Started in 1992 by Jackie Branfield, Operation Bobbi Bear rescues and upholds the rights of sexually abused children while aiming to minimise their risk of HIV infection. This includes provision of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to children who have been raped. Through on-going support the organization helps children and young people towards wholeness.
Bobbi Bear is a community-based response to a complex set of issues that undermine children’s rights and deprives them of their dignity. Children who have been victims of sexual abuse are thrown into a criminal justice system that is ill equipped to enable them to communicate about their ordeal in a way that safeguards their well-being. The added trauma of children struggling to communicate with police officers who are not trained in working sensitively with abused children means that justice is often not done for the child.
Children often experience this failure of the justice systems as secondary abuse. They are too often subjected to insensitive handling by police as they try to extract a statement from incredibly traumatised children, with the experience of being medically examined compounding this trauma. The impact on the child can be devastating and result in them becoming confused, particularly if they have to deal with several adults. All children of sexual abuse are counselled and risk assessed for HIV with referral for additional care made at the point of rescue. Sadly, despite these measures many children are infected with HIV as a result of their abuse.
Bobbi Bear reaches around 4,000 children per month as part of their school outreach programme. The programme aims to raise children’s awareness of sexual abuse and highlights to them where they can get help.
As well as working directly with children, Bobbi Bear trains and empowers the local community. This includes providing training to local Child Safety Officers, promoting this work as a prototype for national expansion. By training local communities in child protection and identifying Child Safety Officers, Bobbi Bear works to ensure greater awareness of the rights of the child to help prevent further cases of abuse. Their vision is to have at least 2 Child Safety Officers in every community in South Africa who are equipped to intervene and assists the criminal justice system to safeguard the best interest of any child who is a victim of sexual abuse.
Watch an excerpt below from the film ‘Rough Aunties‘ by internationally acclaimed director Kim Longinotto. Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Jury Documentary prize, it will give you an insight into the remarkable work at Bobbi Bear.
AIRPORT PICK UP
Bobbi Bear is around 40 minutes drive from the Durban airport. A member of the Bobbi Bear staff will meet you off your flight.
THREE DAYS TRAINING
Mumma Thuli, a long serving member of the Bobbi Bear family will guide you through everything you need to know about working with Bobbi Bear during your stay. You will learn about the history of HIV/AIDS in South Africa, how they use ‘the bear’ and what procedures you will need to go through when a case comes into Bobbi Bear HQ.
Bobbi Bear HQ is a beautiful and very secure house. You will have your own bed, hot shower, wifi, fridge/freezer in room, air con, kitchen and tea/coffee. You will stay with other volunteers. A great way to bond and make friends.
You will be guided through every step of your VIP programme. You will be assigned a member of staff to answer any pre-trip questions. You will also have Michelle, a member of staff at Bobbi Bear to help with anything whilst you are in South Africa.
Some meals are included and there is a large food market close by
You will have some time off to explore South Africa. Bobbi Bear staff are happy to arrange trips with you.
We want you to have the experience of a lifetime. You are a VIP after all.
Although this is not a holiday but an opportunity to invest into an amazing charity working with some of South Africa’s most vulnerable children, we want you to have the full South Africa experience. That is why we can arrange extra trips for you during your stay at Bobbi Bear. These can be arranged once you are with the team at Bobbi Bear, or before through your support officer.
Cooking an authentic African meal
Zulu home visit
This is an opportunity to support an amazing charity and gain some valuable professional work experience whilst volunteering and investing into the future of vulnerable children increasing your social impact. The fee covers your accommodation, airport pick up/drop off, training and on-going support.
The application process is as follows:
Confirm placement dates
Sign acceptance agreement
Pay a £75 holding fee
50% of the total fee due 30 days after acceptance agreement and holding fee is paid.
The final 50% is due 30 days before your agreed start date.
2- 4 weeks
£350 per week
Reduces to £200 per week for every week after the initial 4
Reduces to £150 per week for every week after the initial 8
There are no set dates to start your programme. You will fit into the daily routine of Bobbi Bear and follow their pattern of work. We want to be as flexible as possible, so ask us any questions and we will be happy to help.
South Africa does not require visas for UK passport holders. If you are from outside of the EU please let us know and we will find out details for you.
