Comhlámh > About Us

About Us

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Comhlámh is a member organisation that works to mobilise for an equitable and sustainable world. As the Irish association of development workers and volunteers, Comhlámh promotes responsible, responsive international volunteering and development work.  We support people in their journey of working for social justice.

We work with returned volunteers, partner organisations and member groups to foster just, inclusive societies, through progressive grassroots activism in Ireland and internationally.

Who We Are

Comhlámh was set up in 1975 by Irish returned development workers, who defined the organisation’s principal objective as, “to enable persons who have rendered services overseas in developing countries upon their return to Ireland to bring to bear their own particular experience in order to further international development co-operation.”

Membership was subsequently extended to all those who see their work from a global perspective and support our aims.  Comhlámh members have always seen overseas development work and volunteering as part of a broader commitment to global development and solidarity. Many of the causes of global inequality, poverty, and oppression have their origin in industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and action.

Comhlámh now considers the stakeholders that we work with as our community, which is made up of our members, development workers, volunteers, volunteer sending agencies, and those interested in development and global issues.

 What’s Our Community

Our community is made up of our members, volunteers, development workers, and volunteer sending agencies.

Members of Comhlámh pay an annual membership fee because they believe in, actively engage, deliver and support the work of Comhlámh. Members are typically volunteers, returned development workers, and activists who believe that the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and campaigning.

They see continuous engagement as an essential element of the volunteering continuum and draw on their personal experiences to fuel that engagement. Membership benefits include copies of publications, events, and discounts on courses and events.  Members can also be those seeking a career in development, students studying development issues, or other courses with application in a development context.

Volunteers – are people who are making the informed decision to work overseas for a period of time, from days to years, in a voluntary capacity.

We assist volunteers to:

  • learn more about overseas volunteering, global justice, and development issues
  • meet and network with other people; and
  • up-skill and learn about how they can encourage more reflection on development and global justice issues amongst their family, friends, and colleagues.

Development workers – are those people who have worked overseas in a professional capacity.

We assist development workers  to:

  • engage in post-return debriefings and other forms of one-to-one support;
  • identify how the work for social justice and development  can continue ‘at home’;
  • network outside of their  workplaces;
  • nurture their own critical thinking around development;
  • share their experiences with other like-minded people; and
  • think about their future direction post-return.

There is a broader constituency of people supportive of Comhlámh’s work and activities. They engage with us on development issues, global justice, social justice, and human rights (for example 2,500 elink subscribers, attendants at the First Wednesday Debates, etc).  They have the potential to become more engaged as part of our community and ultimately as members.

Thinking of becoming a Comhlámh member? Tap here.

Almost 1.3 billion of the global population of 6.9 billion live in ‘extreme poverty’, i.e. defined as living on less than 1.25US$ a day. Those deemed to be living in ‘poverty’, which is defined as living on less than 2US$ a day, number 4.9 billion.

That’s 71% of the world’s population living in ‘poverty’. Under the guise of the so-called ‘Washington consensus’, a neoliberal model of development has seen a greatly reduced role for the state in advancing development objectives. The gap between rich and poor continues to widen at national, regional, and global levels.

We live in a world where economic ‘common sense’ demands aggressive deregulation of the market and privatisation of public services. Under the guise of free trade, agreements have been imposed on countries of the global south that have served to undermine the sovereign rights of these countries to decide their own development paths.

Instead of states working to progressively realise the human rights of their citizens in line with their international human rights obligation, the state has, in many cases been in retreat.

The Great Recession of 2007, the quickening impacts of climate change and related complex humanitarian emergencies, rising inequality, the endless arms race, the ‘war on terror’, forced global migration, the rise of xenophobia are all pointers to a deeply flawed model of development.

There is a need for alternative models to be brought forward that can bring about a just society, locally and globally. Models that refuse to compromise the sustainable future of the coming generations. A historic realignment is needed.

