Section 1 – About Comhlámh

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To introduce Comhlámh, the course aims and to provide information on the course context



Welcome to Comhlámh

Comhlámh (pronounced ‘co-law-ve’) is an Irish word for “Solidarity”. It is a membership organisation open to anyone interested in social justice, human rights and global equality. We were founded in 1975 with the specific remit of working with volunteers and development workers returned from service in developing countries. We continue to work very closely with this group today. Comhlámh members have always seen overseas development work and volunteering as part of a broader commitment to global development and solidarity. Many of the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and action.

Comhlámh’s mission is to foster good practice and critical engagement in volunteering and action for development.

Many of our resources are specifically designed to support and empower those travelling overseas. These include: the volunteer charter, the Code of Good Practice for sending agencies, our book ‘Working for a Better World’

We also offer training to support volunteers throughout every phase of the volunteer cycle: pre-decision and pre-departure and coming home.

Comhlámh aims to promote responsible, responsive international volunteering and to develop good practice standards among volunteer sending organisations. In doing so, we hope to ensure that overseas volunteering has a positive impact for the host project and community, the volunteer & the sending organisation.

This Course IS about…


  1. Providing a space for people who are considering volunteering/working overseas in a development context to explore and discuss related issues;
  2. Providing an introduction to development issues and an overview of options for being involved;
  3. Promoting and nurturing critical thinking skills in potential volunteers;
  4. Equipping you with the tools to engage with sending agencies who are the right fit for you.


This Course is NOT about…



a)    The course is not a skills course. We do not attempt to provide training or information on the types of skills people need for development work;

b)    The course is not a careers session. Its purpose is not to advise people on how to get a career in development;

c)     The course is not about finding you a matching organisation. Comhlámh do not provide a service to match up a volunteer with a sending organisation;

d)    The course doesn’t provide information on practical preparations – such as health and safety matters. This information often depends on where someone is going and should be asked of the sending organisation once a decision is made.


The Layout

There are 5 sections to this course: Section 1 provides an overview of the work of Comhlámh and the reasons for this course. Section 2 provides a basic introduction to development and how it happens. Section 3 challenges participants’ motivations for volunteering and asks if staying in Ireland would be more beneficial. Section 4 aims to give participants an insight to the types of volunteering available and what to ask a potential sending agency. Section 5 explores continuous engagement in Ireland and how that can contribute to development globally.

Each section provides an overall aim and learning objectives; most of the sections contain a number of activities; and each activity has a number of steps. We encourage you to start at step 1 and move through the others: don’t even read the following steps until you’ve completed the previous ones, as this will ensure that you don’t get influenced by us and that you draw on your own knowledge and experience.

There are reading resources and videos scattered throughout the sections, and these will give you some insight and background to the particular topic being explored. There is a comments box in each section where you are encouraged to leave your thoughts, questions and observations to help inform the debate for yourself and other participants.





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