What skills are needed?
If you have a background in education then you have come to the right organisation. Our partners specialise in education across the four countries that we work in. There are opportunities to work in main stream education, special needs settings, a school for the deaf as well as delivering staff in-service or tutoring in a teacher training college. We are particularly interested in hearing from primary and secondary teachers for our annual summer school programmes (see below). We can also offer placements during term-time to those who are on career-break from teaching.
As English is the language of education, business, science and technology in Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana, volunteers with the ability to teach English are appreciated in many of our project settings. There are also opportunities to teach English one-to-one or with small adult groups as partner project staff members always seek to improve and up-skill their English language abilities. Business English is a valuable skill for managing projects, researching best practice, working with funders, volunteers and presenting their work to foreign visitors.
All of the projects that VLM volunteers work in are community focused and dedicated to empowering people to move out of poverty and marginalisation. Volunteers with experience in childcare, youth and/or community work – from frontline to leadership roles – have valuable skills to add here. For example, previous volunteers have worked with young adults at risk of exploitation, in Montessori schools and have delivered awareness courses on child safeguarding to various community and interest groups.
VLM’s flagship project is the Ambo Lazarist School for the Deaf in central Ethiopia. We seek volunteers who can communicate through sign language and have experience with the Deaf community or those who are hard of hearing. There are various opportunities at this project, please visit Ethiopia Deaf Project to learn more.
Sports can cross cultural and language barriers. Volunteers with a qualification and interest in various sports (particularly soccer, basketball, volleyball and athletics) are sought annually for our summer school programme. There are also a limited number of placements for volunteers with qualifications and experience in teaching martial arts, yoga, pilates, meditation and similar practices.
The creative arts play a main role in our annual summer school programme, where English is taught through art, music, dance, drama and expression. There is also scope for volunteers with these skills to join us at other times of the year.
Needlework and dressmaking skills are welcomed in many of our partner projects whose focus is on empowering young women towards independence.
We are also seeking volunteers with photography and videography skills to work with projects on photo-documenting their work, reporting to funders, creating and updating websites and spreading the good news about their achievements to date.
Our partner projects strive to serve people to standards of best practice. They also aim to grow and develop their project programmes to respond to the needs of their communities at the time and into the future. Volunteers with expertise in planning for sustainability, project leadership, community development, needs assessments or research are welcome on board in mentoring or capacity building roles.
As projects seek to develop or to maintain their valuable services, there is also the ongoing work to acquire funding through donors and international agencies alongside the monitoring, evaluation and reporting to funders on project progress. Potential volunteers who believe that this would be interesting and rewarding work to become involved with, are encouraged to get in touch with us here at VLM.
Similar to leadership and project management, many volunteers possess transferrable skills from the worlds of business and finance. These skills are greatly valued by our partners overseas as they seek to secure funding and generate income for projects while also accompaning individual families towards self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship.
Many people approach VLM with the desire to volunteer but feel that they have no skills to offer. In fact, basic office skills in IT, MS office and the ability to prepare letters and documents can give the much needed administrative support to our project leaders overseas. As fluent English speakers many of our volunteers are invaluable in proof-reading documents and helping local staff build their capacity in basic computer and administration skills.
There are limited opportunities in these roles and some are confined to different times of the year and depend on the needs of projects. However there are openings and if this is your skillset we would definitely like to hear from you!
Is this right for me?
We welcome volunteers from various backgrounds bringing a diverse array of transferrable skills – we believe that many people don’t even realise how much they have to offer until they are there!
We only ask three key qualities from our volunteers after that:
The flexibility to ‘go with the flow’ is essential for VLM volunteers. While on your placement there are often notable cultural differences or changes in plan or limited resources to work with. It helps to go overseas with an open mind and to be prepared for many eventualities. Sometimes it is the things that are not planned for that arere the most rewarding.
Taking initiative is an expectation in any role, and this also applies to volunteers. While on placement there may be quiet times when things are moving slowly. We encourage all volunteers to take initiative and seek out other ways they can use their time and make a positive difference.