Never before has there been such a need for communities, ordinary citizens, people’s organisations, i.e. civil society, to be facilitated to occupy the critical thought-spaces and collective action to discern a new future, and to test alternative models and ways of being. All this with a view to creating a sustainable, equitable, and just society, locally and globally.

We are motivated by the following values:

RESPECT: Openness and flexibility in the way we think and act. It involves compassion, empathy, humility, having a reflective and critical awareness of ourselves and others and of structures and systems.  

INTEGRITY: Honesty, fairness, transparency, and accountability in everything we do. 

SOLIDARITY:  Taking longer-term action in mutually supportive relationships on issues identified by those most affected. It is premised on interconnectedness and interdependence, and involves a critical voice, a recognition of power differentials and acting together for positive change. 

ECOLOGICAL SUSTAINABILITY: Understanding ourselves as integrated with and impacting on the environment whilst recognising and acting on our individual and collective responsibility in this regard. 


People together imagining and activating new possibilities for a world beyond injustice.


To nurture and support the work for justice, locally and globally.


OBJECTIVE 1: Shape Thinking

Nurture and Support Transformative Thinking

What we aim to achieve:

  • An innovative, engaged, and resilient values-based movement providing thought leadership.
  • A diverse and inclusive body of knowledge shaping and contributing to transformative thinking.
  • Exploratory, experimental, and collective initiatives working to influence policy and key decision makers.

OBJECTIVE 2: Shape Practice

Nurture and Support Transformative Practice

What we aim to achieve:

  • Practice that supports transformative change is embedded across the volunteering sector.
  • GCE is recognised as crucial to establishing conditions for learning and transformation, and is applied across practice.
  • An active and critically engaged volunteering sector with the knowledge, skills, dispositions, and stamina to respond to injustices and unsustainability in ways that are rooted in solidarity.

OBJECTIVE 3: Shape Action

Nurture and Support Transformative Action through Solidarity Based Movements for Change.

What we aim to achieve:

  • Diverse, active, and sustained Comhlámh membership and member groups thriving, learning, and acting for change.
  • A critical and reflexive public discourse engaging target groups, social change movements, and their audiences.
  • An ecosystem of care directly and indirectly nurturing and supporting new expressions of global solidarity.

Global Solidarity in Action: Comhlámh Strategic Plan 2023-2028 

Over the next five years, Comhlámh will focus on working with partners, members, and member groups to build a community of practice aimed at strengthening solidarity-based action. 

Our partners include:  

  • Volunteer Sending Agencies (VSAs) and organisations that support Comhlámh’s Code of Good Practice for VSAs  
  • People who volunteer, work, or act in solidarity with communities in the Global South 
  • Comhlámh members, member groups and their targeted audience 
  • Migrant solidarity responders and humanitarian responders  
  • Irish National Volunteering Sector (Volunteer Centres and Volunteer Ireland) 
  • Networks, educators, institutions, relevant sectors, and groups working to achieve local and global justice  

Together with our partners, members, and member groups, we are committed to achieving local and global justice through cultivating: 

  • a solidarity-based movement that draws on our history to create new responses to the unprecedented challenges the world is facing. 
  • the skills, dispositions, and stamina to stay involved in generating opportunities for change at a time of deep uncertainty and challenge. 


Over the years Comhlamh has had a major impact on a very wide range of activities.

