similar to the following:

Monday – Friday

  • 9am-3pm: Project
  • 4pm-6pm: Gym Time
  • 8pm-9pm: Evening Program (includes discussions, reflection sessions, and other cultural enrichment activities)


  • Cultural Enrichment Activity – Arranged by GVI
  • Debrief/Reflection Session


  • 8am – 10am: Gym Time (optional)
  • Cultural Enrichment Activity – Arranged by GVI
  • Debrief/Reflection Session
  • Preparation for the service project

Experienced GVI staff 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, weekly written assignments, frequent discussions, and daily reflection time.

Reflection topics may include:

  • Teambuilding Session
  • South Africa History Lesson
  • isiXhosa Language Lessons
  • Cultural Sensitivity and Community Work
  • Reflection sessions
  • Culture Shock
  • Stereotypes & Perceptions
  • Sustainability
  • Reverse Culture Shock & Re-entry
  • Global Health
  • Local guest speakers

There are also daily briefings and de-briefings, where the day’s achievements or issues will be discussed and plans put in place for the following day. During the program students will learn:

  • To overcome personal and work related challenges.
  • To work as part of a team and resolve conflict.
  • About the 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.

Weekends and evenings are filled with cultural enrichment activities organized by GVI Staff. Students will be able to meet with the local community through our own team members. While activities are weather dependent and may be subject to change, opportunities may include a visit to Table Mountain, Robben Island, District 6 Museum, Langa Township, and a Cape Point Peninsula tour.

Evening time may follow the following schedule:

3:30 pm – Leave the community
4-6 pm – Gym time
6 pm – Heat up dinner
6:30 pm – Dinner time
8 pm – Evening reflection/activity

You will receive a detailed training manual two weeks before your start date. While staff in the field will also provide training on the skills required, you may benefit from learning more about local history, culture and customs before you travel.

To learn more about the program:

Additional Resources

  • 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
  • Cape Town Project Training Manual