Questions on applying for projects
1. When is the best time to apply for a project?
2. Am I too young / old to apply?
3. Do I need any skills / experience to apply for a project?
4. I am not a student, can I apply to UNA Exchange?
5. Can I do a project with my friend?
6. How are volunteers selected?
7. Can people with disabilities apply?
8. How does the placement process work?
9. How long will it take to apply?
10. Can I do more than one project?
11. What if the project I applied for is full and I haven't been placed?
12. Can I join UNA Exchange?
13. How much does it all cost?
14. Where does my money go?
15. Do I need to attend training?
16. How do I get to the project?
17. Who organizes the projects?
18. What about food and accommodation on a project?
19. Will I have any free time?
20. Who else will be in my group?
21. What if I don't speak any other languages?
Projects are available throughout the year. Each season runs from March through to February and details of the seasons' new projects will be available at the end of each March. You can apply for a project at any time however please note that some projects, especially in Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Greece fill up quicker than others.
To avoid disappointment we recommend that if you see a project you like you should quickly check the cost of flights and ground travel (try www.seat61.com for ground travel), and if the cost is within your budget, go ahead and apply for the project.
Although the minimum age for participation in most countries is 18, there are an increasing number of projects open to 16 and 17 year olds. If you are a teenager thinking of applying please take some time to read through our Teen Handbook.
There is usually no maximum age limit. Some projects do have a maximum age, often due to the funding they receive. However, we have regular volunteers who are in their 40s, 50s or 60s. As long as you are happy living in a group then there is nothing stopping you!
No! Much more important are enthusiasm, a sense of humour and a flexible, open-minded attitude. You do not have to have any experience of the type of work you will be doing, but you should be motivated for it. Some projects ask for volunteers with a particular skill e.g. a language. This will be written in the project description so you will know if the project is suitable before you apply.
Yes you can! UNA Exchange is not a student organisation; we are open to everyone, whether you are working, unemployed, studying or already involved in volunteering.
Yes you can! Normally our partners will only accept two volunteers from the same country on a project. The main reason for that is so the group can have as many different cultures and nationalities in it as possible. Having too many people from the same country can affect group dynamics.
Volunteers are not ‘chosen’. Each partner organisation places as wide a range of nationalities as possible on each of its projects. Therefore your chance of being placed on your first choice of project will depend on when you apply and the number of remaining places. We will always look for an alternative project if your choices are not available.
We encourage volunteers to do a project alone to maximise the experience and to allow group life to develop easily without sub-groups forming. However, we can place a maximum of two British volunteers together on the same project.
We believe that anyone can volunteer. If you have special needs, we will try to find a project that can accommodate this. Obviously each project is different and each volunteer is different so each case is looked at individually.
Once we receive your application and the fee we will contact the appropriate partner organisation and ask them to confirm a place for you. We will go through your choices in order of preference.
We do our best to place you on your first choices but this is not always possible and sometimes we have to discuss alternative choices with you. Once we have an answer, we will let you know which project you are placed on. You will then receive detailed final information written by the hosting organisation to help you prepare, at least 3-4 weeks before your project starts.
We will usually be able to let you know whether you are accepted on a project or not within 7-10 days, but in some cases it can take longer. It is a good idea to apply as soon as possible, as many projects (especially in Spain, France, Italy and Greece) become full quickly.
Yes! As long as you can find projects that fit together you can apply for as many as you like in as many countries as you like. You will need to pay a placement fee for each project (the fee for a 2nd or 3rd project will be discounted – see Cost and How to Apply ). It is a good idea to leave a few days free between projects to give you enough time for travel or recuperation.
If we weren’t able to place you and you only included one project in your shortlist then we’ll contact you to inquire about whether you would prefer to have a refund or if you’d like to choose another project to apply for.
If you’ve included a short list of projects with your application and we haven’t managed to place you on any of them then the same applies - refund or chose another project. This scenario doesn’t happen often as we find that volunteers who have put at least three choices down usually get placed on one of them (usually their first choice).
