How it works: Becoming an ICS volunteer

How it works: Becoming an ICS volunteer

Volunteer community action in Cambodia

The application process

Step 1: See if you're able to take part

If you can answer ‘yes’ to all the following, you are eligible for ICS:

  • Will you be aged between 18 and 25 (inclusive) on the date you hope to start your ICS programme?
  • Do you have a good grasp of English?
  • Are you a UK citizen, or an EEA citizen who has been resident in the UK for at least 12 months, or another nationality and have been granted permanent residence and have been resident in the UK for at least 12 months.
  • Are you living in the UK between now and going on placement?

Step 2: Explore your project

You’ll apply via the central ICS website, where you can state your preference to volunteer abroad with VSO ICS. Our key focus areas are health, livelihoods, education and participation. This means as an ICS volunteer you could work on anything from setting up youth clubs to conducting research and supporting social enterprises.

VSO currently sends ICS volunteers to Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, the Philippines, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. We’ll match you to the country which best suits your strengths and the community needs.

You also have the chance to express a preference about which ICS agency you would like to volunteer with. ICS tries to follow your preferences as closely as possible, but cannot always guarantee to meet them.

Step 3: Apply online

We want to know what motivates you, and this is your chance to tell us.

Projects run throughout the year and we recommend that you apply at least four months before you hope to go overseas. Apply now

We'll aim to let you know the outcome of your application within ten working days and if you haven't got through, we'll tell you why.

Step 4: Come to a selection day

We’ll use your application form to decide whether to invite you to a VSO ICS selection day. The day lasts from about 8.30am until 4pm. We’ll cover your travel costs to come and meet us, learn more about the programme, and participate in some assessed activities. You can either book your own travel and we can reimburse you after you’ve attended or we can book your travel in advance. If you need accommodation the night before please contact us and we will book this for you.  

But don’t be scared! It’s quite informal, and very fun – and it’s an opportunity for you to get to know us.

As well as an individual interview, you’ll take part in a group discussion and work with a team to solve a practical problem. We want to understand your potential and discover whether you’re ready to live and work in another culture as a volunteer. We are looking for people who are:

  • Good at working in a team
  • Sensitive to the needs of others
  • Flexible and adaptable
  • Committed to learning
  • Able to show a positive and realistic commitment to taking part

After the selection day, we'll call or email you to let you know if you have been selected. If you haven't got through at this stage, we will provide feedback to help you improve your chances if you apply again, which you can do after six months.

Complete your training and fundraising

Step 5 – Make the most of your training

Once you are selected we’ll match you to one of our country programmes, and then invite you to three days of training with the other UK volunteers.

You’ll find out more about the programme, the skills you’ll need for working in a new culture, the types of issues you’ll be tackling and the difference you could make. Again, we'll cover any reasonable travel and accommodation is provided.

Step 6 – Reach your fundraising target

All volunteers are expected to raise at least £800 before departure. Fundraising is a crucial part of the preparation process. It will help you to understand and talk about VSO ICS and what you might be doing abroad. You'll have plenty of time to achieve your fundraising target and the one-to-one support of an experienced fundraising officer.

Learn more about ICS support and costs

Complete your volunteer placement

We’ll sort out your flights, travel and medical insurance, food and accommodation. We’ll also support you in getting any necessary vaccinations and visas. When the time comes, you'll travel to your host country with fellow volunteers from the UK. Once you arrive you’ll meet the in-country volunteers who make up the other half of your team. You'll receive some in-country and in-community training to help you find your feet before starting your 10-12 week placement.

You'll work with ICS volunteers from the host country (called ‘counterparts’), tackling problems together and sharing valuable knowledge about how to get things done and how to make your achievements sustainable. You'll live in the heart of the community, usually staying with a local family. Whether you're staying in a rural or urban setting, we will have made sure that it's as safe as possible. However, you should expect the living conditions to be pretty basic.

Find out more about what to expect from your placement

Complete your Action at Home

You don’t stop being a VSO ICS volunteer when you get home. You will use your placement experience to make an impact in your own local community. We call this your Action at Home, the final phase of the ICS programme.

Action at Home is about:

  • raising the profile of development issues
  • inspiring others to do something
  • creating links between people in the UK and developing countries.

After completing your Action at Home, why not continue using the skills you gained abroad, and seize the opportunity to develop them even further? Be an active citizen and pick something you’re passionate about. You could publish an article, lobby your MP or run a photography exhibition to share your knowledge and ideas. You can even meet your local VSO supporter group and discover exciting ways to stay active with VSO.

As well as creating change in your community, these activities will look great on your CV. You can use examples from your VSO ICS experience to wow prospective employers. Public speaking, working cross-culturally and organising events are just some of your new skills that will help you stand out from the crowd.

Apply now and volunteer in 2016