Flights from the UK range from £400-£600 depending on your time of travel. Skyscanner and Kayak are great ways to search for the lowest fares.
You will need to check with your doctor to find out what injections you require. Everyone is different, so please check. Although this is a safe area of South Africa, some injections may be required before you travel.
These can be arranged at an addition cost. These are not expensive costs and will undoubtedly be less that a tour operator.
Travel to and from the airport (in-country of origin)
We can help you plan your journey, but we cannot pay for it. Just ask.
How much money do you think I will need to bring for the month? How much do you think food, travel etc. cost?
This is dependent on what you would like to do around your volunteering. There are options to go on a Durban night tour, Tala the local game reserve (safari). There are also options to go to a local Zulu church, street market, township. These will all be relatively cheap. I would say £200 extra for the month. Regarding food, there is a supermarket next to Bobbi Bear HQ, so base this on your current daily food budget.
Is it still feasible for me to visit friends/adventure away from Bobbi Bear during my programme?
Yes. Operation Bobbi Bear can offer advice on day trips and how to visit places you may wish to go. We will help you plan your itinerary. We would like to highlight that as a volunteer, your time is very precious to the Bobbi Bear team. If you want to travel further afield/throughout South Africa, this may best be done, before your programme/after.
Should I organise anything else to do with my time or will I be occupied most of the time?
You will be busy, but the nature of the charity means that sometimes you will have free time to yourself. Operation Bobbi Bear is an emergency rescue centre, so it can be hard to predict when you will be very busy, and when you will have some down time. Our advice is to expect the unexpected and be flexible.
The average week is usually busy in the mornings, and then more quite in the afternoons/evenings. There may be children living at the house with you, and there will be morning and night requirements. Helping them up, have breakfast and general playing. Then Friday and Saturday will be ‘The Tree’ and the community projects. Therefore we ask if you do want to arrange trips, in the week is a better time.
Do we know yet what I’ll be doing while I’m at Bobbi Bear? Is there a set plan or is it more of a day-by-day schedule?
We can give a rough plan but there may be changes. You will go with staff on cases to support victims at the police station and hospitals. You will visit townships and victims for post- trauma counselling. There will be an element of routine, but there will also be times where everyone has to jump in the cars and attend emergency situations. There may or may not be children staying at the house, so this will depend on the time you are there.
Are there any projects that you would specifically like me to raise awareness of in the follow up to my trip?
One of the most useful things you can do is document your experience. How you are feeling before and during your programme, what you are hoping to gain, what were your biggest challenges, what gaps for improvement are you able to see?
A Bobbi Bear diary is a great way to remember your programme too.
Your experience and story will become key in future volunteers supporting the work of Bobbi Bear.
Could you recommend any useful sources for me to learn more about South Africa’s laws and policies regarding child sexual abuse from before I come?
Below are some articles and research papers. We also keep very close eye on news and developments, which we publish on our social media channels
How rape became South Africa’s enduring nightmare
Four frightening facts about child sexual abuse in South Africa
Sexual Abuse – Medical Research Council – South Africa
Sexual Violence – World Health Organisation
Is there anything specific you think I need to bring other than basic necessities? Eg does Bobbi Bear have any particular clothing policy? Is there anything I shouldn’t bring for security reasons or is the house fairly secure?
The house is very secure. We advise volunteers to take some long skirts, for example, the Zulu church requires long skirts to be worn by the women. It can be hot in the summer, so dress for this. There is aircon, so do take cardigans. Also, July is their winter, so trousers, shoes and jumpers.
Where does my Volunteer Investment fee go?
We have established the Arms Around the Child volunteer abroad programme to raise important funds and offer life changing work experience to volunteers hoping to gain valuable hands on experience. Because of this, the fee has been set to offer a regular and sustainable income to Operation Bobbi Bear, and 80% of the fee will be sent directly to them. They will then use this money to pay for hosting the volunteers, providing the accommodation for your stay, and their running costs. The additional 20% is kept back to develop the volunteer abroad programme and to recruit new volunteers to feed into the sustainable charity cycle.
If I have any further questions, who should I ask?
Volunteer Invest is here to help guide you through any questions or concerns you have, before, during and after your trip. So keep asking, and we will keep replying. You will also have on the ground support during your programme in South Africa.
