Young people to make a difference to the world’s poorest – International Citizen Service opens

09 March 2011

Young adults from across the country and from all walks of life will be given the chance to make a real difference in the poorest parts of the world – by volunteering overseas.

Prime Minister David Cameron and Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell have officially opened International Citizen Service (ICS) for applications.

The scheme will enable 18 to 22 year-olds to work as volunteers for 10 to 12 weeks in a developing country on projects to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people.

The scheme aims to contribute to helping reduce poverty overseas as well as to broaden the horizons of the young volunteers and develop skills such as team working and communications.

Some of the experiences on offer will include:

  • Working in Latin America or West Africa on projects to protect and promote the rights of children, women people living with disability or HIV/AIDS.
  • Faith based programmes in Malawi, El Salvador or Peru working with farmers on sustainable agriculture or training young people in IT skills.
  • Working alongside young national volunteers in Africa or Asia to design and run events and campaigns to promote changes aimed at reducing poverty.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: 

 “I want young people from this country to have the chance to really understand the challenges faced by people in very poor countries, by living and working alongside them to improve their lives. International Citizen Service will not only help the world's poorest communities, but it will be a life changing experience for our young people: giving them new perspectives, greater confidence and higher aspirations.”

Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

“This is an important opportunity for young people not only to broaden their own horizons but also to have a life-changing impact on others.  These volunteers will learn first hand about the challenges faced by very poor communities in developing countries, and how their lives can be improved.  By making this contribution these volunteers will show what a difference one person can make in the world. I’m sure they will return from their experience full of enthusiasm for helping others, and with an understanding and appreciation of the results development can bring.”

ICS is planned to involve thousands of young people over the coming years, with 2011 acting as a pilot year to see how best to scale up the programme. The pilot will be implemented by a group of six volunteering agencies, led by VSO. This will enable different models to be evaluated, so that the most cost effective methods can be used when expanding the scheme in the future.

ICS will be largely funded by the Government but some volunteers will be required to make a financial contribution of up to £2,000.  Means testing will help ensure that a wide spectrum of people from all backgrounds can participate. 

The scheme also recognises the contribution that older people can make and will reserve limited places for “team leaders”. Typically these people will have skills and experience that are in high demand in developing countries.  This will also give an opportunity for some young people to work alongside older and more experienced volunteers - to receive mentoring and support.

From 2013 the scheme will seek to include graduates of the UK-based National Citizen Service programme for 16 and 17 year-olds.

For detailed information go to You can also find ICS on

Notes to Editors

  • VSO will lead a consortium of volunteer agencies: International Service, Progressio, Restless Development, Skillshare and THET.
  • Up to 1,080 young adults (18 to 22) and 170 older people will be selected in the pilot year. Then can apply via the website: or via Facebook:
  • The pilot will run until Summer 2012 and will be supported by Department for International Development with funding of £8.37 million.
  • Means testing will look at household income. Those with an income of £25,000 to £40,000 p/a will be expected to provide £1,000 costs. Those with a household income over £40,000 will be expected to provide £2,000. Young people will be given advice and support on how to raise the funds. Those with a household income under £25,000 and older volunteers will not have to contribute.
Last updated: 08 Mar 2011