FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Service Civil International (SCI) is an organisation dedicated to promoting a culture of peace by organising international voluntary projects for people of all ages and backgrounds. The organisation has 45 members, including International Voluntary Service (IVS), and an ever growing number of partners all over the world. SCI and IVS offer a variety of volunteer opportunities to people, such as short, mid- and long term projects, but also the possibility to become active for a local branch or participate in a seminar or training.
IVS offer a variety of volunteering opportunities through the SCI network, such as short-term and long-term projects, as well as European Voluntary Service opportunities, non formal education opportunities (international seminars and training) and the opportunity to become a local volunteer. This website is the database of SCI short-term opportunities. Short term projects are SCI´s core activity, also called ´workcamps´. They are organised in cooperation with SCI branches and partner organisations, who in their turn cooperate with local communities. A workcamp, in short, is a unique form of volunteering, bringing together people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds to live and work together with local communities for a period of two to three weeks on average. Work during a workcamp will be non-profit and voluntary work will never be a replacement or alternative to paid professional work. Find more information about what we do on the IVS website.
This site lists up to 1200 "workcamps" (short-term volunteer projects) offered by SCI and its partners. Please use the search form to prepare a list of up to 6 camps to suit your interests and travel plans. Make sure you find out what is expected of you as a volunteer and what it will cost you.
If you live in Northern Ireland and want to volunteer abroad with SCI, please contact VSI.
If you are not currently a resident of Great Britain, you need to apply through one of the other SCI partners or members. See the My Branch panel on the right to check whether your branch allows on-line application. If it does, you can create an account on this site and then login to complete and submit the application forms. If you cannot apply on-line you can obtain an application form directly from your branch, or from a partner organisation, and apply by email.
If you live in a country where an SCI member organisation exists, you can register and apply for an SCI workcamp through this online placement tool. You must apply through the SCI member organisation 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 organisation, you may apply through an SCI partner organisation that is listed in the My branch box.
You must register online on this website in order to create your account. Once you have registered you can log in and complete an application form that will be submitted online to your SCI branch, IVS. IVS will ask you to pay membership fee and the placement registration fee before processing your application. Do you want to volunteer in projects marked as "North-South"? Please contact IVS for further information after registering on this website.
As part of your application, IVS will ask you to provide a valid Basic Disclosure Scotland certificate or any other equivalent in your possession.
The application process lasts usually around 4 weeks, so please allow enough time before departure.
If you encounter any problems in applying online or you want to know more about the application process, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are applying to become a volunteer in an SCI short-term project ("workcamp"), where your services are needed to support SCI in achieving its mission of building a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural understanding. If you are accepted for a "workcamp", we expect you to commit to the project and the specific aims of the project. It is important that you are aware of our branch's (IVS) cancellation policy.
The projects IVS offers through SCI are not holidays, and the volunteering opportunities are not constructed ad hoc only to give volunteers a "good experience". If you join an SCI project, you will experience and embrace a different culture, different ways of doing things and communicating with each other, and the true reality of the charity sector in the country of your choice. This may challenge your own perspectives, expectations, values and beliefs. At IVS we think that volunteering can ultimately change your life, and that is why we want you to be prepared for it!
SCI want the volunteers at a "workcamp" to compose a diverse group, with people of different nationalities, backgrounds, ages and genders. In case you apply for a "workcamp" where the host has already accepted a person with the same characteristics as you, they may not accept your application. Therefore we always advise you to choose up to 6 alternative "workcamps" for each application you make. We will send your application to the organisations that are accepting in the order of your preference until a place is found. This means that applying early is always the best.
Everyone who joins a workcamp needs to pay a membership fee to their SCI branch. For residents of the Great Britain, IVS membership fee is £15 and valid for a year. You also pay a registration fee to IVS for every workcamp you apply to do, which is £145 and covers your health insurance for the duration of your volunteering. It usually also covers accommodation and food on site, however some projects ask for an extra fee to cover those (extra fees are public and you can review them before submitting your application).
Please, pay IVS membership and project registration fees AFTER submitting your application. Once we receive your payment we will start processing your application.
Please note: you will pay for your own travel costs to and from the workcamp (and travel insurance) and your own pocket money. If you are applying for projects in countries for which you need a visa or vaccinations, then you will also have to cover the cost of the visa application and required vaccinations.
For the vast majority of projects, yes. There are some projects which ask you to pay an additional fee on arrival. This amount may vary from £35 to £350 approximately. These fees are asked by partner organisations to enable the project to take place, since many partner organisations in the Global South do not have any funding to cover organisational costs. This means the extra fee is basically a solidarity payment to support the project and the hosting organisation while you are there. The additional fees are always mentioned in the project descriptions, so you will be informed about it before applying. If nothing about an additional fee is mentioned in the project description, then you will not be asked for one. In most cases the fees are payable in cash when you arrive at the project. If you wish to fundraise to cover the extra fees, please get in touch with IVS for advice.
