Iceland has a long-standing tradition for volunteer work. Many of these volunteers form an integral part of the Icelandic community. Most of them are in humanitarian help of some sort. These include international aid, national aid for low-income families, organizations specific to aiding people dealing with different illnesses. Most famously, the Icelandic Association for Search and Rescue is a vital part of Icelandic safety measures. They are an additional resource to our professional response teams, such as the police, firefighters, and EMTs.

On the countryside of Iceland, volunteer work is also a staple in the local social life. In small towns, there aren’t endless options for extracurricular activities, no cinema, or team sports with big teams. But what we have is a sense of community. With that, even the smallest of towns have some volunteer organizations active.

Here below, you can read about a few of these organizations.

ICE-SAR – Icelandic Search and Rescue

The role of the ICE-SAR is primarily, as its name entails, searching for lost people and rescuing. They do all their work at the request of the police.

Often this will involve searching extensive parts of the wilderness. In other cases, it will be an additional workforce for searches within towns or cities.

In the countryside, they may also be the only resource for rescue missions in the wilderness. They may have to assist with transportation for the injured or ill in difficult terrain or even to bring the EMTs to the injured where the ambulance can’t reach.

Everyone involved is a volunteer. Operations, training, and equipment are funded almost entirely by donations from individuals and companies.

Red Cross

The Red Cross is involved in projects both nationally and internationally. Within Iceland, they receive clothing donations that are either donated and shipped to places of need or sold domestically. When sold locally, the profit is used in aid. They are also in charge of setting up emergency shelters during public safety emergencies. They provide initial emotional support to involved in challenging situations and take part in first aid during mass casualty incidents.

The Icelandic Red Cross also operates a helpline. It´s a phone number you can call if you are feeling bad for any number of reasons. They also have a lot of volunteers visiting the elderly and those who may, for some reason, be socially isolated.

International, national, and local non-profit clubs and projects.

There are international NGOs such as the Lions Clubs operating in Iceland. We also have national projects such as family help and other cause-specific projects, as well as local clubs.
These organizations hold fundraising events to provide support on the local, national, and international levels.

In many small communities, the events held by these NGOs play a large part in the local social life. Not just for those involved in the organizations themselves but for all those interested in attending. 

Aside from providing much-needed service to the community, these volunteer projects form a large part of the social life in small towns.

Some wonder if there is anything to do in these small places, but the thing is if you want to have something to do, there are many projects to join. Or you can start your own projects.

As such, volunteer projects are integral to life in Iceland.

If you want to learn more about life in Iceland you can check out our blog about Winter Life in Iceland.