Volunteer in Livingstone, Victoria Falls, Zambia

Livingstone Overview

A short history of Livingstone

Volunteer in Zambia, Africa

For centuries the area around present day Livingstone has been populated mainly by people of the Lozi and Tonga cultures. In 1885 the Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone became the first European to be shown the Zambezi in this area and to see the locally named Mosi O Tunya waterfalls. By 1905 the Colonial British had constructed the town that was to bear his name and had renamed the river's magnificent falls after Queen Victoria. The colonial era ended in 1964 when Zambia declared independence from the British and Livingstone became the capital of the new Republic's Southern Province. English, Lozi and Tonga are the languages spoken most widely in the area and whilst it is normal for most Zambians to speak English plus one local language, many will speak a number of local languages fluently. In remote villages however, little English if any is spoken.

Life in Livingstone, Zambia

Livingstone today thrives largely on tourism which is based around the twin attractions of the Victoria Falls and safari trips to nearby national parks. The town is also benefiting from trade linked to increasing traffic entering the country from nearby Botswana and Namibia. Tourism and trade will continue to be the town's main economic drivers and literacy and a good command of English are a big necessity for the children of today if they are to take advantage of these employment opportunities in the future.




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Join us in Livingstone and you'll meet Book Bus Charlie who is stocked with hundreds of fabulous books which he takes to schools in and around town. He has become a popular everyday feature of life in the area and enjoys celebrity status wherever he goes. Book Bus Charlie was honoured to receive HRH Princess Anne who came aboard during her visit to Livingstone in 2012.

Project features

Project highlights in Zambia, Africa

Supporting teachers at schools in and around Livingstone
Mentoring children to boost their reading and writing skills
Story telling, games, craft activities and songs to bring stories
and characters alive
Sharing the joy of reading with the local community at the
Book Bus Reading Room

Project location in Livingstone, Zambia

Location: Livingstone near Victoria Falls or Mosi-oa-tunya, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World
Age: 18-75 (under 18’s by special arrangement)
Accommodation: Comfortable camping
Food: Group self-catering
Support: Pre-departure induction, in-country co-ordinator, 24 hour emergency support
Project dates for 2018: 13th August to 7th September
When to apply: 8 volunteer placements available. Apply as early as possible to ensure you secure your placement.
Want to know more? Contact us 0208 099 9280 or email us at info@thebookbus.org



The Book Bus in Livingstone

Livingstone holds a very special place in the heart of the Book Bus, as it was our very first project in 2007. Since then we have been providing literacy support to teachers and children in the area. While primary education is theoretically free to all, schooling within the Zambian state's system of ‘Basic Schools’ still comes at a cost as uniforms, books and sometimes extra fees have to be paid for. In areas where few can afford these fees local volunteers have set up Community Schools to provide at least a rudimentary education for the children. Resources however are extremely limited in both Basic Schools and Community Schools and the Book Bus is working with both types of schools to provide stocked libraries and a volunteer-led mentoring scheme to help children progress with reading skills.

Bookbus Livingstone needs you

Why we need you

Learning to read and having books around is taken for granted in the UK and Europe but in Zambia this is not always true. Having an education and being able to read is seen by many as a way out of poverty and an essential step into a more fulfilling life. Children are keen to learn but often find school of little value to them if there are few resources. This is where our Book Bus volunteers can help. We spend one day a week at each of our partner schools following a literacy programme that introduces children to the joy of reading. The enthusiasm of the children to be part of a reading class and to join in with the Book Bus is a delight for our volunteers. We work closely with the teachers to help stimulate children’s imaginations and show them that reading can be fun and one of life’s real pleasures.

What will you be doing in Livingstone

What will you be doing?

Everyday is different and sometimes challenging, but always enjoyable for our volunteers.

During term-time the Book Bus visits five primary and pre-schools. Book Bus volunteers act as reading mentors to these children. School facilities are basic and there are often too few teachers for the number of children which results in teacher/pupil rations of 60 children to one teacher. The Book Bus helps alleviate this problem with our volunteer reading mentoring project.

Sharing the magic of books

Sharing the love of books in Livingstone

This is an opportunity for Book Bus volunteers to use your skills and imagination to develop fun and engaging activities around a book. As well as encouraging the children to read, you may find yourself creating word searches around book themes, designing book covers, making facemasks from characters from books or recreating stories using puppets.

You’ll have lots of books, arts and crafts materials, lesson ideas and resources left by previous volunteers. Your Book Bus coordinator will also be on hand to support and advise you.

There are 73 different languages in Zambia. Most children will speak one of six main languages and English is taught from Grade 4. Assisting the children to improve their English through reading is a great help for the children as it’s difficult to get a professional job in Zambia without a good knowledge of English.