Yes. The project hosts will provide you with food and accommodation during the project but not during your travels to and from the project. Volunteers will have access to drinkable water.
Accommodation can range from mattresses in a school hall, to camping, to dormitories in a youth hostel or a residential centre. There will be at least basic sanitary and cooking facilities. Since you will be living with a team you will not have as much privacy as you are used to.
Speaking other languages always helps when living with an international group and it can enrich your experience, but it is not a requirement for most projects (except for English). There are exceptions to this, for example some projects in France, the ones in Morocco, Tunisia, Catalunya and Latin America and various "workcamps" in the Global South. Whenever there is a specific language requirement this is mentioned in the project description. For the vast majority of projects, the main language is English.
As a volunteer you need to organise and pay for your own travels to and from the project, however as a member of IVS you may be able to access discounted charity travel fares through an accredited third party.
SCI and IVS wants to encourage its volunteers to consider the negative impact on climate change caused by air travel and when possible to use more sustainable means of transport such as trains or buses.
Once you have confirmed your place on a project, you will receive travel instructions by email that will help you to prepare for your travels and IVS will send you pre-departure instructions including any travel assistance information. When the project start date approaches (at the latest usually one month before the "workcamp" start date) you will receive an infosheet with detailed instructions on how to get to your project from the nearest large town or city. Some projects may ask you to go to a ´meeting point´ at a particular time, from where you will be picked up by the project hosts and taken to the project site. In other cases you may need to make your own way to the "workcamp" location. The infosheet will always contain in-country emergency phone numbers. Most arrival times tend to be in the afternoon or early evening and you should arrive on the day indicated as the start date of the project.
Before you go you will receive an infosheet with detailed information about the project including a list of what to bring. Usually these are standard items such as a sleeping bag/mat (not always necessary), clothes to work in, games and so on. Equipment and materials for the work is provided by the hosts.The most important thing is to bring plenty of enthusiasm and energy!
The work varies greatly between the different "workcamps". You could work in environmental conservation on beaches in Morocco, organise activities for children with disabilities in Latvia, or work with elderly people in mountain villages in Japan. The projects are always of some tangible benefit to the community and must follow certain criteria. As a volunteer, you only need to work as hard as you are able to. However, you should remember that many people have contributed a great deal of time and effort to make the projects possible, so you should feel a sense of responsibility towards doing the job to the best of your abilities.
No! Working hours vary from project to project but generally you will work 6 hours per day, with evenings and weekends free. This may be not always the case, for example for very short projects (e.g. 1 week).
An important part of every project are the social activities with the group. After the day´s work, there will be time to play, listen to music, cook, discuss, sing, learn local phrases and visit local sites.
Activities are generally decided by the group, so you can have your say as well and in many circumstances the volunteer group is expected to be proactive in deciding and organising their activity.
Also, be aware that some "workcamps" are more focused on studying and researching specific topics, rather than carrying out manual work.
For short-term projects you do not need any specific skills or qualifications. However, there is one important skill that you need: the ability to adapt, and live and work cooperatively with a group of other international volunteers, with lots of enthusiasm and motivation as well as the willingness to experience something completely new.
IVS as your sending organisation will ask all volunteers to complete a criminal self-declaration form and provide a form of police check as part of the application. You may also be asked to complete a declaration and supply your police check and references by the host in the oversea country. Some countries also ask for medical certificates (e.g. Russia). For projects in the Global South it is required that you have international experience or experience of a "workcamp" prior to this.
SCI projects are open to everyone over 18 years of age. For projects in the Global South there is a minimum age requirement of 20 years.
Some projects in certain countries are open to volunteers over 16 years of age, however IVS does not accept applications from minors unless they are accompanied by a responsible adult/parent/guardian.
Children volunteering with their parent/family will be covered by SCI health insurance. Children not considered to be volunteering (e.g. because too young) will not be covered by SCI insurance so parents should arrange additional insurance for their children.
SCI insurance does not cover for illness people over 70 years of age so volunteers older than that must get their own insurance if they wish to be covered for illness. For accidents coverage there is no upper age limit.
A handful of projects have specific age restrictions due to funding requirements set by external agencies. This information is always included in the project description so you will know before you apply for a particular project.
Everyone resident in the Great Britain and over 18 can apply through IVS.
SCI and IVS have an Equal Opportunities Policy. We welcome and respect everyone who wants to join our activities whatever their gender, ethnic heritage, faith, ability, sexuality, age, nationality or socio-economic background.
You must apply through the SCI branch in your country of residence at the time of your application.
