International volunteering for 18-25 year olds

For parents

Why should my son or daughter volunteer with ICS?

We recently reached the milestone of 10,000 ICS volunteers, and a huge majority of them say that volunteering with ICS changed their lives for the better. Whether it’s gaining confidence and direction, learning new skills that can help find a job or simply having an amazing 10-12 weeks experiencing another culture while helping others, ICS can be life changing. Don’t just take our word for it though, you can read some volunteer stories to see what our volunteers had to say.

Who runs ICS?

ICS is funded by the UK government and run by some of the most experienced and respected development organisations in the UK. They work with specially chosen partner organisations around the world. ICS is run by professionals with years of experience in international development who are committed to delivering a high quality volunteering programme.

What will my son or daughter be doing overseas?

Activities vary from placement to placement, but volunteers could find themselves raising awareness about important issues, helping out in schools, organising events and building things with the community. One of the great aspects of ICS is that our volunteers are often actively involved in working with a community to identify needs, rather than just being told what to do.

Who will they volunteer with?

Teamwork is a big part of ICS, and volunteers work in small teams of volunteers from the UK and their placement country. These teams are headed by trained team leaders who often have past volunteering experience, so they know all about how it can feel to be away from home. We pair UK and in-country volunteers together, which helps them to communicate with the community and learn from each other. Many of our volunteers form strong friendships with their team members and still keep in touch with them long after returning home.

Where do they stay?

The majority of volunteers stay in host homes, where families in the local community open their doors to volunteers. It’s a great way to integrate into the community and volunteers are often made to feel so welcome that their homestay is one of the highlights of their placement. In some places where we work it isn’t appropriate to use host homes. Where that is the case volunteers stay in group accommodation – usually basic but safe and secure guest houses. If you want to make sure your son or daughter stays in a host home, please remind them to request it on their application form.

We don’t have to pay? What’s the catch?

Unlike some programmes where volunteers pay for a part holiday/part volunteering experience, ICS is fully funded because the UK government believes in its positive impact and wants to offer an opportunity to young people to change their lives and the lives of others. We do ask our volunteers to fundraise before they leave as a condition of their placement, which is a valuable part of their ICS experience and helps show commitment and raise awareness. Our friendly fundraising team work very closely with volunteers to advise, encourage and occasionally gently push them to meet their targets. We also ask our volunteers to work hard, challenge themselves and learn and develop.

Is it safe?

Volunteer safety and security is our first priority. Each placement has been rigorously checked using risk assessments led by experienced agencies with years of experience, and backed by the UK government. Before departure, volunteers are given training on precautions they can take while on placement. We constantly monitor our placement countries to keep track of any potentially dangerous situations and with this in mind, evacuation and mitigation plans are in place to ensure our volunteers are safe and secure. On the rare occasions things go wrong we are ready to take appropriate action.

What if they get ill while they’re abroad?

While everything possible is done to try to minimise the risk of volunteers becoming ill, acclimatisation to the local food and water and adapting to a new environment can be physically challenging. Volunteers can and do get ill from time to time. They will learn all about health precautions before they leave, and country office staff and team leaders will be available while they are on placement to help them get medical support should they need it. If appropriate treatment cannot be provided by local medical facilities, they may need to travel to another location where treatment is available. In some cases the required treatment may not be available, and if this is the case arrangements would be made for them to return to their home country. All our volunteers have medical insurance, pre-departure vaccinations and antimalarials (if required), and necessary medication and access to medical care and treatment paid for by ICS.

What about Ebola?

ICS has stopped working in Sierra Leone and Liberia for the time-being due to the Ebola outbreak. We hope to continue to work through volunteers in these countries once it is safe to return. Africa is a large and diverse continent and the majority of African countries remain unaffected by the Ebola virus, and of course our programmes in Asia and Latin America are also unaffected at the present time. The safety and wellbeing of volunteers is always our top priority and we will continue to monitor the situation and make changes if and when they are needed. If you still have worries or questions please call our supporter care team on +44 (0)20 8780 7400 to find out more.

Will I be able to keep in contact with my son or daughter?

Internet access varies from country to country, but volunteers are usually able to use phones to call home and let you know how they’re doing. Many volunteers choose to write a blog and keep friends and family updated that way. If you’re ever concerned because you haven’t heard from your child for a while, try not to worry – they’re probably just busy having the time of their lives. You’re always welcome to call our supporter care team on +44 (0)20 8780 7400.


ICS takes its responsibility for safeguarding and child protection seriously. We will do all we can to ensure, as far as possible, the safety and protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults involved in ICS. If you have concerns about the safety or well being of a young person or wish to talk to someone in confidence about a safeguarding issue please contact the ICS Lead Safeguarding Officer at VSO on +44 (0)208 780 7500 or