Young adults from a faith background 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.

1,000 opportunities to make a difference

Progressio is one of six agencies to take part in a new pilot programme, International Citizen Service (ICS), to send 1,000 young volunteers to work in helping to reduce poverty in developing countries. 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.

Progressio's ICS Empower 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.

Where? What? How?

Some of the experiences on offer will include:

• Working in Latin America or Africa on projects to protect and promote the rights of children and women living with disability or HIV;

• 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.

'A life changing experience'

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."

'Poverty is overcome through people'

Christine Allen, Executive Director of Progressio, said: "Poverty is overcome through people, which is why the UK has a long tradition of achieving change through volunteers. ICS Empower volunteers will travel to Malawi, El Salvador and Peru and will get a hands-on experience of Progressio's people-centred approach to long-term development. Whether they are reclaiming mangrove forests to protect communities against natural disasters or caring for homeless people living with HIV, volunteers will share in the everyday challenges of poor communities and will see how poor people can transform their own lives."

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.

Government funding for volunteers

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.

Find out more!

For detailed information go to You can also find ICS on and applications are being taken through the Progressio website.


Photo: Farmer Betty Mkusa teaches others about organic farming methods in Malawi. (Photo ©Marcus Perkins/Progressio)