Typical day

The Book Bus works with five primary and pre-schools all within an hours drive from our base.

The day starts early around 6.30am with breakfast and then we jump aboard Book Bus Charlie to get us to school by 8.30am. We work through till 12.30 during which you will take two to three reading sessions or you may be asked to help with the school reading programme. Volunteers can either work on their own or in pairs – whatever you feel comfortable with.

We return to our base for a simple lunch which is usually around 1.30pm. The afternoons are spent preparing lessons for the next day, shopping for food at the local market or taking one afternoon off for a little bit of rest and relaxation. Your project co-ordinator will work out a schedule with you including a timetable for food preparation and cooking. As a volunteer everyone is expected to do his or her fair share of food preparation and cooking.

Dinner is usually at 7pm when volunteers can share their amazing experiences of the day.


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Life in Livingstone and surrounding area

Accommodaion in Livingstone

Camping is a comfortable and affordable option for our volunteers in Livingstone. We’re based at the beautiful Victoria Falls Waterfront Lodge and Camp area. Our walk-in tents, offered on a shared basis, have a large entrance porch and a bedroom area furnished with twin beds and a table.

The camp showers, toilets and kitchen are all close at hand. The kitchen is fully equipped for group dining and everyone is expected to take turns in cooking and washing up. This communal lifestyle is an important element of life in the camp and your Book Bus project coordinator manages the camp ensuring that all are comfortable, eating well and getting the most out of their African living experience. The camp has a pool and a bar for residents.

Our base is close to Livingstone's town centre where there is a craft market, coffee shop
and modern supermarket.

Accommodaion in Livingstone


Our project runs from July to August each year. As this is the dry cool season in Zambia the weather is very pleasant, neither too hot nor too cold. Daytime maximum temperatures in July and August 25C with night time temperatures dipping to 8C so best to bring extra warm clothes for night time.

Surrounding attractions

Livingstone is host to many of Zambia’s greatest tourist attractions. Victoria Falls, known locally as Mosi Oa Tunya, is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, is right on our
doorstep being

Visit Victoria Falls in Livingstone
just 20 minutes drive from our Book Bus camp. You can walk right up to the
edge of the Falls for one of the most awe-inspiring views you’ll ever see. You can take microlight or helicopter flights to see the grandeur of the Falls and the great Zambezi River which borders Zambia and Zimbabwe. A more leisurely river experience is the Zambezi Sunset Cruise which takes you upstream of the Falls to views the spectacular Zambezi River and abundance of hippos, crocodiles and the superb birdlife.
For a more action-packed experience try a days water rafting on the Zambezi’s famous water rapids.

Elephants, giraffes and monkeys are commonly seen from the main road linking Livingstone to the Falls. For a three-day treat you could try a vehicle safari trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana as it guarantees amazing wildlife viewing.


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Frequently Asked Questions

Volunteering in Livingstone FAQs
We do our best to provide as much information as possible about the Book Bus volunteering scheme but if you've still got questions, we will have the answers. Check out our FAQs below and if you still can't find the answer please contact us for further help.

Volunteering with the Book Bus

What types of people volunteer in Zambia?

Our volunteers come from all walks of life and are aged from 18 years up to early 70’s. What you need is a love of books, experience of working with children (that might be your own!), an open mind, a team spirit and a willingness to help make a difference. We welcome volunteers from around the world to add to the rich mix of knowledge and skills we can share with local communities. From teachers, librarians, social workers, bankers, office workers, and accountants to linguists, charity workers, carpenters, artists, musicians, students and authors: they have all been welcomed on board the Book Bus.

How long can I volunteer for?

You are welcome to volunteer from 2 weeks up to 4 weeks.

What are working conditions like on the project?

Life in Zambia can be challenging at times due to the heat and dust. Although living conditions at our Campsite are basic, it is comfortable. We are looking for volunteers who enjoy working with children. It helps if you enjoy art or have a little musical ability, or are prepared to have a go, anything that helps to broaden access to the story. The Book Bus tends to attract volunteers with a positive outlook, who enjoy being part of a team and who share a real desire to make a difference.

Why do I need to have a DBS check?

As the Book Bus works with children it's important all volunteers have a DBS check. You will need to send us a copy of this before you depart for your volunteering experience. Please note it can take up to 3 weeks so please ensure you apply on time. If you already have a DBS please scan the certificate and email to us. We must be able to clearly see your certificate number and date of issue.

What is the Book Bus Foundation's child protection policy?

