This month, we’ve been reflecting on the achievements of a three-year, EC-funded project that has just finished.
Called “Back to the Future”, this project has given us amazing opportunities to support and promote continuous engagement among returned overseas volunteers. Dervla King describes some of its successes.
Some of the highlights of project have been working with almost 1,200 volunteers returning from placements in the global south; producing resources like the Guidelines for the use of Social Media in Volunteering and the What Next Toolkit; and having the opportunity to link with volunteer sending agencies through developing courses and resources such as the Good Practice Guidelines for Development Education in Volunteering.
Looking back on what we’ve learned, it’s obvious that the power and value of returned volunteers is significant in relation to development education. However, support needs to be made available, as do spaces where returnees can unpack their experiences and continue in their next steps on the path that they themselves choose. Having options available is crucial, but what returned volunteers end up doing can involve a unique approach to development education. This is really demonstrated by the range of action projects designed by volunteers who participated in the What Next course we developed as part of the project. These range from blogs to book clubs, art workshops, and the World’s Best News Initiative, and are continuing to grow and develop long after the course.
So a huge thanks to all the amazing volunteers and sending agencies that we’ve been privileged to work with, as well to our brilliant partners in Germany (finep) and Poland (SWM).
Thanks to support from Concern, elements of the project will be continuing into 2014. The What Next course will run again in October for any returnees who are interested in development education and taking action from Ireland; there are opportunities to access Seed Funding through EIL and through the What Next course to support any action projects that are brewing; the ‘Coming Home training of facilitators’ will take place over 3 days in the summer; and all of the resources are in hard copy and available from the Comhlámh offices (or we can post these out to you if you wish).
Keep an eye on our upcoming events, or get in touch with Grainne O’Neill, our Volunteer Engagement Project officer, to find out more.