Frequently Asked Questions

 

...about the projects

    What is an international volunteer project?

    why do a project?

    when can i do a project?

    where can I go?

    who organises the projects?

    what about food and accommodation?

    will I have any free time?

...about applying

    how are volunteers selected?

    who else will be in my group?

    am I too young/too old to go?

        what if I dont speak any other languages?

    do I need any skills or experience?

        can people with disabilities apply?

    how do I get involved?

    how does the placement process work?

    how long will it take to apply?

    can I do more than one project?

    what about training?

    how much does it all cost?

    where does my money go?

about preparing

    how do I get to the project?

    do I need a visa?

    what about insurance?

    what should I take?

        is there anything else I need to prepare?

 

 

   What is an international volunteer project?

 

An IVP is a short term project (sometimes known as a workcamp), usually lasting from 2-4 weeks, that brings together a group of volunteers from around the world to take part in a community based project. Volunteers gain an insight into local culture though working within the community.

 

The type of work you do could be anything from planting trees in Tanzania to organising activities for youth groups in Turkey; from renovating castles in the Czech republic to maintaining national parks or clearing beaches in Italy. Projects fall into the following general categories:

 

-        Environmental

-        Construction

-        Renovation

-        Archaeology

-        Working with children/youth groups

-        Cultural

-        Festivals

-        Teaching

-        Study

 

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   why do a project?

 

Volunteers have many different reasons for wanting to take part in an IVP, and often, after youve come back, youll find even more things youve gained from your project that you werent expecting to before you went.

 

If youre looking for a new challenge, want to meet people from all over the world, learn about other cultures, broaden your horizons, learn new skills, , or do something more meaningful with your 2-week summer holiday than just being a normal tourist, then maybe an IVP is what youre looking for

 

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   when can i do a project?

 

You can do a project at any time of the year, although most of the projects take place between June and September. Projects run between set dates and are usually between 2 and 4 weeks long.

 

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   where can I go?

 


Main Programme

Armenia

Austria

Azerbaijan

Belarus

Belgium

Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bulgaria

Canada

Croatia

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Greenland

Hungary

Iceland

Italy

Japan

Latvia

Lithuania

Macedonia

Montenegro

Nepal

Netherlands

Poland

Portugal

Romania

Russia

Serbia

Slovenia

Slovakia

South Korea

Spain

Turkey

Ukraine

USA

Wales

 

North South Programme

Bangladesh

Botswana

Burkina Faso

Cambodia

Ecuador

Ghana

Guatemala

India

Indonesia

Kenya

Lesotho

Malawi

Malaysia

Mexico

Mongolia

Morocco

Mozambique

Namibia

Philipines

South Africa

Tanzania

Thailand

Togo

Uganda

Zambia

Zimbabwe 


 

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   who organises the projects?

 

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.

 

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   what about food and accommodation?

 

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 self-catering and money is provided for you to buy and cook food together. Its a good idea to take some recipes with you, because you might be asked to cook a traditional dish from your home country, but bear in mind that you might not be able to get hold of all the ingredients you need, or have the ideal cooking facilities (so Sunday roast for 15 people might be a little ambitious!)

 

The type of accommodation varies but generally youll be staying in tents, local schools, village halls, hostels or youth centres. On virtually all projects you will need one essential item a sleeping bag. Sometimes no beds or mattresses are available and youll be asked to bring a carry-mat to sleep on. You should be prepared for very basic living conditions in some cases, especially on a North South project.

 

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   will I have any free time?

 

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.

 

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    how are volunteers selected?

 

As a rule 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.

 

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    who else will be in my group?

 

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 projects success.

 

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    am I too young/too old to go?

 

Although the minimum age for participation in most countries is 18, there are an increasing number of projects open to 14 to 17 year olds. 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.

 

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        what if I dont speak any other languages?

 

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 dont 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.

 

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    do I need any skills or experience?

 

No! Much more important are enthusiasm, a sense of humour, and a flexible, open-minded attitude. You do not necessarily have to have any experience of the type of work you will be doing, but you should be motivated for it. Some projects may ask for volunteers with a particular skill, for example a language. This will be written in the project description so you will know if the project is suitable before you apply.

 

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        can people with disabilities apply?

 

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

 

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    how do I get involved?

 

To join a project overseas you need to choose one from our latest project list or our website. The website will contain the most up-to-date information about project availability, but if you would like to receive a paper copy please contact us. Once you have chosen which projects you are interested in, send us an application form (see the apply page) accompanied by the appropriate fee and we will start the placement process.

 

Please see the apply page for more information on the application process.

 

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    how does the placement process work?

 

Once we receive your application and the fee we will contact the appropriate partner organisation asking 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 2 weeks before your project starts.

 

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    how long will it take to apply?

 

We will usually be able to let you know whether you are accepted on a project or not within one or two weeks, 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.

 

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    can I do more than one project?

 

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. It is good idea to leave a few days free between projects to give yourself time for travel or recuperation.

 

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    what about training?

 

For most projects in Europe and North America you do not need to attend any special training or preparation course. However, before applying for a project in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia (except Japan and South Korea) or South / Central America it is essential to join a North South Orientation weekend (see page for more information). There are four North South trainings a year, usually in February, April, July and November.

 

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    how much does it all cost?

