Frequently Asked Questions

About volunteering:

Should I volunteer?

The Basics

Where can I volunteer?

Catholic Volunteer Network member programs have positions available in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, and two overseas U.S. territories (Puerto Rico and American Samoa). Additionally, there are currently positions in over 100 countries across the world including placements in Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, South America, Europe, North America, Australia, and the South Pacific.

There are positions in every type of setting: large and small cities, suburbs, and rural areas.

How long can I serve?

That depends on you. Our member programs offer opportunities that range from a week to a three and half year commitment. There are programs available for high school and college students during the summer break as well.

I'm married and have children. Can my spouse and I serve together? Can we bring our kids?

Programs vary in their capacity to accept married volunteers and/or volunteers with dependents. Use our RESPONSE directory of opportunities to identify programs that allow you to serve with your spouse and/or children.

Do I have a choice about where I serve?

Programs are highly skilled at matching applicants with placements that best suit their skills and interests. If you have particular geographic or placement preferences, please be sure to let the programs know in your application.

Do I have to be a certain age to serve?

It depends on the program. Short-term programs (e.g., week-long spring breaks or three month summer programs) offer opportunities for high school aged youth and students still in college. Most long-term programs require participants to be at least 21, but some do accept applicants as young as 18.

Most programs have no upper age limit. In fact, some programs are specifically designed for older or retired applicants.

Be sure to check out individual programs for more information.

What will be my living arrangement/situation?

Different programs offer volunteers different living arrangements. Many programs have volunteers living together in community. Other volunteers live with religious sisters or brothers or priests while some live with families. In rare instances, a volunteer may live alone. You can search programs on this web site by the type of living arrangement they offer.

Do I have to have a college degree to be a volunteer?

Many short-term programs do not require that volunteers have a college degree. Additionally, over 100 programs currently accept volunteers without degrees. Requirements vary from program to program so be sure to contact the program in which you are interested.

Do I have to be a United States citizen to volunteer?

No, you do not have to be an American citizen to serve in many of our programs. Use our RESPONSE directory of opportunities to determine which programs accept persons who are not American citizens.

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Volunteer Placements

What type of work can I do?

Almost anything you can think of. Placements include positions in social service, medicine and nursing, immigration, legal aid, homeless services, prison ministry, bookkeeping, community organizing, child care, agriculture, construction and housing rehabilitation, teaching, religious education, social justice ministry, and more.

What type of experience or certification do I need?

Again, that depends on the program and the placement. Certain positions require someone who already has a specific job skill, but most positions are open to anyone with a willingness to learn. Opportunities in fields as varied as education, health care, and social service are available to those with no previous training or experience. A volunteer placement can be an excellent way to gain experience in a field and to develop your professional skills.

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How can I afford to volunteer?

Volunteering is a commitment on many levels–spiritually, emotionally, professionally, and of course, financially. Volunteering by its very nature is not going to make you rich—at least financially speaking. Catholic Volunteer Network requires that all programs provide for their volunteers. Most programs provide basic room and board and a modest living stipend, usually paid monthly. Volunteers are asked to “live simply” and to be conscious of how they spend their money.

Many programs offer student loan deferments and many also participate in the AmeriCorps Education Awards Program. See below.

What about my student loans?

Many programs offer loan deferment. Additionally, many programs participate in the AmeriCorps Education Awards Program which offers volunteers an educational award of up to $5,350 for a full year (1700 hours of service) of domestic service in the United States. This education award can be applied to your student loans. Be sure to ask individual program in which you're interested their policy on loan deferment.


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Do I have to be a Catholic or Christian to volunteer?

While not all of our programs require volunteers to be practicing Catholics or Christians, all are faith-based. Programs vary in the level of religious or spiritual commitment they expect. Some programs require participants to be Catholic while others may ask that you simply be open to reflecting on spiritual matters and participating in group prayer. Some programs will not require any type of participation in religious activities. Each program has different requirements, so be sure to contact the individual programs in which you are interested.

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After Volunteering

What happens after I volunteer?

You can volunteer with another program, or you can follow in the footsteps of thousands of other former volunteers who use the experience and skills gained from their time of service to help them in their next job or educational step. Your volunteer service is not "time off," but a valuable step in your personal and professional development.

Check out the Alumni section of this website for information on graduate school programs and resources for fomer volunteers.

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Questions to ask

Whether you decide to volunteer for a week or three years, committing yourself to service is a big step. Your time spent as a volunteer will have a big impact upon you and upon others. Here are some questions to help you reflect upon the decision to volunteer. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Each person is motivated by their own personal talents, experiences, and goals. It helps to be aware of what is calling you to service, so that you can express this to yourself as well as the programs to which you are applying.


Ask yourself

Why do I want to volunteer?

Everybody decides to volunteer for different reasons. Are you idealistic? Do you want to deepen your relationship with God? Are you committed to social justice? Do you anticipate personal growth? Do you want to change your life?

What are my expectations?

What do you want to experience during your time as a volunteer? What do you hope to gain? What do you expect from your program and specific placement?

What do I have to offer?

What gifts can you share with others? What are your strengths/weaknesses? What professional skills do you bring?

How do I handle changes?

A volunteer year involves a lot of change. Not only will you be living in a new place with new people, but you won’t be earning a salary. How do you handle change? Have you ever been far from your family and support system? How will you adjust to living simply?

How do I relate with others?

Many volunteers find living in community to be the most difficult part of their volunteer year. How do you interact with others? How do you deal with problems and disagreements? Do you have a sense of humor?

What gives me satisfaction?

At the end of the day, what makes you feel good? What do you find comfort in? What do you like to do with others? How do you spend your time when you’re alone?

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Ask the program

What makes your program unique?

What are your core beliefs or tenets? What is the spirituality of charism of your sponsoring community?

What type of placements does your program offer?

What work will I be doing? Do I need to have previous experience? Will you train me to do things I don’t know how to do? How long is your program? Where will I be serving?

What type of living situation do you have?

Programs offer a variety of different living situations. Will I be living with others like me? Where will I be living? How much stipend will I receive? Can I bring a car?

What kind of support do you provide your volunteers?

Will I be trained? What do if I have a problem at my placement? Will there be retreats? How often will I interact with other volunteers? How do you ensure the safety of your volunteers?

How does the application process work?

How long does the process take? Do I need to be interviewed? What paperwork will I need to complete? What kind of background checks are required?

What are your program's benefits?

Will my student loans be deferred? Will I receive any training or certification? Are AmeriCorps Awards available? Is health insurance provided?

May I speak with former volunteers?

Volunteers who have gone before you are your best resource in learning about a program. Be sure to ask the program to put you in touch with these volunteers who can share with you their experiences.

What happens when the program is over?

How many people have gone through your program? What types of work have former volunteers gone on to do? How do you keep in touch with former volunteers? Do you offer any support for the transition?

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