Support Services for Returnees

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Comhlámh’s support services are provided to help returnees transition back to life in Ireland.

Each person will have different needs on their return and our support services strive to acknowledge and accommodate the diversity of experiences volunteers and development workers have and support them as they face various challenges in resettling. As well as the supports listed in this section, for many returnees it is important to reconnect with others who can relate to and empathise with their experiences. Comhlámh membership and events offer you a way to do that. Find out more about membership here.  

 Coming Home Weekends

If you have returned home after a period overseas of three months or more, Comlámh warmly invite you to attend our next Coming Home Weekend.

These informal and relaxed weekends are held twice a year and provide an opportunity for returning volunteers to meet with fellow returnees, to reflect on their experiences overseas, to share mutual experiences (successes and challenges) of being overseas and to explore opportunities to use their skills and stay involved in development issues from Ireland. Previous participants have commented on how heartening it is to discover that others have felt similar fears, joys, frustrations and hopes.

Join our next Coming Home Weekend here.

Emma Dwyer volunteered in Malawi with UNV.


318“I found it very difficult being back in Ireland when it felt that nothing had changed but I just couldn’t seem to fit back in. Being unemployed certainly didn’t help and all I wanted was to leave again – voicing this opinion to anyone that would listen naturally upset my friends and loved ones. I wasn’t able to attend my own volunteer debriefing and totally underestimated how important it was. Comhlamh’s Coming Home Weekend gave me a chance to put some of my frustrations into perspective and meet with other returned volunteers who shared similar stories. I felt so much more positive afterwards”

Emma participated in a Coming Home Weekend on her return. Since then she has worked in New York in Ireland’s Permanent Mission to the UN and recently began her current role as the Coordinator of Irish Rule of Law International in Dublin, a non-profit working with members of the Irish legal profession to implement projects in developing countries

The Coming Home Weekend has been described by previous participants as

“As good as counselling but less formal”

“A chance to reflect, discuss, listen in a peaceful, relaxed environment”

 “The only thing of its kind that could have filled the gap in my life right now”

Keep an eye on our calendar for the next Coming Home Weekend.

 Moving Forward Days

Participants in a Comhlamh led workshop in 2012.

Participants in a Comhlamh led workshop in 2012.

“The opportunity to discuss and share our experiences was great. It re-enforced positive aspects of my time away and helped clear up and resolve negative ones. It was also extremely encouraging to hear other volunteers’ positive experiences.”

Anonymous feedback from Comhlámh group debriefing participant.

These are one-day courses specifically developed for people returning from placements of three months or less. The course is a chance to have a personal debriefing in a group setting. Whether you have already had a debriefing through your volunteer sending agency, or whether you went overseas independently, the space is open to anyone who wishes to have the opportunity to unpack experiences, meet other short term volunteers and identify next step options from Ireland.   Keep an eye on our website and e-Link for details of this course, or get in touch with us in the office to find out more.

Keep an eye on our Events Calender to find out when the next Moving Forward Day is. Contact us to book your place.


Debriefing may take place individually or in a group setting and can be operational (relating to the work performed) or personal (providing a sense of closure and reflection on the experience as a whole). In certain incidents, a critical incident debrief may also be required where a traumatic incident was experienced. This type of debrief is designed to help individuals cope with post traumatic stress.

Comhlámh recommends that every returning volunteer and development worker should have access to both a personal and operational debrief. Regardless of how long you have been overseas for or whether you feel positively or negatively about your experience and your return home a debrief is highly recommended;  many returnees comment, after having participated in a debriefing session, that they were surprised by how valuable they found the opportunity.

If you cannot, or choose not to, access a debriefing through your sending agency, Comhlámh can arrange an individual personal or critical incident debrief for you. The debriefing sessions are one-to-one meetings and generally last 2-3 hours. They are held in private and are totally confidential. In some cases a charge may apply for accessing a debriefing session, but please don’t let that put you off getting in touch as we will try to accommodate you wherever possible.


“A personal debriefing provides an opportunity for returnees to talk about their time overseas to someone who listens, is interested, cares and is not judgemental. It is a structured conversation about positive memories as well as the difficult and stressful parts. Everything shared remains confidential. We hope that this process will help individuals to perceive their experience  in a more meaningful manner,  bring about a  sense of closure and enable them to move forward.”

Roisin Boyle is Comhlámh’s Training and Information Officer and a trained personal and critical incident debriefer. Roisin is returned development worker from Cambodia, Bangladesh and the Philippines.

For more information contact us. Emails marked with ‘FAO: Information and Support Officer’ will be treated in the strictest of confidence.


The period after the return from an overseas assignment can be a fruitful time to engage in counselling. It provides an opportunity to work through some ‘old’ issues which may have come to the fore while overseas or to talk out crises relating to the assignment, such as security problems, stress, trauma or illness. Appropriate counselling can be helpful in the process of re-adapting.

If, after participating in a debriefing session, you feel you would benefit from some further psychological support, then Comhlámh can provide you with information and advice to help you access appropriate and affordable counselling wherever possible. This information service is offered in the strictest confidence.

For more information contact us. Emails marked with ‘FAO: Information and Support Officer’ will be treated in the strictest of confidence. 

 Career Guidance

Many returning volunteers, inspired by their overseas experience, want to find professional employment in the development sector. Comhlámh can offer general guidance to returnees via email and support jobseekers through our online jobs notice board.

We also offer a referral service for returnees to a career guidance professional with experience of the development sector. This service is highly recommended for those seeking a little extra support in making decisions regarding their career and finding opportunities. In some cases this service can be offered at a subsidised rate. Please get in touch for more details.

For more information contact us on 01 478 3490 or email Some useful information and advice for jobseekers in the development sector can be found here.

More information about this topic can be found in our Coming Home Book




Special Members Update March 31st 2015: 

Changes to Regulations for Private Health Insurance.



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