Some countries require that you have a visa in advance of your travel. In these situations the hosting organisation will provide invitation letters and supporting documentation to help you get your visa. However in all cases it is your responsibility to apply for and collect your visa. Your SCI branch, IVS, cannot do this for you and has no control over immigration policies in other countries. You will need to make sure that you apply for visas in due time (at least one month before your project start date) and to have a valid passport. If you wish, IVS can provide a visa application service through a third party, however this will incur additional cost payable to the service provider.
IVS organise info-sessions and pre-departure briefings throughout the year to help you prepare for your experience on the project. These sessions may include contact with other volunteer. Please contact IVS for more information. Volunteers are expected to attend any information and pre-departure events as preparation, and to receive practical advice and support in planning your volunteering.
If you are going on a project marked as North-South, it is obligatory to attend a preparation event before you apply.
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 organisations 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.
For more information on IVS fees please read our IVS FAQs
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!
If you want to take part in 2 projects in the same membership year, you will need to submit 2 separate applications (each one allowing up to 6 project choices), and pay IVS' project registration fee for each application you submit (of course, you won't have to pay the membership fee twice in the same year).
We will do everything we can to find you a place on a project that is on your list of project choices. If we can not find you a place, then you will be entitled to a refund in line with the refund policy of your branch.
You will find yourself living and working together with people of different ages, values and attitudes, skills and experience, background and cultures. Sensitivity to the others in the group is very important and you should be willing to be open towards these experiences. Most projects have project leaders who help to coordinate group activities. Other projects prefer volunteers to make decisions and resolve any problems that might arise collectively. The success of each project depends largely on the active participation and equal involvement of all the volunteers and everyone´s willingness to get involved in group life.
Please note that this SCI database shows the maximum number of available spaces for each project. Unfortunately this does not mean that all the spaces will be filled, and projects may have to run under subscribed.
You will not know who the other volunteers are until you arrive at the project. Every project will have a mixed group of volunteers from different countries, so for example if a project has 10 volunteers, the other volunteers could be from France, Finland, Ukraine, Turkey, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Japan and you!
You should preferably stay for the entire length of the project, arriving on the official starting day and leaving on the official end day. Late arrivals miss out on the crucial period of orientation and introductions at the beginning of a project. Leaving early erodes the feeling of solidarity in a group, and leaves those remaining with a sense of having been left behind for something more important.
For special circumstances requiring late arrival or early departure please contact IVS.
Yes please! SCI branches are member organisations, which rely very much on the involvement of volunteers and their membership base. Contact IVS for more information.
We welcome applications from volunteers wishing to bring their children, but you will need to be flexible about the project you are willing to do and be open to projects which may be offered to you, since not all "workcamps" can accept young children. It is best to check with the office before applying to be sure that the chosen project can accept children. There are special family camps in the database that you can search for. Please review the SCI insurance specifications for children.
No, it does not. You will need to tell us about the nature of your disability when applying for a project. We will make every effort to accommodate you on the project of your choice, however, certain projects may not be accessible for certain disabilities. Conditions vary from project to project and so you will need to be flexible and open to the projects which may be offered to you. Use the additional space on the application form to describe any particular requirements you may have.
It is possible to put in a joint application, but as a general rule only two volunteers from each country are accepted on a project, it means that you may not have as many projects open to you as if you applied for a place on your own. Although we will do our best to find places together, we cannot guarantee it.
You can become a member of your SCI branch at anytime. As a member of your branch, you will be able to access different activities organised by your branch including for example training at home or abroad, regular e-bulletins and emails about opportunities globally, updates and other information about activities and events. Only members of SCI branches or partner organisations who have paid their membership fee can attend SCI projects. Please contact IVS for more information about membership.
Yes, IVS as your sending organisation provides SCI health insurance cover to all volunteers going to SCI projects (short- and long-term) as part of your registration fee.
Please note the SCI insurance only covers illness and injury while you are actually working on the project, but does not cover high risk leisure activities or any material losses, such as your luggage. As a condition of participation you must therefore take out private insurance coverage before going abroad. Ordinary holiday insurance is usually enough.
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, and basic SCI health insurance. Some organisations may also provide some pocket money. Travel and any other costs related to the participation in the project are generally covered by the volunteer. 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, or 20 when going to the Global South. You can find LTV projects in the SCI Long-Term database and you can contact IVS for more information on the long-term application process.
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 may also be language requirements: for example, in some occasions it is required that volunteers for West Africa speak good French, or volunteers for Latin America speak good Spanish or Portuguese.
Volunteers should participate in any preparation and orientation activity offered by their SCI sending branch (IVS) before they leave and on their return. For more information on please contact IVS.
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- IVS does not send to workcamps volunteers under 18, if not accompanied by a parent/carer/teacher/group leader.
- If you are a current resident of Northern Ireland, contact www.vsi.ie
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