FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Service Civil International (SCI) was founded in 1920 by Pierre Cérésole, a Swiss engineer, in the aftermath of World War I. It is a volunteer organisation dedicated to promoting a culture of peace by organising international voluntary projects for people of all ages and backgrounds. The organisation now consists of 44 branches and over 100 partner organisations worldwide.
SCI is open to all. It was one of the first organisations to divest itself of all political or religious affiliations in its work of promoting peace and intercultural understanding through practical action. Throughout the years SCI has made a major contribution to the development of the main forms of volunteering. Year after year, the organisation enables thousands of volunteers to participate in community projects.
Living and working together with people of different backgrounds helps volunteers to break down barriers and prejudices. It allows them to experience a world of mutual respect and understanding. In this sense, volunteering can be seen as a way of life- a demonstration of the possible reality of a peaceful and cooperative world.
SCI offers a variety of volunteer opportunities to people, such as short, mid- and long term projects, but also the possibility to become active for a local branch or participate in a seminar or training.
Read more about SCI on the main web site.
SCI offers a variety of volunteering opportunities, such as short and long term projects, as well as non formal education opportunities (international seminars and trainings) and the opportunity to become a local activist. Short term projects are SCI´s core activity, also called ´workcamps´. They are organised in cooperation with SCI branches and partner organisations, who in their turn cooperate with local communities. A workcamp, in short, is a unique form of volunteering, bringing together people from different countries, cultures and backgrounds to live and work together with local communities for a period of two to three weeks. Work during a workcamp will be non-profit and voluntary work will never be a replacement or alternative to paid professional work. Find more information about what we do on our web site.
This site lists up to 1200 workcamps (short term volunteer projects) offered by SCI and its partners. Please use the search form to prepare a list of up to six camps to suit your interests and travel plans. Make sure you find out what is expected of you as a volunteer and what it will cost you.
If there is a branch of SCI in your country of residence your application will be processed by that branch. Otherwise, you need to apply through one of the SCI partners. See the My Branch panel on the right to check whether your branch allows on-line application. If it does, you can create an account on this site and then login to complete and submit the application forms.
If you cannot apply on-line you can obtain an application form directly from your branch, or from a partner organisation, and apply by post.
If you live in a country where an SCI member organisations exists, you can register and apply for an SCI workcamp through this online placement tool. You must apply through the SCI member organisation in the country where you live at the time of applying, even if you live there only temporarily. If you live in a country where SCI does not have a member organisation, you may apply through an SCI partner organisation that is listed in the My branch box.
You must register online on this website in order to create your account. Once you have registered you can log in and complete an application form that will be submitted online to your SCI branch (member organisation). Some SCI branches may ask you to pay the placement fee before processing your application.
You are applying to become a short term volunteer in an SCI workcamp, where your services are needed to support SCI in achieving its mission of building a culture of peace, tolerance and intercultural understanding. If you are accepted for a workcamp, we expect you to commit to the project and the specific aims of the project. It is important that you are aware of our Cancellation Policy.
We want the volunteers at a workcamp to compose a diverse group, with people of different nationalities, ages and gender. In case you apply for a workcamp where we have already accepted a person with the same nationality, age or gender as you, we may not accept your first choice. Therefore you always have to choose up to six alternative workcamps. We will send your application to the organisations that are accepting in the order of your preference until a place is found. This means that applying early is always the best.
Everyone who joins a workcamp needs to pay a membership fee to his/ her SCI branch (the sending organisation). You also pay a workcamp fee to your SCI branch for every workcamp you apply to do. In addition, you pay for your own travel costs to and from the workcamp (and travel insurance) and your own pocket money. If you can not afford to travel to a (distant) project, then please do not apply for it, and instead select a workcamp in a country to which travel is more affordable for you. If you are applying for projects in countries for which you need a visa, then you will also have to cover the cost of the visa application.
For the vast majority of projects, yes. There are some projects in the North-South Programme which ask you to pay an additional fee on arrival. This amount may vary from 30 euros to 200 euros. These fees are asked by partner organisations to enable the project to take place, since many partner organisations in the global south do not have any funding to cover organisational costs. This means the extra fee is basically a solidarity payment to support the the project and the hosting organisation while you are there. The additional fees are always mentioned in the project descriptions, so you will be informed about it before applying. If nothing about an additional fee is mentioned in the project description, then you will not be asked for one. The fees are payable in cash when you arrive at the project.
Yes. The project hosts will provide you with food and accommodation during the project but not during your travels to and from the project. Volunteers will have access to drinkable water.
Accommodation can range from mattresses in a school hall, to camping, to dormitories in a youth hostel or a residential centre. There will be at least basic sanitary and cooking facilities. Since you will be living with a team you will not have as much privacy as you are used to.
