Application and Selection
Q. How do you choose who can participate?
ICS is open to UK residents from all backgrounds and we actively support recruitment of a diverse range of young people to participate. No prior experience or qualifications are needed, but you will need to demonstrate motivation and commitment to be involved.
Volunteers will be selected against broad competencies and aptitudes such as the ability to work with others, flexibility and adaptability, and demonstration of positive, realistic commitment to the programme.
Q. If I am unsuccessful applying for one ICS programme can I apply with another agency?
The International Citizen Service scheme agencies all use the same selection criteria so if you are unsuccessful for one, this will apply to all other ICS programmes.
Q. Can return volunteers from GX apply for ICS?
GX return volunteers can only apply for ICS if you took part in a programme that departed before April 2011. This is due to the funding streams associated with ICS and Global Xchange.
Global citizenship days (GCDs)
Q. What are GCDs? Who runs them?
In most countries you'll take part in a GCD once a week. These are a part of the programme, providing an valuable opportunity to develop skills, learn more about local community issues and to give and receive team support. You'll learn a lot about how other societies experience and deal with the big issues.
GCDs are run by you and your fellow team members. Each counterpart pair takes a turn to run a workshop. As long as it's related to community development, any topic can be explored. For example, the day might focus on local trade, environmental management or gender roles in the local community.
Q. How does the programme choose the host communities?
You'll learn a lot more if you work in a community where a genuine need exists. As far as possible, we try to place people in a host community that's quite different to their own. This means that each host community is a new experience for the whole team.
Q. Does every programme involve staying with a host home?
Most programmes involve staying with a host home. This is so you get to dig beneath the surface of another culture. You might not experience it exactly as a local does, but ICS with VSO will get you as close as you ever possibly could, and your host family are willing to integrate you into every aspect of their daily lives.
For those not staying with host homes, they will stay in basic, safe accommodation with other team members in small guest houses or hostels. You will be told before you go what your accommodation will be.
Q. How are the host homes chosen?
Before the programme starts, your project supervisors spend time in the host community finding and assessing potential placements and host homes.
Potential hosts are invited to attend a briefing session where they can find out more, and there'll be follow-up meetings with the hosts closer to the commencement of the programme. We also require references from respected members of the community.
Q. How easy is it to find host homes? What do they get out of it? What do they pay for? What do we pay for?
Finding people who are willing to open up their house to two complete strangers can be a challenge, but we have lots of experience finding hosts. It’s hard work though, and it's worth remembering how much the hosts are trusting us.
They receive enough to cover the basic costs (three meals a day and extra gas / electricity used), but not enough to cover extra journeys and phone calls.
Most families agree to host so that they can learn more about the lives of other people from the UK and their own country. We deliberately keep the allowance low so that we can recruit people who are genuinely interested in the programme. We don't, however, want people to be out of pocket.
Q. What kinds of host homes have you had in the past?
Diversity is a big part of our programme. That's why we're keen to recruit a wide range of hosts. Previous hosts have included a retired widower of 75, and a major and his wife who lived in a castle. Far more important than having 2.4 children and a dog is a willingness to involve our volunteers in all aspects of daily life.
International Citizen Service - Programmes
Q. Why can’t I apply for more than one ICS programme?
All the programmes use the same selection criteria so there is no benefit in applying to more than one. You can only go overseas on one programme so it makes sense to apply to the programme you most want to participate in.
Q. How do I know which programme to choose?
There are various resources to help you make your decision. You should go to www.dfid.gov.uk/ics to find out what the different agencies are offering. You can also visit individual agency web pages to find out more information on each programme, and you can contact them to find out more. If you have further questions, email Enquiry@ics-uk.org.uk, or phone the ICS team on 0208 780 7400.
Q. Are the costs the same for all programmes?
Yes they are. The contribution payments have been set by the Government and are standard across all participating programmes.
Q. What happens if I can’t make any of the available dates?
You are best to find another volunteering alternative or come back and visit the DFID or agency web pages in the future to see if dates change.
International Citizen Service - The Scheme
Q. What is the connection between Global Xchange, VSO and International Citizen Service?
International Citizen Service (ICS) is being delivered through six volunteering agencies, VSO is one of the selected agencies. Global Xchange was a youth programme run by VSO and the BC between 2005 and 2011. Because it fitted with the ethos and style of the existing Global Xchange youth programme, we chose to use the existing Global Xchange programme as part of the ICS pilot scheme.
Global Xchange sent 420 volunteers overseas as a part of the pilot year of ICS. In 2012 after the confirmation of the long term ICS scheme the funding for Global Xchange came to an end and VSO ICS became VSOs main youth volunteering programme.
Q. Why has the government created this scheme?
The Government is passionate about the potential of young people coming together to make a real difference to the world and help build a bigger and stronger global society.
ICS has been designed to channel the skills, enthusiasm and energy of young volunteers to make a meaningful contribution to a range of development projects and offer a life changing experience for young people from the UK to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people.
By living and working in very poor communities, young volunteers will be able to learn firsthand about the challenges of global poverty and how it can be addressed, including how they can themselves have a role in this throughout their lives as active and well informed global citizens. They will also learn new skills, like leadership, communications skills and project planning, which will contribute to their own personal and social development.
ICS volunteers will work alongside local organisations and national volunteers who will be supported to continue their work after the UK volunteers have departed.
Q. Why is it only open to 18 to 25 year olds?
The scheme is aimed at people at the start of their careers to enable them to gain experience by working on real development projects overseas.
The scheme is also open to older volunteers (age 23 +) who will provide specific skills and support the younger volunteers.
