Challenge Yourself To Change Your World

Balloon ICS is a unique volunteering programme, offering fully-funded placements for UK Residents aged 18-25 to work with local entrepreneurs in Kenya, Uganda and Ghana, helping to build businesses and change lives.

Why ICS?


Fully-Funded Volunteering Opportunities



Learn Industry-Leading Business Skills



Work with Entrepreneurs in Africa



Build Businesses,
Change Lives


Balloon ICS is a once-in-a-lifetime volunteering opportunity funded by UK Government and led by VSO.

Before your placement, you'll be guided through your application and pre-placement activities by our dedicated team of Volunteer Development Officers (VDOs). They'll work with you to make sure that your preparations go as smoothly as possible.

After training in the UK, you’ll spend 10-12 weeks in Uganda, Kenya or Ghana working with local entrepreneurs to launch or grow businesses that create jobs and improve lives. You will then return to the UK and continue to make impact in your local community through your ‘Action at Home’.

Balloon ICS is one of the first international programmes that brings together entrepreneurs, youth volunteers and innovative microfinance to positively change lives.

The Balloon ICS Journey


Before you leave for placement, our dedicated team of Volunteer Development Officers will walk you through the necessary preparations for your departure.

Our online learning platform, Pathright, leads you through each and every step, and you’ll be supported by your dedicated Volunteer Development Officer Throughout.

You'll be expected to fundraise towards the cost of ICS, and be supported throughout your activity by your VDO and the ICS fundraising support team.

You’ll attend pre-placement training, where our specialist team will ensure you’re fully briefed on all aspects of cultural awareness; safety & security; and the outline of the Balloon ICS programme in more detail.

Weeks 1-2

When you arrive in-country, you’ll meet with your team of 10 UK volunteers and 10 local volunteers.

You’ll then complete the Balloon Enterprise Curriculum, which has been developed with leading entrepreneurs and experts from across the world.

You’ll learn the key entrepreneurial tools and approaches covering topics like customer development; lean startup principles; design thinking and the business model canvas.

The training is fun and hands-on, getting you into the community to design a vending machine, or create a new brand for a local shoe seller.

Don’t worry if you don’t have prior business experience, we’ll give you everything you need to do a great job.

Weeks 3-9

As part of a group of 3, you’ll be partnered with around 6 local entrepreneurs. Some will already have a small business and be looking for growth. Others will only have the seed of an idea.

You’ll share the skills and techniques you gained from the Balloon Curriculum with your entrepreneurs during in-class time and your creativity will be stimulated as you try to uncover new business opportunities. 

We believe that entrepreneurship is a contact sport, and so you’ll spend the majority of your time outside of the classroom, testing ideas with customers in the real world.

You work will be varied and might involve helping to launch new products; initiating marketing strategies; or putting business plans into action.

Your aim is to help your entrepreneurs devise plans for sustainable growth so your work has impact long after you return home.

Weeks 10-12

In week 10, you’ll work with your entrepreneurs working towards pitching their business, ‘Dragon’s Den’ style. Each entrepreneur has 30 minutes to present their business and answer questions in front of an expert pitching panel.

You will prepare your entrepreneurs to pitch for real investment, working with them to build a funding proposal full of the evidence and insight from the previous weeks.

Post-pitch, you then join the expert panel to carry out due diligence on the entrepreneurs and their ideas and collect further information.

At the end of this time, with your input, around 50% of the entrepreneurs will achieve the funding they need to take their business to the next level.


Balloon ICS is only the beginning of your journey as an international citizen.

The final part of the placement takes place when you get home. Our Volunteer Development Officers will work with you to devise an 'Action at Home' that continues the great work you've started on placement.

Whether that's starting your own social enterprise, supporting local business people, or telling the story of your time on placement, your Action at Home is an important part of Balloon ICS.

Unlocking the potential in small-scale entrepreneurs will defeat poverty

Meet Bernard

Bernard is a street seller in Nakuru, Kenya, who worked with Balloon Volunteers in 2016. At the end of his time working with our volunteers, his determination, motivation and attitude had really impressed!

He pitched for 20,000 Kenyan Shillings to invest in new stock to grow his business, as well as to cultivate new crops on a small plot of farmland he owns outside the town.

Balloon Ventures provided the loan for the full amount, which will help Bernard to provide continue to grow his business, improving his community and changing the lives of his family.

Meet Mildred

Mildred runs her salon, 'Divine', in the heart of her community.

It's not just somewhere to have your hair done, it plays a vital role in bringing people together.

She worked with Balloon volunteers in 2015 and her business has grown significantly since.

She described our volunteers as "very empowering and inspiring people". And her advice for anyone thinking of taking part in a Balloon programme?

"Just go for it!"

The Detail

So you've read all about Balloon ICS and you think that you might be ready to take the first step and apply for a life-changing placement in Kenya, Uganda or Ghana? Great!

Before you do, we've answered a few of the most frequently-asked questions about the programme below. If you don't find the answers to your questions here, then try contacting us and we'll get back to you.

Who can apply?
Are you 18-25?

And a UK, EU or EEA citizen who has lived in the UK for at least 12 months?

Then you're eligible to apply for Balloon ICS!

We're looking for volunteers who want to make a real, sustained difference in local communities by helping businesses develop through innovation.

Are you also...
  • Willing to learn and adaptable? You'll spend the first week of your placement immersing yourself in Balloon's enterprise curriculum, and then be expected to apply what you've learned in the field, working with real businesses.
  • Looking to challenge yourself? You'll be living and working at the heart of a local community, and expected to provide focussed and practical business advice to entrepreneurs.
  • A strong team player? You'll be part of a team of international volunteers, supported by Balloon staff in country but working independently with entrepreneurs.
  • Committed? Balloon Volunteers are inspirational change-makers and, through the ICS programme, empower entrepreneurs to make lasting change on their businesses, communities and lives.

