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Introducing International Volunteers for Peace

International Volunteers for Peace (IVP) is the Australian Group of Service Civil International (SCI), and a member of Network for Volunteer Development in Asia (NVDA). These are worldwide networks promoting peace and justice through voluntary work. We are a non-profit organisation that develops volunteer projects in Australia and offers Australians the opportunity to participate in projects overseas. IVP exchanges volunteers with organisations in over 50 countries with the aim of encouraging understanding among different peoples and appreciation of the problems communities face in their struggles for peace, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

Why participate in an IVP project?

Participating in one of IVP’s volunteer projects will allow you to connect with the world community through practical personal experience. Because IVP’s projects involve practical work with local community groups, you will gain the satisfaction of completing hands-on work that is of material benefit to the community you are working with. This can often be a very empowering experience, but it will also mean that you will be able to gain a personal perspective on how issues such as economic inequality, social exclusion and environmental degradation operate on a local level.

You will work with an international group, which provides a great opportunity for making friends with people all over the world. This is especially the case during an IVP project, where our volunteers not only work together, but also share cooking and cleaning duties, living space and recreational time with each other. Projects are also run democratically which helps volunteers build trust in each other and will enhance your group decision-making skills. This time together can help build a close-knit group. However volunteering with people from quite different cultures can also present challenges and frustrations. For IVP this presents one of the greatest opportunities of an international volunteer project – the chance to learn how to resolve conflicts in a peaceful and productive manner. So IVP projects not only provide practical benefits to local communities, they also allow our volunteers to practice living in democratic communities – where conflict becomes an opportunity to learn how to live peacefully with others.

The benefits of participating in overseas voluntary work don’t end when the project finishes and for some volunteers the experience of an IVP workcamp will signal the beginning of a life-long commitment to social justice and non-violence.
What does IVP believe?

Our vision is a world of peace, social justice and sustainable development, where all people live together with mutual respect and without recourse to any form of violence to solve conflict.
Our mission is to promote peace and intercultural understanding through volunteering and international voluntary projects.

– Believes that all people are capable of living together with mutual respect, and without recourse to violence to solve conflicts between nations, communities or people, working for the promotion of peace.
– Is Concerned for all people, and particularly for those who are victims of violence, as well as social, economic and political injustice or who suffer from hunger or disease.
– Supports action which encourages the development of a new way of living founded upon international solidarity, justice, mutual understanding, participation in policy making at all levels, and a respect for individuals as stated in the Universal Declaration of

Human Rights.
– Bases its work on developing peoples’ own initiatives to solve their own problems.
– Analyses and evaluates all work, taking into account both the local and wider contexts in which it is carried out.
– Organises voluntary service in co-operation with local communities in case of need, recognising the educational role of such service to encourage understanding and self-discipline. No work shall be undertaken which competes with paid labour, or causes strikebreaking.
– Spreads through the means of practical work, across the barriers that divide people, a new spirit that will render the concept of violence less and less acceptable, and the degradation of human dignity impossible.
– Promotes voluntary international service aimed at will fostering greater confidence between nations and eventually replace military service. Equally, in countries where compulsory military service exists, without the possibility of alternative service, IVP works for the realisation of such service for conscientious objectors.
– Takes Action that is appropriate, non-violent and international in situations of tension, war and injustice.
– Works for constructive changes in unjust structures that exist in society and that divide people from one another.
– Encourages and experiments in new forms of community life with the objectives of fostering tolerance and a questioning of our own attitudes.
– Acts as a catalyst, in a spirit of humility and compassion, for change within individuals and society.
(Based on the International Constitution of Service Civil International, SCI)

History of SCI

A Dream of Peace

The roots of Service Civil International lie in a very practical peace project. After the First World War, Europe had to be reconstructed and the people needed to co-operate again in a peaceful way. In 1920 a small international group gathered to repair a war-torn village on the French and German border. This first action started a movement of international volunteer workcamps and a network called Service Civil International.
Later on the educational aspects of the workcamps and the international exchange became as important as the work itself. Workcamps are seen as a tool for creating intercultural understanding and solidarity between people.
During the years the activities as well as the size of SCI have expanded. Nowadays the work of SCI is done in all continents and varies from reconstruction work to ecology, social inclusion and North-South solidarity. While SCI has become bigger, the structure of the organization has also become more complex. Fortunately the core activities are still the same. Every year, thousands of volunteers can experience the hope of peace becoming reality!

Where did it all start?

International Fellowship of Reconciliation was an organisation of Christian pacifists, who shared the values of non-violence, peace education and inter-religious dialogue. In 1919 they organised an international conference in The Netherlands, trying to define the methods and priorities of their work. All the talking frustrated some participants, who wished to do something more concrete for helping war-torn Europe.

One of the organisers of this conference, a Swiss man named Pierre Ceresole, presented the idea of an international team of volunteers who would work together to repair the damage from the war. By working together in a spirit of friendship, this team would also be a demonstration of international solidarity. It would show that people of different nationalities could refuse to be each other’s enemies. This very same idea still lies in the heart of all activities of Service Civil International.
The first international workcamp was organised in 1920 by Pierre Ceresole and his friends in Verdun, France, next to the German border. Even though the first experience was not easy, the idea spread quickly. The volunteers from this camp wanted to inspire others to work for peace as an alternative to military service. The number of volunteers rose quickly and they also gained support from local people and the governments. They started to call their network Service Civil International.

