T-Kit 5: International Voluntary Service

Ever since the beginning of the movement, volunteers have been driven by the wish to contribute, positively to today’s societies, working towards peaceful and just living conditions through a common effort. Peace and international understanding, friendship and co-operation form part of the overall aims of voluntary service. These are pursued through a common commitment based on a free personal decision and through the coming together of individuals and groups of different backgrounds. At the same time the volunteers contribute to concrete projects in need.

But not only society or concrete projects benefit from volunteering. These international voluntary service (IVS) projects also have an educational impact, both on the participants in such projects as well as on the communities in which they act. Through working and living together, volunteers and local people exchange their views, learn new skills from and with people from another background than their own, and hopefully adopt an open and constructive attitude towards difference. These aims and objectives are at the centre of IVS. However, not all of them are self-explanatory, nor do they become automatically apparent to everyone involved in an IVS project. A lot of the learning processes outlined above need to be facilitated; otherwise a project intended to foster intercultural learning could well turn into an experience of cultural frustration, if, for example, the volunteers are not properly prepared for the experience abroad. The organisation of IVS projects needs to be carefully planned and requires adequate preparation and follow-up and considerable human and financial resources.

This T-Kit has been developed as a tool for youth workers to support the process of organising an IVS project. It was revised and updated in 2011, the European Year of Volunteering and the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteering. The T-Kit describes a number of framework conditions that contribute to a successful voluntary service project. The text outlines some of the traps to avoid and offers ways of introducing both the volunteers and the organisations to the voluntary service adventure. At the same time it can be used as inspiration for trainers in the field of IVS activities.