 

You must pay a placement fee to UNA Exchange at the application stage (this fee is listed alongside the name of the country). For 2005, the fee for projects on our main programme (Europe, North America, Japan and South Korea) is 110 for members of UNA Exchange, 130 for non-members. The fee for North South projects (South and Central America, South and South East Asia, and Africa) is 120 for members and 140 for non-members. The fee for members/non-members for a particular country is given next to the country title in the final section of this booklet. The annual fee for membership of UNA Exchange is 10 (students and unwaged) and 15 (waged). You can join UNA Exchange as a member at the same time as you apply. There is an application form for membership at the back of this booklet.

 

You are responsible for your travel costs, to and from the project, insurance and other personal expenses. Some projects require an additional project fee that is payable on application or to the host organisation on arrival (pay special attention to projects marked +F in the programme). Food and accommodation are provided free of charge for the duration of the project.

 

We will not be able to proceed with an application unless it is accompanied by the appropriate fee, so please send it with your application.

 

In some cases we are able to waive the placement fee. You should contact us before making the application if you have particular difficulties in paying. This applies to families on low wages and people who are on long-term benefit. We will only waive the fee for projects in North and Western Europe. Please send an explanation letter and a copy of a relevant social security document to confirm your financial status. While we recognise that they may have financial difficulties too, we are unable to waive fees for students or those taking GAP years.

 

The table below gives some estimates of the total cost of doing a project. They are divided into lowest and highest case scenarios. The majority of volunteers will require 250-400 to participate in a project.

 

 

Item

 

Minimum

Maximum

UNA Exchange membership fee

 

10.00

(unwaged)

15.00

(waged)

Placement fee

 

110.00

(Main Programme -members fee)

140.00

(North South Project - non members fee)

Training

0

(Main Programme)

40.00

(North South Programme - non-members)

Additional project fees

 

0

200.00

Insurance

 

20.00

50.00

Visas (if required)

 

0

50.00

Transport/Travel

 

50.00

500.00

Spending money

 

50.00

100.00

Total

240.00

1,080.00

 

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    where does my money go?

 

The placement fee you pay to UNA Exchange covers administration, promotion of our volunteer programmes, and helps to run our programme of projects in Wales. A percentage of all placement 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.

 

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    how do I get to the project?

 

Once youve been accepted on a project it is your responsibility to make all 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! If you are applying for projects further afield, it is advisable to call a travel agency before you apply to get an idea of the cost and availability of flights. However, dont book anything until youve been accepted on a project incase the project is full!

 

Final details (meeting point, address, etc.) of projects are sometimes slow to arrive. If you plan to travel by air, it is advisable to book once you have confirmation of acceptance from UNA Exchange. For rail travel we recommend the highly flexible Inter-Rail ticket. For booking flights we recommend the friendly and reliable North South Travel who invest their profits in overseas development projects. There are also many good deals with budget airlines flying to many European destinations available on the internet. Coach travel is usually still the cheapest method and Eurolines, booked through National Express have extensive coach networks throughout Europe.

 

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    do I need a visa?

 

For volunteering outside the UK you will need a passport, which should be valid for six months after you intend to return to the UK. Some countries also require you to have a visa before you arrive. Approach the Embassy or Consulate of the country/ies where you will be going for information regarding visa requirements before you travel. We recommend that you obtain all the necessary visas before you leave. We recommend you call the relevant embassies or visit www.embassyhomepage.com as soon as you know you are going to a country that may require a visa. Dont forget that some embassies can require a long time to process visa applications, so make sure you dont leave it too late!

 

Through our partner organisations we can issue you with an invitation letter if required. When you apply for a visa, remember that you are not going to work as a paid employee, you will be a volunteer and have the same status as any other tourist.

 

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    what about insurance?

 

Some of our partner organisations provide various forms of insurance (usually only accident, sickness and third party) for the duration of the project. However, these policies are often only intended to complement other policies. They do not cover you off the project or for theft, delay, or your rucksack being sent to Vladivostok. Many partner organisations do not provide insurance for volunteers, so you must take out your own insurance. Information on insurance is given in the final project details, sent to you after you have applied for a project.

 

UNA Exchange stipulates that all volunteers must have their own travel and health insurance. This can easily be obtained as part of an overall package from the travel agent. This should insure you against baggage loss, travel cancellations and any health problems during and outside of the project. If you are attending a project within the EU, you must obtain an E111 form from your local Post Office. NB: UNA Exchange cannot be liable for any problems arising from accidents, illness, theft, loss of personal items or cancelled/delayed travel.

 

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    what should I take?

 

This will depend on where it is that you go to do a project. Some things that would be good to take include:

 

-        Sleeping bag

-        Hard-wearing, old clothes for working in

-        Strong footwear/hiking boots

-        Waterproof coat

-        Something smart to wear

-        Recipes, games, songs, photos and postcards from where you live

-        Notebook and pen to record everyones addresses at the end of your project

-        Good sense of humour and an open mind!

 

Check your project info sheet for any other items you will need specific to your project.

For your peace of mind we advise that you dont take personal valuables.

 

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        is there anything else I need to prepare?

 

It is good to learn about a countrys history, culture, society and language before you go. Guidebooks are very useful, particularly Lonely Planet or Rough Guides. You should check if you require any vaccinations for the country you are going to. Make sure your tetanus vaccination is up to date, wherever you are going.