Criminology & Law Volunteer Programme in South Africa
Interested in an in-depth Criminology internship in South Africa centred on Law and Human Rights?

Our volunteering programme offers unparalleled insights into Human Rights Law practice working at a leading NGO human rights organisation and a deep dive into the intricacies of the South African Criminal Justice System shadowing lawyers who are fighting for change.

You’ll also explore Penal Reform strategies firsthand. Beyond learning, play a pivotal role in social justice initiatives and offer legal assistance to marginalised communities in need.

Get in touch now to discuss how you can help.

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Law placement with independent, non-profit, NGO human rights organisation
Strategic litigation, advocacy, law reform and human rights education
Penal reform programme focused on research, advocacy and litigation
Community outreach and mobilisation work
Gain practical experience and boost your CV
Tailor-made programmes based on your specialisation and interest


Location: Johannesburg, South Africa
Price: From £400
Dates: 1st week of every month (flexible start dates offered)
Duration: 8 weeks +
Age: 18+
Accommodation, meals, airport pickup/dropoff, in-country transport, professional programme development, 24/7 support


This programme is ideal for…

This is a unique work-experience opportunity for current university students, graduates and masters students studying Criminology or Law related subjects. Volunteers should have a basic knowledge of legal theory and a strong passion for criminal justice, social justice, human rights, legal reform and using the law as a positive instrument for change.

Programme Overview

Legal Training in Human Rights Law

On the Law and Human Rights programme your daily placement will be based at our partner NGO foundation that is dedicated to helping vulnerable, marginalised, and indigent people and communities. The organisation employs a holistic approach to social justice and human rights enforcement that includes strategic impact litigation, legal advice and representation, advocacy and law reform. You will be trained by and work with specialist legal practitioners and activists to help provide casework and legal services through law clinics and advice offices. You will also contribute to other key areas of work:

  • Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme/Statelessness: Walk-in law clinics provide legal advice and representation, to ensure due process for asylum seekers and refugees.
  • Strategic Litigation Programme: Litigates strategic and public interest cases that have the potential to improve the law and make a difference in peoples’ lives
  • Work on research and advocacy programmes focusing on penal reform, land, housing, environment and gender equality.
Criminology Research and Reform

The criminology focus is specific to a number of key areas and projects the foundation works on. In particular you will learn about South Africa’s prison and penal system and the need for protection and fulfillment of human rights within the criminal justice system. Volunteers will also develop an understanding of how litigation as a tool works towards ensuring South Africa’s judicial system plays its part in upholding International Criminal Law.

  • Work with the International criminal law unit dealing with the criminal responsibility of individuals for the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
  • Work on the Penal reform programme promoting and protecting inmates rights, facilitating access to justice, strengthening regulations and independent investigation, policy review and changes to the law.
Community Outreach With Human Rights Organisation

Community-based outreach, advocacy, and rights education are a core component of the programme and the legal interventions, in order to amplify the impact of critical legal outcomes. The organisation acts and responds to the changing social justice issues of the day. You will be a part of community outreach projects and initiatives including:

  • Coalition-building. Building partnerships with other civil society actors, but also with communities you will support with legal representation and advice.
  • Identify trends and strategic issues arising across the country and across vulnerable groups that may benefit from litigation.

Start your adventure

Easliy apply with no commitment by filling out our application for to see availability and eligibility.
No upfront fees and it just takes a few minutes.

About the Programme

The Criminology and Law volunteer placement is designed to give practical on-the-ground work experience. Volunteers will work with a leading human rights charity whilst learning from legal professionals operating in different fields of human rights law. As well as skills based learning, volunteers will give back to the community by helping with casework to support asylum seekers and refugees without access to representation and impacted by state violence. You will also work on important research projects supporting reform with a focus on the criminal justice system and penal reform. Volunteers will also join community outreach projects to strengthen community partnerships and raise awareness about human rights, social justice and accessing legal aid.

Daily Schedule: You will be volunteering from Monday to Friday  and will report to the head office each morning. Although times and duties may vary day to day, you should expect to be at your placement between 8am and 4pm. In the evenings you will have the option to join in with the child development programme and community activities at the village you will be staying in. Below is an example itinerary for your placement in South Africa – please note this is just a guide.

Monday: Weekly Briefing/ Casework/ Administration
Tuesday: Casework/ Legal Training
Wednesday: Community Outreach
Thursday: Casework/ Legal Training
Friday: Research / Reform Projects

Weekends and free time: The weekends are free time off from volunteering. This is a great opportunity to explore South Africa and plan weekend trips and activities. You can read our Volunteer Travel Guide to South Africa for great tips on places to visit and things to do. If you just want to relax, enjoy the nearby landmarks and explore Johannesburg you are welcome to stay at the volunteer accommodation over the weekend, but most volunteers will plan to go on trips together on the weekends. Our local team can help you organise weekend activities.

The daily placement is based at the head offices in Johannesburg. You will work under the supervision of the programme coordinator and will receive training in casework, litigation, human rights, refugee and migrant rights, and the research/ reform projects. There are 2 departments that you will work with in the organisation, depending on how long you join the programme you will get an opportunity to work with and learn from each department.

