What are the International Voluntary Projects?
International voluntary projects are an unparalleled place to do volunteer work. They bring together volunteers from different countries, cultures and social backgrounds to live and work on projects that benefit local communities. The projects are designed to support and encourage the goals of the local community that often continue after the end of the projects. With a team of volunteers working together to get a job done, you help organizations accomplish a specific need that is most needed, as well as supporting longer-term community goals and working for world peace.
How much does it cost to participate in a project?
To participate in an international voluntary project you have to pay the registration fee for each project you apply for. Information on the registration fee can be found here. You also need to cover travel expenses (including travel insurance) and any other expenses. Please check travel rates (via a travel agency) before applying for a long distance project. If you do not have the financial means to participate in a project, then please do not apply for it, but choose one that you can afford. If you are applying for projects in countries where you need a visa, you also need to cover the cost of a visa application.
Is that really all I have to pay?
For the vast majority of projects, yes. There are very few projects that require an extra fee to be paid on arrival. This amount varies from country to country US$ 30-200 and depends on the project. The need to pay extra money is required by the projects if additional money is needed to complete them. In essence, it helps to support the project and the host organization during your stay. This contribution is stated in the project instructions so you will know before applying if you will be asked for such an extra amount. If this is not mentioned in the project description, then you will not be asked (which usually happens). The contribution is paid in cash upon arrival on the project.
Is food and accommodation included in the project?
Yes. The project hosts will provide food and nutrition during your participation in the project. If you want to travel independently of the project before or after its end then you have to make your own arrangements and cover your personal expenses during your trip.
Where will I be staying?
Accommodation varies from school-rooms, camping site, a dormitory to a youth hostel or other accommodation centres. At least basic cleaning and cooking facilities will be provided. Since you live in a larger group than usual you will not have as much privacy as you are used to. The team will usually be sharing cooking and cleaning tasks, so bring your favorite recipes with you.
What languages should I speak?
Knowing other languages always helps to live with a multinational team and can enrich your experiences. Some projects require knowledge of specific languages (especially some in France, Morocco, Tunisia, Catalonia and the South or projects that work directly with people). The above will be mentioned in the project description. For the vast majority of projects the main language is English.
How do I travel to the project?
As a volunteer you are responsible for organizing and paying for your trip to and from the project. International volunteer projects do not regulate group travel and do not have access to travel discounts. We all know that liquid fuels are the main reason for global climate change. Traveling by plane consumes 10-30 times more liquid fuel than traveling by train or bus. SCI promotes to its members and volunteers the most affordable ways to travel, so think about it when making your travel arrangements.
When should I arrive?
Once you have been accepted in the project, you will be sent a leaflet detailing how to get to your project from the nearest major town or city. Some projects may require you to be at a specific meeting point and time where the hosts will pick you up and take you where you are staying. Other projects may require you to arrive at the place of residence on your own. The brochure will give you all the necessary information and contact phones. Most of the departure times tend to take place in the afternoon and you should arrive the day designated as the start of the project.
What should I bring?
Before you arrive you will receive a brochure giving you detailed project information including a list of what to bring. These are usually essential items such as sleeping bags (not necessarily), work clothes, gloves, work boots, games/toys and musical instruments. You may even be asked to bring information about similar projects from your own area to share and discuss with others. Most importantly, bring a lot of excitement and energy with you!
What kind of work is involved?
The job varies greatly from one project to another, e.g. you can do environmental preservation on beaches in Morocco, help in centres with disabled children, or work with elderly people in mountain villages in Japan. Projects always favor the community and must follow specific criteria, for example, projects that strengthen rather than replace community goals and take no responsibility for whether the work can be replaced by paid work. Of course, as volunteers you just need to work as hard as you can. However, you have to remember that many people have devoted valuable time and effort to getting the projects done, so you need to have a sense of responsibility for the job you have undertaken.
Is it all work?
