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Irish Aid Volunteering Initiative

Harriet Sexton-Morel, Irish Aid

Minister Séan Sherlock, with staff at the Irish Aid Volunteering Fair

#VolOps - Minister of State for Development, Trade Promotion and North South Co-operation, Séan Sherlock, with staff at the Irish Aid Volunteering Fair, October 2014

International volunteering lies at the very heart of development cooperation.  It is based on a sense of solidarity with fellow global citizens for whom poverty is a daily reality.  Volunteering contributes in a very tangible way to that goal by connecting and empowering people, releasing potential, building futures and contributing to mutual learning.

Launched in October 2013, the Volunteering Initiative aims to enhance the quality of international volunteering from Ireland, building on the experience of the Irish Aid programme to date.  It arose out of a commitment in Ireland’s International Development Policy One World, One Future launched in May 2013. The commitment was made in recognition of the rich legacy of overseas volunteering amongst Irish people and their solidarity with those in greatest need.

The Initiative will strengthen support for volunteering and promote civilian participation in high quality volunteer programmes that contribute to the achievement of clear sustainable development results.  These provide an opportunity for skill sharing and mutual learning which contributes to sustainable development and reinforces solidarity between citizens in Ireland and developing countries.

Key elements to the initiative include:
• Strengthening of the current focus on quality volunteering, in cooperation with Comhlámh (the  Irish Association of Development Workers) through provision of training and information for volunteers and monitoring of the implementation of the Code of Good Practice on Volunteering;

  • Better matching of volunteers to opportunities  through volunteer fairs and volunteer events and the development of enhanced information about volunteering on social media, including #VolOps to enable sending agencies promote volunteering opportunities and for prospective volunteers to register their interest;  
  • A new pilot volunteering programme with Voluntary Service Overseas Ireland (VSO) linked to Ireland’s key partner countries which facilitates sending skilled volunteers to share their skills and experience in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • A continued focus on volunteering which will support innovative NGO volunteer programmes such as the Civil Society Fund which provides annual and multi-annual grants for small to medium sized projects  undertaken by Irish NGOs in the developing world;
  • Strengthened partnership with the UN Volunteer Programme – continued funding the UN Youth Volunteer Programme (UNV internship programme) to support 10-15 Irish interns to work with the UN in developing countries annually;
  • Promotion of online volunteering – funding the UN Volunteer programme to host an on-line volunteering facility.  This very successful programme facilitates online volunteering by some 10,000 volunteers globally each year;
  • Actively working with our EU partners on a new regulation for the establishment of a new European voluntary humanitarian Aid Corps to be known as EU Aid Volunteers which was launched in January 2015;
  • Profiling the experience and contribution of volunteers to the achievement of development results in order to raise awareness of volunteering.

For further information, please check out our website: