International Volunteer Projects in Europe, North America, Australia & Japan
International Volunteer Projects are a unique form of volunteering, bringing together people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds to live and work together on short-term projects with local communities.
The projects are designed to assist and encourage local initiatives that will be continued when the volunteer project is completed. The projects help these groups in their long-term work for a more just and peaceful society. The projects also aim to break down barriers between people and to develop international understanding.
The Programme is made up of four elements; Preparation, Projects, Evaluation and Using your experience.
What kind of work is involved?
Cleaning gravestones at a concentration camp graveyard in Poland
The work varies greatly, examples are peace projects, nature conservation work, community projects with children, the elderly, and refugees, community arts projects and restoration of historical monuments. As a volunteer you only need to work as hard as you are able.
How do I find a project? Go to the SCI International Project Database
How do I apply for a project? Go to Application forms and procedures and follow the simple instructions.
The main themes which VSI and SCI work with are:
- Anti-Racism and work with Ethnic Minorities
- North - South Solidarity
- Disarmament and Peace
- Work with People with Disabilities
- Work with Children, Young People and the Elderly
- Ecological, Environmental and Agricultural
- Projects Focussing on Gender
- Social Inclusion
- Arts, Culture and Local History
- Ideology and Spirituality
Experience and qualifications
The most important qualities you need are enthusiasm, flexibility and willingness to experience something completely new. All volunteers must be 18 or over. Some projects require certain skills e.g. language; these will be stated in the project description. The success of the project depends largely on the willingness of individual volunteers to involve themselves in the group-life by 'mucking in', communicating and making friends with other volunteers and in the local community.
Costs - No fundraising is needed to join in the project
- Free food and accommodation is provided while on the individual projects.
- Volunteers have to cover travel to the country and internal travel to/from the projects.
- Volunteers are covered under a basic SCI Insurance policy.
- Volunteers have to cover visa fees (if any).
- Volunteers pay a programme fee of € 140 waged; €100 unwaged for projects in 1 country to VSI. More details
- Some partner organisations of VSI charge an extra fee which the volunteer will have to pay on arrival. This will be stated in the project description.
Volunteers and young people enjoying a summer project at an asylum seeker centre in Belgium, 2013
Volunteers have to organise and pay for their own travel arrangements to and from the project. We recommend you make your travel arrangements as soon as you receive the confirmation that you have been accepted on a project.
Food and accommodation
Food and accommodation are provided free of charge during the project. Usually the group will share the tasks of cooking and cleaning on a rota basis, so bring your favourite recipes with you!
Accommodation is usually basic, for example mattresses in a school hall, camping or dormitories in a youth hostel. There will be at least basic washing facilities. As you'll probably be living in a larger group than usual, don't expect too much privacy.
Leisure and free time
An important part of every project is how the group organises its social activities. After the day's work there will be plenty of time to visit local areas, talk, play music, sing, write postcards, swim, learn local phrases... A lot of activities are decided by the group and you have your say in this during the project.
Study element/ educational component
There will usually be time set aside to learn more about the issues relevant to the project e.g. on an environmental project, issues related to the effects of global warming may be discussed. If there is a study/ educational component to the project, volunteers are asked to inform themselves about the issues before going to the project and also to bring any relevant information etc. in order to participate fully in the discussions.
Speaking other languages always helps when travelling but the language used on most projects is English. Certain projects have specific language requirements which are specified in the camp descriptions.
Being part of an international group
Each project will have a mixture of participants from many countries. Volunteers will find themselves working and living with people who are of different nationalities, ages, attitudes, backgrounds and cultures. Sensitivity to other people in the group is very important. Native English speakers should be careful not to talk too fast so everybody can understand them. Volunteers on the projects should be tolerant and open towards new experiences. Another part of the group experience is a commitment to work out decisions and problems together. On many projects there will be one or two people who act as 'Leaders' or 'Co-ordinators', usually selected and trained by SCI branches or partner organisations.
Volunteer stories from the Europe, North America, Australia & Japan Programme
- "Wikipedia for Peace" Project: Anne Payne Story VSI and SCI Austria Project for Peace and Social Justice
- Cana Communities to Support Homeless People in Australia Poverty and social injustice, Refugees, immigrants and ethnic minorities
- Dublin Gives Way to Bikes The VSI initiative which sought to challenge the car dominated transport culture in Ireland
- Faskruosfjorour, Iceland Environment protection
- Fighting Discrimination and Racism in the Ukraine Antiracism, antifascism, remembrance, International solidarity
- Glebe House in Northern Ireland Peace and disarmament, Community life
- International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Felicity's story ‘To Remember’: a volunteer’s experience of the SCI-Poland workcamp at Chełmno, August 2015
- International Migrant Day - Ben Murray's story "...the best decision I ever made was to reject a natural prejudice in favour of seeing something with my own eyes"
- Letter from Iceland Environment protection
- Mixed age project Switzerland Community life, International solidarity
- My Time in VSI - Colm Dunne
- Sowing the Seeds 1965 to 1969 in VSI
- Study Visit to Russia Peace and disarmament, International solidarity
- Supporting local Red Cross and Maintaining a Farm - Two projects in Iceland International solidarity, Environment protection
- Teaching in Azerbaijan Children and youth
- The early days of VSI
- Toyzone: A project ahead of its time
- Wood and Straw Festival Project in Serbia Art, culture and local history