The UK has a strong tradition of charity and supporting those in need, and is often ranked near the top of the World Giving Index which measures the percentage of people in each country who donate money, volunteer or help a stranger. Many identify the culture of generosity as the legacy of industrialization (which resulted in increases in wealth alongside a new working class living in deplorable conditions) and the legacy of colonialism (and the post-colonial responsibility to support others in need, especially in former colonies where the occupation may have contributed to current conditions). Today, nearly half of adults in England report volunteering at least once a month.
There are over 160,000 registered charities in the UK with an annual income of over £70 billion. The voluntary sector, also known as the third sector (the first two being public and private), and employs about 3% of the UK workforce.
In sharp contrast to the glamorous, historic, and trendy scenes encountered by tourists, not many people are aware that London is England’s poverty capital. Once housing costs are taken into account, one-fourth of Londoners live in poverty. Most of those live in working households, as about 18% of jobs in the city pay below the London Living Wage, an independently calculated figure based on what employees and their families need in order to live in London. Many social welfare and non-profit organizations in London seek to address these inequalities, supporting local people in need. The work of such organizations is often closely run in association with and is sometimes funded by, the state, providing interns opportunities to learn about public policy and administration. These placements give interns excellent insight into the issues which affect Londoners and opportunities to learn more about the lives of people living and working in the city.
London is also home to a number of international charities whose projects are mainly based in developing countries around the world. These placements provide interns with opportunities to learn about international development and policy.
FIE works with a range of organizations that are working toward goals associated with achieving public good. These organizations will have as their mission (stated or implied) one of the following: to effect, inform, support or facilitate social or environmental change; to manage, protect or develop social, cultural or environmental resources; to promote social justice, cultural diversity or social awareness; to achieve positive impact in the local, national or global community, either directly or indirectly. Appropriate sites will include both public and private agencies, community groups, registered charities, social enterprise and other non-profit organizations.
| All service interns will need to bring a valid police check to London. Learn more here.
A clean police check is required for most roles where a student will have access to vulnerable people (including children) or sensitive information. Students with previous criminal history, or history they do not wish to disclose to potential employers and the FIE Internship Team, should carefully consider applying for this type of service internship.
- Experience volunteering for a charity or cause
- Strong interpersonal and communication skills
- Passion for social and political causes
- Sensitivity to the subject matter they are working with
- Flexibility and willingness to work on a variety of tasks
- Clean police check
TIPS & TRICKS: SHOWING YOU'RE A STRONG CANDIDATE
- Previous voluntary experience should be highlighted on your CV and further described in your personal statement
- For interns who wish to work with children or other vulnerable populations, previous successful experience is required and should be highlighted on your CV
- If your internship or areas of interest relate to a future career goal, make sure to explain this in your personal statement as site supervisors are keen to host students who are committed to the cause
- If you have relevant personal experience which you wish to disclose as an explanation of the source of your interest in the field, please do so in the personal statement. Keep in mind, however, that this is a professional document, so language should not be overly emotive and the focus should remain on the direct and transferable skills which make you a strong candidate.
Service Internships take place within organizations working working toward goals associated with achieving public good. These organizations will have as their mission (stated or implied) one of the following: to effect, inform, support or facilitate social or environmental change; to manage, protect or develop social, cultural or environmental resources; to promote social justice, cultural diversity or social awareness; to achieve positive impact in the local, national or global community, either directly or indirectly. Appropriate sites will include both public and private agencies, community groups, registered charities, social enterprise and other non-profit organizations.
SERVICE INTERNSHIP PLACEMENT AREAS
Service Interns will select three choices from the following areas.
London is a patchwork of communities, each with their own history, architecture, and micro-culture. Some communities have historically always been home to the disadvantaged, while others have risen and fallen along with changes in London’s industrial and commercial scene.
Community regeneration placements are typically within Organizations dedicated to supporting social entrepreneurship, educating and policing communities. This can include training and developing businesses in need of economic and financial regeneration. Interns in this area find incredible opportunities to connect with local movements and people as they work to make their community a better place for residents and visitors.
DISABILITY RIGHTS AND ISSUES
London was not originally built to be accessible, but today the government and advocacy groups are working to improve access for everyone. As part of preparing to host the 2012 Paralympic Games, significant improvements were made to infrastructure and signage, particularly on the transportation network.
Students interested in disability rights and issues can gain important skills in advocacy and raising awareness by interning at charity which focuses on these issues. Available roles typically involve research, fundraising, communication or events planning, but there are some opportunities to engage more directly with disabled individuals, helping to improve independence and quality of life.
Education can take many forms and there are a number of opportunities to work in organizations which aim to provide equal opportunities to people of all ages, from children to adults. Internships in this area include education programs, community education initiatives, and business-education partnerships. Additionally, many charities and social enterprises have an education department aimed at community youth education and outreach. Tasks can include assisting in the learning environment (classes, school outings, extra-curricular activities, tutoring, etc.) along with a combination of administrative, research, and project work.
Depending on the time of year, there are some opportunities to work in a school setting.
ENVIRONMENTAL AND SUSTAINABILITY ISSUES
Considered one of the most sustainable cities in the world, there a number of opportunities in London to intern in a charity or organization which supports sustainability concerns, from protecting wildlife, habitats, and greenspaces, to influencing the behaviors of people and businesses. The focus may be on local issues and habitats or international and global efforts. Placements can be office-based, with tasks including administrative, communications, fundraising and research duties. Other placements are more hands-on, including work outdoors with plants, animals or infrastructure, or teaching children and adults about relevant issues.