After the first workcamp

In the 1920’s SCI organised many voluntary projects, concentrating on areas affected by floods and avalanches. During the Spanish civil war many SCI-volunteers were active in helping with the evacuations and practical assistance for the refugees. Active people started also to create their own SCI groups in their home countries and SCI expanded rapidly. This also meant that a more formal structure needed to be created. The volunteer exchange between Europe and Asia had already started as well as the contacts with Eastern Europe and North Africa.
In the 1960’s the way of organising workcamps changed. Besides the work itself, the educational aspects and the international exchange became more important. The movement also became more political. In the 1980’s peace again became the core issue and the East-West work was important in Europe. Also projects around youth and unemployment and North-South issues were of importance and were the starting point for many international working groups.

Then and now

As the years have passed the work of SCI has become more widespread. In the 1990’s SCI worked with almost too many issues: with the war in the Balkans, refugees, ecology, a growing number of East-European partners and North-South exchanges. In the mid 90’s SCI went through structural changes and later developed a Strategic plan for the years 2004-2009. Recently there has been discussion about democracy, efficiency, the meaning of peace work and the role of our organisation. Still every year hundred of people are inspired by the simple, but powerful idea, with which the first workcamp started.

History of IVP

by Rita Sofea Warleigh

Service Civil International began in Sydney in 1988. The International Coordinator of SCI wrote a letter to six people in Australia who had workcamp experience, suggesting that they start SCI in Australia.

I had done a workcamp in 1987 in Italy. There I discovered the SCI philosophy and was very inspired. Prompted by the SCI letter, I organised a meeting at Badde Manors Café in Glebe, Sydney, which was attended by Chris Dunstan and Vern Cork. Chris had done workcamps in Russia and Eastern Europe in 1987. Vern had done workcamps ten years previously and been a medium term volunteer for SCI in Bangladesh. For the past ten years Vern had acted as the Australian ‘contact’ for SCI, passing on the address of SCI in the relevant country to anyone who enquired. At this historic meeting, we three agreed to create SCI Australia.

None of us knew how to run an organisation but we were keen. We began communicating with SCI International Secretariat, which was at that time in Bangalore, India. We called our organisation Service Civil International, Australia. We decided from the outset that the organisation would be non-hierarchical, use consensus decision-making, and follow the principles of non-violence in the way we operate. In other words, we committed to learning cooperation and peace-building within the organisation as well as in the work we carried out. On the 6th October the first official records began, with minutes of meetings and financial transactions. We later discovered that one of the six Australians contacted by SCI had run a workcamp some years previously in Australia.

Chris and I organised the first workcamp in the Blue Mountains in December 1988. There were eleven volunteers, nine from overseas and two from Australia, with Chris and I as co-leaders. The main work was bush regeneration at Echo Point, Katoomba and at the Conservation Hut, Wentworth Falls. The volunteers also constructed a children’s playground outside the Women’s Health Centre in Katoomba. An Outreach program with the National Trust provided teachers for a weekend workshop in bush regeneration which was open to the public. This was a way of skilling the volunteers as well as interacting with the locals and publicising SCI.

Accommodation was at a communal property at Bell and transport to and from work was by means of my old Kombi. As we had no funding we charged the volunteers a small amount to participate. At the end of the workcamp we had a small deficit, solved by holding an open-day for the public and asking for donations. At this point, we also decided to begin memberships and established a membership register and bank account.

Straight after the workcamp, I went to Europe on a family matter and while there, I was lucky enough to catch three wonderful SCI events. The first was an international SCI meeting and the second an inspiring SCI seminar in the Netherlands, “Volunteering as a Way of Life”. Then I went to Verdun, France, to take part in the celebration of 70 years of SCI with the opening of the world’s first Peace Museum at the site of the first workcamp. There were SCI activists aged from 18 to 94 at this event, and I felt that I had found my ‘world family’.

In March 1990 we held a workcamp at Cattai State Recreation Area with National Parks and Wildlife Service. We planted two thousand trees under the guidance of Greening Australia. For accommodation we negotiated with the Richmond Army base who sent a team of soldiers to erect two enormous tents within the park. We set up a kitchen in one of the picnic huts with all kitchenware supplied by St Vincent de Paul.

In May, we rented our first office, a tiny space in a large open warehouse in the city, sharing with ten other NGOs including Friends of the Earth, Movement Against Uranium Mining, Black Deaths in Custody and Men Opposed to Patriarchy. From the workcamp in 1990 we gained a new member on the committee, Jane Fisher. Vern Cork had retired from IVP by this time. We began to produce an annual Workcamps Handbook and various newsletters. We also began to process applications from Australians wanting to go to workcamps overseas, setting the application fee at $60, $50 concession, and $40/30 for Australian workcamps. The ‘Flying Penguin’ logo was designed by Amanda Rees.

Another bush regeneration workcamp was held at Cattai in 1992. The same year, the office moved to Rita’s house in Katoomba and Derek Bissell became our Bookkeeper. In May 1992, SCI Australia changed its name to International Volunteers for Peace. We wrote a constitution and became incorporated with the Department of Fair Trading. We began fundraising by organising a concert with the popular gospel choir Café of the Gate of Salvation. The Café supported IVP through such concerts for five or six years. The same year the number of active volunteers had increased to about six and we saw a need to move the office back to Sydney in order to attract more members. We moved to our current address in a building owned by People for Nuclear Disarmament.

