Brethren Volunteer Service
Frequently Asked Questions
The acceptance process can be started any time. The application should be submitted electronically and is available on our website at www.brethrenvolunteerservice.org. Call the BVS office at (800) 323-8039 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. If you have not heard from BVS staff within a few days, please follow up your application with a call or e-mail.
Part 1: The application form, completed essay questions, resume, current photo, and school transcripts should be sent first. Upon receipt of the application, we will contact your references. Once we have received responses from at least three references (including one from each of the three categories), your application will be reviewed for acceptance into BVS. We recommend you call our office to check on the status of your references. This process needs to be completed by the deadline date for the orientation you wish to attend.
Part 2: BVS staff will conduct a phone interview with each applicant prior to acceptance.
Part 3: Once you are accepted, we will mail you the following to fill out and return: covenant, hold harmless waiver, health screen form, insurance card, death benefit form, and a criminal record check release form. We also ask you to submit a copy of your driver’s license and the volunteer fee.
Important: Logistical considerations may limit the number of volunteers we can place into each orientation. We will place volunteers into orientation units in the order of file completion. The deadline for completing the application is six weeks prior to that unit's beginning date. When a unit is filled prior to this deadline, a waiting list is established.
The acceptance process takes time! We suggest you send your application three to four months before the orientation unit you want to attend begins.
Contact us frequently to check the status of your file. Checking that your file is complete is your responsibility!
No. BVS is open to all who are willing to serve. BVS seeks to follow Jesus' teachings through acts of service.
To serve internationally, you must be at least 21 years old and have a bachelor's degree or equivalent life experience. Placements are approved by staff representatives responsible for international projects, who receive your materials after your application is accepted.
Applicants interested in international assignments should be in phone contact with the BVS staff. You will also be contacted by a regional international representative regarding information on these projects (Europe, Japan, Latin America, and Africa). International assignments are based on skills, project needs, and availability and may not be determined on a first-come, first-served basis.
During orientation you will interview with international staff. If approved and if the placement does not start immediately after orientation, candidates may be placed at an interim project for a few weeks to several months — please be prepared to wait. If you will begin an international assignment within one month following orientation, you will have the option to return home. Volunteers serving outside the United States pay a $1,000 fee ($750 for Church of the Brethren Members).
Be open to considering domestic projects, as placements outside the United States are not guaranteed. BVSers can also take an international assignment after a year of domestic service.
A special note for volunteers looking at projects in Latin America and Africa:
Due to the ever-changing needs of BVS's partner organizations in Latin America and Africa, BVS lists project placements where the current volunteers are serving plus a few other projects that are flexible to receive volunteers at any time. Potential volunteers can look at the project placements listed in this book as a guide but should keep in mind that interest in service in Latin America and Africa is more important than a particular project.
The placement of a volunteer is a process that will involve the volunteer, BVS and Global Mission and Service staff, and the host organization, where everyone involved will look for the right match between the volunteer's skills and interests and the host organization's needs and educational opportunities. Some projects sites may be developed and placements arranged during the application and orientation process.
General requirements for volunteers in Latin America and Africa include the ability to work in an unstructured environment, to have local adaptability, and to be process- and people-oriented rather than goal-oriented. The most important requirement for a BVSer in Latin America and Africa is his/her ability to actively support the processes that the host organization has begun and to accompany them in their work. This philosophy to accompany people with a commitment to live in solidarity with the local community that you are serving is at the core of the volunteer experience in Latin America and Africa.
Global Mission and Service is open to exploring additional possibilities and partnerships based on an applicant's interest, skills, and established relationship with other organizations.
Volunteers serving domestically pay $500 toward travel and administration costs. Those serving outside the United States pay a $1,000 fee to help with travel costs. Additionally, BVSers accepted at international assignments in countries requiring a visa or pre-clearance process will need to provide the funds for the initial set of fees. Ask staff for details, as fees vary by region. Subsequent visa fees after the BVSer has been on project will be covered by BVS, the project, or other sources.
International volunteers serving in the United States please note: when arriving in the U.S., you will be issued an I-94 form. You may be issued only a three- to twelve-month stay. BVS will apply for an extension so that you may complete your term of service. Additionally, you are responsible for the cost of your visa. International volunteers serving in the United States have to pay their transportation to orientation and the return fare home from the port of entry.
Sometimes. Certain projects require a separate application and dialogue prior to orientation. Please note that some prearrangement requirements are indicated in the project listings. Many international placements require advance communication. Contact the BVS office if you are considering one of these.
BVS projects may already have volunteers from BVS or other volunteer agencies. With shrinking budgets, projects cannot always afford volunteers. Projects sometimes specify an availability date. The project book is compiled annually. It is important to be in conversation with BVS staff about whether or not your first choice for a project will even be an option. Prior to your orientation, you will receive a placing list of projects seeking volunteers from your orientation. Flexibility is essential!
