What is a voluntary workcamp? How can I participate?
Voluntary workcamps last from ten days to three weeks, and usually host five to twenty volunteers from different countries. During the camp, the volunteers work on a grassroots non-profit project. The work does not require any professional skills, as it often consists of building, clearing, easy repairs, gardening or fieldwork, kitchen chores, helping to organize events, or arranging activities for children, the elderly or people with special needs. Most camps are organized during the summer. Annually there are over 1000 camps around the world.
Voluntary workcamps in the Global South are otherwise similar to other voluntary workcamps, but these camps are organized in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Workcamps are organized throughout the year and the conditions on the camps are normally very simple and notably different from those in Finland.
Voluntary workcamps in the Global South do not normally have as many volunteers as camps in Europe. In many countries in the Global South, it is possible to participate in many consecutive camps and to get to know the hosting organization’s projects more thoroughly. This makes it possible to spend a longer time in the destination.
If you are interested in volunteering for a longer period, see Long-term volunteering.
Normally, each voluntary workcamp has one or two camp leaders. They are in charge of guiding and supervising the group. The accommodation at camps is usually quite simple, sleeping on mattresses on the floor is common. The camp language is usually English, unless otherwise mentioned in the camp description. For example in Latin America or in French-speaking Africa Spanish or French might be required. Basic knowledge of English along with motivation for the work usually goes a long way! The working hours at the camps are usually between 6 and 8 hours a day, five days a week. Two days a week are reserved for free time. The camps also have a study theme and sessions related to this.
Who can go?
Anyone who is over 18 and interested in volunteering abroad can take part in a camp. There are no special requirements. You can also apply to a camp with a friend or partner. Some camps also welcome children (child friendly camps). Some camps are also wheelchair accessible.
Normally there is no upper age limit in the camps and there are also some camps where you can already participate at the age of 16. You will find these camps after registration at the online placement system.
In a nutshell
|Voluntary workcamps||Camps in the Global South|
|duration||10 days – 3 weeks||10 days – 4 weeks|
|where?||Europe, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Turkey||Africa, Latin America, South-East Asia (excl. Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan)|
|coordination fee||camp coordination fee 100€ + KVT membership fee 20€/10€||camp coordination fee 125€ + KVT membership fee 20€/10€|
|project fee||Normally no (with the exception of Iceland and some camps in Estonia).||Yes, 100€-300€ depending on the project.|
|insurance||yes||No, volunteer must get their own insurance.|
|application period||Throughout the year: most camps are in the summer||Throughout the year|
|previous experience||no||Previous volunteering experience recommended|
|criminal record extract||possibly||possibly|
If you do not get a place in the camp, you can either apply to another camp or the coordination fee will be reimbursed to you. The volunteers need to pay their own travel fees and insurance.
On regular voluntary workcamps the camp host provides the volunteers with food and accommodation.
On camps in the Global South there is normally an additional project fee for each camp, which is normally between 100€ and 300€ depending on the project. The project fee covers accommodation and food during the camp as well as some administrational costs of the organization and it is paid to the receiving organization or to the camp host.
The camp coordination fee includes SCI’s health and accident insurance, which covers the duration of the camp (volunteers aged between 16 and 70 years). This insurance is does not include travels to and from the camp location, so it is advisable to get your own travel insurance. If the camp takes place within the EU (+Norway and Switzerland), it is obligatory to get a European Health Insurance Card from Kela.
Volunteers in camps in the Global South are not covered by SCI’s insurance so they must get their own travel insurance.
We organise training for volunteers going to projects in the Global South and to long-term volunteering projects three to four times a year (normally December–January, April–May, August–September). This training is mandatory and it usually takes place in Helsinki and lasts one full day. In the training we discuss ethical and sustainable volunteering, practical matters relating to the volunteering period, adapting to a foreign culture and hear from former volunteers in the Global South. The trainers are KVT’s experienced volunteers.
Criminal record extract
In some cases, the volunteer needs to send a criminal record extract to KVT office after being accepted. This is generally when the volunteer will be working with children, youth or people with special needs. The extract costs 6 or 12 euros in Finland. After the acceptance, KVT will send the volunteer further instructions on how to order the extract.
Participating in a camp in Finland
If you would like to join a voluntary workcamp in Finland, you must apply through an SCI partner organization in your country. Search for a project in the Online Placement System and apply through there.
See our specific application instructions here.
For more information read the Guide for camp participants (in Finnish).