Volunteer FAQ's

If you are planning to come during our visitors period from January 1st - 15th each year, you may want to review these FAQ's.


1.How long are the volunteer commitments?

Per our Short-term Visitor and Volunteer program listed on the Volunteer tab, we welcome visitors from January 1st to January 15th each year for Open Arms summer camp. Our children are out of school and it is a perfect opportunity to visit. There will be a variety of projects and activities planned so you can get a sense of what Open Arms is like. And we would welcome your help! If you are interested in visiting at this time, please e-mail Bob Solis at bob@openarmshome.com or Ted Freese at ted@openarmshome.com for more details.

2.Can I come as part of a group?

Yes, you can come as a group, depending on space availability. Our accommodations on property can’t support large groups but there is lodging in Komga, or East London, that we could help arrange if needed. 

3.How do I get to Open Arms?

Open Arms is located in Komga in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Most international carriers fly to Cape Town or Johannesburg. Once in South Africa you would then fly to East London via South African Airlines. Open Arms is about 45 minutes from the East London airport. We pick up all volunteers at the East London airport.

4.Do I need a visa?

US residents do not need a visa to visit South Africa for stays of 90 days or less. If you are planning on staying beyond three months, you can get information on visas at www.home-affairs.gov.za

5.Do I need any vaccinations before I travel?

Open Arms is not located anywhere close to a malaria zone (the closest one is 10 hours away by car). So, you do not need any vaccinations to visit us, Johannesburg or Cape Town. However, if you are concerned we recommend that you check with your personal physician regarding your travel plans. As with all international travel, there is a risk of exposure to diseases that are not present in the United States. Our staff and children are all tested for HIV and Tuberculosis when they come to Open Arms and receive appropriate treatment if necessary.

6.What would my expenses be?

Volunteers are responsible for their travel to and from Open Arms. Once you arrive at Open Arms, your expenses are limited to souvenirs and personal expenditures. Volunteers take meals with the children and staff.

7.How do I access money in South Africa?

The easiest and cheapest way to access funds is to go an ATM and withdraw funds from your U.S. account. We have an ATM in our local village and all major stores and airports have them as well. The Rand is the currency of South Africa.

8.Is it safe?

Much has been made about high crime in South Africa. However, we have not had any issues for volunteers or staff on or off our grounds. Open Arms has burglar alarms and alarm buttons in every room on campus. Obviously, we urge all volunteers to take common sense precautions while traveling in South Africa. While we can never totally guarantee the safety of our volunteers, we are confident in our safety and have never had an issue of any kind. We take this issue seriously.

9.Where would I stay?

Depending on how many people visit during Open Arms summer camp, there is limited availability to stay on our property. Otherwise there are accommodations available in Komga (10 minutes away) and East London (60 minutes away).

10.What is the weather like?

Open Arms is located in the Eastern Cape province, about 25 miles from the Indian Ocean. As such, we have mild weather for the most part. Highs year- round are usually between 65 and 80 degrees. Lows are about 35 in the winter (June-Sep.) and about 60 in the summer (Dec.-Feb.). One note of caution: South African homes do not have central heat so sleeping in the winter indoors can be a bit chilly. Make sure to bring comfortable heavy sleeping wear to ward off the chilly winter nights.

11.What would I do?

Volunteers are a critical resource for our children’s development. Generally, our volunteers work with the children directly. Volunteers help with tutoring, homework, English skills, chaperoning field trips and doctor’s appointments, and being the critical additional player in games of soccer and kickball. We have staff for laundry, cooking and cleaning so volunteers are usually 100% focused on the children and their developmental needs.

12. Do I need to undergo a background check?

It is the policy of Open Arms that all prospective visitors and volunteers staying over night undergo a background check. This check would need to be completed before you leave. The cost of the background check is approximately $35. 

13. Do the kids and staff speak English?

Many of our children and some of our staff speak English, so communication is not a problem. English is taught in the local schools, so our children are always eager to practice their skills. In addition to English, most of our kids and staff speak the local Xhosa (pronounced kosa) language.

14. Are there volunteer opportunities in the US?

In the Phoenix area, we are always looking for help in assembling mailings and other materials. If you are in the area and would like to help, please let us know.