In 1993 we had our first workcamp with Push and Power State Wheelchair Games which was run by the Crippled Children’s Association. Volunteers acted as referees and line keepers, as well as some personal care and social interaction. These workcamps, probably more than any others, changed lives and hearts of our volunteers. These workcamps ran for four years and through them began our association with Kinma, an independent school at Terrey Hills which we used for accommodation, training and evaluation before and after the Games. When the State Wheelchair Games ceased, we began holding workcamps at Kinma, doing maintenance on the buildings and grounds. These were eventually moved to take in one week of the school term, so that the volunteers could interact with the children, giving language, cooking and geography lessons.

About this time we made a commitment to working with Aboriginal groups, people and communities. As part of the mandate of IVP is to dismantle racism, we felt that it was important to shine some light on the issues close to home. In 1993 we held our first workcamp taking disadvantaged urban Aboriginal children for a farm holiday at Goulburn Yurtfarm. These continued for several years and developed to later workcamps with Redfern Aboriginal groups and the Waterloo Police and Community Youth Club. In 1995 we held a workcamp at Clairvaux Community Centre, Katoomba and so began our long relationship with Gundungurra Tribal Council.

In 1994 we held our first Workcamp Leader Training and began holding Info-Nights and stalls at universities.

Another workcamp organisation formed in 1996. They were called AVP (Australian Volunteer Projects) and were a breakaway group from CWCA (Christian Work Camps Australia) which collapsed the same year. AVP organised a workcamp at Shalom College, a non-government school for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island students. IVP collaborated by finding and processing volunteers. The following year AVP dissolved in favour of IVP taking over planning and running the Shalom workcamps. These continued with one or two camps every year for 10 years.

In 1997, I was invited to take part in a workcamp in Inner Mongolia and a seminar to set up a new network NVDA (Network for Volunteers in Asia). In 1998 we took on our most political workcamp, supporting the Mirrar people of Kakadu in their efforts to stop expansion of a uranium mine on their land. As you may know, this was a historic victory for the Mirrar, the mine was never opened, the exploratory shafts were filled in and the land regenerated. Several other one-off workcamps were with Ripple Effect, a sustainable energy group in the Blue Mountains, and with Heart Centre, a Buddhist retreat in Berowra, Sydney. In 1999, we held our first workcamp with Landcare in Lithgow and Bathurst and these continued for several years.

We worked hard on getting stories into local papers, but in about 1996 we had an article in Cosmopolitan. The resulting number of enquiries forced us revise our systems. Around this time we acquired our first computer, got an email address and computerised our membership data. In 2001 our website was created. This is now the main source of people finding out about IVP whereas previously it was by word-of-mouth.

2002 was the International Year of Volunteering. For the first time we succeeded in getting a grant of $5000 which paid for some beautiful publicity material. These were a post card through Avant Card, and matching brochures and Workcamps Handbook cover in colour. We were lucky to have a wonderful graphic artist volunteering with us at the time. The photos used were from Shalom Aboriginal College.

Two other important events this year were that we upgraded our status with SCI from Contact to Group and were also declared to be part of the Asian Region of SCI. The second event was that we had outgrown our tiny office, and moved to a bigger room in the same building, acquired several more computers and a network.

Also this year, we were fortunate to have Giovanna and Renzo, two active members of SCI Italy, arrive in Melbourne for a 5-year stay. Giovanna organised a workcamp in Melbourne with CERES for the Return of the Sacred Kingfisher Festival and these ran every year for five years. Through the NVDA network, we were approached by a Japanese tertiary institution and started to organise ‘bi-lateral workcamps’ with NICE Japan. These we ran in conjunction with Gundungurra Tribal Council in Katoomba.

A big boost for IVP came with the employment of a paid administrator for 15 hours a week. This made us much more professional and able to respond to communication efficiently and consistently. We were lucky to have Janet McKay who was not only excellent with administration but was studying Community Development so had a good understanding of the needs of an organisation like IVP. Janet moved on to study music full-time and shortly afterwards, in 2006, IVP suffered a financial downturn that forced us to return to full volunteer operation.

Over the years we have had volunteers come to stay with us for extended periods and these include Olivier and Ysabeau from France, Joachim from Sweden, Alan from WA. Lots of fabulous volunteers have worked in the office, gone on workcamps, and come to our workcamps.

Workcamps as Paths to Peace

Why does IVP choose International Workcamps as its main tool in building paths towards peace?

In organising international workcamps, IVP, and SCI more generally, tries to work on three different levels at the same time:

On the first level, a group of individuals with very different geographical, cultural and social backgrounds are brought together as a workcamp-group. They will form a temporary community of their own for the entire period of the workcamp. They will have to work together on a project and they will have to live together; getting to know each other, cooking food, organising their recreation time, agreeing on how the project work should be done and so on. In many circumstances the living conditions are very simple and often do not allow a great deal of privacy. One can easily imagine that in such a setting and with such a variety of participants, conflicts arise. They usually do! Participating in a workcamp is about learning how to solve these conflicts in a peaceful way, using and exercising methods of non-violent conflict resolution and learning to respect different views and cultural backgrounds.