No! Working hours vary from project to project, but in general you will work 30+ hours a week, with free afternoons and weekends. An important part of the project is how the team organizes social activities. After hours of daily work there will be time to play, to listen to music, to cook, to chat, to sing, to learn local expressions and to visit local destinations! Activities are generally decided by the community, so you can have a say.
Do I need any particular skills or qualifications?
For short-term projects you do not need any specific skills or qualifications but your personal experiences and skills are welcome to contribute to the work of the project (e.g. construction and rebuilding skills if the project involves path-building, social care skills if the project includes work with older people). The key skill you need is the ability to live and work in collaboration with a team of other volunteers from other countries, to be very enthusiastic, motivated and willing to gain experience on something new. If you are applying for a project for children or vulnerable adults you will need to complete a declaration and supply your police check and references along with your application. Some countries also ask for medical certificates (Russia). For projects in the Global South it is required that you have experience of a workcamps prior to this.
Are there any age restrictions?
International volunteer projects are open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 70. A set of projects have age limits for volunteers they can accept, due to the nature of their funding. This information is included in the project description so you will know before applying for a specific one. If the project description does not indicate an age restriction (and most do not) then it is open to all ages. Volunteers applying for projects in countries in the south (Africa, Asia, and South America) must be over 21 and will have experience in a short-term project in Europe or other similar experience. Volunteers 16-17 years old can be placed in some short-term projects in the UK, but they are not eligible in other projects. We need parental consent to recruit volunteers aged 16-17.
Who can apply?
International voluntary projects adopt an Equal Opportunities Policy. We welcome and respect any person who wishes to contribute to our activities regardless of gender, ethnic heritage, faith, ability, sexuality, age, nationality or socio-economic background. To apply for an international voluntary project in the UK you must be a British citizen or resident of the UK at the time the application is made.
What about visas?
Some countries require you to have a visa before your trip, e.g. Russia. In these cases, international voluntary projects will provide written invitations and supporting documents to obtain the visa. However, in all cases it is your responsibility to apply for and obtain your visa. International voluntary projects cannot do this for you and cannot have control over the authorities in other countries. You must confirm that you are applying for a visa at the appropriate time (at least one month before the project start date) and that your passport is valid.
Can I meet up with other volunteers before I go?
International voluntary projects organize preparation days in June to help you prepare for your experience on the project and to get to know other volunteers. Volunteers are expected to attend these events as part of your preparation and to receive practical advice and support in planning your trip. If you are going on a project in the Global South, it is obligatory to attend a preparation event before you go.
Τι καλύπτουν τα έξοδα συμμετοχής μου;
Your fee contributes towards the overall running costs of SCI and supports the activities of your branch in your country. This includes the costs involved in running international projects in your country, establishing the projects, publicity and recruitment, training and insuring volunteers, monitoring, evaluating and developing the programme. By registering with your branch, you are effectively supporting the whole network of like minded voluntary organizations working for peace and greater international understanding throughout the world. Your fee does not go towards food and accommodation on your project. These costs are covered by the local project and local fundraising.
Can I apply to do more than one project?
Yes. But you need to make sure that the project dates do not overlap and that you have sufficient time to get from one project to another. As group work requires a lot of energy, we recommend that you give yourself a week or so in between projects so you do not tire yourself out and have time to recuperate, relax and do things like sightseeing and washing your clothes!
What happens if I do not get a place on the project?
We will do everything we can to find a place for you on a project that is on the list of projects of your choice. In all cases, international voluntary projects will keep your financial contribution and will keep you updated on events and information.
What is it like to be part of an international group?
You will find that you will live and work with people of different ages, values and behaviors, abilities and experiences, past and cultures. Sensitivity and understanding to the rest of the group is very important and you have to be willing to be open to such experiences. Some projects have project leaders that help organize group activities. Some other projects prefer volunteers themselves to make decisions and solve problems that may arise. The success of any project depends to a large extent on the active and equal participation of all volunteers and the willingness of all to participate in group life.
Who will the other volunteers on the project be?
