What is Erasmus+ Volunteering?
Erasmus+ Volunteering activities help young people travel abroad to participate in volunteering projects. The programme was developed to promote mobility, solidarity, tolerance, active citizenship and mutual understanding amongst the young people of Europe. Opportunities are available in both Erasmus+ Programme countries and Neighbouring Partner countries – meaning that you can volunteer outside of Europe too.
As a volunteer, you commit yourself to the work of an organisation abroad. Volunteering projects can involve many different kinds of activities in areas such as youth work, cultural activities, social care or environmental protection. You volunteer on an unpaid and full-time basis. Volunteering activities last a minimum of 2 weeks and a maximum of 12 months.
It is one the European Commission’s fully-funded volunteering programmes. This means that all essential costs related to your volunteering project are covered. You will be provided with accommodation, board and any local transport that you may need. You may also receive a small amount of ‘pocket money’. All volunteers are covered by insurance during their time abroad too.
You can apply for Erasmus+ Volunteering directly through the International Voluntary Service. Have a look at all our open Erasmus+ Volunteering projects on our website. In addition, you can search the European Youth Portal, the EU’s website for young people, which lists all the volunteering opportunities you can join. Browse the list, and if you see a project you’re interested in, and get in touch with us to learn more and find out how to apply.
To be eligible to join an Erasmus+ Volunteering project, you need to be aged between 18 and 30 years old (or 17 at the time of application), be a current resident in the United Kingdom (you can be any other Nationality), and have not participated in a long-term Erasmus+ Volunteering project before.
History of the Erasmus+ Volunteering Programmes
After the Second World War, the European Commission began trialling methods to promote mobility, solidarity, tolerance, active citizenship and mutual understanding amongst the young people of Europe.
The European Voluntary Service (EVS) was officially launched in 1996. Since then, over 100,000 individuals have volunteered with the service.
For the past 20 years, EVS has had a major impact on the lives of many thousands of young people in Europe, improving their language and intercultural competences, enabling them to realise their own ideas and enriching local communities with their positive impact.
From October 2018, all new volunteering projects funded by Erasmus+ will be called Erasmus+ Volunteering. In addition to this, European Solidarity Corps (ESC) projects will be introduced. ESC is the new European Union initiative which creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit communities and people around Europe. These projects will usually be located within the European Union Member States. You can register to join the European Solidarity Corps now on their website.
After 2020, all EVS and Erasmus+ Volunteering projects will be incorporated in the ESC, which will give young people many more volunteer and employment opportunities.
Implications of Brexit? Every year, about 300 British young residents take part in Erasmus+ Volunteering projects. At present, we can confirm that the programme is still fully open to residents of the UK.
Quick Erasmus+ Volunteering FAQ
What are the benefits?
- Develop new skills
- Develop or even learn a new language
- Make an impact to the local community
- Learn about different cultures
- Make new friends
- Gain confidence
- …and much more!
Watch the video below to learn about European Voluntary Service volunteer experiences in just 2 minutes!
What can I do?
As an Erasmus+ Volunteer, you can support a range of European organisations through your full-time, unpaid voluntary work for up to 1 year. During that time you will get to know another culture through working voluntarily in a non-profit organisation for the benefit of a local community.
You can choose a project in many different fields, ranging from protection of the environment, through arts and culture, activities with children, young people or the elderly, heritage, to sports and leisure. Your activities will normally take place in an organisation in which you will be assigned a concrete role and will have a mentor to help you develop your skills during the project. You will receive training which will help you get to know better the local culture and the country you live in. You will also receive training in the country’s language.
All travel costs, your insurance, food, accommodation and a small allowance to help you support your needs during the project will be covered by the EU.
This is just a formal description of what you can do. When you start your service you will find out that you ACTUALLY can do a lot more – you can learn in a way you have not done before – making friends while working, learning language while drinking in the bar, acquiring skills while having fun – the opportunities are endless.
Who is eligible to join?
Anyone aged between 18 (17 at the time of applying) and 30 years old legally resident in the country of their sending organisation can take part. If you are a currently living in the United Kingdom, International Voluntary Service can be your sending organisation (you can be any nationality).
How much does it cost?
Erasmus+ Volunteering is free! It is fully funded by the European Commission. Every volunteer receives support to cover travel and living costs, as well as a living allowance and travel insurance.
Where can I go?
As it is funded by the EU, you can be forgiven for thinking that the projects only operate within Europe. But in fact they can actually be available all over the world. The vast majority of projects, however, do run in Europe.
How long is the placement?
Projects last for a minimum of 2 weeks and can last up to a maximum of 12 months.
How do I apply?
Step 1: Find a sending organisation
If you currently live in the UK, IVS can be your sending organisation!
As your sending organisation, we will make sure that you fully understand the concept of volunteering and that you’re truly committed to a period of voluntary service before formally agreeing to take you on board. We are responsible for:
- Helping you find a suitable placement (some sending organisations will engage you in the work of finding a placement, as this is usually a very time-consuming activity).
- Negotiating the terms of your volunteering placement with the host organisation (agreeing start and end-dates, leave-entitlements, working hours, living-arrangements etc.).
- Applying for a European Commission grant to cover your costs.
- Helping you to prepare for your experience abroad (could include language training, your rights/responsibilities as a volunteer, country information, problem-solving techniques etc).
- Keeping in contact with you throughout the experience (email/telephone) and undertaking some kind of follow-up when you return. The sending organisation might want your help in promoting the programme, and you might want to learn more about other opportunities available to you (e.g. Future Capital – funding made available to ex-volunteers who wish to set up their own project).
IVS is an official Eurodesk Ambassador.
Step 2: Finding a host placement abroad
You can also search for organisations who are looking for volunteers. The European Youth Portal hosts a database of volunteering opportunities containing:
- Details of different projects.
- Descriptions of what kind of volunteers are needed.
- Contact details and application procedures.
- Application procedures vary between projects, so always check the “How To Apply” section of projects that interest you.
If you can’t find a suitable project, you can browse the list of organisations and get in touch with them to check if they are offering placements. Please bear in mind that some of those listed may not currently be looking for new volunteers.