On the second level, the workcamp group also interacts with the local community in which the project is based. In this way, they will have an impact on the community where they will temporarily live. In most countries locals are often very curious about people who have come from abroad to work voluntarily on a project. It is not always easy for them to understand why anyone would do this. In this way international workcamps help to broaden the perspective of local people. In most cases, the group will work closely with the local community, talking together, exchanging ideas, discussions and enjoying the local culture together.

On the third level, the workcamp reflects SCI’s slogan throughout the years; ‘Deeds, not words’. In this regard, the practical work done is of the utmost importance. Though it might be our primary goal to bring people from all around the globe together to give them the opportunity to practice peaceful co-operation and non-violent conflict resolution, this is not necessarily the main goal for the local project partner or organisation. Often, their first concern is that a specific project is completed so it can benefit the local community. So it is important that volunteers are dedicated to carrying out the work that brought them to that particular local community.

On each of these levels there is the opportunity to build friendships and IVP believes that the long – sometimes lifetime – international friendships which begin on workcamps are an important contribution to international understanding and concern.

Workcamp Philosophy

An international workcamp is such an open-ended experience and depends so much on the input of its participants that it may seem to lack definition. So rather than providing a definition, we would like to give prospective volunteers some guidelines for thinking about workcamps so that the decision to take part in one is better informed.

Participation in an international workcamp requires:

A commitment to a group experience

Workcamps provide an opportunity to explore the potential of an international group not only living and working together but also having fun and sparking community interaction. Workcamps should not be seen as a means for accomplishing individual goals, touring a particular area, learning a language or having a cheap holiday.

An important part of the group experience involves reaching beyond the comforts of your own language and familiar culture. Workcamp volunteers should be aware of the importance of assisting everyone by speaking in the stated language of the camp as far as possible. Volunteers with English as their first language should try to be aware of when they are excluding other volunteers by speaking too quickly or using too much unfamiliar slang. It is also important not to forget about the possibilities of body language or other means of communication.

A commitment to working out decisions and problems together

In a workcamp, orders are not issued from above (i.e. the workcamp leaders); rather, decisions are made through a group process, which includes discussions and guidance from the workcamp leader. Even so individuals are still required to make their own decisions. For example, if a workcamp participant wants to pursue some interest which falls somewhat outside of the workcamp plans, it is a decision which is properly discussed by the group, even though it remains the individual’s own decision. It is important to be willing to take part in this process, which sometimes takes time and requires considering the different perspectives that arise within the group. IVP believes this process is important as a way of practicing peace and reconciliation on a personal level, as well as on a practical level throughout the camp.

Attending the entire workcamp

It is strongly recommended that you do not arrive late or depart early at a workcamp. A person arriving late misses the crucial period of orientation and friendly awkwardness as group members get to know one another and a group spirit builds. A person departing early erodes the feeling of solidarity in a group and leaves the remaining volunteers with a sense of having been left behind for something more important. No matter how successful a workcamp is, early departures can create among the volunteers a feeling of waiting for the workcamp to come to an end.

Being sensitive to the camp’s place in the community

The workcamp represents a group of people who have come together for a relatively short period of time. They are guests within the community and are unfamiliar with the intricate and subtle patterns that exist within the community of which their project sponsor is a part. Consequently, there is a challenge in having the workcamp gracefully blend in with the community, especially when local customs differ from the volunteer’s own. Volunteers should regard the differences as opportunities to learn, not as sources of conflict.

Being open to learning

SCI appeals to a broad range of people because an open mind is a far greater qualification than a particular skill. Volunteers unskilled at certain jobs are encouraged to learn new skills. Often cultural stereotypes need be broken to ensure an equal representation in jobs traditionally labelled women’s work or men’s work. In this learning process volunteers may have to seek a balance between good, efficient work and allowing mistakes to be made due to inexperience. A workcamp is also an opportunity to learn from people of different ages. Generally, volunteers are aged between 18 and 35, however, there is no upper age limit. Volunteers may feel challenged to work with others outside of their peer group, and yet find it refreshing to be part of a group unified by a common purpose.

Contributing fully to the work

The work is important. It may not always be to a volunteer’s liking, nor is it merely concocted as a vehicle for bringing people together. There are expectations by the workcamp sponsors that the work will be done, and all volunteers, though directed by workcamp or project leaders, should feel a responsibility toward doing it well. If there is a study component of the workcamp, volunteers should inform themselves before the workcamp in order to add to the discussion.

Having lots of self-motivation

A workcamp is what each volunteer makes of it. It requires seeking out opportunities, looking to see what needs to be done, taking responsibility. A volunteer should feel equally a part of shaping the workcamp as the leaders do. Workcamps thrive on the initiatives of individuals.

And, of course, having fun!

Introduction to Workcamps

A workcamp is a place where people of diverse race, ideology, nationality, and age live together for two to four weeks while working on a community project. The workcamps are initiated and organised by community groups and are designed to be of tangible benefit to the local community. They enhance local initiatives and do not replace paid labour. Workcamps usually take between 8 and 20 international participants who work and socialise with the local community. Workcamps take place all year round but in Europe most occur during the Northern hemisphere summer.

Through workcamps, IVP incorporates and sustains visionary aims. Workcamps provide an opportunity for individuals to combine their energies and together address problems vital to our shared global future. Internal decision-making, problem solving and a sense of group identity are promoted. Workcamps aim to increase tolerance and facilitate the questioning of values. Whether working at a children’s centre in Paris, on an environmental project in Colorado, or helping with relief programs in Thailand, the volunteers help establish paths to peace.