We always work with children within a school or community group setting. We acknowledge our responsibilities towards children and ensure we work within the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Our guidelines aim to protect both children and our volunteers. Find out more about our child protection policy. We believe that volunteers should be provided with valuable and quality volunteering opportunities. Our projects are built from grassroots level and we ensure that projects are wanted and needed by the local community. We work in partnership with the local community, education authority and teachers to ensure our work supports and enables the local community. At every site the Book Bus works towards ensuring that all of our projects are sustainable.

Camp life in Livingstone

What is it like living at the Book Bus Camp?

Our campsite in Livingstone is basic but comfortably equipped. The camp is quiet with plenty of space for lesson preparation and relaxing and the site has an outdoor pool. We sleep in walk-in tents each furnished with a bed and mattress. The nearby kitchen has produced many a fine meal over the years! There are male and female shower and toilet blocks with hot and cold running water. There is also a small bar on-site. Our project at Livingstone runs from May to September so there is little chance of rain.

Where does our food come from?

Your food will be organised by your Book Bus Coordinator and everyone will have the opportunity to help with the shopping and food preparation. It’s all about teamwork on the Book Bus! The nearest shops are within walking distance and include a bakery, supermarkets and a small market.

Do I need to bring a mosquito net?

No, our tents in Livingstone have full mosquito screens.

Can I plug in to recharge electronic equipment?

There are UK style 3-pin plug sockets at our camp in Livingstone.

Communications in Zambia

Is there internet access in Livingstone?

The nearest internet is in Livingstone about 15 minutes walk away.

Will my phone work in Zambia?

Most phones do work in Zambia although it’s worth checking with your provider. Local Sim cards are available for £2. Again check with you local provider that your phone is unlocked.

General Questions

Why pay to volunteer?

As a volunteer you become integrated into a structured framework that has been developed with local education authorities, teachers and the local community. This framework ensures that the Book Bus works within agreed common goals with the children’s needs at the very centre. Development work cannot be carried out without with an effective support system in place. Your fee pays for this support system to be put in place. This includes a project coordinator, airport transport, accommodation, meals, books and materials to ensure that the project can function effectively. Part of your fee also pays for the UK administration, security backup, insurances and marketing of the Book Bus to attract future funding. You will find further information on the question ‘Where does my volunteering fee go?

Where does my volunteer fee go?

We are open and transparent about our volunteering fee. We are a registered UK charity and therefore have no shareholders. Your project fee consists of two parts: The Joining Fee and the Project Fee.

The Joining Fee is £300 and is a non-refundable fee that covers the following costs associated with your volunteer placement:
Volunteer recruitment and induction costs, volunteer scheme administration costs, your project volunteer handbook and ongoing volunteer support from Book Bus project staff, communication costs with volunteers and Book Bus marketing costs.

The remaining amount is the Project Fee and pays for the following:
Volunteer welfare and project costs including airport pick-up, accommodation and food at our Livingstone base, project supervision, in-country 24/7 volunteer support and in-country administration costs, project costs including all transport, books and materials required by the project, staff salaries, insurances and associated costs.

Money Matters

How much spending money will I need?

This depends on how much you will be spending. Drinks at the local supermarket are typically £1 for a beer and 70p for soft drinks. A weekend trip to Chobe costs £350

How should I carry my personal funds?

There are reliable ATM machines in Livingstone which accept Visa cards. It’s worth having a standby reserve of cash in case the ATM system goes down or your card is refused.

Getting there: Flights and travel documents

When should I arrange my flights to Zambia?

Please do not make any flight arrangements until your volunteer placement has been confirmed in writing by the Book Bus. Once we have confirmed your placement we will advise you of the project start and finish dates so that you can book your flights accordingly. Many of our volunteers book their flights and other travel services through our Travel Partner VentureCo Worldwide Ltd.

Do I need Travel Insurance for the Project?

Yes, you must be covered by an approved Travel Insurance Policy throughout the duration of your Book Bus Project. Please contact our travel partners VentureCo Worldwide for Information about suitable insurance policies.

Will I need a visa for Zambia?

Most visitors to Zambia require a visa which you can purchase on arrival at the airport (Irish passport holders do not require a visa). A single entry visa costs $50 with a double entry costing $80. You can pay by credit or debit card or in US dollars (exact amount required)

Why do you recommend arrival on a Saturday?

Our project pickup and drop-off is only arranged for Saturdays. This helps keep our costs down as much as possible. If you do not arrive at the scheduled time you will need to make your own travel arrangements to the project area. Get in touch with the UK Book Bus administrative team who will be able to advise.

How far is it from the airport to the Book Bus camp in LIvingstone?

You’ll be met at the airport by a Book Bus representative and driven direct to the Book Bus base. The drive takes about 30 minutes.

