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.
Current ICS placements
Thank you for your interest in ICS. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are temporarily pausing recruitment for all ICS programmes. Please read the full COVID-19 statement for more information.
Depending on the ongoing health and social context in relation to COVID-19, later this year we may be able to run programmes for volunteers in their home country, in teams made up only of national volunteers. Both the timing and nature of these projects will vary on a country by country basis.
When plans have been confirmed later in the year, we will re-open recruitment and get in contact with those of you who have already submitted an application.
Future ICS programmes
The UK Government is currently redesigning ICS. We fully expect ICS to continue, and the redesign is to ensure the programme continues to provide the best offer for young volunteers and the communities they serve.
Whilst the redesign is ongoing, the exact timing of future placements is unconfirmed. As soon as placements are confirmed, we will re-open applications and get in touch with those of you who have applied but have not been able to participate due to COVID-19.
In the meantime, sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date on opportunities for wider engagement with the ICS programme and youth-led action for international development.
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Where we work
We’re currently active in seven countries in Africa and Asia:
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.
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.
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.
If you have any questions about ICS or how to apply, you can get in touch with the ICS Applications team by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. 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).