We receive about 20–25 volunteers from ICYE partner countries every year. Join the program!
The International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE) program offers a chance to volunteer for 6 or 12 months. How do people live their daily life in Finland? Come and explore this as an ICYE volunteer!
The aim of the voluntary work periods is to create grass-root level contacts and understanding between people with different kinds of backgrounds. Time spent volunteering is especially about sharing daily life.
“The profit you take for yourself and the things you can give to others are amazing. So, people: go abroad and make yourself and others a wonderful time!” – Vera, ICYE volunteer from Germany
The ICYE volunteers mostly work in Finland in the field of social work and education – in kindergartens, schools, folk high schools, and child welfare institutions, for instance. The volunteers are accommodated either at the work placement or in a local host family. Most of the volunteers arrive in Finland in August.
These are different types of voluntary work placements that we coordinate:
Child welfare institution
Child welfare institutions include different kinds of organizations, but usually ICYE volunteers work in foster homes. Foster homes are created for socially excluded children who are taken into custody from their biological parents because of drug and alcohol abuse or mental and social problems. The ages of the children vary from toddlers to teenagers.
The community provides the children with care, social education, and a home-like, safe environment for growing. Most foster homes in Finland work in close co-operation with cities and municipalities that finance and monitor them.
The volunteer participates in the daily activities of the foster home, supporting the staff and the children. Volunteers spend time with the kids giving them the possibility to learn their language and culture. They organise free-time activities for them and also help with household tasks like cooking and cleaning. It is also possible that the volunteer creates for the children activities such as sports, arts, and languages.
Folk high school
Folk high schools are boarding schools for mostly young adults aged from 16 to 30+. These folk high schools provide different types of study programs and courses from arts to languages and open university studies. Folk high schools are good options for young people who want to spend their ”gap year” efficiently and to study something, which will improve their possibilities for further studies. Many folk high schools also provide Finnish language studies for immigrants and refugees to support their adaptation process.
Most of the folk high schools are situated in the countryside. This provides excellent opportunities for social development and learning from the Finnish culture directly from the Finnish youth. Good motivation and active initiative taking are a necessity for a successful voluntary work period in a folk high school.
The volunteer work tasks vary according to the volunteers’ skills and interests: from assisting teachers, giving language courses, and organising free-time activities for the students to practical work like helping in the kitchen, library, office or gardening and maintenance work. Sometimes it may be possible to combine voluntary work and studying some subjects in the folk high school. In some folk high schools the volunteers work with immigrant students who study the Finnish language and culture.
Kindergartens are day-care centres for children (aged between 1 and 6 years) whose both parents work during the daytime. Volunteers help the staff in daily cores such as playing with the children, helping the kids in eating and dressing outdoor clothes, and cleaning the kindergarten. We have found the kindergartens to be the best places to learn the language!
Some volunteers have been placed in English or Spanish language kindergartens or in kindergartens using special pedagogic methods, like Montessori or Steiner. Volunteers who work in a kindergarten are accommodated in host families.
Old people’s home
Old people’s homes are organizations that take care of elderly people, who are not able to live on their own anymore. These homes offer accommodation, care, and daily activities for them. Usually the elderly live in the rooms of one or two people, and the houses also include common rooms for all the inhabitants. Usually, these homes aim at creating a homely atmosphere.
The volunteers help the staff with daily work tasks, such as assisting the elderly in dining and providing them with different daily activities. It is important that the volunteer is motivated to learn Finnish since old people often do not know English.
School / Educational institution
In the Finnish elementary school, there are 9 grades (with the possibility for the extra 10th grade) and the children are aged from six to sixteen. Most of the schools in Finland are run by the government. Some schools are interested in hosting volunteers in order to create for the pupils a possibility for intercultural learning and practicing a foreign language.
The volunteers assist the teachers in the daily school work and also help the staff in other tasks like organising international days or other happenings. Some of the volunteers are placed in other educational institutions, such as schools for students with special needs (physical or mental disabilities) and vocational schools.
Work with people with special needs
Some of the work placements offer education, work, and accommodation services for people with special needs. There might be people with developmental, mental and/or physical disabilities and challenges in learning. Volunteers work, for instance, in day activity centres, schools, arts&crafts workshops, and communities.
The voluntary tasks with disabled people depend on the type of workplace in which the volunteer is working. Work can be very practical: helping people in their everyday duties, such as dining, but at the same time there are opportunities to assist in different types of therapy, art classes, handicraft workshops, agriculture, garden work, animal care, etc.
Work with people with special needs can be challenging and requires some patience, especially in the beginning – but it is also very interesting and rewarding. It is important that the volunteer is motivated to learn Finnish since disabled people often do not know English.
Youth work is work that aims at supporting the growth of young people and advancing their active citizenship as well as intergenerational interaction and social strengthening. In the youth work field, volunteers may, for instance, organize free-time activities for youngsters in a youth center. It is important that the volunteer is social and takes active contact with the kids.
Some projects do not fall into any of the above-mentioned categories. There are, for instance, some cultural projects, non-governmental organisations, and local voluntary centres offering voluntary work placements.
You can read more about the ICYE voluntary work placements in Finland from our Work Profile below. The profile includes examples on possible voluntary workplaces. It does not hold all the projects, and not all the projects in the profile are hosting volunteers each year.
No prior experience is required from participants. Just a positive attitude and motivation for voluntary work and learning new things! It is also very useful to know at least the basics of English – or Finnish.
The ICYE voluntary work program is mostly for persons aged between 18 to 30 years, but the upper age limit is flexible.
We will receive for volunteering in Finland only people who have received a full series of vaccinations against the coronavirus. By requiring vaccination, we want to ensure the health security of the volunteers, voluntary workplaces, and host families.
The ICYE volunteers themselves pay a program fee for their National ICYE Committee. The amount of the program fee differs from country to country.
The program fee comprises health insurance, Finnish language, and cultural training, full board, and support from Maailmanvaihto during the voluntary work period.
The daily travel costs between the place of accommodation and work are covered, and the volunteer workplace provides the volunteer with monthly pocket money. In 2022–2023 the pocket money is 110 € per month.
We at Maailmanvaihto receive ICYE volunteers to Finland only through our partner organizations of the ICYE Federation. Please, contact the local ICYE office of your country of residence for further information.
There are ICYE orgnizations (National Committees) in about 40 countries in different parts of the world. You can find the contact information of each ICYE oganization on ICYE’s international homepage.