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Launch of Comhlámh’s Survey on International Volunteering from Ireland 2013.

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Pictured: Minister Sean Sherlock with Sioban O’Brien Green and Mark Cumming of Comhlámh.

Today the launch of Comhlámh’s latest research report took place at the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.

This new research report is based on quantitative data emerging from an online survey issued to volunteer sending agencies (VSAs) in Ireland. The new report presents an up-to-date picture of the state of VSAs in Ireland, the profile of international volunteers from Ireland in 2013, and challenges to overseas volunteering.

It builds on the data and findings from the previous survey of VSAs commissioned by Comhlámh, New Evidence on Overseas Volunteering from Ireland and its Socio-Economic Impact in Ireland.

The research describes the enormous support for international volunteering within Ireland, demonstrated by the range of activities that people go overseas to undertake on a voluntary basis, the breadth of countries where they undertake placements (in 2013, volunteers traveled to at least 47 different countries), the substantial fundraising from the Irish public that supports international volunteering, and the long Irish tradition of overseas volunteering.

Forty-nine (49) volunteer sending agencies participated in the research, an increase on the previous survey (2012). Comhlámh’s research and policy officer, Siobán O’Brien Green, presented the main research findings at the launch, which include:

  • The majority of VSAs that participated in the survey have been founded since 2000, and despite the economic crisis, seven new VSAs have opened since 2010.
  • Youth volunteering emerged as by far the most frequently offered type of volunteering programme in the survey, with over 80% of VSAs offering youth volunteering in their programmes. Other forms, such as corporate, diaspora and online modalities of volunteering, are also offered, although by smaller numbers of VSAs.
  • A total of 3,950 applications for volunteer placements were received in 2013 by the 47 VSAs who answered this question. This exceeded the number of volunteers that VSAs wanted to recruit that year, which was 2,270. This indicates a substantial interest in, and demand for, international volunteering placements in Ireland.
  • The majority of VSAs (77%) that completed the survey were signatories to the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice, implying a high level of commitment within the sector to working to ensure responsible and responsive volunteering. This emphasises the dedication of VSAS to the need for equal partnership between the sending agency, the host community and the individual volunteer. 
  • Volunteers from Ireland worked in 47 countries across the globe in 2013, and all Irish Aid Key Partner countries (Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zambia) received volunteers from Ireland in 2013.
  • The majority of volunteers (over 77%) were on placements for four weeks or less. This demonstrates both supply and demand for short-term overseas volunteering placements in 2013, which is similar to the data emerging from the 2012 survey.
  • VSAs estimated that over 51% of their volunteers worked between 30 and 39 hours per week, while 22% worked between 40 and 49 hours per week during their volunteer placements.
  • In 2013, volunteers were most active during their placements in the areas of: teaching/training, children and youth development, capacity building, medicine and healthcare, and community development.

Welcoming this new research report, the head of Comhlámh, Mark Cumming, said:

“Conducting this research with VSAs for two years running has enabled Comhlámh to collate key data relating to the international volunteering sector in Ireland and to identify a number of emerging trends. Some of the key trends emerging when the data is compared between the two years are the continued vibrancy of the sector, as evidenced by the number of VSAs that are operating from Ireland, and the large volume of applications for overseas placements that they received.”

Comhlámh plans to repeat this research survey with VSAs on an annual basis. The data from the surveys will assist in informing international volunteering practices in Ireland and will support Comhlámh’s work with and for volunteers before, during and after their placements, in addition to the organisation’s work with VSAs.

The following powerpoint was presented by Sioban O’Brien Green, Comhlámh’s Research and Policy Officer on the day.


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