Our Mission

The International Voluntary Service is on a mission to
foster Peace and understanding between peoples
and nations through the mutual exchange of volunteers.

Affordable

We’re a membership organisation. Our members vote on our prices, which haven’t increased since 1984.

Sustainable

Our projects are developed by our global network of partners and must have an identified local need.

Reputable

We’re recognised by the UN as the UK’s oldest International Volunteering Organisation.

About IVS

The International Voluntary Service is a peace organisation working for the sustainable development of local and global communities throughout the world. We are a leading charity which has existed since 1931, involving volunteers in international exchanges at home and abroad (international voluntary projects). IVS is the British branch of Service Civil International (SCI), a world-wide network of like-minded branches and partner organisations supporting the mutual exchange of volunteers to work on projects of direct benefit to local communities.

Aims

IVS aims are:

  • To foster peace and understanding between people and nations through voluntary work.
  • To provide volunteer help to international projects and organisations working for the benefit of the community.
  • To organise international projects and other activities in the UK.

Activities

We deliver a range of activities, the largest of which is coordinating a programme of international voluntary projects in Great Britain which are run in partnership with local voluntary organisations and community groups. A typical project consists of 6 to 15 volunteers from several countries who work and live together for 1 to 3 weeks. Projects are diverse, ranging from environmental conservation to supporting refugees, or from holiday play schemes for children to working with people with learning difficulties.

Additional activities include enabling disadvantaged young people to take part in international youth exchanges for 1 – 3 weeks, enabling homeless people to volunteer on an international volunteer project within the UK, co-ordinate bi-lateral exchanges for youth groups, deliver peace education to senior secondary school pupils, and to co-ordinate an employee volunteering scheme.

As the British branch of SCI, IVS also supports various aspects linked to international cooperation and conflict resolution such as exchanges to countries in the Global South and from time to time we run specialised international training. Through our international network, we also enable volunteers from Great Britain to take part in international projects abroad and become involved in peace initiatives through international volunteering.

Our History

The roots of IVS go back to just after the First World War when Service Civil International (SCI) was set up by Pierre Ceresole, a Swiss national, to further the aims of peace, justice and understanding in the world. The principal activity of SCI was, and still is, to run international work camps, where volunteers share skills, experience and understanding across frontiers. Ceresole believed that the international voluntary work camp was a socially useful method of overcoming, albeit on a small scale, the ignorance and suspicions that kept nations apart and led to conflicts like World War I.

During the 1960s, IVS, established an overseas long-term volunteer programme to assist developing countries by providing skilled personnel. IVS projects promoted positive social changes, which were directed at disadvantaged groups, and supported liberation movements. The aim was to provide channels for structuring local initiatives to encourage self-reliance, to reduce dependency and to increase employment opportunities for local people.

Volunteers contributed to almost every aspect of development from education and health to planning and construction. Their role was to act as a catalyst for change and to contribute skills which were not available locally. The presence of an IVS volunteer was an expression of practical solidarity between people on the basis of equality and cooperation. Volunteers promoted international understanding by enabling people of different cultures to work alongside one another in partnership.