Q. Does it have anything to do with National Citizen Service?
National Citizen Service is also a scheme run by the government supporting young people. From 2013 NCS graduates will be 18 and therefore eligible for ICS. Young people who make an outstanding contribution through National Citizen Service will be in a strong position to progress to International Citizen Service. The two programmes are being run by different specialist organisations.
Q. Why do you have to pay to participate?
As part of the Government’s International Citizen Service scheme, those that can afford to contribute to the programme will be asked to do so.
The Government recognises the value young people bring to development in both the UK and developing countries, and feels it is important to invest in maximising the potential within young people living in the UK and abroad.
However, there are significant costs involved in sending volunteers overseas to achieve a development impact in poor countries. The ICS programme will make significant investments in the training, supervision and support of volunteers in-country, to ensure they make a genuine contribution to their host communities. It will also ensure that the community organisations which implement the projects in which the volunteers participate have the necessary resources so they can make the best use of the volunteers.
The Government needs to ensure it is spending tax payer’s money responsibly and achieving value for money. As such, those who can make a contribution toward the costs of their participation in ICS will need to do so.
Q. How do I know what my household income is?
The best way is to think about how you are financially supported. If you are dependent on parents/carers (i.e. you rely on their income to fully or partially support you) this is the total pre-tax household income for the last tax year; otherwise if you are financially independent, this is your own pre-tax income for the last tax year.
This information must be declared honestly and you may be required to provide evidence to back up the information you have given us before you go overseas.
Q. What happens if I can’t fundraise the full amount of my contribution?
We will do our best to support you in fundraising the full amount by giving you guidance and ideas. We find that most volunteers find it easier to fundraise than they thought it might be. However, contributions are mandatory for those that need to pay, so if you have not raised the full amount within two weeks of departing, you will need to make up the shortfall of funds to meet your full contribution amount.
Q. When do I have to make my payment? Will I be able to go overseas if I can’t pay the full amount before I go?
You will need to make your payment two weeks before you go overseas, at the latest. The earlier you can make the payment, the earlier your place will be secured. Unfortunately, as the contribution amount you are allocated is mandatory and contributes to the cost of your placement, you will not be able to go overseas if you cannot make the payment by this time.
Q. Can I continue to claim my benefits?
This is quite complicated and will depend on your circumstances. If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance you will not be eligible to claim for the period when you are overseas. However there are some benefits such as Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit that can continue to be paid when you are temporarily away from home and you may still be eligible for. We can give you general advice depending on your status but the best thing to do is talk the relevant people at the council or job centre about your specific case.
Q. How are the teams put together?
Our aim is to create teams that reflect the diversity of the UK population. We look at a number of factors including age, experience, gender, economic, social and geographic background. However, with a limited number in a team, there are limits to what we can achieve so we will aim to make the teams as varied as we can given the circumstances.
Q. How will we be paired up on placements?
Don’t worry, you’ll have time to meet the other members of your team first, and we'll try and accommodate your preferences as far as we can.
The experience starts with an in-country orientation course. Often after a couple of days, we'll ask you to write down, in order of preference, three people who you'd like to live with but this isnt always possible. Your project supervisors will pair you up as best they can. Their decision is usually made in confidence, based on your shared interests and the kind of projects you want to get involved with.
Choosing a partner is difficult, even more so when you don't really know the person yet. As with most aspects of the programme, what you make of things is often the most important factor.
Q. When do we find out who we will be working with?
You'll find out who your counterparts are on the second or third day of the in-country orientation course. This gives you a couple of days on the training course to bond and get to know each other before you go to your placement. You may be working with just one other volunteer at your placement or a group depending on your programme.
Q. How do the groups work for ICS programmes?
You’ll work with a team of 5 to 10 UK volunteers and 5 to 10 volunteers from the host country. Groups will be selected to be diverse as outlined in the answer on ‘teams’ above.
While you often have a counterpart pair for the whole programme you may be working in larger groups on projects, and may change who you work with during the full 3 months you are away. You may also be living with national volunteers, other UK volunteers, or both, depending on where you are going. You will either live with others in a host home or some other group accommodation. (Please see the host home section for more details on this.)
You will know more about how you will be working once you have been selected onto the programme.
Q. How are the volunteer placements chosen?
The project supervisors have a long list of criteria that they look at when choosing a placement. Will the placement offer benefits for the community? Does it offer a reasonable variety of activities volunteers can contribute to and learn from? Is there adequate supervision?
Each programme has a theme that reflects the work volunteers will do in the community. For example, a Nigeria exchange with an HIV and AIDS theme might include working around peer education and raising awareness. Other themes have included disability, peace and interfaith dialogue.
New themes we are looking at for 2011/2012 include HIV & AIDS, youth leadership & participation, sustainable income generation, education, health, disability, peace building, and climate change. They types of activities volunteers will be doing include conducting youth and community research, helping set up youth clubs to involve young people in the community, creating events and campaigns to bring about change, and educating other young people on HIV/sexual health.
Q. What kinds of volunteer placements have you had in the past?
We've had three broad types of placements: educational, care and environmental. Volunteers have worked at centres for people with learning difficulties and as assistants in nursery and primary schools. They‘ve helped run play schemes and volunteered with environmental groups doing hands-on conservation management.
Each community will have its own projects, some of which may be fairly unique to those communities.
Q. Can we choose our own volunteer placements or the country we want to go to?
We want to give people as much choice as we can about their volunteer placements, but a lot of work goes into their preparation. It wouldn't be fair to let a placement provider down at the last moment because the option they provided was less popular, so sometimes volunteers' choices are limited.
You are given the opportunity to provide a country preference on the application form, and where possible we will try and accommodate this. However we ask volunteers to be flexible as the greatest impact will come from being placed in the right team on the right project, rather than in a particular country.