Ex-public servants targeted in new Irish Aid recruitment drive

Scheme to concentrate on skilled retirees in their 50s and 60s with useful experience

Irish Aid is to launch an initiative to encourage a more diverse range of people to volunteer for development projects abroad.

The scheme will be targeted at former public servants aged 50-65 who recently availed of early retirement packages and whose skills are in short supply in the developing world.

The announcement comes as Comhlámh, the Irish organisation for development workers, publishes a study showing the majority of volunteers sent overseas by Irish development agencies are either students or employed people travelling on short placements, most often for less than four weeks.

Welcoming the research, Minister for Trade and Development Joe Costello said the initiative, to be introduced at the Irish Aid volunteering fair in October, would "modernise" Ireland's approach: "I believe there is scope to encourage innovation and to increase the diversity of our volunteers."


Applicant surge
VSO, an organisation which places skilled volunteers on long-term placements in developing countries, said it has already seen an increase in applicants who have availed of early retirement, particularly from the Health Service Executive and Department of Education.

"Recent events have potentially caused people to ask the question 'why don't I go now?'," said VSO's executive director Malcolm Quigley. "This is especially true of those who have just recently retired or those who want a new professional challenge.

Over 30 per cent of our volunteers are recently retired, but we still urgently need recently retired doctors, nurses, teachers and senior managers. They bring a significant level of skill but also a wealth of wisdom.”

EIL Ireland, which sends about 2,000 Irish people abroad every year, has not only seen an increase in retirees volunteering but in graduates too.

"With the economic crisis, it is difficult for young people to find work straight away so they want to do something when they finish their studies which can help their professional profile," said EIL Ireland's programme manager for volunteers Anton Kieffer. "They can gain a lot of new skills so it is a good investment in themselves, as well as a worthwhile thing to do for the developing world."

Head of Comhlámh Mark Cumming said the sector should also consider what it can do to help those who would like to volunteer, but can't afford to fund themselves to go, saying it would be a "worrying situation" if volunteering was only open to those with the means to travel.

Not just the well-off
"If poverty is to be tackled, it must be done by people who are experiencing it themselves. People on the margins of society must be involved," he said.

The average a volunteer pays to work abroad is €1,400, the Comhlámh survey revealed.

“Volunteers return . . . more critically engaged, more aware about globalisation issues, more tolerant. It can also develop their professional talents, making them more resourceful and employable.”

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny

Ciara Kenny, founding editor of Irish Times Abroad, a section for Irish-connected people around the world, is Editor of the Irish Times Magazine