Home   #FirstWeds   Oct First Weds. What direction for international volunteering?

Oct First Weds. What direction for international volunteering?

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Following on from the Volunteering Fair, join us for an evening debate on the nature, role and place of international volunteering for development.



The issues around volunteering are complex. Indeed what we mean by the term “volunteering” depends on political philosophy and our underpinning ideas of change.

Thus volunteering is used to describe a range of activities, from supporting public authorities to deliver on gaps in public services, to challenging the same public authorities for not fulfilling its duties in providing those services.

Is there a shared narrative on the purpose and place of volunteering that can unite and define the phenomenon? What does this look, feel and sound like?

And what of volunteerings’ place internationally? The origins of international volunteering was largely situated in a mindset of ‘skills sharing’ – ‘we have, we know and therefore will share’. The directionality of international volunteering has largely been from the Global North to Global South. Is this still relevant? As development practices move forward with agreement on the centrality of building local partnerships and ensuring local ownership – what does this mean for how international volunteering from Ireland will look into the future?

And what of the changing demographic of those who volunteers? Whilst in Ireland we have managed to resist the commercialisation of volunteering, historically volunteering was carried out by skilled professionals. Today there is a new phenomenon of shorter-term and youth volunteering – what are the implications of this? What has Ireland to learn from what is happening in other countries in particular how do we not make the mistakes made elsewhere?

Where & When?

7pm Wed 5th Oct, Teachers Club, Parnell Sq West, Dublin 1

Our panellists on the night include:
Eilish Dillon
Eilish is the co-ordinator of the MA in Development Studies programme which is offered at Kimmage DSC and by flexible and distance learning. On the MA programme, she facilitates modules in sociology, research methods and globalisation and movements for change. Eilish also teaches courses on development theory and practice and on the media and development for the BA in International Development at Maynooth University. As part of the Kimmage DSC capacity development services, she offers training on development representations and the Dóchas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages for NGO personnel as well as facilitating courses in development education. As co-ordinator of the MA, she supports and facilitates students in undertaking primary research in development-related areas. Her main areas of academic interest are: development discourses and representations; globalisation and change; development education; NGOs, civil society activism and social movements; and volunteering in development.

Kate O’Donnell
Kate is the interim Executive Director for Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ireland, the international development organisation that brings people together to fight poverty through the lasting power of volunteering.

Kate has been active in the development arena for almost twenty five years, having started out as a volunteer in the Gambia in 1992 with the Irish Agency for Personal Services Overseas (APSO). Since then Kate has worked primarily on rural development and governance around Africa with a range of international NGOs and donors. She has also worked with the Peace II Programme in Ireland. Most recently, prior to joining VSO Ireland, she led the development of the next five year country strategy for Uganda, at the Irish Embassy in Kampala.

Kate has a degree in Agriculture from University College Dublin, and a Masters in the Economics and Management of Rural Development from the University of Manchester.

Clare Holdsworth
Clare is Professor of Social Geography at Keele University, UK. She has researched and written about the experiences of student volunteers in the British HE sector. She is committed to promoting social justice principles as the foundation for youth volunteering rather than the expectation that it something to do to ‘put on your CV’.

Shane Halpin

Shane is the CEO of VC (Viatores Christi) a faith-based volunteer and development organisation based in Dublin. Shane’s introduction to international volunteering was with APSO, the then Agency for Personal Service Overseas where he worked with a street children rehabilitation programme in Cape Town for a number of years in the nineties. In 1996 he became a founding director of The Big Issue South Africa where he grew the project from a back room office Cape Town to a national magazine to support the country’s homeless and unemployed. In 2004, he was appointed Executive Director of the INSP, the international network of street papers, a growing network of media specifically formed to empower marginalised through gainful employment.

In 2013 Shane took over as VC’s first full time CEO. With revenues in excess of over half a million in 2015 and upwards of 38 long term volunteers in the field, VC is one of the few organisations that has repositioned itself for growth in the faith-based development sector.

Our moderator on the night will be Robin Hanan

Robin Hanan is the Director of EAPN (European Anti Poverty Network) Ireland, which works to put the fight against poverty at the top of the Irish and EU agenda. Robin was Coordinator of Comhlámh from 1994 to 1999 and has also been CEO of the Irish Refugee Council and Vice-Chair of Dochas. He has chaired the European advocacy groups of both the EAPN and the development NGO networks (now CONCORD) and has written widely on European social and development policies. Robin currently sits on the board of Comhlámh.

Comhlámh acknowledges Concern Worldwide’s support in hosting #FirstWeds Debates



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