Volunteering in Germany
Planning your OE

Volunteering in Germany © Hannah McIntyre

New experiences with a (social) twist: the Federal Volunteer Service gives you a huge range of options, all for the common good...

Exploring the Black Forest Exploring the Black Forest | © Hannah McIntyre The Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) gives people of all ages the chance to volunteer in Germany. Whether you’ve finished school and are planning a gap year, or just want to try out different types of work and help others, the Federal Volunteer Service is a great opportunity to get out there and try new things while immersing yourself in German language and culture.
As a volunteer, you’ll be given free training and be looked after by a qualified member of staff. Your place of assignment will pay your insurance (that includes health insurance), and you’ll be given an ID card that gives you discounts on things like public transport, museum entry and tickets to the theatre. There’s even some pocket money – up to €381 a month to help with your living costs.

Hannah McIntyre had been learning German for nearly four years when she took part in the Federal Exchange Service. She wanted to take a gap year after finishing high school, and was initially considering volunteering in Africa when she came across the Federal Volunteer Service and decided to give it a go. She found her placement via the Friends of Waldorf Education. Hannah says people looking to volunteer should brush up on their German, think carefully about what they’d like to do and where they’d like to go, and not be afraid to ask questions. Hannah spent her exchange caring for adults with intellectual disabilities in the village of Tennental near the Black Forest. She says the highlight of her trip was meeting and sharing experiences with her fellow volunteers from around the world.
The Federal Volunteer Service enables people of all ages to get involved in the community. People usually volunteer for 12 months, although anywhere between 6 and 18 months is possible. Most people work full days, but volunteers over the age of 27 can work part-time (20+ hours per week). Whether you’re interested in healthcare, youth work or aged care, in environmental issues, culture, sport or helping refugees, you’re sure to find something just right for you: see the list of possibilities on the Federal Volunteer Service website.
The Federal Volunteer Service is open to anyone who has completed their compulsory secondary school education (for New Zealanders that means you must be 17 or older).
  • Decide which area you’d like to work in (the Federal Volunteer Service flyer and website can help give you ideas).
  • Find a group or organisation to volunteer at. There’s a placement search on the Federal Volunteer Service website here. Or, you can get an advisor to help you – you can search by German state (e.g. Bavaria, Saxony) for advisors here. You can also approach institutions or groups directly, and if they’re not on the list of approved groups the Federal Volunteer Service will add them.
  • When you’ve found a group or institution that interests you, write to them and ask if you can volunteer.
  • If everyone’s happy, fill out and sign the agreement.
  • Once the placement is finalised and everyone has signed the agreement, you’ll need to apply for a residence permit. These are issued specially for volunteers and are easy to get.

Any questions? Contact info@bundesfreiwilligendienst.de