Comhlámh hosted returning overseas volunteers at a celebratory event to illustrate the diversity of action projects they have set up to challenge Irish society on how it interacts with the Global South.
From the launch of a blog on ethical living, to a collection of volunteer testimonials and art exhibitions on the empowerment of women: international volunteers have used a motley mix to move people to taking on the perspective of global citizens rather than viewing ourselves in isolation.
Comhlámh project officer, Grainne O’Neill also reflected on her work with returning volunteers for the past three years; in Ireland and with partners across the EU on The Back To The Future Project. She explains:
“The Action projects are small scale projects which have been initiated by returned volunteers. Through the action projects the returnees intend to raise awareness of global justice issues, inspired by their overseas experiences and nurtured by their engagement now they are home. The action projects have therefore inspired others who haven’t had an overseas experience to engage in conversations about development.”
Jorge Ruiz, a volunteer in India in 2012 uses photography to depict the faces and scenes that impacted on him so deeply. Jorge had this to say of his work:
‘I strongly believe that we should all start looking at ourselves and try to make things better for, not only us, but everyone, whether in our own community or in a different society.’
The event was coordinated by Niall Crowley, a returned volunteer from Mozambique who went on to become CEO of the Equality Authority and continues to be actively involved in the social justice campaign ‘Claiming Our Future’.
Niall says of International Volunteer Day:
“Development workers are privileged to be involved in struggles for development and social change around the world. They gain unique insights and learning that could valuably be brought to bear on issues of growing poverty and inequality, unsustainable development, democratic deficits and indebtedness here in Ireland. These are global and Irish issues, no longer confined to any one part of the world. Civil society in Ireland has benefited from returned development workers and this contribution needs to continue and grow as these issues deepen and become ever more intractable.”
Examples of action projects that have been developed include: developing paintings for a wider art exhibition with a group, under the theme gender equality and empowerment; the World’s Best News newspaper handed out to 3,500 people on the streets of Dublin and Cork; workshops in schools; a book club; returnee meet up; ‘living consciously’ blog on ethical living; a story book for children on the experiences of refugees.