International Citizen Service

International Citizen Service (ICS) is a UK Government funded programme providing volunteer placements to 18-25 year olds, and Team Leader placements to 23-35 year olds in a number of countries around the world.

ICS makes the most of the unique contribution young people can bring to development – passion, energy and the ability to reach other young people.  Our programmes are in Livelihoods, Health and Education.

Every ICS team is made up of volunteers from the country where the project is running, and volunteers from the United Kingdom and European Union.

All you need to take part in ICS is the ambition to make a difference.

COVID-19 update

Update for non-UK applicants

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we are temporarily pausing recruitment for all ICS programmes to ensure the safety of our volunteers and communities.

Our staff in our country offices (Cambodia, Kenya, Nepal, Tanzania and Uganda) are working hard to ensure that the work of previous ICS teams continues to provide impact and positive change during this challenging and uncertain time. We are working closely with local young people online and in their home communities for the rest of 2020, and you can find out more about getting involved by contacting your local ICS team.

If you have already submitted an application to take part in ICS and are waiting to hear back from us, please contact your local country office team directly to find out about the new opportunities that are available. If you have applied to take part in Bangladesh, Nigeria or Zambia, please be aware that we do not currently have projects running in these countries. You can still contact the VSO office in these locations to find out about non-ICS projects that you may be able to support.

We are currently awaiting further information about the UK government’s redesign of ICS. We fully expect the programme to continue, and the redesign is to ensure that it continues to provide the very best offer for our volunteers and the communities they serve. As soon as future placements are confirmed we will re-open recruitment for new applications, and also get back in touch with those of you who have already submitted one.

In the meantime, you can keep up to date by:

  • signing up to our newsletter, where we share inspiring stories, invite you to take part in ICS activities, and let you know about wider job, volunteering and engagement opportunities in the international development sector
  • following us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
  • following your country’s ICS social media channels to keep updated with local opportunities.

Where we work

We’re currently active in seven countries in Africa and Asia:

  • Bangladesh
  • Cambodia
  • Kenya
  • Nepal
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia

How it works

Volunteers work side-by-side with partners from the UK, staying with local families in the community and working on community development projects.

ICS is demanding but hugely rewarding. It's a great opportunity for personal development, a stepping stone to future careers and a chance to make your world a better place.

Placements are 10-12 weeks in length, and you will receive structured training and support throughout.

Placements are unpaid, but you will receive all travel, food and accommodation, as well as a small living allowance. There is no cost to you to volunteer.

Who can volunteer?

ICS is your opportunity to gain valuable skills and experience, while bringing about lasting change in your community.

If you are aged 18-25, you can apply to be a Team Member.  If you are aged 23-35, you can apply to be a Team Leader.

Team Members

You don’t need any special skills to take part in ICS, but you must:

  • be aged 18-25
  • be committed to living and volunteering away from home for 10-12 weeks
  • be willing to live in a family in the local community whilst on placement
  • be committed to continuing your work in your home community after your placement
  • not have taken part in ICS before – if you have, you can apply to be a Team Leader
  • be resident in the country you’re applying from.

Team Leaders

Spending between three and eight months on placement, you'll support and manage a diverse group of young people working together to benefit your host community. Team Leaders work in pairs, so you will have a counterpart volunteer from the UK.

In order to volunteer as a Team Leader, you must meet the same criteria as for Team Members.  In addition, you must:

  • be aged 23 – 35
  • have strong facilitation skills to help teams overcome challenges and achieve results
  • be able to build trust to support individuals through difficult times
  • be able to take an organised approach to project planning
  • have communication skills to maintain effective relationships with stakeholders
  • bring a mature and positive approach to challenges and realities of volunteering on ICS.

What you'll do

Our programmes are focused on three key areas: Health, Education and Livelihoods. All of our projects work to support young people to make them aware of their rights, exercise their voice and improve their quality of life.

The type of project you’ll work on depends on the country you live in, and the specific needs of the local community.

ICS volunteers are ideally placed to reach out to other young people, particularly on issues like sexual health, and many projects tackle the issue of HIV and AIDS head-on.

Volunteers share information, raise awareness and help people to access vital services.

As a volunteer on a health project, you might be:

  • holding peer education sessions to help young people make informed choices about their sexual health;
  • helping young people to engage with local governance;
  • supporting young people to know their sexual and reproductive health rights;
  • working to improve access to safe water and sanitation services;
  • raising awareness about community health issues;
  • supporting communities to change their behaviour towards health and hygiene.

Every child deserves a good education, but many still don’t get the chance to go to school. Barriers to education can be varied and complex, so each project is different and based on the specific needs of the local community.

Volunteers work to challenge harmful traditions, support teacher training, and help provide vital resources such as teaching, sanitation and library facilities.

As a volunteer on an education project, you might be:

  • holding workshops on the importance of education and the dangers of early marriage
  • working with young people and families to show the benefits of getting a good education
  • producing research
  • You’ll help produce research, including data collection on school environment and life skills, reports on what schools are lacking, and resources to support peer education and school councils
  • helping produce resources to support peer education;
  • giving young people more information about making the best choices for their future.

We believe that everyone should be able to earn a decent living and become self-sufficient.

ICS projects work with businesses to help them grow and connect with suppliers, customers and communities, as well as supporting women and young entrepreneurs to set up their own sustainable enterprises.

Volunteers work in a number of locations such as youth centres, schools and at community meetings.

As a volunteer on a livelihoods project, you might be:

  • teaching young people business skills;
  • running literacy or skills training sessions;
  • supporting entrepreneurs to develop business plans, secure finance and access markets;
  • getting women and young people more involved in cooperative associations;
  • supporting farmers to increase their income by improve their agricultural knowledge and business skills;
  • helping to identify viable businesses and providing new ideas;
  • carrying out market research and helping with product development.

We want to make sure that people around the world know their rights and can make their voices heard.

This issue affects some groups more than others – children and young people, women and people with disabilities are just a few.

ICS volunteers support communities to understand their rights and have the confidence to influence those in power. They work alongside women’s groups, campaign for rights for those with disabilities and help prevent forced child marriage.

As a volunteer on a rights project, you might be:

  • campaigning for quality for people with disabilities;
  • supporting young people to become more involved in decision-making in local government;
  • running sessions to raise awareness of the importance of youth participation;
  • helping schools and community organisations become more inclusive to people with disabilities.

How to apply

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are temporarily pausing recruitment for ICS programmes.


The selection process

To make sure ICS is right for you, your application will be assessed, and, if shortlisted, you will be invited to take part in a selection day.

Selection days usually consist of group activities and interviews. It’s a great experience and will help ensure that ICS is right for you at this time.

If you’re successful at the selection day, you will be assigned a contact to help you start getting ready for the next stage of your volunteer journey.

Support and training

Throughout your time volunteering, you’ll be supported by your country office. You’ll receive training and support before your placement, during the project, and once you return home.

As part of your preparation you will be invited to a residential training session. This will include:

  • an introduction to ICS and the agency you will be working with
  • an introduction to international development
  • an introduction to how the project works and how it contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the start of your placement you will take part in a residential training and meet the rest of your team.

You will attend together with your volunteer counterparts from the UK, and further prepare for the duties of your specific placement.

This training will also include:

  • an introduction to local staff and your country office,
  • living with families in the local community,
  • cross-cultural working,
  • community development.

Halfway through your placement, you will spend time with your team to review how the placement is going and to develop plans for the second half of your placement. It is important to have this period to reflect on your work and how you are finding volunteering.

At the end of your placement your team will have a debrief to help you reflect on your team's achievements and the progress you've made. It also enables you to put any necessary plans together to ensure the next team can continue your good work.

At the debrief you will also start planning the next steps such as your Action at Home.

After your placement

Being part of ICS doesn't finish when your placement does. You'll need to carry on making change.

You’ll be inspired by your experiences and motivated to act on the issues you care about. We’ll encourage you to take part in at least one project that benefits your local community or seeks to bring about positive social change – and support you all the way. This is called Action at Home.

Contact us

If you have any questions about ICS or how to apply, you can get in touch with the UK ICS team by emailing They will help you make contact with the right person in your country office.


Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy

ICS is led by VSO and funded by the UK Government.

VSO has zero tolerance of abuse and exploitation of vulnerable people. We expect all our employees/volunteers to ensure we protect children, young people and vulnerable adults from harm and abide by our safeguarding policy (PDF).