Our approach to Short-Term International Volunteering

Global Citizens Working Towards Global Justice

Volunteering abroad is not just another way to spend your holidays, nor it is an opportunity to save lives. We believe that it is first and foremost a stepping stone for the volunteers to become global and active citizens who take action to challenge global injustice.

We live in a very unequal and unjust world where 80% of the world population live in the “developing world” and for that reason, it is sometimes referred as the “majority world”. Over a third of the world’s population struggle to live with less than $2 per day. Volunteering in a “developing country” is an opportunity to witness what these statistics really mean. For us, repsonsible volunteering means that volunteers support locally owned and driven projects and work side by side with local people in a spirit of solidarity that values the sharing and intercultural learning that takes place. While volunteers contribute to make positive change overseas, they also gain new skills and develop their knowledge about local and global issues.

We believe that perhaps the most significant part of a volunteer programme actually starts when participants come back home. On a long-term basis, the most effective way for volunteers to truly make a difference for the people they have worked with is to educate themselves and others about the causes of inequalities and join initiatives which promote global justice. This will in turn generate awareness, funds, government pressure/action, and hopefully bring about real change in the world. To answer this need for continuous engagement, EIL has set up the Global Citizen Award which provides volunteers with support and opportunities to continue to make a difference when they return home.

Our volunteer programme is based on a set of core principles:

Supporting local initiatives

EIL is committed to helping make a difference to local initiatives in deprived communities around the world. We believe local people know what is needed and what is appropriate for their own communities and our in-country staff carefully select inspiring local projects. Our vision is one of volunteers working alongside local people, sharing skills and energies and helping to turn the plans and dreams of local communities into reality.

Experienced in-country staff

EIL believes a successful international volunteer programme requires a capable and dedicated staff in the country volunteers will visit as well as in Ireland. Staff members in the field are highly qualified professionals, with years of experience in intercultural exchanges and in supporting international volunteers. They work all year round to ensure that volunteers are provided with support and guidance throughout their volunteer experience. Staff members are from the region in which our programmes operate and have a deep knowledge and understanding of the local communities and their needs.

Safety: the first priority

EIL's first priority is safety. As an international organization we have 75 years experience of successful placements in other countries. EIL only places volunteers in countries where we have a sister office with coordinators embedded in local communities who can provide participants with grassroots support and monitor and react to safety issues on the ground. Staff members in the field have years of experience in supporting international volunteers and in assessing and mitigating risks. A 24-hour/7-day emergency support system is in place to handle any urgent situations or crises. EIL has also developed a thorough set of policies, procedures and guidelines related to Child Protection, Risk Assessment and Crisis Management, Equality and Inclusiveness. This ensures that every participant is having a safe volunteer experience.

Protection of the beneficiaries

Many volunteers work with children or vulnerable adults and EIL consider their protection as a priority. Each volunteer is vetted by the police and trained on child and vulnerable adults protection issues before they leave. EIL is collaborating with its sister organisations overseas and other volunteer sending organisations in Ireland to continuously improve Children and Vulnerable Adults protection standards in international volunteering.

Promoting inclusiveness

We are committed to promoting inclusiveness across all of our exchange and volunteer programmes and we would like to encourage anyone with special needs and with an interest in our programmes to contact us. Together with the applicant, we will assess what support is required to answer any specific need and we will look at the possible programmes we might be able to offer.

Linking volunteering with development education

There has been a big increase in the number of Irish people travelling to the majority world to work as short term volunteers. EIL believes that too little attention has been placed on the role these people can play on their return. Our Development Education programme is built on the belief that people who have participated in volunteer programmes overseas can play a central role in Development Education in Ireland and our goal is to engage and empower them to act as global awareness multipliers. In an effort to reflect our willingness to further link international volunteering with development education we have created the Volunteers for Global Citizenship department which group the Volunteer Abroad and Development Education programmes together.