These Irish volunteers donate their time and skills in return for enriching, stimulating experiences in the developing world
India: recent graduate Kate Doyle at Betberia School in Kolkata
Ethiopia: retired principal Noel Brennan
Tanzania: retired student adviser Ros McFeely donating books from Ireland to a librarian at Lupanga Secondary School
The Irish have a long history of working in the developing world. At the annual Irish Aid volunteering fair, in Dublin today, 23 organisations will be hoping to attract new recruits for overseas programmes ranging from building houses to nursing, teaching and music mentorship.
Irish Aid also hopes to encourage a more diverse range of people to volunteer for projects abroad, particularly retirees whose skills are in short supply in the developing world. We asked three people who have recently volunteered abroad about their experiences.
The retired principal
Noel Brennan, who is 62, has volunteered for a series of short-term assignments, sharing his education expertise since 1997
How did you become a volunteer? By accident. In 1997 a fellow principal, who had volunteering experience himself, heard me speaking about education for children with disabilities at a conference and encouraged me to give it a try. I applied to the Agency for Personal Service Overseas and was sent to a large black township in South Africa. I spent my summer holidays evaluating her project, speaking to the ministry for education on her behalf and giving basic training. Between 1997 and 2007 I went away every year during my summer holidays from school – to Namibia, Tajikistan, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ethiopia.
What can you offer as a volunteer? I provide training for education workers in language development, literacy, mathematics and music, as well as behaviour management, staff evaluation, record keeping, report writing and lots more.
What do you get from the experience? I find the experience very stimulating, and enriching both personally and professionally. I feel wanted and welcome and affirmed. I have learned so much about people and places, art, history, food, attitudes, traditions. When my children were growing up we couldn’t afford to travel, so I hadn’t really seen the world until I started volunteering.
Do you go alone or with others? Generally I go on my own, but I like that. I’ve always been treated well and felt safe.
What’s your next trip? I’m travelling to northern Ethiopia for the third time in January to work with the Daughters of Charity. All their funding comes from international donors, so they have to write up very detailed annual reports. My first job will be to proofread and edit the documents.
The recent graduate
Kate Doyle, who is 22, graduated from studying history at Trinity College Dublin this year. She spent 10 weeks of the summer teaching at a school in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), in India, with Suas.
Why did you become a volunteer? Volunteering was something I had always wanted to do, so I decided to make the most of my last long summer holiday, after my final college year, and apply to go to India.
How did you arrange the trip? At Christmas I went for an interview and met the organisers and past volunteers. We had three preparation weekends in the spring, with practical ideas for what to do with the children and emotional preparation for the culture shock.