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Volunteer health

Our volunteers' health, safety and security is our first priority.

All our volunteers are provided with medical insurance, pre-departure vaccinations and antimalarials (if required). Necessary medication and access to medical care and treatment are also covered  by ICS

You should also be aware that all volunteers must pass a medical check to ensure they are fit to travel and that any pre-existing conditions will not become a serious health risk whilst on placement.

Medical clearance process

Following application, we ask you to complete an online medical questionnaire. This is the start of a process which will assure you and ICS that you are fit and healthy enough for the programme.  It is important you are truthful and accurate with your medical information.

Your medical information will only be reviewed by a member of the  medical team after you have successfully completed the Assessment Day and been given the go ahead to continue to the next step.

The medical team are experienced in assessing medical conditions and how these conditions can be affected by the different placement environments, and what support can be provided by the healthcare facilities which are available near to the placements.

The medical team will review the information you have provided and may contact you, your GP or any specialist involved in your care for further medical information. The process can vary from just a few days to several weeks depending on whether further medical information is needed.

Once the medical team have the required information, the decision will result in one of three outcomes;

  • you may be medically cleared which means you can proceed with ICS placement allocation
  • you may be deferred which means you are given a further period of time before the medical team will review your medical clearance,
  • or you may not be medically cleared as it is considered a significant health risk for you to go on placement without the available medical resources to match your condition.

Please understand that even if your GP, counsellor or other health professional thinks it is fine for you to go on placement, they may not have the full understanding of the environment where will be placed and the lack of health care resources available.

The medical team are the only medical personnel who can make the medical clearance decision for ICS placements.

Volunteers in Kenya in host home
© ICS / Paul Wambugu

I have some current health issues, can I go on ICS?

At ICS, we are committed to delivering a diverse and inclusive programme,  however we will always put the health, safety, security and wellbeing of our volunteers first. In some circumstances, this may mean that the ICS programme is not suitable for you at this time,

The placements are generally in rural areas of developing countries. As a result, health care facilities can be basic and limited. There may not be the medical resources to cater for volunteers with some medical conditions. We cannot provide a list of specific conditions because there are many factors that affect whether a volunteer will be medically suitable for placement. We take each application on an individual basis and discuss this with you.

Conditions that are recently diagnosed, changes in medication or dosages, especially within the last 6 months could put you more at risk on placement since there may not have been adequate time for your condition to properly stabilise. It could be that, although not suitable now, you can be cleared at a later date after a period of stability following either medication changes or in your condition or any medication changes.

Should you be waiting for any medical tests or treatment, you also may not be suitable for placement and it will be best to apply once any tests or treatment have finished.

If you are unsure or would like to speak to someone prior to your application, please get in touch with the VSO medical team by emailing medical@vsoint.org or calling 02087807677.

Volunteer Group on placement

What if I get ill while I’m abroad?

While everything possible is done to try to minimise the risk of you 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. You will learn all about health precautions before you leave, and country office staff and team leaders will be available while you are on placement to help you get medical support should you need it. If appropriate treatment cannot be provided by local medical facilities, you 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 you to return to your home country.

All our volunteers are provided with medical insurance, pre-departure vaccinations and antimalarials (if required. Necessary medication and access to medical care and treatment are also covered  by ICS.

Staying healthy

ICS placements usually take place in remote locations, which can be physically and emotionally challenging. Once you are medically cleared for a placement, all volunteers will need to attend a health briefing. Here, you will learn more about staying healthy, pre-departure vaccinations, taking antimalarials if necessary, as well as lots more tips to stay feeling your best while you’re away. The dedicated medical team will be able to provide advice and support for any health concerns that may arise before or during your placement.

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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