In this section you will find more information about workcamp philosophy, workcamps as paths to peace and what to expect on a workcamp.

What to Expect on a Workcamp


In Europe, international workcamps can last from ten days to three weeks. The international workcamps in Africa normally last from two weeks to almost a month and workcamps in Latin America generally last from three to four weeks. Asian workcamps can have a very different length, ranging between three days up to three weeks. Usually, the work will take place from Monday to Friday except for Muslim countries where the official free day of the week is mostly on Fridays. The weekends are normally free to enjoy and plan leisure activities.


English is the most common camp language. If you need another or an additional language, this will be stated specifically in the workcamp description.

Activities in Workcamps and Projects

Generally the local organisation defines its own way of working and this sometimes reflects the work that will be expected from the international volunteers. It can involve:
Animation and social training
Leisure time activities with children
Construction, renovation and manual work
Path cleaning, reforestation and agricultural work
Arts (e.g. music, theatre)
Raising awareness

Other workcamps can be more directly related to basic community development such as the building of roads and clearing parts of the jungle for bringing clean water to the village. Often the work can be physically strenuous and different to what some volunteers will be used to. Usually care is taken that there will be several refreshment breaks during the day.


During the work camp the volunteers can be hosted in a variety of accommodation: in family houses or in a building provided by the local co-ordinators, in a youth hostel, or in tents. Although anything is possible, it should be kept in mind that accommodation is nearly always simple and sometimes primitive. It is preferred that people bring their own sleeping bags unless otherwise written in the work camp information sheet.

It is expected that the volunteers will participate in the daily life of the hosting community with the aim to maximise the exchange with the people concerned with the project. This is even more so in the exchanges, which take place in Latin America where the international volunteers are mostly hosted individually with local families.

Extra Costs

In addition to the IVP membership and application fees, Australian volunteers pay their travel costs from Australia to the work camp location, insurance cover (see insurance section) and in some countries, there is an extra project fee which is paid to the hosting organisation. Food and accommodation are provided and paid for by the project host. In the case where there is an extra project fee, this covers not only the costs of board and lodging for the programme period, but more substantially, it is used to support the organisation and its programmes. In countries where this fee is charged the host organisation depends in most cases entirely on the voluntary income to run their programmes. Organising workcamps costs money, as it needs a fair amount of preparation and co-ordination throughout the year. The fee paid will help cover these pre-programme costs.


Workcamps offer an excellent opportunity for exchanging ideas about social, political and other issues about the local situations. Apart from the daily work of the project, it enables volunteers to have the opportunity to participate in debate, propose visits and meet with other local organisations. Every work camp does not have an organised study programme. Often the informal talks with other volunteers, project workers or local people give the scope for debate and learning. However, on many workcamps an effort is made to organise a more structured study participation, either closely linked with the social aim of the project organisation or linked to national or international campaigns SCI is implementing at the time.

Work Camp Leader or Coordinator

In most camps, though not in all, a work camp leader or camp co-ordinator will be appointed to facilitate the camp. A large part of the role of the co-ordinator is simply being the point of communication between the camp organisation, the host project and the volunteers. It is the primary task of the leader to try to meet the aims and expectations of all three. This should be done in the most harmonious way so that all are satisfied and so the maximum numbers of objectives are achieved.

A camp leader’s function is threefold: to lead, organise and mediate as appropriate. But above all, a camp leader is a member of the group and the relationship with the volunteers should never be hierarchical, even if participants expect him/her to play a decisive part in the course of the camp.

What can volunteers expect the camp leader to do?

– Organise orientation and evaluation meetings
– Include volunteers in decision making processes
– Liaise between volunteers & project partner
– Co-ordinate work and rosters
– Consider the needs of different cultural backgrounds and help with overcoming language barriers, but not being a translator
– Lead the theoretical discussion about the project’s work & goals
– Help with conflict solving
– Initiate discussion about political, social, cultural affairs related to the camp
– Represent SCI in public
– Inform the volunteers about the work, structures & aims of SCI
– Keep track of the entire program

Group Dynamics

How will the group interact?

Each group you work with on an international project will interact differently. Good internal group dynamics are ensured if there is awareness of each other and the forces in operation.

The activities necessary for effective group operation can be learned. It is usual for people to automatically assume ‘roles’ and take on ‘functions’ within the group that can help or hinder cohesion. It is important to encourage behaviours that help a group to function well. When one or several people seem to be having a negative influence on the group dynamics, Non-Violence theory encourages us to separate the ‘person’ from the ‘behaviour’. In other words don’t blame the person but address their behaviour. Sometimes having a provocative person in a group can lead to real issues being aired, leading to greater understanding and help group-building.

One of the main tools to better group dynamics is to learn and practise ‘listening skills’. This involves really listening to what the other person is saying, trying to understand where they are coming from rather than just having a conversation. We find this easy to do when we have a rapport with someone, but need to make sure we practise it with those with whom we perceive differences.

Each workcamp group will go through stages as the volunteers get to know each other better. One way of understanding these stages is to use Bruce Tuckman’s theory of group development. Tuckman described four stages of group development: forming, storming, norming and performing. The descriptions which follow have been adapted from Wikipedia.


