What are the objectives of ICS?

1.Project Impact - Enable more than 20,000 young people to work in partnership with communities in a spirit of equality and mutual respect, and to contribute to sustainable development programmes that reduce poverty and inequality.

2. Personal Development - Create personal, professional and leadership development opportunities for more than 20,000 young people through cross cultural working and supported learning, so that young people are better able to raise their voices, increase their employability and build their skills as active citizens.

3. Active Citizenship - Increase the ability of ICS volunteers and community members to live their lives as active citizens, working with their communities to drive sustainable development, raise the voice of young people, and inspire and motivate others.

What are the departure dates? 

Departures with Progressio take place four times a year, usually in January, April, July and September. Each placement lasts for 12 weeks. These are the approximate dates for 2016, but please be aware that the exact departure and return dates may change by a few days either side:

  • 5 January - 29 March
  • 5 April - 29 June
  • 7 July - 15 September
  • 29 September - 22 December

Team leaders should be aware that they may be asked to fly out before the rest of their teams and return later than the rest of their teams, to allow for a handover between old and new group leaders.

Are the 12 weeks flexible?

No. The placements are all for 12 weeks overseas, and you must travel from and return to the UK together as a group. We are unable to accommodate any requests to stay on in country after the 12 weeks have finished, as volunteers must also commit to undertaking Action at Home within 6 months of their return.

What happens if I have to leave the programme early?

When you accept your offer of a placement you make a commitment to the whole programme, including the full 12 weeks overseas as well as Action at Home. Volunteers will only be able to leave early in exceptional circumstances, for example in the case of the death of a close family member or a serious medical condition. In these circumstances, Progressio will arrange for you to return to the UK as soon as is possible.

When will I find out what country I'm going to?

You will be allocated a country by Progressio ICS usually as soon as you have been selected.

When will I find out more details about what I will be doing?

Although we will let you know what country you are going to straight away, we will only be able to confirm what partner you will be working with, where exactly you will be based and who your teammates will be closer to the time you depart, once we have finished selecting all the volunteers for that departure and finalised our plans with our partners in-country.

You will find out about the partner organisations in your country, what they do and what you will be volunteering to support them with at your pre-departure training. At your in-country orientation, in your first week in country, you will meet representatives from the partner organisations and discuss in more detail your placement activities.

How can I contact other Progressio ICS volunteers?

You will meet many of the volunteers going on your departure date at your pre-departure training, and around that time we will also share with you the email addresses of everyone who will be in your team. In the meantime you can always use facebook to chat to other volunteers.

When will I find out my flight details?

Once selection has finished for your departure date Progressio ICS will book flights and provide you with the details by email. This will normally be 4-6 weeks before your departure.

What is the baggage allowance?

Once you have been given your flight details you will know which airline you are flying with and you can check their website for the baggage allowance for your flight. It is usually about 23kg. Remember however that you will need to be able to carry all your luggage, not least to and from Heathrow!

What about insurance?

In your Volunteer Handbook will be the details of the insurance policy, which will cover any medical costs that you may incur in country and up to £300 for your personal belongings. If you need to make a claim for personal items on the insurance you will need to contact them directly to do so and pay the excess of £50.  Please don't bring expensive items with you, as these are easily lost or broken, or could be stolen, and insurance generally will not make it easy for you to make a claim.

How much money will I need to take with me?

All of your food and accommodation are provided while in country and you will receive a weekly allowance for day to day living costs so you shouldn't need to use your own money for much. We expect our volunteers to live as part of the local communities where they are based, and so it is not appropriate to have lots and lots of personal spending money. However we recognise you may want to take some money, for example to buy souvenirs or gifts for friends and family at home. We recommend volunteers bring a maximum of £100.

Who can I talk to about my health overseas?

Progressio is subscribed to a travel health organisation called Interhealth (www.interhealth.org.uk) if you have a health related question you can speak to them for free - their contact details are on their website. Just remember to let them know you are a volunteer with Progressio ICS.

What if I can't afford to pay for my vaccinations up front?

Please ask your surgery if Progressio can pay for your vaccinations directly either by invoice, BACS transfer or with a credit card over the phone.  We also have an arrangement with MASTA clinics who can bill Progressio directly for vaccinations. Please contact us for more information.

Will I need to buy any special equipment to take with me?

You will need to make sure you have certain things, such as mosquito repellent, sunscreen, etc. Depending on your placement you may also need to take clothes and equipment suitable for physical work. You will receive a full list of things we recommend you take with you in your Country Pack, which includes suggestions from returned volunteers.

Will mosquito nets be provided?

Yes where needed, treated mosquito nets will be provided.

I’m receiving benefits, can I still go without losing my benefits?

If you are claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance you will not be eligible to claim for the period when you are overseas. This benefit is usually only payable while people are in the UK. Before you go you must let your Jobcentre Plus office know that you are going abroad and give them your departure date. 

If you are claiming Income Support, you may continue to receive payment for the first four weeks of a temporary absence so long as you continue to satisfy the other conditions of entitlement for that benefit. You must let your Jobcentre Plus office know that you are going abroad and give your departure and return dates.

Jobcentre Plus offers a facility for those people who stop claiming benefits for less than 26 weeks. As long as your personal circumstances have not changed when you reclaim you will go through a shorter claim process. 

During the required periods of training and local activities in the UK before your departure and after your return to the UK, you may continue to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance but your entitlement will depend on your availability to look for and take up work.

