International volunteering for 18-25 year olds

About the programme

Why did the government create ICS?

ICS was launched by the UK Prime Minister in March 2011 to harness the potential, energy and commitment of young people. Its aims are to fight poverty by bringing about three tangible outcomes; project impact, volunteer personal development and active citizenship.

How do developing countries benefit?

ICS brings the skills, enthusiasm and energy of young volunteers to development projects who have actively asked for help. Local volunteers work alongside ICS volunteers, exchanging ideas and collaborating on finding effective solutions to real-life problems. This means that progress is focused and sustainable.

How do ICS volunteers benefit?

Volunteering offers a life-changing experience for young people and an opportunity to help improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people. Participants learn firsthand about the challenges of poverty and what can be done about it. They leave the programme as better-informed active citizens with new skills for life – and to offer to potential employers.

How do I write my application form?

The application form is your chance to shine. This is the only information that we receive so you must really sell yourself. If we are ever oversubscribed we may prioritise applicants who have shown a previous commitment to helping other people. Try to think of examples from school, college, hobbies or work. Convey why you want to go overseas. ICS is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so please take your time and give as thorough and detailed answers as you can.

Why is it only open to 18 to 25-year-olds?

The scheme is aimed at people who are at a formative stage in their lives. Volunteering at this age builds skills and attitudes that remain for life, both among UK volunteers and their partners overseas. ICS values the contribution of young volunteers, their ability to engage their peers, to act as a catalyst for community participation and to demonstrate in action that everyone has a role to play in development. ICS is also open to older volunteers aged 23-35 who have the necessary skills and experience to be Team Leaders.

Why can’t I volunteer more than once?

ICS aims to provide a life-enhancing opportunity to as many people as possible. If you have already volunteered, you are not eligible to apply again. However, returned ICS volunteers with leadership and motivational skills can apply for Team Leader roles using the standard application form.

When should I apply?

We recommend you apply as soon as you can, but you should apply at least three months before you wish to go overseas. This gives you enough time to fundraise, get all your necessary vaccinations, go to training and generally get ready for your overseas placement. If you are looking to go overseas during the summer, these placements are the most popular due to university and college holidays falling in this period. If this is the only time you can go, then get your application in as soon as possible.

Can I apply if I am not 18-25?

You can apply for ICS when you're 17, but we won't take your application forward until you turn 18. If you are 25, you can apply if you will still be 25 when you get on a plane to go overseas. You can also apply to be a Team Leader, you need to be 23-35 years old.

Can I go away if I have past or current health issues?

You will need to complete a health questionnaire and be medically cleared by an appointed medical professional before going away. Placements are generally in rural areas of developing countries where local facilities may be very basic. It is essential that you provide us with as much information as possible about any medical problems you have experienced in the past or which are current so that we can try to accommodate any medical requirements you may need, yet this may not always be possible.

What if my health changes after I have been medically cleared?

If your personal health circumstances change at any stage after completing your health questionnaire, you need to let us know as soon as possible. If you do not do this, your health and safety as a volunteer may be compromised, and your medical insurance cover may be invalidated.

Why were these partners chosen?

Lead partner agency VSO has a long and impressive history of working with young people in developing countries. Our other partners are also trusted experts. Between them, they offer a wide range of projects focused on reducing poverty and they are each well-equipped to train and support our volunteers, both here in the UK and when they reach their destination countries.

Is ICS anything to do with NCS?

Yes. National Citizen Service (NCS) is also a UK Government funded programme, open to young people aged 16-17. NCS graduates are guaranteed an invite to an assessment day, subject to eligibility and availability.

Is ICS continuing after 2016?

Yes! We're recruiting for placements through to March 2018.