Once you have had time to find your feet again on return, to look after yourself, and to reconnect with friends and family, the next step is to seek out ways to use the experiences you gained overseas.
There are many issues to consider when you are working out the best way to continue to contribute to global development. You may find yourself drawn to a career in the development sector, or possibly hungry to learn more about development issues. Maybe you would like to get stuck in tackling injustices and inequalities in your own community, or lobbying our government and businesses here about global issues; or possibly you want to educate friends and family about the issues, people and communities that you worked with overseas. Whatever means of engagement you are interested in, we hope to be able to support you in getting involved.
Our dedicated resources for returnees looking to get back in action and start challenging global injustices.
What Next Toolkit: (Comhlámh 2013) This resource guides returnees through a process of reflection and discusses the possibilities for continued engagement on development issues back in Ireland, whether through activism, campaigning or further education.
‘In the history of Comhlámh, returned volunteers and development workers have been at the forefront of change making and activism from Ireland. This is continuing even today, and whatever you are interested to do, there are many ways in which you can continue your engagement in development from Ireland. From personal lifestyle changes to raising awareness and campaigning, each returnee has their own unique path of action.’
Grainne O’Neill Comhlámh’s Volunteer Engagement Officer and debriefer. Grainne is a returned volunteer in Zambia.
- Finding work in the development sector can be very challenging, particularly at entry level. However, there are opportunities available for those who are determined. Qualifications, overseas experience, and additional language skills all add to a prospective employee’s credentials.
- Make sure your CV is up to date and positively reflects your achievements, talents and skills
- Make connections wherever possible – through LinkedIn or joining groups or societies or by attending events and networking.
- Take a course that interests you – it may boost your skills and employability or it may just be fun and a good experience
- Brush up on language skills that you have
- Volunteer or get involved in an issue that you care about.
- Work out what your dream job might be and consider what skills and experiences are required for the role. What can you do to develop these?
- Be patient and be determined. It can take a long time to land your perfect job so don’t be too disappointed if nothing comes up initially.
- Consider taking up Comhlámh’s career guidance service.
Further Resources for job hunting
Comhlámh’s jobs notice board lists available roles in the development sector in Ireland and internationally: www.comhlamh.org/jobs-board/
The Dóchas Wednesday News is an essential source of information about events and jobs in the development sector. Sign up for it at: www.dochas.ie. There is also a very informative section of their website entitled ‘About Working in Development’.
Activelink lists jobs in the community sector as well as the development sector. It also has a wide range of volunteering opportunities and training opportunities listed. www.activelink.ie
Environmental roles are listed at www.greencareersireland.com
Other non-Irish websites listing opportunities are:
Relief Web – www.reliefweb.int
Charity Job – www.charityjob.co.uk
Bond – www.bond.org.uk/jobs.php
Eldis – www.eldis.org/go/jobs
Dev Net – www.devnetjobs.org
Idealist – www.idealistcareers.org
Spending time in the global south can often inspire an interest in finding out more about development issues. Having an in-depth knowledge of development issues is not an essential requirement for taking action for global justice but it can help to increase your confidence and the effectiveness of your actions. It can also be a great way to upskill if you are interested in a career in the development sector or to network if you are interested in meeting more like-minded people on your return to Ireland.
There are short informal courses available as well as long-term formal courses of study at undergraduate and postgraduate.
Before making a decision to take up a course of study, consider what you hope to achieve from your course; is it for personal fulfilment or to further your career? If you are hoping to further your career, consider which course is best suited to you; choosing a specialisation may be a good idea. Shop around for the right course and speak to those in the know: current students, former students, employers, course directors etc. A course of study can be a life-enhancing experience so it is important to make an informed and considered decision.
A list of formal development studies and related courses available in Ireland can be found through the Development Studies Association of Ireland
Informal courses offered through Comhlámh and various other NGOs in the sector are advertised on Comhlámh’s events calendar. You can also check in with your local college or university to see if they run evening courses in development issues.
If you are applying for a higher education or maintenance grant, there is a requirement that you must be resident in the state prior to applying. If you are ineligible on these grounds Comhlámh can support your application by verifying your assignment as a volunteer or development worker overseas and requesting an exemption to this requirement. Contact Comhlámh on 01-4783490 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Comhlámh organises forums, workshops, weekend and night courses on a variety of development-related topics, depending on members’ interests. Courses are currently available in the following areas:
- Skills in Development Education – for trainers and facilitators to learn about the participatory methods used in development education.
- Options and Issues in Volunteering for Development – a one day workshop for anyone considering volunteering overseas in a development context. Previous participants have said that after the course, they “feel more prepared, more capable of making an informed decision. I know where to look for organisations and what to look for”
- Trade Justice – a course for anyone who wants to know more about international trade, development and globalisation.