The primary department you will work with is the walk-in law clinic. The clinic provides legal advice and representation to ensure due process for asylum seekers and refugees. The programme also builds networks and is part of the social justice movement to combat xenophobia through engagement and education at community level. Here you will receive training in casework support and litigation, and you will learn about issues like statelessness, detention and deportation.

The strategic litigation department looks at public interest litigation, policy advocacy, law reform, community support and education. There are a number of programme areas that focus on promoting and protecting rights of the marginalised in post-apartheid South Africa. These include refugee & migrant rights, penal reform, land & housing, environmental rights and gender equality. On the Criminology programme you will have the opportunity to focus on the penal and criminal justice reform projects and join the team to engage and learn about the challenges, research areas and policy reforms areas they are working on.

South Africa faces many challenges in particular state violence, gender based violence, human rights abuses, poverty and crime prevention. Criminology and Law volunteers can make an impact by supporting the largest legal service provider to refugees and asylum seekers in South Africa, learning from legal professionals and supporting their daily work to provide legal advice and representation. Volunteers will learn about casework and methods of litigation as well as the wider challenges and the need for reform of the criminal justice and penal system, gender equality and environmental rights. You will also contribute to vital education and awareness projects in the community. Developing an understanding of some of the social, economic, political and legal challenges for human rights today in South Africa, volunteers can make a meaningful difference.

You should expect to be learning and working with local professionals to impact change but should remain aware that there are cultural differences in the way things are approached. Volunteer duties will vary during your time on the programme depending on the daily needs of the organisation, your levels of experience, the department you are working in and how long your programme is. Initially your tasks will be observational and administrative. The longer you are on the programme and begin to understand the workload, duties and routine the more hands-on and practical your role will be.

As we’re a charity-organisation we invest the donations from your fees directly back into the projects that we send volunteers too. This means:

    • We are a charity organisation and therefore not-for-profit
    • Seeing the direct impact of your time and work
    • Gaining practical clinical experience
    • Working with multiple organizational/institutional partners
    • Learning from legal professional and activists
    • Engaging in community development projects
    • Developing your professional and career skills
    • Contributing to cross-cultural exchange of ideas and practices
    • Immersing yourself in local culture and life
    • Exploring South Africa’s magnificents history, landmarks, nature and cities
    • Experiencing travel, work, friendship and personal growth
    • Connecting with other volunteers and meeting new people
    • Tailored programmes to meet your needs and interests


To join the Criminology & Law placement in South Africa, volunteers should be studying either one or both of these subjects, or studying similar related fields (Sociology, Politics etc.). Graduates or professional lawyers with field experience are also eligible to take part.

Volunteers need to be 18 years or over to participate in this placement. Ideally, volunteers will have a foundational knowledge of law theory and an understanding of criminology issues, as well as a passion for working in these fields and supporting marginalised communities. Importantly, all applicants should show a strong commitment to learning, a desire to develop and grow, the ability to work in a team, and have a positive approach to helping people.

Volunteers from all over the world are welcome to join this programme.

All our projects are founded, managed and developed by locals. We provide essential funding to support community programs, development projects, running costs, local salaries and sustainability. We work with partner organisations that are specialists in the areas they operate. Our partner organisations are selected because of the important work they are doing and they are run by impressive humanitarians and professionals in their fields.

On the Criminology and Law programme your daily placement will be based at our partner NGO foundation that is dedicated to helping vulnerable, marginalised, and indigent people and communities. The foundation is staffed by specialist legal practitioners and activists and they use the law as a positive instrument for change for their clients, and in the public interest. The organisation employs a holistic approach to social justice and human rights enforcement that includes strategic work in six areas of human rights law: strategic litigation, advocacy, law reform, human rights education, and community mobilisation and support.

The team is committed to a cultural exchange of ideas and approaches, sharing professional insight and experience with volunteers, training you in litigation and case work, engaging volunteers in policy change research and working on community outreach projects together.

In the evenings volunteers can also help at the community village where you will be staying. Our foundation in South Africa provides holistic care for mothers and children suffering from HIV/AIDS. The foundation’s goal is to give these mothers and children the best opportunities for the future by providing an integrated programme of housing, education, healthcare, nutrition, sports and arts, as well as a focus on counseling, mentoring and well-being.

Vocational Impact operates under UK registered charity, Arms Around the Child. Our core mission is to offer ethical volunteer abroad programmes that provide international skills exchange, career development, work experience, practical support to international NGOs, and to donate directly towards projects that volunteers work with.

Once home of Nelson Mandela, surrounded by rich culture and world famous safari parks, Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city. For a first-time journey to South Africa, Johannesburg offers visitors a great insight into the country’s complex history, cultural landscape and fast-paced modern development. Experience Johannesburg from a unique perspective with Vocational Impact.

Joburg, the city of gold, is a vibrant urban city. The history of apartheid and uneven development means there is still extreme inequality and poverty. Major problems include poor health care, sexual abuse, gender-based violence and lack of access to services and care.

