Voluntary service in the areas of culture and education for refugees


There are two kinds of voluntary service in Germany:

  • BFD
  • FSJ

BFD is an abbreviation for Bundes-Freiwilligen-Dienst (Federal Voluntary Service).
FSJ is an abbreviation for Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr (Voluntary Social Year).

Both voluntary services serve the areas of culture and education.
This means:
Helping people in a cultural or educational institution.
Examples include:

  • Theatre
  • Museum
  • School
  • Library

If these institutions participate in the voluntary service, they are called assignment locations.
Voluntary service is about helping at various assignment locations on a voluntary basis.
These people want to do it. They want to help others.
They are doing something good for society.
In Germany, this is called voluntary work, or voluntary commitment.
People doing a voluntary service are called volunteers.
Voluntary service is a special kind of volunteering.
Certain rules apply to voluntary service:

  • Volunteers help out at their assignment location for at least 20.5 hours a week, for 6 to 18 months.
  • Volunteers carry out activities that interest them. They contribute their own experiences.
  • Volunteers do not get paid as they would in a regular job. But they do receive a little money for their help.
  • In extra courses, volunteers learn interesting things for their work and future career.
  • Volunteers meet fellow volunteers during their voluntary service.

Voluntary service should be fun.

What kind of voluntary services you can do

Examples of what you can do during your voluntary service:

  • Participate in activities that you find interesting,
  • Contribute your own knowledge and experiences,
  • Familiarise yourself with working life in Germany,
  • Try out different tasks and activities, to find out what suits you,
  • Find out which career path you can take after your voluntary service,
  • Plan and carry out your own projects,
  • Meet other volunteers at days of education and seminars,
  • Participate in a language course,
  • Use and practise your language skills.
Important prerequisites


  • You have to be under 26 years old for the FSJ. There is no age limit for the BFD.
  • You have to be able to work every week for at least 20.5 hours each week at your assignment location.
  • Voluntary service lasts at least 6 months, and a maximum of 18 months.
  • You must have a work permit for your voluntary service.
    You can get the work permit from the Foreigners' Registration Office.
The 3 partners of the voluntary service

There are always 3 partners involved in voluntary service:

  • The volunteer
  • The assignment location
  • The agency of voluntary service
The assignment location

The assignment location is the cultural or educational institution, where you will be volunteering.
One person will act a as your mentor.
This person will explain your tasks to you and answer any questions.

There are different tasks and focus areas within deployment locations.
For example:

  • In theatres you can work in administration,
  • stage technology or
  • in PR and publicity.

There are other tasks within a library or a school.

Make sure to include what you would like to do in your application for voluntary service.
And also what interests you have.
This will help us find the right assignment location for you.
Send your application for voluntary service to the agency of voluntary service.

The agency of voluntary service

The agencies of voluntary service are non-profit associations. Their job is to enable and facilitate the voluntary service.
The agency of voluntary service’s employees plan and implement the voluntary service.
They support and help volunteers and assignment locations.
This means that if you do voluntary service, there will always be a point of contact for you at the agency of voluntary service.
The agencies of voluntary service’s employees also perform the following tasks:

  • They answer questions if someone is interested in voluntary service.
  • They help people who want to do a voluntary service find a placement at an assignment location. They see to the placement arrangements.
  • They advise assignment locations on how best to implement the voluntary service.
  • They visit all volunteers and assignment locations once a year.
  • They do the PR for the voluntary service. They safeguard the interests of all those involved in voluntary service.
  • They carry out days of education and seminars.

The agency of voluntary service drafts an agreement. The agreement states which rights and responsibilities volunteers, assignment locations and agency have. The agreement is signed by all 3 partners.
In order for you to be able to sign this agreement, you must have a work permit. The organisation can help you get your work permit.

Advantages of voluntary service:


  • You can do activities that you find interesting.
  • You can work with other people.
  • You participate in days of education and seminars
    If you are under the age of 27, you will have 25 days of education and seminars over the course of 12 months.
    - If you are 27 and over, you will have one educational day per month.

At the days of education and seminars, you will meet other volunteers from other assignment locations.
You will also learn useful things about the voluntary service and for your future.
These days are often culturally themed.
They often involve creative and artistic activities.
There are also artistic offers.
- For example, you can act in a play
- or take a photography course.
The days of education and seminars are free of charge for the volunteers.
The agency of voluntary service will provide food and pay any travel costs.

  • You can use and improve your language skills during your voluntary service.
    Or you could take part in a language course.
  • You will receive a little money for your voluntary service. This is referred to as pocket money:
    If you work 20.5 hours per week, you will receive at least €160 monthly.
    But: You can only keep part of your pocket money.
    The other part is deducted from the money you receive from the state.
    This means: The state will pay you less money.
    The agency of voluntary service can tell you how much you will receive.
  • Voluntary service includes social security.
    This means: The assignment location pays your social security contributions.
    Social security also includes health insurance.
    You will then receive the same treatment from the doctors as German citizens.
  • You receive paid leave.
    For example: If you complete 12 months of voluntary service, you will receive 25 days’ paid leave.
    You will continue to receive your pocket money during your leave.
  • After finishing your voluntary service, you will receive a reference from your assignment location.
    This reference can be used for future job applications.
How to get involved

You need to apply for voluntary service.
Ask the agency of voluntary service how to apply.
To do this, call the agency of voluntary service.
Or send the agency of voluntary service an e-mail.
There is a map of Germany showing all agencies of voluntary service in the areas of culture and education.
The map shows all agencies of voluntary service in every state.
You can access the map here:

  • FSJ agencies of voluntary service: http://fsjkultur.de/karte-der-landestraeger.html
  • BFD agencies of voluntary service:

You can also find the telephone numbers and e-mail addresses of the agencies of voluntary service on the map.
Not all agencies if voluntary service offer both the FSJ and BFD.
Some agencies of voluntary service only offer FSJ or BFD.
If you have questions or need support:

We are happy to help.
Send us an email at: freiwilligendienste@bkj.de
Or call us on: 030 48 48 60-20

We are available at the following times:

  • Tuesdays from 2 - 4 p.m.
  • Wednesdays from 2 - 4 p.m.
  • Thursdays from 10 - 12 p.m.

We speak German and English.