  • Promoting responsible, responsive international volunteering through the development of a Code of Good Practice for Volunteer Sending Organisations. Over 40 volunteer sending organisations have signed up to the Code and an external external auditing process was developed to monitor implementation of the Code by signatory organisations.
  • Continuing to be the voice of development workers feeding into the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Social and Family Affairs to ensure that the social welfare rights of development workers are fully protected
  • Providing valuable, high quality support services to an increasing number of recently returned development workers and volunteers each year, which have assisted many individuals to overcome the challenges of resettling home and supported continued engagement with development issues in Ireland.
  • Acting as an important focal point for overseas development workers, volunteers and activists by providing opportunities and avenues for networking and staying engaged with development issues and action for global justice in Ireland
  • Holding workshops on issues including Trade Justice, Climate Change and its impact on developing countries, Overseas Development Aid, and Campaign planning
  • Supporting global justice activists’ education, campaigning and policy work through the successful development of the Bloom Alliance with the DDCI, LASC and the Africa Centre
  • Supporting people to discuss issues related to development with their TDs and MEPs, such as trade justice, the aid budget and climate change and ensuring that 6 out of 12 Irish MEPs are committed to speak out on trade justice
  • Producing resources to support teachers to tackle diversity and global issues with their students – including our Diversity through the Arts resource
  • Supporting teachers and their students to use images responsibly by producing Images of the Global South booklet
  • Producing Ireland’s leading magazine on global issues, Focus Action for Global Justice, with over 100 issues.
  • Produced 31 issues of the INDEX newsletter for the Irish Development Education sector to support critically reflection, discussion and sharing within the sector 2004 – 2012
  • Initiating the very popular and engaging public forum on development topics,’The First Wednesday Debates’ in Dublin
  • Seeing two of its activist groups develop into fully-fledged independent organisations: Banulacht and Integrating Ireland (now Integration Centre)
  • Starting the first fair-trade coffee and tea imports and sales
  • Standing a candidate for the Senate
  • Campaigning on mercury soap, apartheid, debt, trade, pharmaceutical multinationals, images on development, the EU Common Agricultural Policy, CETA asylum and refugee rights and more;

The next chapter of Comhlamh’s history is over to you!


Chief Executive Officer

Dr Caroline Murphy the CEO. She is responsible for leading on the vision of Comhlámh, managing the staff team with the support of the Board, delivering on the commitments in the current Strategy as well as leading in the development of the upcoming one. Caroline has over 14 years’ experience of working for organisations across the Irish International Development sector.  Over the years, Caroline has built up skills in directing, governance, programming, strategy, policy, development education and safeguarding. Caroline has also contributed a range of research consultancies to the wider sector, focussing on programme evaluations, safeguarding, strategy, development education, public engagement and NGO messages and frames.

Caroline has a particular passion for development education, believing in the power of working alongside people and communities to cultivate critical thinking, compassion, solidarity, and knowledge for inspiring action for a fairer and more just world.

Programme Manager

Dervla King is the Programme Manager. A key part of her work is ensuring that the organisation’s vision of volunteers and development workers working in solidarity for a just, equitable and sustainable world is reflected in all activities. Dervla manages Comhlámh’s EC-funded work and supports project officers in the areas of global citizenship education, public engagement, psychosocial resourcing, research and policy development. She can be reached at

Training and Education Officer

Sive Bresnihan is the Training and Education Officer. Her work includes the organisation and facilitation of training sessions for prospective Volunteers, training in ‘Be the Change’ and ‘Skills for Development Education’ and support for members groups. Sive started out in the field of Arts and Drama, before moving into the fields of development and, latterly, adult education. All these turns have shaped an ever-strengthening commitment to non-formal education and organising as a force for change. She can be reached at

Capacity Building & Volunteering Quality Project Officer

Dr Chris O’Connell is the Capacity Building and Volunteering Quality Project Officer. He is responsible for enabling Comhlámh to promote values-based volunteering rooted in global citizenship education (GCE) approaches at this time of significant change.

He is an experienced advocate, educator, researcher and volunteer manager who has volunteered, worked and carried out research in South America. Chris has a particular interest in issues of environmental and climate justice, and recently completed a post-doctoral research fellowship in collaboration with Anti-Slavery International focused on this area.