You won't know who the other volunteers are until you get to the project. Each project will include a group of volunteers from different countries so, for example, if one project includes 10 volunteers, the other volunteers can be anyone from France, Finland, Turkey, Spain, Romania, Japan, Sweden, Poland and you!
Can I leave a project early?
You should stay for the entire length of the project, reaching the day that is declared as the first day and leaving on the day given as the last day of the project. Those who leave late lose the important orientation and introductions at the beginning of a project as long as the members of a project get to know each other and the team spirit is built. Leaving a group early eliminates the feeling of solidarity within the group and leaves those remaining with a sense of having been left behind for something more important.
Can I get involved with my branch after the project ends?
Yes. SCI branches are member organisations, which rely very much on the involvement of volunteers and their membership base. Your branch will be able to inform you about events where you will get the chance to meet other volunteers and hear their stories and to get involved with SCI working groups such as the Africa Working Group, the Asia International Working Group, SAVA (the Balkan region), MIDI (the Mediterranean region and Middle East) and Abya Yala (Latin American group). We also have action groups on Peace education, Climate change or Youth with fewer opportunities. Whatever your interest is, in SCI there will always be a place for you to get involved!
Can my children come with me?
We welcome applications from volunteers who want to bring their children, but you need to be flexible enough about which project you want to do and be open to projects that are offered to you. You should check with the office to see if the project you have selected receives children before you choose. Please be aware that ages under 16 are not covered by SCI insurance.
Does my disability stop me from applying for a project?
No. You will need to give us information about the nature of your disability when you apply for a project. We will do our best to accommodate volunteers in projects of their choice, but specific projects may not be 'open' to specific disabilities. The conditions vary from project to project, so you need to be flexible enough in the project you want to participate in and the projects that are offered to you. Use the extra space on the application form to describe any specific requirements / needs you may have.
Can I apply to do a project with a friend?
It is possible to apply together, but most organizations prefer to have only one volunteer from each country in one project. This means that you may not have as many projects open as you would if you applied alone. Although we will do our best to find places together, we cannot guarantee it.
How do I apply for a project?
If you live in a country where an SCI member organizations exists, you can register and apply for an SCI workcamp through this online placement tool. You must apply through the SCI member organization in the country where you live at the time of applying, even if you live there only temporarily. If you live in a country where SCI does not have a member organization, you may apply through an SCI partner organization that is listed in the My branch box.
Am I insured while working on a project?
SCI provides insurance coverage, but is covered when you are actually working on the project. However, you must have appropriate personal insurance coverage before traveling abroad. This is a condition of participation in the project. This insurance must include any medical coverage that may occur as well as accident coverage. Ordinary holiday insurance is usually enough. If possible, this insurance should cover travel compensation costs if the project is terminated upon immediate notice.
Are there any projects which need longer term volunteers?
Yes. SCI's Long Term Volunteering (LTV) programme provides volunteers with the opportunity to stay abroad from 1 to 12 months. Long term volunteering exchanges are considered as an essential activity in SCI which is complimentary to short term voluntary projects or ¨workcamps¨. Long Term Volunteers can choose from a variety of projects and activities, from working with disabled people, disadvantaged youth or ethnic minorities, to working in an office or running daily activities in an eco-village. All Long Term Volunteers that work in SCI are provided with food and accommodation, some pocket money and basic SCI health insurance. Travel costs to the project are generally covered by the volunteer him/herself. Long Term Volunteer Projects are open to all people without any distinction of sex, race, religion or ideology. There is no upper age limit, but volunteers need to be at least 18 years or 20 when going to the Global South. You can find LTV projects in the Long Term Data Base.
Can I volunteer in Africa, Asia or South America?
Yes, but you need to be 20 years old and have previous volunteering experience (for example an SCI workcamp). It is also recommended that you have some understanding of the North-South relations and the situation in the specific country in the Global South that you want to go to. There are also language requirements: volunteers for West Africa must speak good French, and volunteers for Latin America should speak good Spanish or Portuguese. Volunteers should participate in the full preparation and orientation programme before they leave and on their return. For more information on volunteering in the North South Programme, contact your branch.