How are volunteers trained? What is the process?
We assess each application separately, looking at their reasons and motivations. We are approaching phycology students and therapy courses because of the nature of the South Africa project at Bobbi Bear. We don’t want to decide for people, only giving them the core information and allowing them to decide if it’s right for them. We aren’t a big company we are a small charity looking to build a sustainable model in the charity sector and offer reliable income for the Arms Around the Child projects on the ground in India, Ghana and South Africa. We will keep our size small to stay personable at all times. We want to build a community of like-minded people, who want to gain and give in different ways.
During your stay, you will be given orienteering and training with the staff on the ground. These are people who have been dedicated and working with the projects for a considerable time.
How do they maintain a relationship with the organisation upon return?
Many of the volunteers have such a life changing experience that they want to help share their stories, which we put on our blog, and send out to out networks via email. We believe the experience will be so powerful that word of mouth will enhance the volunteer numbers. An organic growth process is our aim. We are dealing with some challenging issues and the over-riding charity Arms Around the Child ensure that updates and projects are continually occurring.
Do returned volunteers recruit new volunteers?
This isn’t intentional, but it happens. We don’t force anything onto our volunteers. If they want to tell their story, and share then of course we will support this. But it’s not an aim, more of a coincidence. The nature of the programme means that we do have repeat volunteers and referrals. We love expanding the community of like-minded people.
What are the program outcomes for the volunteer and partner organisations?
The volunteers will grain valuable experience working with vulnerable children. They will experience the inside workings of a busy charity on the ground saving lives of children living in vulnerable situations. They will gain valuable perspective on different cultures and customs.
For the organisation, they gain a stable income to support their work, doing what they do, and not have to worry about how to turn on the lights or feed themselves. The research taken was a serious exploration into ‘what charities really need’ and the outcome was ‘running costs’. Every time. So that’s what we did. We want to break down the traditional concepts of ‘charity’ and be brave and say, ‘this is what they need. This is what we shall provide’. Putting trust back into the charity sector, and regular financing.
How are you supporting volunteers whilst onsite?
We have volunteer coordinators at all sites and we are in constant communication with them while they are there. We know the teams on the ground very well and they too give us daily updates. We do everything we can to help them have an amazing time, knowing they are supported. But we are also aware that we don’t want everything to be too processed. We are here to help guide the whole process, from early engagement, during, and after.
Do you have a volunteer alumni network?
We are building one, and we have some beautiful write ups from them on our TESTIMONIAL page on the blog http://www.volunteerinvest.org/blog/. You can also keep in touch with past volunteers on our social media platforms.
What will my programme look like?
Example volunteer schedule: 2 – 4 week placement
First Day: On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with. You will be taken to your accommodation and given a meal.
Training: 2 Days
The training will begin the day after you arrive. This consists of 2 days with a Child Safety Officer, the founder of Bobbi Bear, important history, Bobbi Bear operations and current cases.
Friday: Mum’s and babies at the Illovo Tree
7.00am – 2pm
Saturday: Children’s Day at the Illove Tree
7.00am – 2pm
Sunday: (This could be rotated if Sunday is a required working day)
Weekdays: Volunteers work for approximately 3 to 5 hours per day. A typical schedule is as follows:
7.00 AM – Breakfast at the volunteer house. Debrief of current cases. Allocation of buddy/mentor for week 1 (2 weeks of shadowing if 4 week placement)
7.30 AM – Volunteers travel with their buddy for the day. Start time and daily workload depends on the project that the individual volunteer is participating on.
1.00 PM – Volunteers break for lunch. Volunteers either travel back to the volunteer house or eat a packed lunch at their placement. After lunch, volunteers continue with their volunteer work (where applicable).
3.00 PM – 4.00 PM – Work with the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to return to the volunteer house, plan for the following day’s activities or use their free time as they wish.
7.00 PM – Dinner at the volunteer house.
These booking conditions form an important part of the contract for your volunteer abroad programme so please read them carefully before confirming that you agree to them. All programmes advertised on our website are provided by Volunteer Invest or as agents for receiving partner, and are sold subject to the following conditions:
Booking & Fees
Volunteer Investment Programme
A deposit is due upon acceptance of your application, by VIP, onto your selected programme.