Volunteer Engagement Project Officer

Julia Haimlinger is the Volunteer Engagement Project Officer, mainly working with volunteers, development workers and Volunteer Sending Agencies, and providing support to Comhlámh’s membership groups. Julia has worked and volunteered in Zimbabwe, Tanzania and India and has a strong interest in critical Global Citizenship Education.
She can be reached at

Communications Project Officer

Aga Wiesyk is Comhlámh’s Communications Project Officer. She is responsible for the development and implementation of Comhlámh’s communications strategy. She oversees organisation’s communications efforts and feeds into all the strategic areas of Comhlámh’s work, promotes and highlights projects, campaigns and events of the organisation in order to create greater awareness and participation in Comhlámh’s work.
She can be reached at

Finance and Administration Manager

Elena Garcia is Finance and Administration Manager. She manages the finance, administrative functions and the team in support of Comhlámh’s vision and mission.

Organisation and Programme Support Administrator

Silvana Socci is the Organisation and Programme Support Administrator. She is the contact for all Comhlámh courses, membership enquiries and accounts payable and receivable enquiries.  She is also responsible for the office I.T. and general office administration.


Aideen Elliott

Aideen has been active in solidarity movements in Ireland (We’re Not Leaving, Financial Justice Ireland, grassroots gatherings, Independent Workers’ Union, anti-war activism etc.), Morocco (GADEM – Moroccan organisation supporting migrants, Amnesty International), the UK (Justice for Cleaners, 3 Cosas, Save Carpenters Estate) and Greece (City Plaza squat, Refugee Support Europe, ECHO 360 solidarity kitchen). She received her MA in International Development from SOAS  University of London in 2013 and, in 2021, completed her PhD at Maynooth University, during which time she was a research associate at l’Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB-LAMC) and an Irish Research Council Government of Ireland Scholar. Aideen’s PhD is a study on EU migration and asylum policy making following anthropological fieldwork amongst policy makers in Brussels. Aideen’s academic publications focus on the evolution of Ireland’s refugee and migration policy in an EU context, and she has lectured on the topics of EU policy making and migrant solidarity movements in UCD, UCC and Maynooth University. Aideen works at Oxfam Ireland as Senior Policy and Research Coordinator. She works on supporting the rights of migrants, including refugees, particularly in EU policy and practice and on just economies with a focus on debt. Aideen has begun collaborating with and attending events of Comhlámh since 2005 when as a member of Maynooth University’s Global Awareness Society she invited speakers from Comhlámh to university events on trade justice. This initial contact led Aideen to attend many Comhlámh events and become more interested in the organisation. Working more closely with Comhlámh in the past year as a speaker at a First Wednesday event and then organising three events together has deepened Aideen’s interest in the organisation, which she is looking forward to pursuing in the capacity of Board Member.

Duduzile Faith Simkhumba 

A member of the Marketing Institute of Ireland, Duduzile is a strategic and resourceful professional with over 12 years of work experience in the field of marketing and communication within financial services. Key areas of specialisation include strategy development and execution, business administration as well as project management. In her previous roles, Duduzile successfully developed marketing and communication strategies and led various successful campaigns and projects.

Personally, she has a special interest in matters of diversity and inclusion, gender equality and social development.

Her qualifications include a Postgraduate Degree in Business Administration (University of Witwatersrand South Africa) and a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing Management (Management College of Southern Africa).

Gavin Timlin

Gavin has 18+ years’ experience in finance/data occupying senior roles relating to risk management and data analytics, most latterly as Chief Risk Officer for a fund management company – Crossroads Capital Management/HAL.

He is also the founder of CreateSound, a Social Enterprise delivering mobile music production services and tuition in outreach contexts across 100+ locations in Ireland, and TSLI, a start-up delivering job training and inclusion programmes for people seeking asylum in Ireland. Since March 2022 he has also been working in a consultant role for the Irish Refugee Council, supporting the process improvements, research and hands-on programme delivery for accommodation and employment projects, as well as research pieces, including Empathy Mapping.

He has a strong understanding of the refugee and migrant landscape in Ireland and abroad, having worked closely with multiple support organisations/NGOs on independent support projects in Ireland, Greece & Palestine. He haa also developed public support and resources as part of his participation with Comhlamh’s member group ‘Ireland Says Welcome’, including national mapping of resources, submissions to Oireachtas, and system ‘explainers’.

