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ACE in South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa
Dates June 29 to July 20, 2024
Program Focus

Contributing to self-empowerment and sustainable development projects in communities around Cape Town through educational workshops and supporting local outreach and educational awareness programs.

This program is organized by GVI Programs.

Note: Participants will arrive on-site in South Africa on Saturday, June 29 and depart on Saturday, July 20. Dates are subject to change up until point of departure.

Program Leaders
  • Daily gym access; gym includes weights & cardio machines; running track & 25m swimming pool available

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

Program Overview

During the three weeks in Cape Town, ACE participants will work with GVI, and alongside community partners, to offer assistance in areas where the community has identified specific needs. This program partners with local schools, NGOs, and social enterprises and will likely include a combination of projects such as sustainable farming, youth education, and sports initiatives depending on the needs of the community at the time of the program.

In Cape Town, like most of South Africa, the economy and society have developed rapidly over the last 30 years, but there is still a wide wealth gap in the country, where underserved communities need support from extra-governmental organizations. These inequalities were exacerbated by Covid where the unequal economic impact of the pandemic was acutely felt in more vulnerable communities. In addition, many NGOs struggled with funding and capacity to continue providing their services. So the need is especially great in these areas. GVI is partnering with local schools and NGOs that are addressing some of these inequalities. 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. Further, all GVI programs and staff are governed by our ten ethical principles and five human empowerment principles and our actions against oppression. Read more about our commitment to ethical practices here. Our badge of ethics reflects our pledge to continuously reflect on and improve our policies and practices.

Service Opportunities

ACE participants will work with a list of local NGOs in Cape Town and the surrounding area. *The list is subject to change*. This may include the VUSA Rugby and Learning Academy, Bluemoon, Ywaste, and Ladle of Love. Our community development programs in South Africa specialize in:

  • Youth education: ACE participants may assist in facilitation sessions at early development centres with young pupils or maintaining and developing facilities for youth education such as libraries and gardens.
  • Sports workshops: Specific service opportunities could include leading youth sports programs. This provides learners who are not academically inclined with the opportunity to excel in another area of the curriculum. This boosts all-round confidence, inclusivity and equal opportunities to learn. Afternoon sports clubs are also an opportunity for youth to use their time on healthy activities improving their skills instead of spending time in the streets and potentially getting involved in anti-social activities instead.
  • Sustainable Farming:  Packaging food for meal distribution programs and assisting in supporting community garden initiatives which includes maintenance activities such as including weeding, planting, etc.[1]

During their time here, ACE participants will get involved in a variety of service programs. Further details on partners and service projects will be provided once the ACE in South Africa team is confirmed.

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


Program Requirements

Language Suggestions

Local community members will have differing levels of English may be more 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. Phrases will be provided as part of the pre-departure process.

Other Skills

No prior experience in community development, working with youth, coaching, or teaching is necessary; however, ACE participants 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.

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

Our community development programs in South Africa are based in and around Cape Town. Also called the “Mother City,” Cape Town is known for its natural beauty, rich history, and food. It is a modern, cosmopolitan city surrounded by nature. The city is known for its harbor, for its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, and for landmarks such as Table Mountain and Cape Point. ACE participants will be staying in Green Point, Cape Town within a short driving distance from the service projects.

ACE participants will be arriving during South Africa’s winter season. During June and July in South Africa, ACE participants can experience four seasons in one day. Temperatures can range from the mid 70’s during the day to 30’s during the night. Participants will definitely want to pack clothes that can be layered throughout the day!

Despite tourism being a large reason why many people visit Cape Town, it is one of the most unequal cities in the world. It is characterised by inefficient social and spatial fragmentation inherited from Apartheid. This is reinforced by economic exclusion and dual economy. Safety remains a significant issue as does racism and other forms of prejudice. ACE participants will benefit from learning about the history and current challenges faced.

Of particular importance for ACE participants to be aware of when traveling to Cape Town is ‘load shedding’ and water restrictions. The term ‘load shedding’ refers to when the country’s national electricity utility company, Eskom, is unable to supply power to the entire country at the same time. As a result, a blackout schedule, or ‘load shedding’, is implemented in order to prevent the entire power grid from collapsing. Load shedding is implemented in stages across different regions with each stage having specific ‘down’ times where there is no electricity. Stage 1 is the least serious, and Stage 8 being the most serious. Outages generally last for about 2.5 hours. Load shedding is currently ranging between Stage 3 to 4 and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

In 2018, Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ became the focus for South Africa’s water crisis. While it never came to pass, Cape Town, and South Africa, remains water-scarce and vulnerable to droughts. When traveling to Cape Town, or South Africa, it is important to be familiar with any water restrictions in place and ways to preserve water resources by adhering to water restrictions and following water-wise guidelines. Additional information on South Africa’s water crisis is provided in the resources section. Typically, if water restrictions are in place, the amount of water used per day is limited – this includes having shorter showers and only being able to water the garden during specific times. ACE participants will be asked to adhere to these restrictions and in general, be mindful about water use while living in Cape Town.

Students will be housed in basic same sex, hostel style accommodations 4-12 beds (2-6 bunk beds) in each room 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 facilities are also offered at the accommodation. Due to the difference in housing structure, keep in mind that accommodation can get cold at night so wearing layers is recommended. As ACE participants will be staying in the Green Point neighborhood of Cape Town, the housing is very similar to what participants can expect back home with amenities such as grocery stores and pharmacies nearby.