If you normally claim Income Support, the periods of training before departure and after your return to the UK whilst you are taking part in local action activities in the UK should not affect your benefit.

For more information please contact the ICS Applications team.

Can I volunteer if I have a criminal record?

Having a criminal record won’t necessarily prevent you from volunteering with ICS; it all depends on the circumstances and background of the offence. All of the ICS agencies use the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to provide Enhanced Disclosures for all volunteers and are committed to complying with the DBS Code of Practice and Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. You will be asked to complete a DBS form online at the selection day, where staff will be on hand to help you. Please click here to see a guide to DBS.

What does it mean that Progressio has Catholic roots?

Progressio was founded by Catholics but it is not an official body of the Catholic Church. Our values are inspired by progressive Catholic thinking, which puts the interests of the poorest and most marginalised first, and is committed to social justice for all. We are therefore both independent of the institution of the Catholic Church, and inclusive in our approach. We work with people of all faiths and none, to support people of any or no faith to transform their lives. In keeping with this commitment, we work with ICS volunteers of any or no faith, and we work to ensure our teams are inclusive of everyone. We expect all our volunteers to be respectful of others’ religious beliefs.

What is the predominant faith in Progressio ICS countries?

In the Central American countries where we work, the predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, although other evangelical Christian denominations are growing in these countries. In Zimbabwe the vast majority of the population is Christian. In Malawi the majority of the population is Christian with Islam making up a sizeable minority of around 15-25%.

Do Progressio ICS volunteers work with faith-based partner organisations?

Progressio ICS volunteers work with a range of different partners, a few of whom are explicitly faith-based although the majority are secular; all are happy working with people of different faiths. It is however important to be aware that in a lot of areas where we work faith plays a much more important role in daily life than it does in the UK, and volunteers should be prepared to find that faith may play a role in the day to day activities they will be part of, for example partner organisations starting meetings with a prayer. 

What will people’s attitudes be towards me if I am of a different faith or no faith?

If you are of a different faith to the ones commonly found in your placement country or if you have no faith then you should be prepared for people asking you questions about your beliefs in your country of placement. The vast majority of people will just be curious and want to know more about you, and as long as you are prepared to be polite and patient you are unlikely to experience any significant difficulties. Everyone involved with Progressio in-country is expected to be respectful of each individual’s beliefs, but we have had rare occasions in the past when volunteers have felt that members of the community have wanted to try and convert them to Christianity. Should this happen to you, your Group Leader and/or the in-country staff will be able to provide you with support.

Will there be opportunities to attend my place of worship whilst on placement?

It’s difficult to say for certain, but in a lot of cases the answer will be no unless you are a member of the main faith in the community where you are based. Many ICS placements take place in rural locations, so there are unlikely to be places of worship nearby for any but the most predominant local faiths. It is likely that volunteers who want to attend church will be able to, although they may not be able to find a church of the same denomination they attend in the UK and it is worth being aware that services won’t be in English.
If having a space for prayer is important to you, then please let us know this during your interview at the Selection Day, so we can make sure that we are able to offer you a placement somewhere it will be possible for you to have access to a prayer space.

Can I wear religious garments whilst on placement?

In most cases, there would be no reason why you couldn’t wear religious garments on placement. If you have any specific concerns about whether you would be able to wear specific garments in your placement, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.
Will it be possible for me to eat food that is Halal / Kosher whilst on placement?
It is unlikely that you will find specifically Halal or Kosher food available where you are living. However, we do ensure that volunteers with any dietary requirements are able to be catered for wherever they are based as far as we reasonably can. Be prepared for the fact that this may mean you are only able to eat vegetarian food during your placement.

What if I am going away during Ramadan?

We have had Muslim volunteers who are keeping Ramadan go away on our programmes before without any problems. Whilst you will need to be prepared to explain to curious people why you aren’t eating or drinking during the day, our in-country staff and your group leader will be able to support you with being able to fast, and making sure you are able to participate in appropriate activities so that you stay healthy if you are not eating or drinking in the heat of the day.

What is the accommodation like? Will any of it be mixed sex?

The accommodation does vary from placement to placement – in some countries, you may be living in homestays with local families, whilst in others you will be staying in a house with the rest of your team of volunteers. In all cases you may be sharing a bedroom with other volunteers, however this will always be on a same-sex basis and we would not put male and female volunteers in the same room. This also applies at all training and orientation venues, whether in the UK or overseas.

Some ICS programmes focus on or include work on HIV and AIDS – what is Progressio’s stance on contraception?

Addressing HIV requires activity at a number of levels which includes care and support, information and awareness, openness and understanding. Tackling HIV requires a holistic approach – and this means recognising all the options available for changing behaviour and acting responsibly. Our work supports a variety of projects reflecting the wide-ranging way in which addressing HIV needs to be seen. It is vital that people have access to information that is correct and are therefore able to make their own decisions. Progressio believes that condoms are one important element in any strategy to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and encourages an informed debate about their use. You can see more about our stance on HIV here.
If you think that your personal beliefs will be in conflict with anything written above or contained in the full statement, then it is likely that a Progressio ICS placement that involves working on HIV and AIDS will not be appropriate for you.

Can I speak to a previous volunteer of the same faith as me?

If this is something you would like to do, please get in touch with us and we will see what we can do, but obviously we can’t make any promises as it would be at the discretion of the relevant volunteer(s).