Brethren Volunteer Service

Frequently Asked Questions

The application process can be started any time. Call the BVS office at (800) 323-8039 or email us at bvs@brethren.org to ask for an application packet if you have not already received one.
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: Once you are accepted, we will mail you the following to fill out and return: covenant, hold harmless waiver, health screen form, death benefit form, criminal record check release form, a bill for the $75 background check fee and a request for a copy of your driver's license.
Part 3: BVS staff will conduct a phone interview with each applicant prior to the start of orientation.
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 process 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 application process takes time!
We suggest you send your application three to four months before the orientation unit you want to attend.
Contact us frequently to check the status of your file. Seeing that your file is complete is your responsibility!
A $50 fee will be charged if your application requires rush processing close to or after the deadline (See orientation site information for deadlines.)
No. BVS is open to all who are willing to serve. BVS seeks to follow Jesus through acts of service.
To serve internationally you must be at least 21 years old, and a college graduate (Bachelor's degree) or have equivalent life experience. Placements are approved by staff responsible for international projects who are informed of your interest 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 serve 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 are charged a $500 fee.

Be open to considering domestic projects, as placements outside the United States are not guaranteed. BVSers can take an international assignment after a year of domestic service.
Due to the ever changing needs of BVS's partner organizations in Latin America, 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 American is more important than a particular project.
The placement of a volunteer is a process that will involve the volunteer, the Latin America BVS Coordinator, the Director of BVS and the Latin American 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 include the ability to work in a non-structured environment, have local adaptability, and be process and people oriented rather than goal oriented. The most important requirement for a BVSer in Latin America is his/her ability to actively support the processes that the host organization had begun and to accompany them in their work. This philosophy to accompany people with a commitment to live in solidarity in the local community that you are serving is at the core of the volunteer experience in Latin America.
All volunteers will be required to complete a criminal records check through Brethren Volunteer Service. BVS will provide the release form and requires a fee of $75 made payable to Brethren Volunteer Service.Volunteers are responsible for transportation to orientation.Volunteers serving outside the United States are charged a $500 fee.International volunteers serving in the U.S. 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. Each application for extension costs $300. These costs will be assumed by your project. 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 pre-arrangement requirements are indicated in the project listings. Many international placements require advance communication. Contact the BVS office if you are considering one of these.
You can't. 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. This project book is compiled annually. 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 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 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.
Yes, BVS has a program with special options for older adults (50 and older). Older adults are also 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. Also, BVS will not accept only one partner of a married couple into BVS. We expect both persons to serve together.
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 their 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, comfortable clothes, and include something for 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 you will be sent for specific information related to the orientation you will attend.
Living situations are arranged by the projects and thus vary according to their needs and resources. Living situations include community living with other volunteers, in an apartment (sometimes shared), with a family, on project site, etc.
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. Deferment forms must be brought to orientation.
Travel to and from the project, room, board, monthly stipend, limited medical coverage, life insurance, and an annual retreat. BVS will maintain regular contact with you while you are on project. Please note: the medical insurance plan for volunteers serving in the United States and internationally has a maximum coverage of $50,000 per incident. BVS is not responsible for medical costs beyond the insurance maximum. (See Insurance Coverage for more details.)
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.
Some of the projects have web sites that are included in our 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 web site information is intended for information only.
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.