Finally, as anyone who has worked in the developing world knows, patience is an essential addition to your personal tool kit. The pace and ethic of work in the global south is often different to what we here in Europe are used to. Approaches can be different and results are not always seen straight away. Having patience and belief that the seeds you sow today will bloom one day is worth keeping in mind.
How long can I volunteer for?
Placements range between 4-12 weeks and most are available all year around. Our partners have asked that volunteers commit to a minimum of four weeks as it gives them time to get an understanding of their context and engage in a meaningful way in their work.
We are flexible and aim to work with our volunteers to arrange placements at times that suit them, while taking into account the needs of the projects they will be working in.
Many volunteers like to travel during the winter while others prefer to participate in a summer programme, usually for four weeks in June, July or August. Get in touch with us to learn more.
VLM is not a specialist in longer term volunteer placements. If you wish to travel for more than three months we can recommend two organisations. VMM International and Viatores Christi share a similar ethos to VLM and are both Comhlámh Code of Good Practice signatories.
Where can I volunteer?
VLM has been working in Ethiopia since 2002. Our flagship project, The Ambo Lazarist Deaf Centre has been supported by numerous volunteers over the years. More volunteers have worked in Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, in urban development programmes, rehabilitation centres and in primary schools, facilitating summer programmes. There are various other placements across Ethiopia in smaller towns and in remote countryside. These are mainly in education and community development projects. Get in touch with us to learn more about how you can volunteer in Ethiopia.
VLM volunteers with skills in the area of education, childcare and youth work can make a valuable contribution to the work of the Daughters of Charity in Ghana. Options include working in the rural community of Kongo-Logre, providing teacher training in Bolgatanga and assisting in a street girls’ hostel in the city of Kumasi. Contact us to learn more about options available to you in Ghana.
Working across five different centres – Nairobi, Thigio, Kiio, Kitale and Chepenyal – volunteers have the option to work in both urban and rural settings in schools, facilities for those with additional needs, community centres and income generating projects. All of these projects are administered by the Daughters of Charity, our project partners. Get in touch to learn more about volunteering in Kenya or visit the Irish Daughters of Charity website to read about the projects they support in Kenya.
A recent addition to VLM’s work, Burkina Faso is just north of Ghana. We support the work of the Daughters of Charity in the town of Nouna near the country’s western border. Volunteers can work with the community development organisation OCADES (Caritas) or in education. A reasonable standard of French is required for placements in Burkina Faso. Drop us a line to learn more.
Every summer we send groups of 4-6 volunteers to our partner projects to facilitate four-week English language summer camps for children and teens.
It is an opportunity to play, learn and be creative during the summer holidays that is otherwise unaffordable to many of the participants.
For older students, these summer camps are very much appreciated. In Ethiopia, Kenya and Ghana all examinations are through the medium of English. As we work with students whose families are often experiencing poverty, the extra tuition and learning is valued.
We welcome volunteers who have experience teaching, coaching, facilitating and in youthwork.
We accept volunteers of all ages from 21 to 70+
Ideally volunteers should be 21 years old at time of application. We welcome retired people who generally have many skills and much wisdom to share. Volunteers over 70 may have to source their own travel and health insurance.
Volunteers with VLM are asked to make a contribution of €2000-€3000 to cover their costs. This is a standard requirement with almost all overseas volunteering organisations offering shorter-term placements. VLM is a not-for-profit organisation so these contributions are essential to continue our support to those in some of the poorest countries in the world.
You can pay this contribution or fundraise for it – we recommend a combination of both.
Many potential volunteers are often discouraged at the idea of fundraising. However, we always support our volunteers with fundraising tips and know how, access to contacts, funding sources and fundraising materials. From experience, most of our volunteers have managed to raise over and above their target. Many have been surprised by where they could access funding and by how generous people can be.
Your contribution covers these costs:
- a donation to your host community
- your flights
- internal transport including airport meet and greet
- your own room in secure accommodation plus all meals
- comprehensive health and travel insurance
- pre-departure training and support
- debriefing upon return
- discounts on future placements with VLM
- a contribution to the sustainability of VLM as an organisation
All of the above are arranged for you by VLM ahead of your departure.