Volunteers can really make an impact with this Urban city placement. By helping local initiatives and organizations in Johannesburg you can make a big difference reaching poorer areas of the city and more rural communities in need of support. Urban life gives you the chance to explore the sites and landmarks Johannesburg has to offer and learn about the history and diverse cultures of South Africa.

You can experience Joburg like a local whilst having easy access to the rich experiences South Africa has to offer. Visit historic Soweto, and learn about the complex history of the country at the local museums. Take weekend and day trips to safari parks, and see the big five (lions, elephants, leopards, rhinos and buffalos) for yourself. Go on a trip to Cape Town and climb Table Mountain or hang out at the beaches. Adventure awaits in this diverse, beautiful and incredible country.

During your placement you will stay within our project ‘village’ located just outside the city centre which is made up of 20 small cottages, where the residents and staff reside. The accommodation is of very good quality by local standards and has running water, hot showers, and electricity, but electricity can be inconsistent because of load sharing. There is a caretaker/ security guard who attends to the gate of the village, the protection of the property and the safety of the residents and volunteers. You will have staff that will cook and clean for you and laundry services are provided once a week for volunteers in the Village laundromat.

The village has a large community garden, eating hall, sports area and library. The cottage has well sized bedrooms and living spaces, and although basic, the cottage is clean and comfortable. There are two bedrooms (which can be either mixed or single sex) with cupboards for clothing and personal belongings.There are two bathrooms; one shower and 1 bath tub and you will have a shared living room. The cottage is equipped with a refrigerator, television & DVD player, microwave and toaster. Most household items such as cleaning materials, toiletries and the like are provided by the project.

There is no Wi-Fi at the village, however you can buy a local SIM card with data (your phone needs to be unlocked) to stay connected. The VI team in-country will help you purchase a local SIM Card.

You will be provided with three meals per day cooked on-site at the accommodation. This is your chance to experience local, authentic and traditional Ghanaian food. Carbs, meats and vegetables are all staple parts of the diet in Ghana. Here is an example of meals served:


You will be provided with three meals per day cooked on-site at the village. Carbs, meats and vegetables are all staple parts of the diet in South Africa. Meals can be made Vegetarian and Vegan dishes can be provided upon request. Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements.

We aim to begin programmes on the first Monday of each month. Once you register for the programme we work closely with all volunteers to map your dates together. Volunteers will need to arrive one or two days before orientation.

After you have registered for the programme you will need to book flights to arrive at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. Upon arrival in South Africa you will be met at the airport by one of our volunteer coordinators. We will provide you with a Vocational Impact T-shirt which makes identification easy. Our team will then transport you to the village to meet the project.

Orientation is hosted by our local team where you will receive an introduction to your programme. This will cover information about South Africa, the culture and customs, expectations, safety, staff members, organisational partners, and an overview of the placement itinerary.

Programme Fees:

1 week – £400
2 weeks – £790
3 weeks – £1170
4 weeks – £1540
5 weeks – £1900
6 weeks – £2250
8 weeks – £2950
10 weeks – £3550
12 weeks – £4000
What’s Included:

✔︎ Support in Country
✔︎ Transportation
✔︎ Accommodation
✔︎ Meals
✔︎ Weekly laundry and housekeeping
✔︎ Personal Development Training
✔︎ Professional Programme Support
✔︎ 24/7 In-country volunteer coordinator
✔︎ Registration at affiliate organizations

✔︎ 30 + hours of cross-cultural training
✔︎ 24/7 international support
✔︎ Weekends off for travel opportunities

After Care:

✔︎ Certificate of Learning (upon request)
✔︎ Employment opportunities. Join our team!
✔︎ Become a VI Ambassador
✔︎ Join the Vocational Impact alumni community
✔︎ We can provide you with Job references


Registration Fee:

In addition to the programme fee there is a £265 registration fee to secure your place on the programme. This registration fee includes:

Support Before you Travel

✔︎ Tailored placements to match your interests, career development goals or university subject
✔︎ Pre-departure support with paperwork
✔︎ Support with flights + insurance & visa advice
✔︎ Unlimited telephone and email support
✔︎ Fundraising guides
✔︎ Volunteer essential information guide
✔︎ Packing lists
✔︎ 100% financial protection + flexible booking and start dates

Where Does My Money Go:

Unlike other companies in the field, Vocational Impact is a charity organisation and operates under UK registered charity, Arms Around the Child. Your programme fees go towards providing you a safe, organised and structured volunteer placement and is reinvested directly back into our project partners in Africa and India.

We claim GiftAID on your donation fees (UK only), which means we can donate more directly towards the projects you will stay with. Vocational Impact are governed by the UK Charity Commission and we are a not-for-profit operation. We have been awarded ‘Ethical Travel Partner’ at many UK universities because of our unique model.

What’s Not Included:

✗ Flights
✗ Tourist Visa (if applicable)
✗ Travel Insurance
✗ Spending Money
✗ Vaccinations
✗ Police check/DBS


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