A first installment of 50% of the programme fee balance is due:
A final payment of the remaining programme fee is due:
Application & Documents
For your application to be complete you must complete and submit the online application form and the necessary documents, within the required timeframes, as outlined below.
Programme Specific Documents:
VIP reserve the right to postpone or withdraw your application if you have not completed and/or submitted all the necessary documents within the required time frames.
Health & Travel Insurance
It is your responsibility to ensure, at least one months prior to travel, that you obtain proper and detailed medical advice for the latest health requirements, recommendations for your destination and any costs. Where you do not do so and either are not allowed to enter any country, or suffer personal injury or death as a result, we have no liability to you for any cost, loss, or damage which you suffer, nor will we refund you the cost of any unused portion of your travel arrangements or VIP programme fees.
You are required to make VIP aware of any pre-existing medical conditions and you may be required to submit an additional letter from your doctor.
It is your responsibility to advise VIP of any special dietary requirements.
If you are a pregnant woman, or have recently visited other countries you should check requirements with your general practitioner.
You must insure yourself against any possible risk that may occur and in particular to ensure that you have sufficient insurance in respect of expenses, injury, illness, death, repatriation, cancellation and curtailment and dependent relatives. You are required to carry proof of insurance with you and produce it if reasonably requested by our employees or suppliers. You should ensure that there are no exclusion clauses that limit cover for the type of activities included in your programme.
Visas, Passport & Travel
Whilst VIP are able to provide basic advice to you regarding passports, visa or travel requirements, you should check with the appropriate Embassy, Consulate, British Foreign Office and/or airline for the exact requirements for your chosen programme and date of travel.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct passport and visas to gain access to any country/region included in your travel arrangements. If you are travelling overland to certain destinations you may need to also pass through controls of other countries en-route so this should be allowed for with any passport/visa applications. If you fail to do so, VIP have no liability to you for any cost, fines, loss or damage that you suffer, nor will we refund you the cost of any unused portion of your travel arrangements.
Should your chosen programme require a visa, VIP is not in control of the processing time or success of your visa application. If your visa is delayed, thus affecting your ability to travel or meet your programme requirements, or if your visa application is denied/rejected, your application will be cancelled and the charges contained within the “Booking Amendments, Cancellations and Refunds” section will apply.
In some cases, countries will refuse entry to clients who have criminal records. Should you be concerned about this, please check with the embassy or consulate of the countries to which you are travelling.
When assessing whether tours or expeditions will operate we use information from our receiving partner in conjunction with advice from the British Foreign Office and other relevant government bodies. It is your responsibility to acquaint yourself with the travel advice provided by these government bodies.
Should you arrive outside the agreed start date/time for your programme, or do not advise of your correct arrival details, you may have to cover any additional costs.
Please be aware that any accommodation, food and facilities that you will be provided with will be of a local standard and these may differ to the standard you are accustomed to. You may be required to share a bathroom and/or bedroom.
You are expected to satisfy yourself prior to booking that you are fit and able to complete the itinerary of your chosen programme as described. If you suffer from mobility impairment, illness or disability or undergoing treatment for any physical or medical condition you must declare the true nature of such condition at the time of booking and make arrangements for the provision of any medication or other treatment which may be required during the programme.
We are agent for receiving partners in each of the destinations that we offer programmes. They are responsible for offering you in-country support while you are on your programme. Full contact details of the receiving partner will be given to you prior to departure. In country partners are responsible for your orientation and they are there for any emergency support and emergency issues and to resolve any such issues you may have regarding your programme. If you have any problems or complaints during your programme you must inform our receiving partners and the relevant supplier of the service immediately.
Booking Amendments, Cancellations and Refunds
If you change your booking more than 4 weeks prior to departure:
If you cancel your booking after payment of the deposit has been made (changes to your booking within 4 weeks of departure will be treated as a cancellation of the original booking) OR VIP withdraws your application due to non-compliance with any of the terms and conditions contained in this agreement, then charges and conditions are as follows:
Volunteer Investment Programmes
Any refund issued, regardless of the circumstances under which is it being issued, will incur a 5% transaction fee.
If your booking is changed or cancelled
Our Liability, Conditions of Carriage and Limitations
By completing the online registration process and ticking your acceptance of this contract you agree to be bound by its terms.