Speaking other languages always helps when living with an international group and it can enrich your experience, but it is not a requirement for most projects (except for English). There are exceptions to this, for example some projects in France, the ones in Morocco, Tunisia, Catalunya and Latin America and various workcamps in the Global South. Whenever there is a specific language requirement this is mentioned in the project description. For the vast majority of projects, the main language is English.
As a volunteer you need to organise and pay for your own travels to and from the project. SCI branches do not arrange group travel, nor do they have access to travel discounts. SCI wants to encourage its volunteers to consider the negative impact on climate change caused by air travel and when possible to use more sustainable means of transport such as trains or buses.
Once you have confirmed your place on a project, you will receive travel instructions by email that will help you to prepare for your travels. When the project start date approaches (latest one month before) you will receive an infosheet with detailed instructions on how to get to your project from the nearest large town or city. Some projects may ask you to go to a ´meeting point´ at a particular time, from where you will be picked up by the project hosts and taken to the project site. In other cases you may need to make your own way to the workcamp. The infosheet will always contain emergency phone numbers. Most arrival times tend to be in the afternoon or early evening and you should arrive on the day indicated as the start date of the project.
Before you go you will receive an infosheet with detailed information about the project including a list of what to bring. Usually these are standard items such as a sleeping bag/mat (not always necessary), clothes to work in, games and so on. Equipment and materials for the work is provided by the hosts.The most important thing is to bring plenty of enthusiasm and energy!
The work varies greatly between the different workcamps. You could work in environmental conservation on beaches in Morocco, organise activities for children with disabilities in Latvia, or work with elderly people in mountain villages in Japan. The projects are always of some tangible benefit to the community and must follow certain criteria. Naturally as a volunteer, you only need to work as hard as you are able. However, you should remember that many people have contributed a great deal of time and effort to make the projects possible, so you should feel a sense of responsibility towards doing the job well.
No! Working hours vary from project to project but generally you will work 6 hours per day, with evenings and weekends free. An important part of every project are the social activities with the group. After the day´s work, there will be time to play, listen to music, cook, discuss, sing, learn local phrases and visit local sites. Activities are generally decided by the group, so you can have your say as well.
For Short Term projects you do not need any specific skills or qualifications. However, there is one important skill that you need: the ability to live and work cooperatively with a group of other international volunteers, with lots of enthusiasm and motivation as well as the willingness to experience something completely new. If you apply for a project where you need to work with children and vulnerable adults, you may be asked to complete a declaration and supply your police check and references (especially in UK and Ireland). Some countries also ask for medical certificates (Russia). For projects in the Global South it is required that you have experience of a workcamps prior to this.
SCI projects are open to everyone over 18 years of age. For projects in the Global South there is a minimum age requirement of 20 years.
Some projects in certain countries are open to volunteers over 16 years of age. Terms and conditions for placing volunteers aged between 16 and 17 vary from country to country so please contact your local SCI branch for more information on the specific situation in your country. SCI insurance does not cover people over 70 years of age so volunteers older than that must get their own insurance.
A handful of projects has age restrictions due to the fact that these projects are funded by external agencies. This kind of information is always included in the project description so you will know before you apply for a particular project.
SCI has an Equal Opportunities Policy. We welcome and respect everyone who wants to join our activities whatever their gender, ethnic heritage, faith, ability, sexuality, age, nationality or socio-economic background. You must apply through the SCI branch in your country of residence at the time of your application.
Some countries require that you have a visa in advance of your travel. In these situations the hosting organisation will provide invitation letters and supporting documentation to help you get your visa. However in all cases it is your responsibility to apply for and collect your visa. Your SCI branch cannot do this for you and has no control over immigration policies in other countries. You will need to make sure that you apply for visas in due time (at least one month before your project start date) and to have a valid passport.
SCI branches organise preparation days throughout the year to help you prepare for your experience on the project and allow you to meet other volunteers. Volunteers are expected to attend these events as part of your preparation and to receive practical advice and support in planning your trip. If you are going on a project in the Global South, it is obligatory to attend a preparation event before you go.
Your fee contributes towards the overall running costs of SCI and supports the activities of your branch in your country. This includes the costs involved in running international projects in your country, establishing the projects, publicity and recruitment, training and insuring volunteers, monitoring, evaluating and developing the programme. By registering with your branch, you are effectively supporting the whole network of like minded voluntary organisations working for peace and greater international understanding throughout the world. Your fee does not go towards food and accommodation on your project. These costs are covered by the local project and local fundraising.
Yes. But you need to make sure that the project dates do not overlap and that you have sufficient time to get from one project to another. As group work requires a lot of energy, we recommend that you give yourself a week or so in between projects so you do not tire yourself out and have time to recuperate, relax and do things like sightseeing and washing your clothes!