Health Matters

Which immunisations are recommended for this project?

Please consult your doctor, health centre or travel clinic for the latest information about immunisations for your visit to Zambia.

More Information

When will I get my Volunteer handbook?

Once your application form has been accepted and your joining fee paid, we will send you a pdf of your volunteer handbook for you to download. Please note that in order to keep our administrative costs low we do not post handbooks.

This handbook contains almost everything you’ll need to know including more information on the Book Bus project, accommodation details, what to pack, what books and resources to bring with you and a quick language guide. We’re always on hand to give you more information so please do contact us via email, telephone or twitter.

What about responsible volunteering?

We believe that volunteers should be provided with valuable and quality volunteering opportunities. Our projects are built from the grassroots and we ensure that projects are wanted and needed by the local community. We work in partnership with the local education authority, teachers and local non-government organisation, CISER (Community Initiative for Self Reliance), to ensure our work supports and enables the local community.
The Book Bus is founded on the principles of Responsible Travel and we are working towards ensuring that all of our projects are sustainable.

I've got more questions, who can I talk to?

You’re welcome to give us on a call on +44 (0) 2080 999 280 or email

Can I speak to returned volunteers to find out more about the project?

Yes we can put you in touch with previous volunteers so you can find out what their experience was like. Get in contact with us and we’ll connect you!

How can I keep in touch?

You are welcome to email or telephone us +44 (0) 2080 999 280
Follow our news on Facebook /thebookbus
or on Twitter @thebookbus
Sign up for our newsletter to keep up-to-date with all our project news around Africa and South America.


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Why is there a Volunteer Fee and what does it cover?

Volunteering fee in Livingstone, Zambia
The international volunteer scheme is one of the key elements in the success of our Book Bus projects. The Volunteer Fee helps the Book Bus make the essential investment into infrastructure and organisation for our volunteers to be effective and for the children we support to be safe. This means that we have the staff and resources available to support our volunteers from the moment of initial enquiry through to returning home. It also means that the children and the communities we support can enjoy continued access to good books long after the volunteers have departed.

The Volunteer Fee for Livingstone in 2018

The Volunteer fee consists of a Joining Fee and a Project Fee.

The Joining Fee of £300 is a non-returnable fee that covers the following costs associated with your volunteer placement:

Volunteer recruitment and induction costs, Volunteer scheme administration costs, your project volunteer handbook and ongoing volunteer support from Book Bus project staff, communication costs with volunteers and Book Bus marketing costs.

The Joining fee is payable when your application has been accepted and the dates of your project placement confirmed. Please do not book any flights to your project site before we have confirmed your placement and you have been fully registered onto the Book Bus volunteer scheme.

The Project fee covers the following costs associated with you volunteer placement:

Volunteer welfare and project costs including airport pick-up, project supervision, in-country 24/7 volunteer support, in-country administrative costs, accommodation and food. Project costs includes all transport to and from schools, books, materials, local staff salaries, insurances and associated costs.

The Project Fee is payable 6 weeks before your placement start date.


Duration (weeks) 2 3 4 5 6
Joining Fee £300 £300 £300 £300 £300
Project Fee £794 £1053 £1329 £1524 £1720
Total Fee £1094 £1353 £1629 £1824 £2020


What’s included above?

Pre-volunteering support
In-country support
Airport pick-up and drop off (Saturdays from Livingstone)
Food & soft drinks (self-catering)
Project team leader support
Post volunteering support

Airport pick-ups: Please note we pick up at Livingstone Airport every Saturday. If you wish to arrive on an alternative day we can arrange for a pick-up but you will be charged an additional cost.

What’s not included?

Your own travel costs to Livingstone, Zambia
Travel insurance
Immunisation costs
Alcoholic drinks
Weekend/extra trips
Zambian visa costs

Additional Costs to Consider: (approximations)  
Travel Insurance £70
International Flights to Livingstone £990
Vaccinations £200
Zambia Visa US$50
Weekend safari to Chobe £350


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Read about our real life volunteer experiences from the Book Bus in Zambia.

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Volunteer in Livingstone, Victoria
Spending two weeks in Livingstone during the summer of 2014 was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is fair to say that before we travelled out, (I was a leader for a group of eight young women representing Girl guiding Cymru), I was apprehensive about the needs of the children we would meet and the cultural differences. We needn't have worried. We were given lots of information from the Book Bus before we left the UK and once we were in Zambia the Book Bus Coordinator Kelly, had a vast amount of local knowledge and experience that ensured we always knew what we were doing.