In the first stages, the team meets and learns about the volunteer project, the work, the living arrangements and will decide how to share tasks and may set up cooking and cleaning schedules. Team members tend to behave quite independently. They may be motivated but are usually relatively uninformed of the issues and objectives of the team. Team members are usually on their best behaviour and interested in getting to know each other better. Mature team members model appropriate behaviour. Workcamp leaders will usually be directive, setting up meeting times and facilitating the development of work schedules and leisure activities.


Once the volunteers have got over their initial politeness, they will start to get to know each other on a deeper level and this is usually when differences begin to arise. The group is usually figuring out how they will interact with each other, how they will function independently and what leadership model they will accept. Team members open out to each other and confront each other’s ideas and perspectives. Individuals may become competitive or overly attached to their own ideas. In some cases, this stage can be contentious, unpleasant and even painful to members of the team who are averse to conflict. Tolerance of each team member and their differences needs to be emphasized. Leaders of the team during this phase still need to be directive in their guidance of decision-making and appropriate behaviour.


At some point, members adjust their behaviour to each other and develop work habits that make teamwork seem more natural and fluid. Team members often work through this stage by agreeing on rules, values, professional behaviour, shared methods, working tools and even taboos. Team members begin to trust each other and motivation increases as the team gets more acquainted with the project.


High-performing teams are able to function as a unit as they find ways to get the job done smoothly and effectively without inappropriate conflict or the need for external supervision. Team members have become interdependent. By this time they are motivated and knowledgeable. The team members are now competent, autonomous and able to handle the decision-making process without supervision. Dissent is expected and allowed as long as it is channelled through means acceptable to the team. Workcamp leaders during this phase are almost always participative, but the team will make most of the necessary decisions.

Adjourning and Transforming

Tuckman later added a fifth phase, adjourning, that involves completing the task and breaking up the team. Others call it the phase for mourning. This can be quite a difficult phase of a workcamp. You may have developed quite strong bonds with your fellow volunteers. Goodbyes can be very upsetting and tears are quite usual. You may feel it hard to get back to ‘normal’ after such an intense two weeks, but keeping in touch with each other after a workcamp can help ease the transition.

In the next section we discuss managing conflict in groups

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Application Procedures for Short Term Projects

Once you have finished reading through your Volunteer Guidebook and have a better idea of IVP’s goals and philosophy it’s time to consider which volunteer projects you would like to apply for.

Step one:
Check that you fulfill all necessary criteria:
• You must be a current IVP member to participate in a workcamp.
• Applicants must be 18 years or over for workcamps in Australia or Europe and 21 or over for workcamps in Africa, Latin America and some Asian countries. There is no upper age limit and older volunteers are encouraged to apply as we aim to have a diverse age range on camps. Please note that a small number of partner organisations have a maximum age limit of 28-35.
• You must be willing to contribute to the team life, including sharing the cooking and cleaning duties, and to integrate with other volunteers on the workcamp.
• Volunteers should be fit enough to carry out the work of the project and be prepared for the additional emotional challenges that arise when confronted with new people, cultures and environments.
• Some camps specifically require volunteers to have previous workcamp experience. This is usually for countries where contacts are new, where conditions are especially trying, or where there have been difficulties in the past and volunteers are needed who can use their experience to develop future work.
• Volunteers need to be flexible and adapt to their local environment. Following local customs and respecting local behaviours and beliefs is generally expected.
• At all times volunteers must comply with both local laws and minimum Australian standards in regard to the consumption of alcohol and the use of illicit substances.
• Check the official language of the workcamp and make sure you have a strong knowledge of the required language.
• Finally, please make sure you are aware of our cancellations and refunds policy found below.

There are also special conditions for volunteers applying for workcamps in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America, since volunteers face extra challenges when working in less developed countries with very different cultures. For these workcamps volunteers should:
• Be at least 21 years old
• Have prior workcamp experience with IVP, SCI or a similar organisation or relevant social work experience
• Demonstrate commitment to IVP, volunteering in the office or assisting the organisation in other ways, eg, writing an article, editing the newsletter, running an IVP Infonight in your area.
• Undertake to remain active in IVP on return to Australia, and to provide a report of the workcamp.
• Demonstrate knowledge of development issues and respect for other cultures.
• Most camps in Latin America will require a good knowledge of Spanish or Portuguese, and some African camps will require French. Many of these camps may require extra documentation. This information will be on our website.
• All volunteers attending workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America are advised to read this Guidebook thoroughly to enhance understanding of IVP’s work and to assist in preparing you for living in a culture and conditions very different to your own.

AN EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE – often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. These countries have limited resources and the extra payment is a contribution towards the development and continuation of workcamps. This fee is payable to the host organisation on arrival at the workcamp. Generally, this fee is payable in Euros or $US currency and ranges between $US75-200. For workcamps in Mexico, the fee is between $US200-450.