Our volunteers stay in the safe, secure community houses of the Daughters of Charity or the Vincentian Fathers. All accommodation is in a guarded compounds. Volunteers generally enjoy living with the Daughter and Fathers as they are renowned for their hospitality, their hearty meals and good humour. Volunteers usually live with those whom they are working in the same project as well as volunteers from other projects and sometimes from other organisations.
Volunteers mostly get their own rooms and there are adequate toilet and showering facilities in all accommodation.
Meals are with the community and consist of a combination of local and western food, prepared by specially trained cooks.
It depends on your placement and the time of year you travel. Some of the placements can take, two, three or four volunteers and others only take one volunteer.
Part of the VLM pre-departure training covers medical care, health and safety issues. We recommend that all volunteers have a consultation with a tropical health professional who will prescribe vaccinations/medications based on your personal needs. This consultation should happen at lease 6-8 weeks before departure. As volunteers make personal decisions around the medications they will take, all costs are bore by the volunteer him or herself and are not included in the placement fee.
VLM volunteers are welcomed from all backgrounds, whether faith is a motivation or not.
We believe that once someone is willing to commit to working with the Daughters of Charity or the Vincentian Fathers and are ready to serve those in need with dignity and respect, they are already living the spirit of this mission.
Volunteers are not obliged to expected to attend religious services by our hosts while on placement. However, it is respectful to join the community in worship on occasion.
As we work mostly in Ethiopia, the climate is temperate all year around, making it very easy for people coming from Ireland to prepare for and work in. Addis Ababa, where we place most of our volunteers, is at over 2000m altitude, giving it cool days and nights. This is similar to the areas where we work in Kenya. June to September are rainy season and temperatures rarely raise above 24 degrees, akin to an Irish Summer. Lower regions of Ethiopia are more like European weather and can be hot and dry but rarely more than 30 degrees at any time of the year.
The climate in Burkina Faso and Ghana can be very hot in the Spring (March to May), so we try to avoid sending volunteers there at this time. Temperatures drop below 30 degrees the rest of the year, making for a pleasant stay.
VLM facilitates a creative and engaging pre-departure training programme for its volunteers. We aim to make this interactive and enjoyable for all participants, while also covering the themes and topics recommended by the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice.
No matter how many skills or experiences a volunteer is bringing to their placement, this training is still invaluable to them. It gives a detailed insight into the work of our partners in the field and the nuances of the VLM volunteer role. Indeed, the pre-departure training days are an excellent opportunity to meet with the other members of your team and a chance to plan effectively for your work overseas.
Pre-departure training can be facilitated for individuals or groups over a weekend or a number of sessions. We aim to be flexible with this as it is essential that all volunteers are properly briefed and trained before departure. Participants also receive a Volunteer Handbook to aid their preparation and take to their destination with them, if they wish.
Topics covered include:
- cultural awareness
- countries in context
- DOs and MAYBE NOTs (gifts, donations, taking photographs, etc)
- packing and practical preparation
- working with children
- travel health and well-being
- info on applying for Visas
We also facilitate a separate session for those undertaking teaching placements. We realise that teaching in Ireland and teaching in the developing world are two entirely different experiences.
This is hosted by previous volunteers who are teachers and includes the following themes:
- creative learning approaches
- country curriculum
- materials and resources that work well
- discipline and managing classes
- TEFL basics
Your work as an overseas volunteer does not end when you return to Ireland!
VLM facilitates a ‘Coming Home Day’ for our volunteers every autumn. It is a chance for people to meet up, reflect and share their experiences. It is also an ideal opportunity for people to explore how they might continue to stay involved with VLM and global development.
Many of our returned volunteers remain involved with VLM through fundraising, joining various management committees or assisting with the training of new volunteers.
Comhlámh also run a course entitled ‘What Next?’ for returning development workers. This course provides a network and some tools for ongoing action in the area of development. This course is highly recommended by VLM to our returned volunteers.
We have many supporters who have not volunteered overseas with VLM. They support us through fundraising, awareness-raising, sharing their skills and time with our VLM Dublin office. Our supporters have helped us to organise events such as the African Run Ireland. Why not drop in and see us or meet with our returned volunteers and supporters, and find out more.