A visit by the Book Bus is the highlight of the children's day and it was clear to see as we drove far and wide around Livingstone the project was meeting a very clear need. School teachers encouraged its visits and whilst we were there new schools wanted to know how they could get involved. The Book Bus doesn't just provide books but also an outlet for creativity, fun and new experiences that the children of the villages may otherwise never have. The Book Bus also goes the extra mile, organising trips to Victoria Falls or the airport for the children to see life outside their village and allow them to enjoy themselves.

I was so moved by the gratitude of the children and their eagerness to learn; I don't think I'll ever forget their smiling faces running alongside the bus each morning. The whole experience has made me want to spend more time in Africa; I would recommend the experience to anyone. I met some fantastic likeminded people and would defy anyone who takes part in the project not to be enriched by the experience.

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- Victoria Ellis, Livingstone 2014


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Volunteer in Livingstone, Federico
I am from Italy and had the opportunity to volunteer with the Book Bus in Livingstone in 2012 and returned for 2013 and 2014.

My time on the Book Bus was a great experience as it allowed me to live in a local community, interact with local children and with teachers. I really enjoyed the company of other Book Bus volunteers, some of whom are now good friends of mine. Not being a teacher I had to face lots of challenges when at school, especially the first year that I volunteered but with the help of other volunteers, the information I was given by the Book Bus and the Book Bus Coordinator, Kelly the whole experience each year went very smoothly.

The Book Bus is so well known in Livingstone. It is welcomed by teachers, schools and the children. Whilst volunteering we are reminded that we are part of a community and with that comes responsibilities to the communities we live in. The Book Bus is a source of great joy and fun in and around Livingstone and the looks on the children’s' faces when the bus arrives at their school is priceless.

The experience has been challenging but thoroughly worthwhile as the Book Bus absolutely has an impact on the lives of children every day.

I have been volunteering on the Book Bus for three years now and they will always be very special years for me.

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- Federico Spinucci, Livingstone 2012, 2013, 2014



How to Volunteer for the Book Bus
project in Livingstone

Places are limited on our projects so we suggest you apply as soon as you are sure the
Book Bus is for you. It’s never to early to sign up but we ask that you do apply as least
four weeks before your intended start date to ensure your application goes smoothly.

Completing the form

Click the Apply now button at the top or bottom of this page. This will download your application form. It’s fairly self-explanatory and will take about ½ hour to complete. As well as asking for your details we also ask you about:

a. Your expectations for the Book Bus programme
b. What relevant skills/experience you have
c. What’s your motivation for joining the Book Bus

The more detailed you give us, the better, as we want to ensure that you can share your wonderful skills and experiences to the maximum whilst you are with us in Zambia. The more we know in advance the better we can ensure that your experience is a fulfilling and positive one.

Once your application is complete you will need to email it back to us and we will contact you within seven working days giving you more details about the project. You’ll find more details about the application process on the application form. The Book Bus offers opportunities for volunteers to make a real sustainable long-term impact. Discover, learn, share and make a difference on your Book Bus volunteering experience.

Paying your volunteering fee

We will be back in touch with you via email within seven working days to confirm the outcome of your application. After we have confirmed your place on the Book Bus project we will send you an email providing you with details of how to pay your £300 joining fee.

In order to secure your place you will need to pay your joining fee within 5 working days via a secure PayPal service or bank transfer. We will send you all the relevant details in your confirmation email.

Once we have your joining fee we’ll send you the Volunteers Handbook as a pdf which gives you all the details you require about your project. It’s an exciting time to really get planning for your Book Bus experience!

Getting ready

Many volunteers want to take out extra resources with them for the project including books, stationery, paper, glue, goggly eyes (essential) and stickers. We’ll put you in direct contact with your project co-ordinator as soon as your final payment is received so that we ensure you take out the resources that are most needed for your project.

Buying books for Livingstone

Buying books

We’re very grateful if volunteers want to buy books for our projects. To ensure we share books that are relevant for the children we have a list of the top 100 most wanted books. Get in touch and we can let you know what books are most needed in Livingstone.

Keep in touch

We want to ensure you have a rewarding and uplifting experience with the Book Bus. We’re available to answer any of your queries. You’re welcome to check our FAQ’s section above on the website but if you want that old-fashioned one to one conversation we’re happy to help. Give us a call on +44 (0) 2080 999 280 or email

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Donate to the Book bus

How Can I Donate?
The Book Bus is a charity funded entirely through voluntary donations. Our donors have helped over five thousand children improve their reading and writing skills since 2008. In 2013/14 we are raising funds for books, classroom resources and our magnificent Book Bus fleet, your contribution will help many more children benefit from these valuable resources. Donate to the Book Bus here.