Johnny Sheehan, the chair person of our board wrote this foreword to our most recent annual report. You can read it below.
I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen that 2015, the European Year for Development, is a pivotal year for all humanity. Not only will the Millennium Development Goals give way to a new global framework, the Sustainable Development Goals, but a new global agreement on climate change will also be hammered out. Fittingly, it is also the year that Comhlámh turns 40 years old.
Comhlámh was established by returned development workers in 1975 with the aim of bringing their overseas experience to bear in order to advance international development cooperation. This was extended to anyone committed to global development, solidarity and the objectives of Comhlámh. The last decade or so since the closure of APSO has seen a revival in international volunteering with new models and forms. We have engaged actively with this and as ever connecting this to our commitment to fighting for global justice.
A 40th Anniversary committee has been busy planning ways to mark the year. On the website and on social media, we have been reliving #40yearsofmemories sharing articles from the last four decades of Focus magazine and its predecessors – ranging from the experiences of the Dunnes Stores strikers in protesting apartheid to John Byrne’s provocative and still hugely relevant cartoons on ‘Democracy Street’.
Our new base at 12 Parliament Street has been a hive of activity over the year and has situated Comhlámh at the centre of the struggle for global justice. The Freire room and the Marius Schoon Member’s room have been used by 54 groups bringing in over 1,700 members, supporters, and activists of all shapes and colours working for global justice.
Following major Board turnover in 2013, the last 12 months was characterised by bedding down of the Board and building its capacity to deliver on Comhlámh’s strategy. Two new Board members came on in 2014 and brought new energy and commitment to our work. We have said farewell to a number of board members, staff members and interns as they go on to bigger and better things but we’ve also welcomed new people into the Comhlámh family bringing fresh skills and experience.
To return to the Comhlámh anniversary, just still being here after 40 years is an achievement. A huge part of that is down to the staff and members who routinely go above and beyond what is expected of them in realising the vision and mission of Comhlámh.
I would like to thank our partners and funders, in particular Irish Aid along with Concern Worldwide, Trócaire, VSO Ireland and Concord (DEEEP). Building on this we have successfully launched the Solidarity Partnership programme and we are grateful to those NGOs who have joined this programme in 2014 – SERVE, Nurture Africa, EIL-Intercultural Learning, Umbrella Foundation, Vincentian Lay Missionaries, and those who have joined in 2015 – Irish League of Credit Unions Foundation, Irish Rule of Law, Misean Cara, UCDVolunteers Overseas, Viatores Christi, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Sarah Bird Foundation and Christian Aid.
Pictured: Johnny addresses Comhlámh members at the Marius Schoon mural launch at the opening of our new house in 2014. Watch the video here.
This will support our ability to support returning volunteers stay involved and engaged in global development issues on their return to Ireland
Our membership has grown by 60% over the last year, new energy has come in and helped re-energise the membership groups and initiate new ones. This work is supported by membership subscriptions and 27 of these members who have joined the Solidarity Circle and are making regular contributions of €10, €15 or €21 a month. This financial support is absolutely critical and we hope it will grow steadily so that the independence of action and support the membership activism of the membership groups that are underway.
Ensuring the financial resources are in place will enable Comhlámh to continue to deliver across all our strategic plan objectives.
Here’s to the next 40 years!