What is the relationship between IVS and SCI?
IVS is the British branch of SCI, Service Civil International. SCI is the network that offers many IVS projects around the world. To know more, please read the SCI FAQs.
What are IVS projects?
International voluntary projects are a unique form of doing voluntary work. They bring volunteers together from many different countries, cultures and backgrounds to live and work on projects of benefit to local communities. The projects are designed to support and encourage local initiatives that are often continued after the IVS project has ended. As an individual or within a group of volunteers working together, you’ll be helping organisations achieve a particular task that desperately needs doing, as well as supporting their longer term goals and working for a more just and peaceful world.
How long are IVS projects?
If you take part in short-term projects you will volunteer for 1-4 weeks (on average 2-3 weeks). If you would like to commit for longer, you can join a long-term project for up to 12 months.
What is a North-South Exchange project?
As part of SCI, IVS sends volunteers to partner organisations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East. North-South projects are mainly short-term projects and have stricter requirements. The same requirements apply also to long-term volunteering happening in the relevant areas.
- Volunteers should be 20 or over
- Volunteers should have already taken part in an SCI/IVS project, or have previous international volunteering experience
- Volunteers should preferably have language skills relevant to specific countries
- Volunteer should attend special info-sessions and preparation meetings with IVS prior to application and departure
- The projects are community based initiatives which focus as much on the intercultural aspect of having an international group working within a local community as on the practical work itself. They do not involve humanitarian or aid work.
Projects involve basic environmental, construction or renovation work. Some social, archaeological and arts-based projects are available, depending on the country. Projects will also involve a social aspect such as health promotion or youth awareness issues. The North-South programme promotes understanding and co-operation between different parts of the world and gives participants the opportunity to learn from living a completely different way of life.
The North-South programme is intended to develop an ongoing group of IVS members interested in North-South Global Issues and share their experiences with future volunteers and to raise awareness about development issues within the wider community.
How much does it cost to do a project?
You must be a paid up member of IVS at the time you go on an international project, and pay a registration fee to IVS for each project that you do.
The membership fee supports the general running of IVS, for example the costs involved in running international projects in Great Britain, establishing new projects, publicity and recruitment, monitoring, evaluating and developing our programmes.
The registration fee covers:
- the processing of your application
- access to discount flights
- advice on visa and vaccination matters
- pre-departure training sessions
- health insurance cover for the duration of your volunteering
- remote support while you are abroad
- and ultimately supports the SCI international network!
There are some projects that ask you to pay an additional fee on arrival. These extra fees are not IVS’ responsibility but are mentioned in the project descriptions, so you’ll know before applying whether an additional fee is being asked for by our partners. You can choose to fundraise this amounts before departure and IVS can provide advice on how to do that.
You need to cover your own travel costs (including travel insurance) and any in-country spending money. Please check average travel costs before applying for projects in far away destinations. If you can’t afford to get to a project, please choose one in a country to which travel is more affordable for you. If you’re applying for projects in countries for which you need visa and/or vaccinations, then you’ll also have to cover the cost of visa application and vaccinations.
Are there any age restrictions?
The majority of IVS projects are open to everyone between 18 and 99 years of age!
Who can apply?
IVS has 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.
To apply to overseas SCI projects through IVS you must be resident in the Great Britain at the time of your application. If you are a resident of Northern Ireland you should apply through VSI Ireland.
What about visas?
Some countries require that you have a visa in advance of your travel. In these situations IVS will liaise with the oversea partner to 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. IVS can’t do this for you and has no control over immigration policies in other countries. It may be necessary for you to travel to London to collect your visa from an embassy in person. You’ll need to make sure that you apply for visas in good time (at least one month before your project start date) and that your passport is valid. As an IVS volunteer you may have access to a visa application service through a third party, however this may incur extra costs.
Can I apply to do more than one project?
Yes. But you need to make sure that the two project dates don’t overlap and that you have sufficient time to get from one project to another. If you want to apply for two or more short-term projects, you will need to submit two different applications (each one with up to 6 choices), and you will have to pay the registration fee for each one, while you pay the membership fee only once per year.
You can submit multiple long-term applications for all the projects you are interested in, however each project may have different application requirements and normally each application should be tailored to the specific project.
What happens if I don’t get a place on a project?