By joining UNA Exchange, you will support us to enable people from around the world to learn from each other through international volunteering. Our membership shows there is support for our aims and enables us to apply for grants and financial support from government and elsewhere.
As a member of UNA Exchange you will receive:
• Advance notice of projects and activities
• Discounts on any merchandise (such as t-shirts)
• Early mailings of twice yearly newsletters
• Invitations to special events such as the annual Volunteers Reunion & AGM
Annual membership of UNA Exchange costs just £12 and you can apply for it using a form on our website.
Please see our 'How much will it cost' page for more information on project costs. There is also a table with rough minimum / maximum total proejct costs on there.
The registration fee you pay to UNA Exchange covers administration, promotion of our volunteer programmes, and help to run our programme of projects in Wales. A percentage of all registration fees is donated to a Solidarity Fund managed by the Co-ordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS), part of UNESCO. This fund supports the participation of volunteers from Eastern and Southern countries who would otherwise be unable to participate in projects overseas. We try to keep the fees as low as possible, but we rely on this income to support our work.
Some projects require and extra fee once you get there (usually South America, Africa and Asia). This extra fee is needed because these organisations don’t get as much financial support from governments and grant giving organisations as our other partners. The extra fee that is paid to them is split in different ways but generally a portion of it goes towards the project (food, accommodation, tools etc) while another part goes towards their administration costs – similar to UNA Exchange.
For most projects in Europe, North America, Japan and Korea you do not need to attend our pre-departure training events. However, if applying for a project in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia (except Japan and South Korea) or South / Central America it is essential to join a pre-departure training. There are generally two training events a year in May and September.
Once you’ve been accepted on a project it is your responsibility to make all of your own travel arrangements for getting there. It is a good idea to make the relevant travel enquiries as early as possible, to avoid a panic at the last minute as well as a higher priced ticket!
Final details (meeting point for volunteers, address, emergency contact numbers etc.) of projects are usually sent out by our partners around 30 days before the project start date.
Each project is organised by one of our international partner organisations. They work in co-operation with local community organisations, who act as the project hosts, providing food and accommodation for the volunteers.
Our partner organisations are responsible for co-ordinating the placement of volunteers and the co-ordination of the projects in their own countries. They also provide one or two trained project leaders, who will help run each project.
Food and accommodation for the duration of the project are provided free of charge by the host organisation (unless it is stated otherwise in the project description).
Volunteers are usually required to cater for themselves and money is provided for the group to buy and cook food together.
The type of accommodation varies but generally you’ll be staying in tents, local schools, village halls, hostels or youth centres. On virtually all projects you will need two essential items – a sleeping bag and roll mat.
Yes, you will usually work up to eight hours a day with free evenings and weekends. Social activities are often organised by the group together with the project leaders. It can be a good idea to have some suggestions of different games or other activities that you could play with your group in your spare time.
Each project has a mix of volunteers from many countries, and there can be between 5 and 30 volunteers in total, depending on the project. The average age range of volunteers is usually (but not always) between 18 and 25. On certain projects, many of the volunteers are nationals of the host country.
On most projects there will be one or two project leaders who live and work with the group and are usually volunteers themselves. They are chosen and trained by our partner organisations, so are often nationals of the host country. The leaders depend on the full participation of each volunteer, so it is the responsibility of the whole group to ensure the project’s success.
Speaking other languages always helps when travelling but volunteers come from all over the world, so there will be many different languages spoken. The official language on most projects is English and you will not be refused a place because you do not speak the language of that country unless this is stated as a specific requirement.
We advise you to have conversational language skills if you are applying for projects in certain countries (Spain, Morocco, Mexico, etc.). Some projects may ask for volunteers who can speak the local language. Any language requirements are stated and underlined in the project description. We always recommend that you learn some basic vocabulary wherever you go, at least some greetings and to explain that you don’t speak the language. You will get much more out of a project if you make some effort to learn even a little of the local language first.