- What Next? – this course is designed for anyone interested in practical ways in which to contribute to global justice and sustainable development in their everyday lives.
I loved the Skills in Dev Ed course, I got to meet like minded people, got to share stories and skills, made friends and realised how easy can be to communicate your beliefs to others if you have the right tools.
– Ana Barbu, a retuned and repeat volunteer in Zambia, currently working as a development education facilitator and a passionate social justice advocate.
Speakers/facilitators, all experts in their fields, were both insightful and challenging. The course generally was very professionally organised, stimulated debate and gave an incentive for further study. Having completed the course, I feel the need to keep myself informed on issues surrounding global trade, an activity which affects us all in today’s interdependent world.
– Jim Kirwan volunteered in Lesotho for two years in the 1980s. Having retired in 2010, he obtained a Masters in Development Studies from Kimmage DSC and since then has been facilitating development education workshops in secondary schools for Self Help Africa.
“There was a great vibe on the course I participated in. It was a fusion of people of various ages with overseas experience who had come to share and learn. Two thumbs up from me and a recommendation to any who might want to consider this course in future.”
Colin MacLean is a returned volunteer from Haiti and Malawi. Since returning to Ireland he has been active as a member of the Clowns For Haiti group helping to administer there social media and website.
If you have returned home full of inspiration and motivation to challenged global injustices you may be considering getting involved in, or leading a campaign.
Campaigning is about getting those in a position of power to change their policies or behaviours in order to achieve your goals. This can be anything from a public cycling campaign – challenging the general public to cycle more to political lobbying on a climate change bill – asking your politicians to pass progressive legislation. Being a campaigner can be fun, sociable and active. It can also be a great way to build your skills, experience and network while bringing about meaningful change.
You can campaign through Comhlámh’s Trade Justice Group or you can get involved with one of the many organisations seeking to bring about a change in Ireland and around the world. Campaigning can be fun and social and give you an opportunity to develop your skills and confidence and learn more about issues you care about.
Read our guide to campaigning and change-making here.
Sustainability is an increasingly important issue for those committed to social justice principles. Our average lifestyles in the global north are living significantly in excess of what is sustainable for our planet.
Climate change is an issue that disproportionately affects those living in poverty in the global south. In seeking to live more sustainable lifestyles, we can reduce in our own small way our footprint on the planet and we can inspire and invite others to do likewise. It can be fun and interesting to look for ways to live more sustainably. Everything from where and how we shop, what we eat and what we grow in our garden, to where we go on holidays and where we invest our money impacts on the wider world. There are many projects and initiatives out there to encourage more sustainable living: below are a few to get started with!
Some tips to get started
- Buy Fair Trade: Buy products that offer a decent wage to workers in developing countries. If you have the time, contact your local supermarket or wherever you do most of your shopping and ask for more fair-trade products on the shelves. See www.fairtrade.ie for more information.
- Buy Local: Buying local goods supports the local economy while saving on energy used to transport goods around the world. Supporting local markets can increase the sense of locality and community.
- Banking: Ask your bank how your money is being invested and if they offer options for ethical investments. Many banks invest funds in unethical industries that stand in the way of development progress.
- Reduce: energy, waste, water, household chemicals
- Re-use: and repair before you replace or find a new owner for your stuff
- Recycle: use recycling bins at home and at work, compost where possible
- Ditch your car! Walk, cycle or use public transport wherever possible.
- Join the StopClimateChaos.ie campaign for more information about a greener, sustainable future.
- Calculate your carbon footprint and get some handy tips on how to reduce it by visiting www.foe.ie/justoneearth/carboncalculator
Sometimes it is very tempting to look for another overseas opportunity as soon as you return to Ireland.
This could be motivated by several things including reverse culture shock – feeling isolated and demotivated about life in Ireland and seeking to reconnect with a sense of purpose you felt overseas. If you think reverse culture shock may be influencing your desire to go away again, try to avoid making any hasty decisions. Take time to resettle in Ireland, to look after yourself and consider your various options going forward.
If, after due consideration, you decide to volunteer again, Comhlámh have a wide range of resources to support volunteers to make an informed decision tovolunteer.
- Use the Volunteer Charter to understand your role as a volunteer
- Use our directory to find a volunteer sending agency
- Follow #volops on Twitter and join our #volops LinkedIn group to find the most suitable opportunity.
- Quiz your prospective agency about how closely they adhere to the best practice principles of the Code of Good Practice
- Read about the experiences of other volunteers
Volunteering at home can also be worthwhile for many returnees; it can offer the opportunity to get involved in social justice issues here, to share the skills developed overseas and may also boost employability.
Volunteer Ireland provide comprehensive information on volunteering in Ireland is available from Volunteer Ireland along with a database of opportunities
Volunteer Now promotes and supports volunteering across Northern Ireland. You can find a database of opportunities on their website