We’ll do everything we can to try and find you a place on a project given on your list of projects choices. If we can’t find you a place, then you will be entitled to a refund in line with our cancellation policy. In all cases, IVS will retain your membership fee and you will continue to be a member for that year. This means that you can apply to volunteer again if you wish!
What’s it like to be part of an international group?
You’ll 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. Some projects have project leaders who help to co-ordinate 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 the SCI database of short-term opportunities shows the number of available spaces on a project. This unfortunately doesn’t mean that the project will manage to get all the help they need. This means that the project may be run under subscribed, and you may be the only international volunteer providing help to the cause. On some other occasions projects may be cancelled or changed last minute due to force majeur or other changes in circumstances. This could mean that you may be asked to transfer to another local project. We want you to be aware of these possibilities and prepared to the eventualities, which are part of the experience of a different country and culture.
Who will the other volunteers on the project be?
You won’t know who the other volunteers are until you arrive at the project – that’s part of the beauty of SCI projects! Each project will have a mixed group of volunteers from different countries so, for example, if a project has ten volunteers, the other volunteers could each be from France, Finland, Ukraine, Turkey, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Japan – and you!
Can I join or leave a project early?
You should stay for the entire length of the project, arriving on the day given as the start date and leaving on the date given as the last day of the project. Late arrivals may miss out on the crucial period of orientation and inductions at the beginning of a project as group members get to know each other and the group spirit builds. Leaving early also may mean that you deprive yourself of the full experience. However, we understand that in some occasions you may need to arrive or leave early. If that is reasonable (e.g. 1 day late/early) we will process your application as normal, but you should be aware of the risk that the host partner may reject your application on those basis.
Can I get involved with IVS after the project ends?
Yes please! IVS is a membership organisation and relies very much on the involvement of volunteers and our membership base. The best way to support us is to keep volunteering with us. We ask all our returning volunteers to complete an evaluation form about your experience, which will help us to improve the overall coordination of projects. You could also help promoting our activity by writing an article for our website. Whatever your interest, in IVS there will be a place for you to get involved!
Does my disability stop me from applying for a project?
No. You’ll need to tell us about the nature of your disability when applying to do a project. We’ll make every effort to accommodate volunteers on the project of their choice but certain projects may not be accessible for certain disabilities. Conditions do vary from project to project and so you’ll need to be flexible about the project you’re willing to do and be open to projects that may be offered to you. Use the additional space on the application form to describe any particular requirements you may have.
Does a criminal background stop me from applying for a project?
Not necessarily. We ask all volunteer applicants to fill in a criminal self-declaration form and provide a form of disclosure check (for example Basic Disclosure Scotland) as part of their application. Depending on the nature of the volunteer criminal background, not all projects may be suitable.
How do I become a member?
You can become a member of IVS at anytime. You can apply online or contact the IVS office for different ways of submitting your membership form.
Being an active member of IVS has a number of benefits:
- Opportunity to participate in a project again, either in the Great Britain or abroad.
- Opportunity to become involved as volunteer group leader in the Great Britain.
- Opportunity to be an IVS speaker at local events in your area (for example, university fairs, school events or rotary clubs). Not only does this help raise IVS’s profile and charity work, it builds our members’ confidence, presentation skills and employability.
- You can become a member of the Board of Directors.
- We will also keep you informed of events, people and projects within IVS and SCI.
If you’re not already a member when you apply for a project, you’ll need to pay your membership fee as part of your application. Membership runs for 12 months from the date of joining. Of course, you can become a member even if you don’t want to volunteer internationally, but you just want to support us!
Am I insured while working on the project?
For all volunteers on short-term and long-term voluntary projects IVS provides SCI health insurance cover (included in the registration fee). The insurance covers illness and injury during volunteering, but not any material losses, such as your luggage. As a condition of participation, you must therefore take out private travel insurance cover before going abroad. Your insurance should include full accident and medical cover for all eventualities. Ordinary holiday insurance is normally okay.
I am not a current UK resident. Can I volunteer with IVS?
It depends! If you are not currently based in the Great Britain, you cannot go overseas to an SCI project through IVS. You will instead need a sending organisation from your country of residence. You can however come to the UK to volunteer in one of our local projects. To do so you must apply through a sending organisation in your country of residence. You can find an SCI organisation in your country here.