The Origins of International Voluntary Service


Pierre Ceresole, founder of SCI. His motto was "Deeds not words."

Pierre Ceresole, founder of SCI. His motto was “Deeds not words.”

The idea of International Voluntary Service (IVS) came from a Swiss pacifist, Pierre Ceresole, following the First World War. Not able to sit idly he searched for the “moral equivalent for war,” and the concept of international workcamps was born. He founded “Service Civil International” (SCI) with its emphasis upon constructive, voluntary service for peace through international work camps in devastated and conflict areas.

After World War II, international voluntary service projects brought former enemy populations together in solidarity. In 1948, with the support of the recently established United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS) was created to coordinate these new international voluntary service organizations. In 2008, CCIVS celebrated its 60th anniversary!

VFP operates in collaboration with this large network non-profit organizations worldwide to promote International Voluntary Service projects. Through our international alliances and partnerships, we are able to exchange over a 700 volunteers each year who work together to help communities meet local needs and some of the goals of the United Nation’s Millennium Declaration.

Volunteers For Peace is a member organization of the CCIVS at UNESCO and work in partnership with SCI and the Alliance of European Voluntary Service Organizations to exchange thousands of volunteers each year!


Within the global CCIVS network, over 100,000 volunteers are exchanged annually!


What is an IVS Project?

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Short Term Volunteer Projects

You arrive on the same day with your fellow volunteers (usually about 10 other people from 5 different countries). You will be greeted by your project leaders who will accompany you during the entire experience.  All the volunteers and project leaders live together, work together, cook together, and explore together.
Length: 2-3 weeks
Typical Accommodation: Can vary from dorms, camping, host families, schools, and more.
Experience Level: Perfect for all ages and all levels of travel experience!
Our most popular projects!


Medium Term Volunteer Projects

Volunteers arrive on the same day (usually about 1-3 international volunteers) and attend an orientation hosted by a project leader to help the volunteers acclimate to the country, the community, and the project.  Volunteers will be transported to their accommodations by the project leader, and slowly given more independence throughout the duration of the project. Volunteers will not be accompanied the entire time by a project leader, but will always have them for support when needed.  The projects offer a more independent and cultural immersion experience.
Length: 1-6 months
Typical Accommodation: Host Family or Dorm
Experience Level: Great for students looking to volunteer over the summer or a semester in their area of study. May require local language knowledge.
Only open to volunteers aged 18 and older.

Long Term Volunteer Projects

In many communities that we have been working in for over 30 years we have developed very close relationships with our local partner organizations and community members. These projects are typically our most diverse types of projects and can range anywhere from one week to a year in length. These projects are less structured and are great for volunteers looking to craft a personalized experience. You select the dates you arrive and depart. Choose from a variety of work types and work with the community members to craft your own experience.  Great for student groups looking to customize their experience.
Length: 1 week to 1 year
Typical Accommodation: Single placements are usually with a host family. Groups should specify if they prefer host families or dorm stays.
Experience Level: Varied. There is no guarantee that other volunteers will be working in the community when you arrive.
Recommended for confident travelers prepared to be fully immersed in local culture or a group that wants to serve together.

Looking to customize your trip by registering with family, friends, or a group of peers? We arrange many custom group projects each year. Email us at to inquire about group opportunities.
Are you between the ages of 14-17 and looking to volunteer abroad with other teens? We arrange many teen volunteer placements each year. Click here to learn more about Teen Volunteer Projects