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A volunteer works part-time and carries out regular, one-off or temporary duties in their spare time. They are unpaid. They do not change status (i.e. student, employee, unemployed, pensioner, etc.). In some circumstances, their travel, insurance and expenses during the mission can be refunded. But volunteers may be asked to make a financial contribution to go towards registration, meal, accommodation and other expenses.
International projects For everyone, no specific criteria, short term, unpaid, overseas
Jeunesse Ville Vie Vacances / Solidarité internationale (VVV/SI) Ages 15-25. Short term. A group of about 15 young people participating.
Congé de Solidarité Must be over 18. Specific skills required. Short to medium term. No criteria but employees preferred and 12 months in current role for overseas projects.
The volunteer undertakes a full-time mission related to international solidarity, most often working for an association (such as an NGO) in the area of international solidarity or community education. They receive an allowance, (not to be confused with a wage) which is non-taxable and helps cover every day needs (sometimes more for certain programmes and/or destinations); social security, travel and accommodation are generally also covered.
Volunteering guarantees a unique opportunity for personal growth for any young person looking to enhance their own development.
Going on an international volunteering mission is to invest yourself in others and embrace adventure, it’s about what you are looking for and what you might discover, it’s taking a break from routine to grow, learn, understand the world and appreciate the differences. There are opportunities in every field whether you are a culture vulture, a dedicated athlete, a committed humanitarian, a language lover or simply curious.
If you are looking to cross borders, immerse yourself in a different culture, learn another language and make yourself useful, check out all the international volunteering programmes on offer:
(If you are not an EU national, check the criteria first)
Volontariat Ecologique Franco-Allemand; Open to everyone, basic German required, one year, in Germany.
Volunteer missions are offered by lots of organisations but do not necessarily give you a specific status. Make sure you read carefully the conditions you sign up to and the conditions offered: what expenses are covered, your social security coverage, repatriation insurance, accommodation, local and international travel, for instance.
In English the word ‘volunteer’ can mean working for free, while in some places the status of volunteer can often entitle you to an allowance and benefits. Check the details for each programme.
What are the reasons for your decision to volunteer?
You need to really think about your true motivations because helping others is commendable but don’t open yourself up to disappointment. You need to go in with your eyes wide open and find out about the conditions and objectives of the project or mission and the aims of the international solidarity and forms of engagement.
Before accepting an international solidarity posting, it is important to talk with others who have done it before you and to read or listen to testimonials.
It is also important to know the area you will be working in and possibly the type of post, the skills and personal qualities you bring to the table and the time you want to dedicate. Also think about what causes are dear to you.
Your personal qualities are crucial depending on the type of project you undertake (autonomy, resistance to stress, tolerance, patience and so forth).
Note on humanitarian missions and development projects
Participating in international solidarity missions such as emergency humanitarian action or development projects implies an aptitude for living and working in crisis situations or situations of suffering, poverty, destitution and sometimes isolation.
Some programmes allow you to make this kind of engagement but require past experience and specific training to tackle crisis situations. It is a good idea to have a think about the legitimacy of the programme’s action on the populations in need and in unknown living conditions and to have a genuine interest in international matters and the history of the country where you want to volunteer.
Before applying to a VSI or UNV opportunity or one of the European Commission’s humanitarian aid programmes (ESC, EUAV), it is advisable to try out a more accessible experience involving intercultural exchange: a first experience with an international civic service or short-term volunteer position, with the EVS or for a local project or programme.
If you are unsure about going overseas, even for a short period of time, you can even sign up to help an association near you, such as the Red Cross or a cause that is important to you, such as one supporting vulnerable people (prisoners, refugees and asylum seekers, homeless, children, etc.) which can help you to prepare meeting others and dealing with differences and culture shock, a chance to take a first step in volunteer work by getting involved with your local area.
A way for everyone to leave, leave in your own way.