Other things to be aware of:
On the workcamp
• Volunteers must cover their own costs to and from the workcamp and are responsible for passports and visas.
• Accommodation and food will be provided for you during the workcamp.
• There is usually at least one workcamp leader, who helps co-ordinate the day-to-day activities of the volunteers and liases with the project sponsors and local people.
• Conditions vary from camp to camp and country to country, but volunteers usually stay together (in a village hall, community centre or similar) and prepare their own meals.
• Accommodation is usually simple, a sleeping bag is often required and volunteers should be prepared for less privacy than they may be used to.
• Volunteers are generally required to work a 30-35 hour week. However, it is the right and the responsibility of the volunteer to refuse dangerous work while on a workcamp.
• Mostly, evenings and weekends are free and can be used to develop the study part or organise leisure activities. Leisure programmes and cultural activities may be organised by the host, workcamp leader, or the volunteers. Some projects require the work to be done during the weekend and in such cases volunteers will get time off during the week.
• Don’t overdo it! We recommend that you don’t do a number of workcamps in a row. Apart from possibly being physically tiring, your contribution to group life will be weakened through over exposure to intensive group work. Rest periods of at least two weeks are recommended between camps. Also, it is recommended that you don’t do more than 3 workcamps in a season.
• It is a good idea to learn about the country/situation you are applying for. If requested, we will try to assist by putting you in touch with an experienced volunteer who has been to the country or done the same type of workcamp you are interested in.
• Experienced volunteers are always needed as workcamp leaders. If you are interested please let us know. IVP holds a Workcamp Leader Training most years. For details please contact the IVP office.

When planning your overseas trip, make sure you check the visa requirements of all the countries you plan to visit. If the country you are visiting requires a visa, apply for a tourist visa. If necessary, use the term “cultural exchange” instead of “volunteer work”. Leave plenty of time for the processing of visas, as this can sometimes take weeks or even months. Conditions of entry into some countries may change suddenly, so keep in contact with embassies for the latest information.
Some countries require a ‘letter of invitation’ before visas will be granted. This will be supplied by our contact organisations in these countries.
It is advisable to apply for the visas while in Australia. To avoid long queues and hours of frustration, ring the embassy first and find out:Do I need a visa? Do I need a special invitation? How long can I stay in your country? What documents do I require? (e.g. photos, medical certificate etc)? How much does it cost? How long does it take to process? Opening hours of embassy?

A small number of workcamps require extra documentation. These could include a reference, medical certificate or a more detailed motivation letter. If you are volunteering for a workcamp involving children, or if children will be involved in activities relating to the project, you may also need to complete appropriate background checks.

IVP strongly recommends that volunteers obtain their own comprehensive insurance coverage before leaving Australia.

The SCI/IVP insurance scheme provides cover for volunteers in cases of illness, accidents or death for the duration of the camp for all our workcamps. Conditions NOT covered by the insurance policy include: Volunteers with pre-existing physical or mental conditions. Travel to and from the workcamp. Exhaustion or nervous and psychiatric disorders. Volunteers over 70 years of age. Cancellation of workcamp/project. Personal belongings.
The SCI/IVP insurance scheme is limited and should only be viewed as additional cover.

IVP encourages volunteers with disabilities to participate in workcamps and we try to make this possible wherever we can. Conditions vary from camp to camp, but generally workcamps are considered wheelchair accessible unless stated otherwise. In Part 5 of the Application Form, please give details of your disability, so that we can confirm that the workcamp is suitable.

We welcome applications from volunteers wishing to bring their children. In general, many workcamps can accept children, but please specify this clearly on your Application Form so that we can confirm that this is the case. (NB: Under 16-years-old are not automatically insured by SCI’s insurance scheme).

The idea of these workcamps is that half the participants will be over 30. This is to encourage older volunteers who may be wary of attending a workcamp where all the other participants are 18-20yo.

Select your Workcamp options
If you satisfy all the required criteria and feel able to fulfil what is expected of you as a volunteer then it’s time to decide which workcamp/s you would like to apply for.
Understanding the Workcamp Listings
Most workcamps can be found through a link on our website. Workcamps in countries that are not part of the SCI network can by found in a separate document on the IVP website. This can be downloaded and printed off for easy reference.
• The workcamps are first divided by continent and then arranged alphabetically according to the country in which they take place.
• Each workcamp is given a code which begins with abbreviations denoting the country and the organisation.
• Subsequently, camps are divided into themes which are denoted by code numbers, which are listed below. These codes are only a guide and sometimes categories overlap. Finally if there is more than one camp on a particular theme, they will then be numbered sequentially. So for example the second environmental camp in Finland would be numbered FI-SCI 6.2.
NB: While SCI is moving towards having a consistent code system between all partner organisations, some partner organisations may use a different numbering system or none at all.
• After the workcamp code, there will be the location of the camp or the actual name of the project, and then the dates and number of volunteers required.

1. Anti-racism, anti-fascism, refugees and ethnic minorities
2. North-South solidarity
3. Peace and disarmament
4. People with disabilities
5. Children, teenagers, elderly
6. Environment
7. Sexuality and gender
8. Socially disadvantaged (homelessness, poverty ) 9. Arts, culture and local history
10. Ideological and spirituality
11. Other

Please note that new camps will be organised throughout the year. Check our website for updates.

Fill out your application form
The Application Form is available on our website or by contacting the IVP office. If you wish to attend more than one workcamp, you will need a new form for each camp. On each form you should indicate your workcamp choice, giving at least three and up to six choices in order of preference. This will help your application to succeed.

Fill in the Application Form on both sides, with a black pen. Nominate the camps you wish to attend in order of preference. Attach extra sheets for the motivation section (Part 8) as well as a photo, and don’t forget to sign the form.

Return completed forms and application fee
Applications must be received at least 6 weeks before you travel for applications to workcamps in Europe, North America or Thailand, or 8 weeks for workcamps in other overseas countries. Applications for workcamps in Australia must be received at least 3 weeks before the camp start date.

