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Volunteering Overseas

Thinking about volunteering overseas

If you want to combine volunteering with travelling overseas, there are many companies who organise such trips. However be aware that for many opportunities you will be expected to pay a (sometimes large) fee.

While international volunteering can be hugely rewarding it is more complex than volunteering at home. In addition to the volunteering, you will need to think about:

  • Your living arrangements
  • The local culture
  • Travel and transport

Issues to consider when volunteering overseas

Many advertised opportunities are with international organisations or with UK organisations who have partnered with local projects in various countries. Therefore we are unable to check out individual projects and roles. As we cannot conduct checks, we are unable to recommend specific opportunities.

Instead, we have devised questions for you to seriously consider when thinking about volunteering overseas. These will help you to make a more informed choice.   

Important information

There is a national standard (also known as a kitemark) which organisations and companies can work towards for the safe management of overseas ventures. This provides a specification for organising and managing visits, including gap year trips. It is worth asking whether a company has met this standard.

It is called BS8848:2007 'Specification for the provision of visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the United Kingdom'.

Please note this only looks at minimising risk, not at issues of ethics or the nature of the actual role.

International Citizen Service

The International Citizen Service (ICS) is a government-created scheme to offer 18-25 year olds the chance to work on development projects overseas. It is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and run by organisations from the charity sector.

As an ICS volunteer you will spend 10-12 weeks working directly alongside local volunteers on projects that have been specifically chosen to ensure that the energies and skills young people bring can make a direct impact on poorer communities. When your volunteering placement is finished, ICS will help you to use your experience to make a positive difference at home.

To be an ICS volunteer you do not need particular qualifications or skills. All you need is to be 18-25 years old and motivated to make a difference in the world. The ICS is open to applications to become a volunteer (18-25 years old) as well as for a small number of voluntary team leader roles (aged 23 and over). 

ICS is led by VSO, in partnership with Restless Development, International Service, Raleigh International, Tearfund and Progressio.

  • Date published: 13th April 2013
  • Written by: Tom Green