Balloon ICS volunteers come from all walks of life, and join us at different stages in their life. Crucially, Balloon ICS is open to everyone, and we've found that diverse teams, comprised of people from a variety of backgrounds, work best.

So whether you've got some time off from University, are just finishing school or out of work and looking for ways to boost your CV, then we're confident you'll have something to offer and something to gain on Balloon ICS.

I'm over 25 or am looking for a leadership challenge - can I still be involved?

Challenge yourself to change your world, while supporting others to do the same.

Balloon ICS brings together and empowers young people from the UK, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana and places them at the heart of communities, working with businesses in the developing world. Together, our international volunteer teams create lasting teams.

Balloon ICS Team Leaders are vital co-ordinators, motivators and our volunteers look to them for leadership and inspiration throughout their placement. 

ICS is led by VSO and funded by UK Government. You can only complete one placement as a volunteer, and one as a team leader, so this really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

What will I be doing?

As a team leader, you'll be volunteering in communities and leading a team of volunteers, working with an in-country Team Leader throughout. You'll be supporting local people in their businesses, helping them to grow and develop and creating lasting change.

You'll be fully trained and supported throughout your journey by Balloon staff, both in the UK and in-country.

When would my placement take place?

Ready for your placement?

Balloon ICS has departures throughout 2017, with a team leaving for placement on average every 2-3 weeks throughout the year (excluding July and August).

You'll be overseas for 10-12 weeks, and it's worth applying about 6 months before you're available to depart, as this gives you plenty of time to attend an assessment day, attend training and undertake your fundraising activity.

How much will it cost me?

ICS Fundraising Costs

Nobody likes talking about money, but we've got some great news. The UK Government provides 90% of the funding for Balloon ICS. This means that the cost of your training, flights, visas, travel and medical insurance, vaccines, food and accommodation will all be covered.

The remaining 10% comes from volunteer funding.

What does this mean for you?

We'll ask you to do some fundraising before you go overseas. You'll have a target, which is usually £800. Don't worry if you have never done any fundraising before, we'll give you lots of ideas and top tips, and support you throughout your activity.

It's a great way to learn new skills. It helps to spread the word about ICS and the work you'll be doing with Balloon, and it shows us that you're committed to the programme and your placement overseas.

Most of all - we know it's achievable. So far, ICS volunteers have raised over £5 million together, through activities as diverse as bake sales to boot sales, chest waxing to cheese tastings.

Really? No Costs?

Balloon ICS is open to everyone, regardless of their background, and we never want anyone to feel that they can't join the programme because they can't afford it.

The only costs that you will have are for your personal belongings. We encourage volunteers not to bring lots of spending money with them, as it can be distracting and create divisions in the teams.

What training and support will I get?

We're here to support you through your journey

Balloon Ventures has supported over 1,500 volunteers in the past four years. We're a youth-oriented organisation that has always had young people at its heart.

We don't expect you to have all the skills or knowledge that you'll need just yet. We'll make sure that you're feeling prepared and inspired to create lasting change on your Balloon ICS programme and beyond.

Before you go

It's an exciting (and stressful) time. There's fundraising to do, bags to pack and preparations to be made. Our team of dedicated Volunteer Development Officers are here to support you at each stage of your ICS journey. They'll send you all the information you need about vaccinations, visas, medical forms and your flight details, and will introduce you to Pathwright, our online platform that's designed to make the whole process run smoothly.

You'll join us for a three day training event, where you'll meet more members of the Balloon Ventures team, each an expert in their field. They will share some skills and knowledge, and let you know what to expect when you are overseas.

You can get in touch with us at any stage in your journey by email, phone, text or via your ICS Facebook group. We want you to feel ready and excited.

When you're overseas

When you first arrive on placement, you'll be introduced to the Balloon Curriculum, which we've built over the past 4 years of working with businesses in the developing world. You'll meet the rest of your team, comprised of in-country volunteers and team leaders, as well as Balloon's full-time in-country staff. 

There's also a staff team in the UK, and a 24-hour emergency helpline if you really need it. The entire team at Balloon Ventures is committed to keeping you safe, and we all believe in the lasting change you can create while on placement.

Back at Home

When you get back from placement, we'll invite you to a Returned Volunteer event, where you can reflect on your Balloon ICS experience. Our team will encourage you to share what you've leanred and think about the most inspiring moments on your placement. They will help you start to plan your 'Action at Home' project, where your ICS challenge is extended to create change in your own community. 

How do I apply?

Ready to apply? Good, we can't wait to meet you!

First of all, fill in the short contact form here on this page, below.

To apply for any of the opportunities within the ICS programme, you will need to fill out the online application form available on the main ICS website. Within this form, you will be asked a few short questions about your background, motivations and experience; as well as when you are available for a placement.

Regardless of whether you want to be an ICS volunteer or Team Leader, you will complete the same application form. 

You will be asked if you heard about ICS through one of a list of organisations. Please make sure that you select Balloon Ventures from this list, as it helps the applications team keep track of your application and that you'd like to be allocated to Balloon Ventures.

Once you've completed the online form, it will be screened within 10 working days. If successful, you'll be invited to an assessment day.

Apply Now

Applying for Balloon ICS offers you a life changing opportunity, and the opportunity to help chane lives in Kenya, Uganda or Ghana.

Fill in your details below to be taken to the VolunteerICS application form.

Apply Now