How does the Voluntary Service Year work?
Firstly, in cooperation with the applicant, a suitable placement will be found. Generally this happens through the host organisation. At this point an agreement about the conditions of the FSJ or BFD is set up between the applicant and the host organisation. For volunteers under the age of 27, the placement is full time and thus between 38.5 and 40 hours per week. For those over 27, a part time position is a possibility at a minimum of 20 hours per week.
Once at the placement location, the volunteer will be introduced to the work and the people. He/She will gain new experiences in the area of work and personally. In case of questions or problems, there will be a contact person available for all eventualities.
During the course of the FSJ/BFD, volunteers take part in a number of seminars with other volunteers involved in the programme.
At the end of programme, all volunteers receive an official certificate attesting to their service.
For applicants under the age of 27, the programmes FSJ and BFD run more or less under the same framework conditions. Applicants usually don’t have to decide for one of those, but the host organisation tells them in which programme they will be accepted (which depends on internal decisions at the host organisation or the placement). Volunteers over the age of 27 can only apply for a BFD as the FSJ has an age limit of 26 years.
What are seminars and why are they part of the programme?
A Voluntary Service Year is an introductory year to the numerous fields of social work. The seminars are a fundamental and obligatory part of voluntary service, as they complement the practical work done at the placement. Volunteers under 27 years of age take part in 25 days of seminars during the course of a 12 month FSJ/BFD, predominantly in week long chunks. Volunteers over 27 take part in at least one seminar day a month.
At the seminars, volunteers meet with others in the programme and have opportunity to learn and work as a group. This is the best way to exchange information, and also reflect on one’s own experiences. Many other subjects pertaining to the programme are also addressed. It’s also a good deal of fun!
Volunteers are involved in the planning and execution of the seminars, thus ensuring that their interests and wishes are incorporated into the agenda. Seminars also count as working hours.
Is there someone for me to turn to during the Voluntary Service Year?
Pedagogically trained staff is available to our volunteers through the host organisations. They meet regularly at seminars and stay in touch throughout the year. Volunteers can also get in touch with them at any time.
Volunteers receive individual instructions from a qualified staff member at each placement. If problems or questions arise, this contact person is always available.
How long is a Voluntary Service Year? Do I have to do a whole year?
Generally, a Voluntary Service Year lasts one year. To receive accreditation, an FSJ/BFD needs to be a minimum of six months. Regarding the specific possibilities, please contact the host organisation for particulars.
Can I extend my FSJ/BFD?
When all the parties involved are in agreement, an FSJ/BFD can be extended to a maximum of 18 months. For international volunteers requiring a visa for Germany, the visa must also be extended in this case.
How old do I have to be to participate?
To participate in a FSJ/BFD, a candidate has to have finished the compulsory education requirement. In some states in Germany the minimum age for school attendance is 16 years of age, and in others its 15. The maximum age for an FSJ is 26, whereas there is no maximum age for a BFD.
International volunteers usually need to be at least 18 years of age to do a social service in Germany.
Will the FSJ/BFD be recognized as an internship or practical training?
An FSJ/BFD may be recognized as an internship or practical semester. If a volunteer already knows which field of work or study he/she wishes to pursue after an FSJ/BFD, it is recommendable to contact the future employer/university for information regarding the requirements for practical training.
Do I have to be a member of a church?
Participation in an FSJ/BFD is not dependent on affiliation to a church or any religious membership. Volunteers should be open to questions surrounding the Christian faith.
Do I need to be a German citizen?
The FSJ/BFD programme is open to everyone - nationality is of no significance. Interested candidates outside of Germany can apply for an FSJ or a BFD within their home country through our local EDYN partner organisations if there is one. We are a member of the European Network of the Diaconal Year (EDYN) network which unites our European partners. If there is no EDYN partner organisation in the respective country, candidates can apply directly at one of our host organisations.
What requirements do I need to meet?
Having finished the compulsory education requirement, there are no formal requirements for an FSJ/BFD. We are looking for candidates interested in interacting with others and getting involved. Similarly, candidates should be ready to take on responsibilities.
Do I earn money?
Volunteers doing an FSJ/BFD receive pocket money, but the amount differs depending on the organisation. Most organisations also provide a subsistence allowance, or subsidize living expenses. For international volunteers, board and lodging are provided.
How will I live? Do I receive board and lodging?
Many volunteers live at home while doing an FSJ/BFD. When this is not the case, as a rule, accommodation is provided. Some host organisations also provide a subsidy for rent, or include the price of a monthly transport ticket within their pocket money allowance.
Am I insured?
During an FSJ/BFD volunteers are insured through the German social insurance system. This means that volunteers are provided with the following insurance: health, pension, unemployment, accident and personal liability. All insurance is paid in total by the host organisation or the respective placement.
International volunteers may arrange an insurance for their travel to Germany (covering repatriation) by themselves if they consider it necessary.
Will I be able to take a vacation?
For a 12 month service term, volunteers generally receive 26 days of vacation.
When can I begin an FSJ/BFD?
Generally, most FSJ/BFDs begin between August and September, sometimes October. Some host organisations also offer placements in spring or throughout the year.
Can I drop out of an FSJ/BFD
With a valid reason such as procurement of a place at a school/university or apprenticeship, an FSJ/BFD can be cancelled.
Can I do an FSJ/BFD abroad?
An FSJ is possible abroad, but this is not the case with a BFD. There are certainly many possibilities for volunteering abroad.
Information about doing a voluntary service year abroad with our voluntary service organisations can be found here