ETHNIC, RACIAL AND RELIGIOUS DIVERSITY RIGHTS & ISSUES
London is an ever-developing culture center, with many community organizations promoting understanding and tolerance among people of different backgrounds, faiths, and cultures through social activities, community action and fundraising and awareness campaigns. Tasks will be varied and tailored to the organization’s particular niche, but examples include promotional and awareness-raising work, working with users, research and providing users with advice, assisting with workshops or education projects, and general operations or administrative duties. An internship in a diversity organization provides students with a great opportunity to learn about current issues and themes in London’s modern cultural scene.
LGBTQ RIGHTS & ISSUES
London has long had a thriving LGBTQ cultural scene, especially since the civil rights movements of the 1970s. Even so, many LGBTQ individuals still face discrimination from their families and from society. There a number of internship opportunities in London with not-for-profit groups that provide advocacy, advice, and counseling, as well as organizations who promote awareness, sexual health and equality in the community. Tasks can include administrative, communications, fundraising, outreach, awareness and project work. Students with relevant experience may have opportunities to work directly with constituents and service users.
A variety of London museums, theaters, and galleries that tackle contemporary issues and social history through performing arts, events, and exhibitions. Additionally, many local communities invest time and money into resources for local people to experience and participate in the arts, provide facilities for fundraising, training, education or offer open gallery or rehearsal space. Interns may have opportunities to assist with a variety of these projects, as well as engage in communications, administrative and support tasks. An intern in a community heritage or arts organization not only gets to experience London’s relationship with the arts but also help make the arts more accessible to all of London’s residents.
Housing and homelessness is a major challenge for most large, urban centers and there are many UK charities dedicated to addressing this issue. Placements are available in not-for-profit agencies which provide help for the homeless through accommodation, information centers, and outreach programs, as well as organizations with an emphasis on at-risk populations such as domestic violence victims, under 21s and those suffering from mental illness. Some hands-on opportunities are available in homeless shelters but most opportunities combine a variety of tasks in communications, fundraising, operations, and administration.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION
London is home to a number of not-for-profit organizations and charities which endeavor to uphold human rights, improve access to justice for all and support peace awareness. Placements can be in organizations which provide services directly to those in need, lobby the government for change, or raise awareness through events and campaigns; many engage to some extent with all three. Potential tasks typically include fundraising, communications and marketing, event planning, research, and general administrative duties.
London has a less than ideal history of supporting people with mental health. Bethlem Hospital, originally a charitable initiative, is Europe’s oldest extant psychiatric hospital and the origin of word “bedlam”. Still today, the National Health Service draws criticism insufficient provision of mental health services. To help bridge the gap, many organizations seek to support those mental illnesses and the situations which often coincide with them, such as disabilities, un- and underemployment, homelessness, drug abuse, and physical abuse. Tasks typically include communications, administrative, operations and research projects. There are also some hands-on opportunities to support adults and youth with developmental and learning disabilities on programs which provide vocational training or recreational opportunities. Given the nature of placements regarding mental health, students will need to demonstrate prior experience working in challenging circumstances and the emotional maturity to be resilient when encountering upsetting situations. Please note there are no opportunities to work in psychotherapy, clinical, or counseling settings.
In sharp contrast to the glamorous, historic, and trendy scenes encountered by tourists, not many people are aware that London is England’s poverty capital. Once housing costs are taken into account, one-fourth of Londoners live in poverty. Many social welfare and on-profit organizations in London seek to address these inequalities by supporting local people in need. The work of such organizations is often closely run in association with and is sometimes funded by, the state, providing interns opportunities to learn about public policy and administration. Other organizations have a more international focus, targeting the effects of poverty and humanitarian concerns around the word. Tasks can include communications, fundraising, operations, administration and project work.
PRISONER WELFARE AND CRIME REDUCTION
Interns with an interest in social justice can discover rewarding opportunities to assist in not-for-profit groups which raise awareness and advocate for the legal rights and social welfare of prisoners and their families, both locally and abroad. There are also many robust initiatives to promote community and provide adequate resources as a means of reducing crime. Due to security restrictions and qualification issues, there are no opportunities with law enforcement, within correctional facilities or for direct contact with prisoners. Tasks can include research, communications, fundraising and administrative duties.
REFUGEE RIGHTS & ISSUES
There are a number of charities in London which focus on refugee rights, both internationally and also those who have sought asylum in the UK. Services can include legal and immigration advice, education and training programs, and general community building projects. Tasks can include communications or administrative duties alongside providing services directly to clients.
SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND ADDICTION
Limited placements are available in organizations and drop-in centers established to provide confidential advice, support, and counseling to those affected by drugs and alcohol. While there are no opportunities to work in psychotherapy, clinical or counseling settings, tasks can include a variety of research, project and administrative duties. There are also placements within organizations which provide substance abuse and additional support alongside situations which often coincide with them, such as disabilities, un- and underemployment, homelessness and physical abuse.
WOMEN’S RIGHTS & ISSUES
London is home to a number of community groups dedicated to empowering women by promoting women’s status in the business and the community as well as supporting relevant causes such as domestic violence, homelessness, and family planning. Tasks can include a variety of research, communications and administrative duties, but there may also be opportunities to interact directly with service users or support mentoring and educational initiatives.
YOUTH AND CHILDREN’S ISSUES
Many charities focus on providing services and opportunities for children and youth, especially regarding their health, education and equal opportunity. Examples of potential placements include nutrition and health education programs, employment awareness activities, mentoring schemes, and providing disaster or poverty relief services. Roles vary, but can include a variety of communications, fundraising, operations and administrative tasks, and often incorporate many of these. Interns with previous experience working with children and youth may find opportunities to engage with them directly, but even hands-on roles will typically include office-based components.