People who decide to volunteer often think that they "must" use their degree or prior experience at a BVS project. Or sometimes it is the last thing they want to do. BVS is often an opportunity to serve in a field in which you are inexperienced but have an interest. We encourage people to look through the book for projects of interest and calling. Many projects seek generalists or persons willing to learn a new skill.
If you want to specifically use your degree and experience, the BVS office will work with you as best we can. We remind all volunteers to be flexible in their placement choices. Projects are not always available at your time of placement.
While BVS encourages recent high school graduates to consider volunteering, there will be limitations in project placement. There are some projects that are restricted for legal reasons, such as licensing and insurance. There are some projects that require extensive life knowledge. Could you counsel and discipline an angry 17-year-old? Could you cope with the grief in an AIDS hospice? Even so, BVS is supportive of young people entering the program. Please talk with the BVS staff about which projects best suit your interests, needs, and life experience.
BVS provides special options for older adults (ages 50 and older). Older adults are welcome at all orientations. For more information, visit the Older Adult Program information page.
Yes. BVS suggests that a couple be married for at least one year before they volunteer. The application process is the same as it is for everyone applying to BVS. Not all projects can accommodate more than one person, but many can.
BVS will not place an unmarried couple together at the same site. As stated above, BVS suggests that couples are married at least one year before they volunteer. Also, BVS assumes the volunteer will remain single during his/her term of service.
Travel light. You will need to be able to carry everything with you. We suggest packing only for the three weeks of orientation and the first month on project. Orientations are located in different regions, so pack accordingly. Bring one set of dress clothes, work clothes, and comfortable clothes, and include something for both warm and cold weather. After you're placed, someone at home can ship the rest of what you need.
BVS is often a time to realize what you can do without. We encourage you to leave luxury items behind. This is especially important for international placements.
It is important to read the pre-orientation material that you will receive for specific information related to the orientation you will attend.
Living situations are arranged by the projects and vary according to their needs and resources. Living situations include community living with other volunteers, in an apartment (sometimes shared), with a family, or on site at the project.
Possibly. Qualifying student loans may be deferred for up to three years of service. Contact your lending agency for the deferment forms and to see if your loan qualifies. Volunteers should bring their deferment forms to orientation.
BVS provides transportation to and from the project, room, board, a monthly stipend, health insurance coverage, life insurance, and an annual retreat. BVS will maintain regular contact with you while you are on project.
More than you can imagine! Returning volunteers tell us that they received more than they gave. The unexpected gifts from the lives you touch when you serve are the rewards that Christ beckons us to understand.
Most of the projects have websites included in the book listings. Information about a potential project may be helpful as you consider BVS. However, please remember that BVS makes all the initial arrangements for placement. You may not make arrangements with projects on behalf of BVS. The website information is intended for informational use only.
Yes. BVS has a health insurance plan available if you are not covered by a family or personal plan. Please see the covenant for details.
Please note that BVS does not provide insurance for personal items such as cell phones, computers, cameras, bicycles, and cars.
Yes! Though stated earlier, this needs to be stated again. Many things can change suddenly, especially when we work with projects with limited budgets. Projects listed on our website and in the project booklet may not be available when you arrive at orientation. You may need to wait for an overseas assignment longer than you expected.
Volunteers may be in existing relationships before they come into BVS. We encourage volunteers to talk about the upcoming separation with one’s friend. We feel that long distance relationships can take away significant time from one’s focus on a project, especially at the beginning of one’s service. We ask volunteers to be able to spend the time needed in connecting with the work and community of a new project.
To help incoming volunteers reflect on the potential challenges of this balance, we ask the following questions in the pre-acceptance interview: “What significant relationships will you be working to maintain during your time in BVS – family, friends, romantic? How do you plan to balance those relationships with the new relationships you will be building while in BVS (as well as doing your work at your new project)?”
We have also experienced that volunteers may begin new relationships soon after they begin an assignment. This can involve a significant time commitment. In particular in overseas assignments, we discourage volunteers from jumping into new romantic relationships.
We are also concerned about existing romantic relationships from home impacting one’s cultural submersion, language learning, and involvement in the new region and at the project, with a possible shifting of priorities.
At the very least, we would ask volunteers to alert and discuss with the BVS regional coordinator and other BVS staff about relationships that may impact their service. We recognize that relationships are personal and some may feel that they are not the business of BVS staff. However, the focus one gives to a project is the business of BVS and when relationships interfere with this, it may become an issue for the project and for BVS. The more open one is about this, the better.
Please call the BVS office at (800) 323-8039 if you have additional questions.