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

  • Breakfast: ‘help yourself’ –options include cereal, porridge, fruit, toast with cheeses and spreads, etc.
  • Lunch: usually eaten at a local restaurant in the townships close to project sites
  • Dinner: a cooked hearty and healthy dinner; will typically be more traditional South African meals with a mix of Western style food. ACE participants can expect a range of meals, again similar to what you might get at home. Meals may include chicken, beef and traditional spiced sausage called ‘Boerewors.’ Dinner will be a combination of eating at local restaurants, prepared food by the lodging staff, and ACE participants grocery shopping and cooking for the group.

ACE participants  will be able to help themselves to fruit, basic snacks and drinking water throughout the day. ACE participants may wish to bring extra spending money for supplementary food and snacks that can be purchased at a nearby grocery store or at the gym. 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 at the lodging as well as some internet cafes. Access to WiFi and internet service may be impacted by load-shedding. However, the accommodation where students are staying do provide inverters/uninterruptible power supply (UPS) units which allow some electronics to continue running when the electricity is off.

All ACE participants 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 ACE participants 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.).

ACE participants will travel in a fully-insured and seat-belted minibus with a licensed and experienced driver to and from their community partner sites and on weekend enrichment activities. Where possible ACE participants will walk to the gym and to local restaurants and stores.

ACE participants will be provided with time for training in their project work schedule.  This will typically take place in the mornings or afternoons depending on the day’s project activity. A local gym is located a short walk (1.8km/10 min) from the accommodation typical of a commercial gym you would find in the US.  The gym is extremely well equipped and allows ACE participants access to multiple cardio machines, free weights, and weight machines. In addition, there is a heated 25m pool, sand volleyball courts, three tennis courts, racquet ball/squash courts, and an outdoor training area.

ACE participants  will be provided with a short-term gym membership as part of the program where they can access the gym as many times as they like during their stay. Five times per week will be allocated in the schedule during the weekdays but participants may also be able to go on the weekend if they wish to. Take an online tour of the gym layout.

Participants will also have access to a running route called Sea Point Promenade which is a 10 min walk from the accommodation. Sea Point Promenade is a 6 km / 3.7 miles long (flat, hard surface, no elevation) promenade along the seafront only accessible by pedestrians. This can be accessed daily either in the early mornings or during the scheduled gym time.

GVI includes a 2-day orientation for ACE participants. This includes a welcome presentation, introduction to the GVI staff, history and background of the projects as well as health and safety requirements for their involvement with GVI. ACE participants will also be introduced to the local language, history of South Africa, and cuisine. ACE participants will be given a briefing of safety procedures at their accommodation, safety around the local area and safety around the project site. Participants will also be reminded of the goals and objectives for their stay in Cape Town. In addition, all training required for the service projects is built into the schedule.

The typical weekly schedule is as follows, but is subject to change:

Monday – Friday

  • 6am: Breakfast
    6:30am – 8:30am: Gym or running* (or during late afternoon before dinner depending on the schedule)
  • 9am-12pm: Project work
  • 12pm – 1pm: Lunch
  • 1pm – 3pm: Prep for afternoon session or masterclass or cultural enrichment session
  • 3pm – 6pm: Project work
  • 6:30pm: Dinner
  • 7:30pm – 8:30pm: Evening Program (includes discussions, reflection sessions, or and other cultural enrichment activities)

*Some days might be gym time and project prep in the morning instead followed project work in the afternoon.


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


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

Experienced GVI staff introduce ACE participants to local cultures and environments, enabling supported cultural immersion and the fostering of global citizenship and intercultural understanding.  Staff will guide the ACE participants through the learning process, including presentations, discussions, and daily reflection time.

Reflection topics may include:

  • Team-building
  • Cultural Sensitivity and Community Work
  • Stereotypes & Perceptions
  • Sustainability
  • Global Health
  • Conservation and green cities
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Masterclass from locals working with community development
  • 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 ACE participants 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.

Weekends and evenings are filled with cultural enrichment activities organized by GVI Staff. ACE participants 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 cooking class; a visit to Table Mountain, Robben Island, language classes, and/or the District 6 Museum, and a Cape Point Peninsula tour.

The schedule planned for ACE participants is quite full and has been thoughtfully put together to make the most of your time in the country. Therefore participants can expect to have limited free time and there will not be opportunities for independent travel outside of the ACE in South Africa itinerary.

In addition, as this program is specific for student-athletes, ACE participants are not allowed to participate in high risk activities, such as, activities involving animals (e.g. horseback riding, handling animals, etc.), extreme/adventure sports-type activities (e.g. rock climbing, paragliding, zip lining, etc.), water activities/sports (both watercraft and swimming/diving), and driving or riding vehicles (e.g. scooters, ATVs, etc.). Please note that this list is not exhaustive.

All GVI programs aim to develop participants’ core communication and leadership skills. However, programs also offer practical opportunities for ACE participants to develop their skills in cultural sensitivity, inclusivity, equality, privilege, development in practice and the realities of climate change.

While staff in the field will provide training on the skills required, ACE participants may benefit from learning more about local history, culture and customs before traveling.

Additional Resources: