Occupational Therapy Internship in Cape Town, South Africa

Occupational Therapy for Disabled Children
Occupational Therapy for Disabled Children

If you choose to volunteer on occupational therapy, you join the therapists offorts to help children with special needs to participate in everyday activities. The occupational therapy can even help the disabled children and adolescents to function independently. With your volunteer work, you can help the children developing their skills by using self-care, work and play activities.

The disabled children need your help

The disabled children of the Special Care Centre are all desperately in need of this kind of care, so if you’re thinking of going into this rewarding, caring profession, or are already training for it, an internship at the centre is perfect for you. You’ll get hands-on, practical experience and have a special, meaningful impact on these kids’ lives. Bring your skills, your love and your biggest smile, you’re going to have the best internship experience in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

Occupational Therapy focuses on

  • Spending time with children who are so appreciative of the effort you put in.
  • Seeing the children develop and respond to your input.
  • Making a difference in a very underprivileged community.
  • Learning the therapeutic benefits of hippotherapy.
  • Gaining hands-on, practical experience in an area of special needs.
  • Working alongside people who are passionate about the field of special needs and occupational therapy.
  • Spending your spare time enjoying the attractions of Cape Town and South Africa.

Looking after children with disabilities

Volunteer caring for disabled children
Volunteer caring for disabled children

The Special Care Centre look after 34 children with a wide range of disabilities – either physical, intellectual or a combination of both. It is a day care centre where all the children’s emotional, therapeutic and developmental needs are met through a multi-disciplinary approach. The care centre’s focus is on assisting the children in becoming as independent as they possibly can and, if at all possible, integrating them into a mainstream school environment.

Support the occupational therapist at the centre

The occupational therapist spends four days per week at the centre. She is highly experienced in the field of special needs children and does amazing work with them. She acts as a mentor to Volunteer and Explore interns and will guide and assist you as you go through the programme. You’ll learn all about working with children with special needs, participate in their daily activities and help with group work and individual therapy.

Hippotherapy for disabled children

Every Thursday afternoon, 12 of the centre’s children visit a Horse Riding School for hippotherapy, provided by the South African Riding for the Disabled (SARDA). It is a huge highlight for the children, an incredibly important part of their therapy and benefits all aspects of their mental, physical and social lives. You’ll go along to assist with the children during their hippotherapy and learn about its methods and benefits.

Please be aware that these children have been dealt a rough deal in life. They have severe and profound special needs and come from a very impoverished area. Your assistance is absolutely essential to them – but you will need to be passionate about and dedicated to helping them.
Internships last a minimum of four weeks and a maximum of twelve weeks

Your Volunteer Experience from Day One

Be welcome on your first day (Monday)

Loving people care for the children
Loving people care for the children

Arrive at Cape Town International Airport (airport code CPT) where you’ll be met at the airport and taken to our volunteer house in Fish Hoek. You’ll need to arrive before 4.15pm so that you’re in time for orientation at 5pm. The journey from the airport to Fish Hoek takes about 45 minutes and you’ll see the magnificent Table Mountain on the way! Orientation will take you through what you can expect from your project, dos and don’ts and how to stay safe. It’s also a great opportunity to ask any burning questions you’ve got. Afterwards you can relax and prepare before your first day at the project.

Note: If you aren’t able to arrange a flight to get you into Cape Town before 4.15pm then we recommend you fly in a day early. We can arrange an early airport pickup for you including one night’s accommodation. Please give us a call for more information.

Tuesday: say hi to the kids!

This morning you’ll be off to the project and our team will be on hand to make sure you know where you’re going and get you settled. You’ll meet the dedicated staff and the children they look after. It’s going to be a happy introduction as the kids are always super excited to have someone fresh and new in their lives.

From Wednesday: get to know the kids

You’ll start getting to know the kids, bonding with them, learning more about their disabilities and how you can help. They’ll learn so much from you, simply through play and general conversation – and your trainer will ensure that you learn as much as you can from your time with us.  If you have any ideas you’d like to contribute, like learning games or fun ways to approach problems and activities, speak up! Your contribution will always be appreciated.

Hippotherapy on Thursdays

On Thurdays the highlight of the week has arrived fo rthe children, because they are going to ride a horse (with some help of course). During these days of  hippotherapy days, you’ll accompany 12 of the children to Sleepy Hollow
Horse Riding School.  The South African Riding for the Disabled (SARDA) is providing this fantastic program. It’s both a lot of fun for the children, and a great learing opportunity for you, too.

Enjoy your weekend after a week of hard work!

Spend your free time as you please. Cape Town offers so much to do. There are loads of stunning beaches to choose from, where you can get a tan and relax. Or you could visit the city, climb Table Mountain, check out a penguin colony, go wine tasting or pop in to the many fascinating museums and art galleries. Alternatively, you could just chill at the volunteer house in the garden or around the swimming pool.

More weeks to follow – keep up the good work!

Your weekdays will be spent at the centre and you’ll get to know the routine and the children. You’ll start to see their progression and how much your help can have an influence. You’ll learn more about the community and may even get involved in community activities. It is likely to become a place that’s very dear to your heart.

Last Monday: Say goodbye, we’ll miss you!

It will be sad to say goodbye to your newfound friends and the children at the centre but you’ll have so many special memories and so much experience to add to your future career. The return transfer from Fish Hoek to Cape Town International is not covered within your project fee but our regular transfer company will be able to organise the journey. Budget around £25/R400.

Why your dedication to the disabled children matters

The Special Care Centre runs a daily programme that is adapted to each classroom’s needs and age-appropriate activities. These activities generally include the morning ring, creative stimulation programmes, free play, outside play and therapy time (occupational therapy). The children also receive a daily cooked meal from the Centre and most of them need some assistance at meal time. Following the guidelines of the programme mentor, interns will be able to assist with all aspects of the daily programme, contributing to the children’s emotional, physical and mental development by helping them to take part in activities and offering them much-needed encouragement and love which improves their confidence. You will also be involved in community assistance, following the guidelines of your mentor.

How you can help the children with your volunteer work:

  • Counselling – Occupational therapy interns will not be expected to do this.
  • Recreational activities
  • Public education towards inclusion
  • Community outreach
  • Creative stimulation programmes
  • Adult and youth groups with special needs
  • Transference of care skills
  • Parent support
  • Work hours are usually from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday.

You’ll need to wear comfortable clothes and flat shoes, suitable for working with children on the floor or on a climbing gym.

Volunteer helping children with special needs

The centre for children with special needs focuses on helping children with a wide range of disabilities, including Autism, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Down Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy, to name but a few. Since the day care centre aims to treat the children holistically, from various disciplines work on the premises. The team includes an occupational therapist, a social auxiliary worker and child care workers, in order to make the children feel good and develop theirs skills. Moreover, they focus on assisting the children to become as independent as they possibly can.

In 2013 they were even able to reintegrate three children into the mainstream environment. However, those children who are severely and profoundly disabled are kept as comfortable as possible with daily stimulation programmes offered by carers and an occupational therapist.

The Occupational Therapy Centre offers

  • Day care for children with special needs
  • Counselling
  • Recreational activities
  • Public education towards inclusion
  • Community outreach
  • Creative stimulation programs
  • Transport to and from Special Care Centres
  • Adult and youth groups with special needs
  • Transference of care skills
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Parent support

The Association is a non-profit and public benefit organisation with Section 18A status that Operates in the Simon’s Town Magisterial District of the City of Cape Town, South Western Cape Region in Southern Africa.

The Association’s focus is on improving life for children and families who face the adversities of living with a family member with special needs.

Would you like to learn more about child development programs abroad? Read about teaching assistance at a primary school in Cape Town, caring for children at Doreen’s Crèche in Masimumphele. In Argentina, find out about child development in Buenos Aires.

