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The advantages of online volunteering through the UNV Online programme

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“As the information and support project officer here at Comhlámh, a considerable part of my job is talking to people who are thinking about volunteering overseas.  I do this online or sometimes during a one-to-one information session here at the office, or at one of our many outreach events throughout the year.”  Ruth Powell.

Firstly, I advise people to only volunteer overseas with one of our Code of Good Practice volunteer sending agencies.  Currently, there are 44 volunteer sending organisations in our Code, and they send volunteers from Ireland on long or short-term placements in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  They offer placements in all types of thematic areas, such as education, health, administration and agriculture, and they offer a variety of supports for volunteers, before, during and after the placements.

I also tell people about Comhlámh’s work with the European Union Aid Volunteer Initiative (EUAVI) and I might highlight some of the recently advertised placements for humanitarian and emergency volunteers.  These roles are for people based anywhere in Europe, to volunteer in the so-called developing world and there are a mix of junior or senior positions, based on previous experience of volunteering.

I also tell people about the Irish Aid rapid response corps, or Irish Aid’s role in administering the placements for the United Nations Youth Volunteer programme (UNV).  And I always try to encourage people to follow our #VolOps social media platforms, for updates on all the recent placements overseas, from these groups.

But sometimes, due to many other commitments and circumstances, a person wants to volunteer but cannot leave Ireland.  This is when I suggest that perhaps they might like to volunteer for overseas organisations, from home.  So for example, Trócaire and Concern have excellent volunteering opportunities for people to give their time here in Ireland, to support the overseas work.

Or a person might want to volunteer online, and you can do that via the UNV Volunteering Online platform, which was just launched last year.  The advantages of being an UNV online volunteer are multiple; no long distance flights, no vaccinations, no saying goodbye to home/family/work and friends and finally, no culture shock or the need to learn a new language.

It couldn’t be easier:  firstly, go onto the UNV online website and start browsing the vacancies.  Jobs are divided into areas such as translation, administration, event organisation, research, writing and editing and teaching and training.  Each placement is advertised in the same way, with information about the task, the background and objectives, the requirements of the volunteer and which Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) it fits in with.  There is also an amount of time needed for this task (ie:  2 hours a week for five weeks), so that the volunteer can realistically decide if they have this time available.  Once you have found a placement you are interested in, you simply click on “apply now”.

There are roles for the experienced volunteer development workers and for people with less experience.  And it’s a perfect opportunity to work for smaller NGOs in the sector, who possibly couldn’t afford to host an international volunteer.  Online volunteering is one of the most interesting areas in international volunteering at the moment, and while many returned volunteers are doing this informally (through social media and online supports) this UNV platform, is one that Comhlámh supports and looks forward to hearing more about in the future.

If you are thinking about volunteering online, we would love to hear from you, and hear about your story as you go along, so that we can share your experiences with others?  If you are thinking about volunteering online, please get in touch with us first and if you would like more information about our general one-to-one information sessions, then please email ruth@comhlamh.org


Further information about #VolOps

Full list of our 44 code of good practice volunteer sending agencies: https://www.comhlamh.org/code-signatories-and-supporter-network

Current list of EUAVI placements:  http://ec.europa.eu/echo/who/jobs-and-opportunities/eu-aid-volunteers_en

More information on Irish Aid’s Rapid Response Corp: https://www.irishaid.ie/get-involved/rapid-response-corps/

More information on Irish Aid’s involvement with the UNV programme: https://www.irishaid.ie/get-involved/volunteering/un-volunteering/

Volunteer with Concern, here in Ireland: https://www.concern.net/get-involved/volunteer-in-ireland

Volunteer with Trocaire here in Ireland:  https://www.trocaire.org/getinvolved/volunteer

UNV Online volunteering information: https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en


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    • Indeed. Online volunteering is amazing! I am in Kenya and was assisted by an online volunteer from Zambia. She understood our problem and we worked together step by step to come up with a business plan for our group project. Distance was never a barrier so long as you make the online volunteer understand your problem. We went through 12 sessions which were very educative. Even after finishing the exercise, she still followed up on our project. I would encourage volunteers to be part in achieving SDG’s through online volunteering. It is fun when you get it right. I am proud of this programme.

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