We will do everything we can to find you a place on a project that is on your list of project choices. If we can not find you a place, then you will be entitled to a refund in line with the refund policy of your branch.
You will find yourself living and working together with people of different ages, values and attitudes, skills and experience, background and cultures. Sensitivity to the others in the group is very important and you should be willing to be open towards these experiences. Most projects have project leaders who help to coordinate group activities. Other projects prefer volunteers to make decisions and resolve any problems that might arise collectively. The success of each project depends largely on the active participation and equal involvement of all the volunteers and everyone´s willingness to get involved in group life.
You will not know who the other volunteers are until you arrive at the project. Every project will have a mixed group of volunteers from different countries, so for example if a project has 10 volunteers, the other volunteers could be from France, Finland, Ukraine, Turkey, Latvia, Spain, Switzerland, Romania, Japan and you!
You should stay for the entire length of the project, arriving on the official starting day and leaving on the official end day. Late arrivals miss out on the crucial period of orientation and introductions at the beginning of a project. Leaving early erodes the feeling of solidarity in a group, and leaves those remaining with a sense of having been left behind for something more important.
Yes. SCI branches are member organisations, which rely very much on the involvement of volunteers and their membership base. Your branch will be able to inform you about events where you will get the chance to meet other volunteers and hear their stories and to get involved with SCI working groups such as the Africa Working Group, the Asia International Working Group, SAVA (the Balkan region), MIDI (the Mediterranean region and Middle East) and Abya Yala (Latin American group). We also have action groups on Peace education, Climate change or Youth with fewer opportunities. Whatever your interest is, in SCI there will always be a place for you to get involved!
We welcome applications from volunteers wishing to bring their children, but you will need to be flexible about the project you are willing to do and be open to projects which may be offered to you, since not all workcamps can accept young children. It is best to check with the office before applying to be sure that the chosen project can accept children. There are special family camps in the database that you can search for. Please note that minors under 16 years of age are not covered by the SCI insurance.
No, it does not. You will need to tell us about the nature of your disability when applying for a project. We will make every effort to accommodate you on the project of your choice, however, certain projects may not be accessible for certain disabilities. Conditions vary from project to project and so you will need to be flexible and open to the projects which may be offered to you. Use the additional space on the application form to describe any particular requirements you may have.
It is possible to put in a joint application, but as a general rule only two volunteers from each country are accepted on a project, it means that you may not have as many projects open to you as if you applied for a place on your own. Although we will do our best to find places together, we cannot guarantee it.
You can become a member of your SCI branch at anytime. As membership forms and fees vary from country to country please contact your local branch in your country of residence for details. As a member of your branch, you will be able to access different activities organised by your branch including for example trainings at home or abroad, regular e-bulletins and emails about opportunities globally, updates and other information about activities and events. Only members of SCI branches or partner organisations who have paid their membership fee can attend SCI projects.
For all workcamps in Europe, USA, Canada, North Africa, Near East, Central Asia, East Asia (Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan) and Australia you are automatically insured upon registration for the project. The insurance only covers you while you are actually working on the project and covers illness and injury during the workcamp, but not any material losses, such as your luggage. As a condition of participation you must therefore take out private insurance coverage before going abroad. Your insurance should include full accident and medical cover for all eventualities. Ordinary holiday insurance is usually enough. For all other workcamps in the Global South, or for Long Term Volunteering, there is no automatic SCI insurance coverage.
Yes. SCI's Long Term Volunteering (LTV) programme provides volunteers with the opportunity to stay abroad from 1 to 12 months. Long term volunteering exchanges are considered as an essential activity in SCI which is complimentary to short term voluntary projects or ¨workcamps¨. Long Term Volunteers can choose from a variety of projects and activities, from working with disabled people, disadvantaged youth or ethnic minorities, to working in an office or running daily activities in an eco-village. All Long Term Volunteers that work in SCI are provided with food and accommodation, some pocket money and basic SCI health insurance. Travel costs to the project are generally covered by the volunteer him/herself. Long Term Volunteer Projects are open to all people without any distinction of sex, race, religion or ideology. There is no upper age limit, but volunteers need to be at least 18 years or 20 when going to the Global South. You can find LTV projects in the Long Term Data Base.
Yes, but you need to be 20 years old and have previous volunteering experience (for example an SCI workcamp). It is also recommended that you have some understanding of the North-South relations and the situation in the specific country in the Global South that you want to go to. There are also language requirements: volunteers for West Africa must speak good French, and volunteers for Latin America should speak good Spanish or Portuguese.
Volunteers should participate in the full preparation and orientation programme before they leave and on their return. For more information on volunteering in the South and details of current projects running under the North South Programme, go to the relevant web pages.