Volunteering in Germany
Being a volunteer means investing your time and energy for the benefits of others without financial gain, for example working for a non-profit organisation. As a volunteer you may work in many different fields such as health, arts and culture, social care or environment.
During short-term voluntary services you work for 1-4 weeks as a volunteer. For a small agency fee, you get the chance to participate in a workcamp or help on a farm. In return you will get free board and lodging:
Workcamps in Germany
If you are interested in a short-term voluntary service in Germany, an international Workcamp might be the right thing for you. Usually 10-30 young people from different countries participate in a non-profit project for 2-4 weeks. These camps intend to encourage intercultural exchange and deal with ecological, social, cultural or artistical issues. For example, together you organize a cultural festival or renovate an old playground. You do not need German language skills, since the working language usually is English.
In most cases Workcamps are open to young people that are 18 to 30 years old, but there are also some so-called Teenage-Workcamps, in which you can already participate from the age of 14.
During the day, you work for 4-6 hours, five days a week. Afternoons and weekends are free and open for own projects and group events. Most Workcamps take place during the summer from June to August, some begin in September/October.
Information about Workcamps in Germany can be found on the official Workcamp website in Germany: www.workcamps.org (information only in German). For the spontaneous among you: In our Last Minute Markt you can search for free spaces in Workcamps in Germany that will take place in the very near future.
WWOOF in Germany
WWOOF is short for "World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms" and refers to the voluntary work on ecological farms all over the world.
For a specific period of time – from one week to some months (or longer) – you live and work on a farm for 4-6 hours per day. Tasks usually involve helping during harvest, renovation, kitchen duties, taking care of the animals and much more. For your support on the farm you get free meals and accommodation. WWOOFing is a great opportunity to get to know other cultures and countries with little money.
Information about the programme and contact details of national WWOOF organisations are provided by the international WWOOF-network: www.wwoof.net.
More information about WWOOFing in Germany is provided by the German WWOOF-association: www.wwoof.de. In order to contact farms, you need to register and become a member of the association. The membership costs 25€ for one year.
Long-term voluntary services can last between 3 and 24 months and are a useful opportunity to use the time after school and before you start working or studying. Furthermore long-term voluntary services enable you to experience the host country and its culture and gain social and intercultural competences. Information about the three main voluntary services in Germany can be found on the website freiwillig-ja.de. Further information you will find in detail below.
European Solidarity Corps
The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) is a programme initiated by the European Union that gives young people ages 18-30 years the chance to volunteer for a time period between 2 and 12 months. The ESC brings together young people to build a more inclusive society, supporting vulnerable people and responding to societal challenges. It offers an inspiring and empowering experience for young people who want to help, learn and develop. The participation is open to young people from the European Union and certain partner countries.
You have the possibility to serve your ESC in Germany in a non-profit project not only within the fields of environment, arts and culture, democracy, sports and leisure, but also in activities with children, young or elderly people or people with disabilities. ESC volunteers do not require language skills and do have to pay any costs. Accomodation, food, travel tickets, a language course and insurances will be covered by the EU. Furthermore, a support program is offered, and each volunteer will get a personal mentor. If you have completed your ESC in Germany, you will receive the Youth Pass.
HOW TO APPLY
To participate, you first have to register for the ESC on the European Youth Portal (Click on "Register/Login" next to "I am a young person"). Here the 'matching' will take place. You can contact organisations, who offer placements and they can contact you. All these organisations are authorised to run European Solidarity Corps projects.
Important: The registration doesn’t guarantee a placement in a project. Therefore, we recommend actively looking for projects and organisations and apply directly to these.
To participate in the ESC, you need both a supporting organisation in your home country and a host organisation in Germany. It’s easiest if you start by looking for a sending organisation, because generally sending organisations are happy to assist their volunteers in searching for a suitable host organisation. If you have found both organisations, one of the two will request the funding for your ESC project with their national agency.
In the Organisation Database you can search for both – a sending organisation and a host organisation.
Further information on the ESC and on the application process is available on the European Youth Portal.
Federal Voluntary Service in Germany
The Federal Voluntary Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst - BFD) is a voluntary program initiated by the German Government in 2011. For a time period of 6-18 months, volunteers can work within a non-profit project or organisation. The BFD is open to people of any age, as long as they have fulfilled their compulsory school education. Nevertheless, you should be at least 18 years of age if you want to participate in the programme as a foreigner. If you're still a minor, your hosting organisation would have to accept the position as your supervisor – and most organisations prefer to avoid the extra responsibilities. The programme supports activities ranging from social, cultural, environmental and recreational issues. Volunteers will participate in pedagogical seminars and they will be assigned a personal mentor.