Start Dates

Project duration: Min 4 weeks – Max 12 weeks
Location of project: Masiphumelele Township, around 45 minutes from central Cape Town Airport to fly into: Cape Town International (CPT)
Accommodation: Intern house, Kommetjie Road, Fish Hoek. This is also where your orientation will take place.
Activities: General care of the children, creative stimulation programmes, therapy time, hippotherapy
Getting to the project: Interns catch a mini bus taxi between the intern house and the project. The taxis stop outside intern house and transport them straight to Masiphumelele Township. Cost R7 each way.
Working hours: Monday to Friday 9am to 1pm


Fees – Occupational Internship in Cape Town

  • The program fee is paid directly to the host organization.
  • All of the projects incur a registration fee of  U$ 149.00 on top of the program fee.

South Africa Prices 2019

What is included in the volunteer program fee?

  • Airport Pickup
  • Orientation
  • Accommodation for all projects
  • Meals are included in most programs (please check the description of your chosen project)
  • Support from local staff & Program supervision
  • In-country 24/7 support throughout your stay
  • In-country administration costs
  • Donation to support the local project

Return transfer: This is for your own cost. However, the in-country team can assist with booking final transport. Budget on approximately R400.
You need to organize: Flights, insurance, visas, return airport transfer, local transport, food
Internship Experience

There are no hidden costs. Most of these projects are the most affordable to volunteer in South Africa.

Iko Poran is an NGO based in a developing country. We are dedicated to helping you help others, at the lowest possible price. We are interested in making volunteering abroad more accessible so that more people can help do really important work.

Participants in our South Africa programs normally find US$100 to be sufficient for weekly expenses in the country.

The program fee should be paid to the host country and it is due 30 days before the project start date.


Accommodation & Meals

  • Volunteer House - on the Terrace
    Volunteer House - on the Terrace

Our large volunteer house in Fish Hoek will be your happy home for this trip. It accommodates up to 20 people (our volunteers only) in dormitory-style, same sex rooms with bunk beds, a maximum of six people per room. There are three bathrooms with hot, running water, showers and regular flush loos. There’s also a lounge area, balcony, lush garden and barbeque. You’ll be only a short distance from the shops and beach. You’ll find lockers at the accommodation to lock your valuables away but please remember to bring a padlock and keys with you! You’ll need to pay R1000 deposit when you arrive which will be given back to you when you leave if everything’s still as you found it.


You’ll be self-catering while in the house. The kitchen has everything you need from cookers, loads of fridge space and microwave to toaster, kettle and kitchen utensils. You can eat at the dining room table or lounge on the balcony. There’s a barbeque outside or, as we call it in SA, a braai, which is the best way to cook on a warm evening. You can also grab
takeaways at the many spots in the town, about 10 minutes’ walk away.
Note: While in the house you will be responsible for keeping the place clean so please tidy up after yourself, especially in the kitchen. Budget around US$50 per week for groceries, as prices are similar to home.

Facilities and the area

There’s a phone at the house for incoming calls, and buy local phone cards to make outbound phone calls.
Washing can be done at the laundry down the road: simply drop off your clothes and pick them up later!
Cape Town has a temperate climate but winter is still chilly so pack warm jumpers and even some cosy socks as SA doesn’t have central heating.
Bedding is provided but bring a sleeping bag for away weekends and extra warmth.
Bring along a towel

The Neighborhood

Fish Hoek’s main street is only10 minutes’ walk away where you’ll find a supermarket, serviced laundry and internet café, as well as banks and other shopping. The beach is just a stone’s throw beyond that!
Bars, restaurants, more shopping and more beautiful beaches are only 10 minute’s drive away.
Fish Hoek is on the train line and trains are a great way to travel but they stop running at 7pm.
Taxis to Cape Town CBD cost around US$35/ R250 each way.



Minimum qualifications and experience required to take part in the occupational internship:

  • Grade 12 certificate
  • CV, including certification of any completed courses
  • Please note: work experience in the field of special needs is beneficial but not essential.
  • CRB Check





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More Volunteer Opportunities in South Africa

Find out about all the opportunities for educational projects in South Africa here.

In Cape Town, you can find many more educational volunteer projects. You can choose, whether you want to teach small children at Doreen’s Crèche, or work with teenies as an assistant teacher at a public school.