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Through volunteering young people contribute to strengthening communities while gaining experience, skills and competences for their own personal, educational, social, civic, and professional development
Volunteering will help to:
• Open opportunities to gain new experiences and develop new skills
• Increase your employability by showing future employers that you are adaptable, brave and have life experience
• Introduce you to new friends from different countries
• Take you out of your comfort zone • Help you give something back
• Find a sense of direction (for further study or a career)
• Become more independent
• Appreciate and have a better understanding of other cultures
The European Solidarity Corps is an EU funded programme that provides support and funding for young people to spend some time doing voluntary work in their own country or abroad in projects that benefit communities and people.
Once you are accepted onto a European Solidarity Corps project, all your expenses (rent, food, transport, insurance, visa procedures, language classes) are covered by the project, and you even get a bit of pocket money to enjoy your experience fully! Your travel costs are also covered although there may be a minimal contribution required.
Volunteering teams are solidarity activities allowing teams of 10 to 40 European Solidarity Corps participants from at least two different countries to volunteer together for a period between two weeks and two months. Such solidarity activities could especially contribute to the inclusion of young people with fewer opportunities in the European Solidarity Corps.
To find out more information, please go to the European Youth Portal.
Who can apply? The minimum age to participate in a Solidarity project is 18. The programme is open to those between 18 and 30 years. Young people can register if they are legally resident in the EU or in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey, or the Republic of North Macedonia, or if they hold the nationality of these countries.
Where can I go? Anywhere in the EU as well as many other places in the world under the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps which however might involve a more complicated application process.
Examples of European Solidarity Corps project: There are a wide range of activities and organisations to choose from e.g., animal rescue in Belgium, festivals in Austria, working in a Youth Centre in Slovenia and working for Human Rights in Moldova etc.
Duration of European Solidarity Corps projects: European Solidarity Corps projects can range from 2 – 12 months. However, it is also worth noting that under exceptional circumstances some projects can be completed in less than 2 months. An advanced planning preparation visit can also be arranged for the young person and a support worker. This takes place over 1 – 2 days a month beforehand.
In some cases, volunteering activities of two weeks to two months can be put in place for young people with fewer opportunities. This type of solidarity activity will give young people the chance to take part in the daily work of organisations and perform tasks that can have a real impact. Activities can take place either in a country other than the country of residence of the participant (cross-border) or in the country of residence of the participant (in-country).
How do I apply?
Plan and prepare, it can take from 2 – 6 months to apply for and go on a European Solidarity Corps project. Your sending organisation will explain everything to you and support you throughout the process. They will also carry out some ‘predeparture’ training with you, to help you be more fully prepared. Youth Information Services can also help you during this time with different things, like budgeting, cooking a meal etc.
Your local Eurodesk Multipliers are an excellent place to start – they are based in local Youth Information Services and have a specialised knowledge on volunteering opportunities in Europe available to young people. See the map of multipliers HERE. You can also visit European Solidarity Corps.
Young people with disabilities are encouraged to take part in European Solidarity Corps and specific supports are provided for them as part of the overall programme. Sometimes they can volunteer their time and expertise with organisations that specialise in working with or supporting other young people with disabilities. More information
European Solidarity Corps provides young people with fewer opportunities and easy access options to help them participate.
This includes tailor-made projects to suit their specific skills and qualities, as well as additional financial and other support as required to encourage them to take part in European Solidarity Corps. More information.
There are many opportunities to volunteer in exchange for accommodation and food that allow you to explore the country in your free time.
You can do a range of tasks, such as doing up an old cottage, helping on an organic farm, au-pairing for a family, doing maintenance work on a holiday center, carrying out general duties in a hostel, helping in an orphanage, being a guide for tourists, doing photography projects and much more. Examples of sites which list these opportunities are WorkAway and HelpX.
WWOOF stands for Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms – is where a volunteer works on an organic farm in exchange for accommodation and food.
Many hosts only require 4-6 hours work per day for 5 days, however this differs between hosts and depends on whether accommodation and food or just accommodation are offered. The sites listed may require a small fee for viewing all details of hosts.
Voluntary Service International (VSI) offers short and long-term volunteering opportunities and these are available worldwide. VSI also supports young people as a sending organisation for the European Solidarity Corps.
Comhlámh is an organisation that encourages, promotes and assists volunteering in overseas projects. It also campaigns for volunteer organisations to sign up to its Code of Good Practice, ensuring the safety and welfare of its volunteers.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV) has many different areas in which you can volunteer, from emergency relief to ICT.
To get a sense of what volunteering can do for you, watch the Eurodesk video on Volunteering.
Much of this information has been compiled by Euroguidance Ireland and Eurodesk Ireland, as part of a booklet ‘Europe is Open to You!’ providing information on European opportunities for young people including studying, training, working and volunteering.
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