If you would like to take part in the BFD, you will need a residence title for specific purposes. Generally, BFD volunteers will be granted a special residence permit according to §18 of the Residence Act.
In the BFD-Database you can search for accredited projects. If you have found a project, you should apply directly to the organisation. Since there are no general application deadlines, we recommend to plan a voluntary service as early as possible.
During their service, volunteers do not earn money, but they will receive an allowance. The exact amount of the allowance as well as board and lodging depends on the organisation. Insurances are covered in full by the host organisation. Foreign volunteers whose mother tongue is not German and who have not spent 6 months within the last 5 years in Germany, can also apply for the so-called “besondere Förderung” (special support) through their organisation.
After completing your BFD in Germany, you will be entitled to a certificate which serves as a documentation of your volunteer activities.
Voluntary Social/Ecological Year
The Voluntary Social Year in Germany (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr – FSJ) is a voluntary service that lasts between 6 and 18 months. It has an educational as well as an orientation purpose for young people between the ages of 16 and 27. Organisations in which an FSJ can be served, are usually focused on social work, culture, politics or education. On freiwillig-ja you can find placements in projects as well as more information.
Young people interested in culture have the possibility to serve a FSJ-Kultur (www.fsjkultur.de) – a voluntary year dedicated to cultural topics and cultural education. Furthermore, the FSJ can be specialised in sports, politics and preservation of monuments.
Similar to the FSJ is the Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr – FÖJ), where volunteers work with non-profit organisations in the environmental field. More information is provided on www.foej.de.
The FSJ/FÖJ are both financed and realized by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), as well as by the federal states and several agencies. In the context of this voluntary year, the agencies organize five seminars per year which are obligatory to each participant.
There are two German organisations which are specialised on so-called reverse services and invite foreign volunteers to Germany:
- SoFiA e.V. - Soziale Friedensdienste im Ausland (www.sofia-trier.de/dienst-in-deutschland/einsatzstellen-in-deutschland)
- Internationaler Bund Kassel (www.internationaler-bund.org/en).
All accredited organisations for FSJ/FÖJ can be found in the BMFSFJ-List (PDF, 591 KB) by the BMFSFJ.
weltwärts in Germany
The development voluntary service weltwärts was founded in 2008 by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Since 2013, young people from emerging or developing countries can do a funded "weltwärts" volunteer service in Germany.
Weltwärts is a learning service. During the voluntary service you can improve your language skills, gain work experience and acquire intercultural competences. This allows you to meet people from other cultures as equals. At the same time, you work for a German non-profit organisation.
You volunteer for 6 to 24 months at a local partner organisation in education, health, environment, agriculture, culture or human rights field.
Further requirements for the participation are:
- Between 18 and 28 years old
- School degree, completed vocational training or comparable experience
- Residency permit for limited time and visa ('nationales Visum-D')
- Basic knowledge of the German language
- Interest in other cultures as well as dedication
Since weltwärts is funded by the BMZ, you will not have any costs for your voluntary service. However, in some cases your sending organisation will expect you to collect a small amount in donations, since the host organisations in Germany must fund at least 25 per cent of the costs from their own resources.
More information about weltwärts can be found on www.weltwaerts.de.
The project "kultuweit-incoming" gives young women* from egypt, jordan, morocco, lebanon and tunisia the opportunity to volunteer for three months in cultural and educational institutions in germany, funded by the german foreign office. Learn more on www.kulturweit.de
German-French Voluntary Service
The German-French Voluntary Service (Deutsch-Französischer Freiwilligendienst) is a program coordinated by the German-French Youth Office DFJW (www.dfjw.org) since 2006. It is based on partnership and reciprocity. A German and a French association send and host a young German or French volunteer and take care of him/her during their stay in the partner country.
The aim of the program is to promote intercultural exchange and to gather professional as well as language skills.
In order to participate, volunteers must be between 18 and 25 years old. French volunteers in Germany work for 12 months in a non-profit organisation within the fields of culture, environment, social work or sports. During this time the volunteers receive binational support through intercultural seminars to give them an understanding of the German language and culture.
Furthermore volunteers are pedagogically and financially supported by the agency Service Civique (www.service-civique.gouv.fr), the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, the DFJW and several French and German associations. An allowance as well as money for board and lodging, travel costs and language course will be paid by the host organisations and the DFJW.
The German-French Youth Office provides an overview about the voluntary service: volontariat.ofaj.org