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Promoting volunteering among health professionals | www.volunteeringoptions.org

Responsible Responsible, responsive overseas volunteering respects the interests of volunteers, sending agencies and host communities. Find out what resources are available to help you find the right placement.

#VolOps You can use #volops on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to seek your ideal placement and to connect with sending agencies from around Ireland.

Health Dr. Michael O’Donovan is a consultant physician volunteering with VSO in the department of internal medicine at a busy hospital in Tanzania. Read his story inside.

Volunteer Voices:

“I have seen more in one year here than I have in my whole career at home. Most importantly, I think it’s just given me a whole wealth of knowledge about a different culture.” - Beth Connelly, VSO Midwife trainer at Holy Mission Hospital, Palombe, Malawi, supervising Zione Lipenga carrying out a postnatal baby health check. Photo Credit: Georgie Scott VSO.

The Volunteer Charter. Promoting Good Practice. Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter is designed to guide volunteers in responsible and responsive overseas volunteering. All volunteers who go overseas from Ireland are asked to sign up to the principles of the charter.

1. Reflect: Think about my motivations and expectations 2. Prepare: Learn about my role and host organisation 3. Respect: Be open to local culture and customs 4. Adapt: Be professional and flexible in my placement 5. Stay Aware: Take due care of my safety, health and finances 6. Share: Channel my experience and knowledge gained overseas at home 7. Commit: Be responsible and responsive through the volunteering cycle

Key Sign Up Steps

#VolOps & Finding A Placement. Comhlámh wants to harness social media as a tool to match volunteers with sending agencies. We are encouraging sending agencies to append #VolOps to any posting on Twitter or Facebook about placements or events where volunteers can find out more. People interested in volunteering can then look up placements overseas by following #VolOps on Facebook and Twitter. This will give you up to the minute information about the latest volunteering opportunities that agencies


Give @VolOpsRobot a follow or check in on the #VolOps Hashtag.

are recruiting for. If you are a member of LinkedIn, you are welcome to join the dedicated #VolOps : Sharing Volunteering Options group we have created there. You can join in the conversation about best practices in volunteering and ask others about their experiences. You can also connect with volunteering agencies and seek out an opportunity that matches your skills and interests.



Like our #VolOps page to stay up to date on opportunities.


We’re building a group to offer friendly advice to volunteers.

Comhlámh also has a directory of sending agencies you can check out on our website. Don’t worry if you don’t use social media – there are still plenty of Comhlámh resources available to help you and we list them on the back page.

Volunteer Questions. Can I protect my Public Service Pension while volunteering?

If you are a public servant volunteering overseas on an assignment approved by Irish Aid you may qualify to have your pension contribution paid from six months up to two years of your assignment. Contact Comhlámh to find out more about this scheme or download the application form from the Comhlámh website.

Do I have to pay to volunteer? Some placements offer to cover your costs of travelling overseas, others require you to fundraise or pay a fee. This often depends on the length of the placement and the skills required.

How long do I need to commit myself? The time you spend overseas depends on what you want to achieve through volunteering and your own circumstances. It will also depend on the needs of the particular placement and the local partners. Most medical volunteer placements will be from anything from six months to two years and beyond.

– Noel Brennan , retired school principal and repeat Medicalvolunteer. students Benedict Lunguya and Bibie talkof tothe VSO overseas pictured with Sr NMedhin volunteer Michael O’Donovan (physician, internal medicine) at the Daughters of Charity NorternPhoto: Tim Maynard, VSO. Ifakara Health Project ininTanzania.

The Long Term Impact. Dr Micheal O’Donovan is a consultant physician volunteering with VSO in the department of internal medicine at a busy hospital in south central Tanzania. “The teaching approach is the same as it would be anywhere but there is a huge difference between the limited resources available to doctors and medical students in Tanzania when compared with Europe. I think the impact of my work will be felt in the long run, especially in terms of how patients are treated at the hospital. I’m optimistic the tutorials, x-ray and ECG interpretation, skillsharing and training in proper bedside clinical skills will leave a lasting impression on the

medical students and interns. Before I started my placement, I knew most of the staff and students I’d be working with would be Tanzanian. I’ve been particularly struck by the enthusiasm and positive attitude of the students and interns. There is a hope that many of the students and interns I’m working with will stay and work as doctors in the region, or at the very least remain in Tanzania, because the country needs Tanzanian doctors to stay in Tanzania. On a personal level, trying to share skills effectively in a poor rural hospital with aspirations to serve an enormous population has been a real experience”.

Being Effective In Low Resource Settings. Dr Niall Conroy has just completed a 12 month placement in Bo City, Sierra Leone, where he was volunteering as a child and maternal health trainer. Sierra Leone has the highest newborn death rate in the world. Niall developed a course on newborn resuscitation skills which has been delivered to over 100 staff in maternity referral units. Before the course, only

14% of staff could resuscitate a sick newborn. “ You see things which can be hard to take, such as newborns dying from very preventable and very treatable diseases and you often feel very helpless. But the rewards can be immense. In low-resource settings, it’s possible to make a big impact quickly”. Dr Niall Conroy with nurses in Sierra Leone. Photo: Niall Conroy

Sherry McLean speaks at a mural unveilling celebrating Comhámh’s contribution to anti-apartheid work.


Comhlámh is here for you.

Before volunteering

Comhlámh’s vision is of volunteers and development workers working in solidarity for a just, equitable and sustainable world. Our mission is to foster good practice and critical engagement in volunteering and action for development. We are the Irish Association of Volunteers and Development Workers. Our work is driven by the experiences and passions of our members and supporters, whether they are returned volunteers/development workers or those with an interest in working for global justice from Ireland. Our membership is open to anyone. We have developed the Code of Good Practice for Volunteer Sending Agencies in Ireland setting out 11 principles of good practice in overseas volunteering. Ask any organisation you are thinking of volunteering with if they are a signatory to the Code of Good Practice and how they are implementing these principles We have a Volunteer Charter which

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Sign up for our Volunteering Overseas: Where Do I Start? courses Read the Volunteer Charter and the Code of Good Practice Read up on the responsible, responsive volunteering at www.volunteeringoptions. org

On Return from volunteering • • •

Attend our Coming Home Weekend or our What Next? Course Sign up for membership of Comhlámh and get involved in one of our active groups. Find out more about our debriefing, counselling and other support services for returned volunteers.



we invite all overseas volunteers to sign up to and adhere to. We offer a variety of courses to volunteers and development workers before and after their assignments, preparing them for overseas placements and promoting ways to stay engaged in global justice issues on return. Comhlámh supports returning volunteers and development workers to access necessary support services such as counselling, debriefing, career guidance and social welfare benefits. We facilitate a series of groups and initiatives led by members and supporters including a Trade Justice group and Focus magazine which aim to tackle global inequality and promote development from Ireland. To become a member of Comhlámh go to our website. To get involved and keep up to date on our various groups, services, events and courses sign on for our E-link newsletter and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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#VolOps Health Leaflett  

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