$350 full price, $300 concession
$250 early-bird application for Australian workcamps (at least 6 weeks prior to start of camp)
$200 for each additional workcamp application processed concurrently
In order to receive a concession rate you must send a copy of your concession card.
In the event of genuine hardship, there is one scholarship available to subsidise an Australian workcamp application. Ask about it by emailing
Volunteers who have contributed to IVP for at least 3 months or 40 hours are eligible for a special rate of $120 per workcamp.
Workcamp leaders on Australian workcamps who have completed a Leader Training Course with IVP or SCI will be exempt from paying the Application Fee.
IVP is run predominantly by volunteers and relies on contributions from members to keep the organisation running. Your Application Fees go towards administration of exchanges, communication charges, managing the information database, volunteer insurance, and developing and organising Australian workcamps.

An EXTRA PARTICIPATION FEE often applies to workcamps in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Latin America. See information on previous page under Special Conditions.

You may pay you application by cheque or postal order (payable to IVP) or by electronic transfer (EFT).
If you choose to pay by EFT, the details are:

Account Name: International Volunteers for Peace Inc
Bank: Bendigo Bank
BSB: 633000
Acct No: 156815888

Please use your surname as the reference code so that we can track your EFT. Please add any extra information that might be necessary for us to understand what your deposit is for. Eg, if you are a concession and wish to pay for a workcamp AND membership, please put this information in the reference field with your surname.

The following describes IVP’s processing time-line. Feel free to contact the IVP office if you have any queries regarding the application procedure or wish to know how your application is progressing. Please bear in mind that the IVP office is staffed entirely by volunteers.
• Once your complete application form is received (including signature, any extra documents and applicable fees) you will be sent a receipt and an email of acknowledgment.
• We will then begin processing your first choice by sending your application to the appropriate partner organisation.
• They should reply within two weeks of receiving the application. If you are not accepted on your first choice, your application will be immediately forwarded to your second choice, followed by your third choice if necessary.
• You should receive notice of which camp you have been placed in within three weeks.
• With your acceptance will be a confirmation form, which needs to be completed and returned as soon as possible. Please note that your place is not secure until this confirmation form has been received.
• When you have confirmed your participation, you will receive the workcamp information sheet which will contain more details on what to bring, travel directions and meeting place.

IVP is a small, not-for-profit organisation. It cannot accept any liability for inconvenience caused or costs incurred, other than the application fee, in the event of cancellation, either by you or of the workcamp itself. (Please see the section on Insurance).

The following Cancellation and Refund Policy applies to all workcamp applications. Please note that these are the policies for 2008, but could change in subsequent years.

Workcamp preferences unavailable:
If IVP cannot place you on any of your workcamp preferences, you are entitled to a full refund of your application fee, minus an administration fee of $15.

If the volunteer cancels after being accepted into a work camp:
• giving notice more than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – 50% of the Application Fee will be refunded
• giving notice less than 4 weeks before the workcamp start date – no refund of Application Fee

Situations will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, if extraordinary circumstances can be established.
Workcamp cancellation:
In very few instances, workcamps may be cancelled after volunteers have been accepted. If this does happen, we will make every effort to find a suitable alternative workcamp for you. However, if the workcamp is cancelled close to its scheduled commencement, we may not be able to offer you another camp. If we cannot offer you another camp, we will fully refund your Application Fee minus an adminstration fee of $15.

Conflict on a workcamp

If the situation in a workcamp develops into conflict, the next chapter on conflict resolution skills will be helpful. Conflict could range from dealing with someone who refuses to take any domestic chores to sexual or racial harassment. The way conflicts develop in a camp and how they are dealt with and resolved depends on the motivation of the camp participants and the conduct of the camp leader.

The basis for the conflict solutions is to treat the views and feelings of the camp community with equal respect. During the programme the relationships between people concerned are generally at least as important as the issues at stake. That is why volunteers should always try to find a positive “win -win” solution, which is the basis of the non-violent approach to conflict resolution: without drawing lines and creating a “them and us” situation. Of course they should never resort to force, either in the sense of physical violence, verbal intimidation or any other kind of coercion.

In order to achieve a constructive solution to a work camp conflict, the following items need to be clarified:
– The issues at stake
– The “wants” of those involved
– The feelings which have arisen as a reult of the conflict

Often, conflicts can be heightened or even caused by differing perceptions as to what the issue is and by a lack of awareness of people’s feelings. Once these are acknowledged and expressed, then people, if willing to, are able to see more clearly the root of their problem. Cases of personal dislike, antipathy or cultural misunderstanding should be treated in a way that they do not affect the main common interests of other volunteers.

Some common sources of conflicts:
– Difference of opinions on work & leisure
– Leadership style (too much or not enough co-ordination)
– Work (too much or not enough)
–  Misunderstandings and rumours
– Lack of flexibility and adaptability
– Group interactions and outsiders
– Conflicts between the sexes
– Language problems

Some Solutions:
– Proper planning of the work camp
- Training for volunteers & camp leaders
- Orientation at the beginning of the camp
- Open discussions, meetings, mid-evaluations
- Individual responsibility, clearly defined goals
- Games and role plays
- Information about the local culture
- Motivating volunteers
- Constructive thinking
- Affirmation & positive approach
- Co-operation and understanding