Karen Jeffares

Karen Jeffares is a human rights activist, educator, mother and farmer who lives in County Monaghan with her husband and two children. She has been a Comhlamh member since doing a “Coming Home” weekend in 2009 on her return from 6 months volunteering in Central America, though she then went on to leave and come home for many years after that! She has been involved in human rights, political advocacy and development education for almost 15 years.  She holds an M.Phil in International Peace Studies from the Irish School of Ecumenics at Trinity College Dublin (2008).  She has experience volunteering alongside communities in contexts affected by violence with experience on the US/Mexico border, in Northern Ireland, in Colombia and in Guatemala (between 2009 and 2013). She volunteered and worked with Peace Brigades International for over 10 years, first in the field projects (Colombia 2010-2012 and Guatemala in 2013) and then as founder and coordinator of the Irish branch of this international NGO (2014 – 2021). From 2014 she also became part of the PBI Strategic Development Committee (a committee on PBI’s international secretariat) and was involved in researching and writing an internal policy document on opening new projects; she also contributed towards the development of a 6 year Global Strategic Plan for PBI (2018-2023).  Her time with Peace Brigades in particular gave her the opportunity to work with an international organisation whose actions and mandate are led by the explicit needs of local partners.  She also learned a great deal about NGO management and Governance in the Irish context while setting up PBI Ireland – including engagement with the  Comhláh’s Code of Good Practice for Volunteer Sending Agencies to which it became a signatory.

On return to Ireland in 2014 she also began working part-time as a DevEd facilitator with a variety of Irish NGOs (Afri, LASC, Comhlamh, PBI Ireland, Spiritan Education Trust, etc), which she continues to do today.  In recent years she has co-founded a new organization in Co. Monaghan called Siolta Chroi (Seeds of the Heart), whose mission is to restore Ireland’s ecosystems and communities – they run workshops and other educational activities and projects that help people reconnect with the land and each other.  She is currently home-schooling her 6-year-old daughter and setting up an independent Waldorf school for County Monaghan with a collective of parents in the county.  She continues to believe that we can change the world for the better and is excited at the prospect of connecting with the work of Comhlamh and its member groups as a Board Member.

Kate O’Donnell

Kate worked in Comhlámh for one year on an EU project about international volunteering. She is extremely interested in how we as individuals and collectively can show solidarity with people who are experiencing oppression or structural disadvantage. She thinks there is huge power in the development education approach to active engagement with the world around us. 

Lola Ade-Onojobi

Lola currently works as Chief People Officer at i3PT Certification Limited – a multi-disciplinary ESG, compliance and digitalisation consultancy with expertise in the real estate, property and construction sectors.

She has a bachelor’s degree in Economics and two master’s degrees in Business Administration and International Human Resources, respectively.  She has over 25 years of experience working as HR Consultant, HR Practitioner, and SME Co-Founder/Director in consulting, start-up, and multinational environments.

She has worked in both Africa and Europe in the professional services, telecoms, oil and gas, financial services, media/advertising, international trade and development, and construction sectors.  Her HR experience lies in HR Strategy, organisation design and development, HR policy, process and system development, reward and recognition, competency-based performance management, succession planning, organisation culture, change management and enterprise solutions implementation.  She is passionate about equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging, and currently serves on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (ED&I) Advisory Board for Trocaire Ireland.

Mairéad Roche

Mairéad is a chartered accountant (ACA), trained with Deloitte Corporate Finance. She worked sector agnostic on several buy-side and fundraising deals during her time at Deloitte. She subsequently held a management position at Mazars Corporate Finance, managing primarily acquisition due diligence assignments on behalf of lenders and Irish Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs). She is currently working as an Investment Manager at the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, focused on deploying capital in a commercial manner that benefits the Irish economy, she primarily invests in Indigenous Irish businesses which have the capacity to scale. She has recently joined that team coming from Enterprise Ireland, where she worked in the Investment Services team, investing in start-ups that have the capacity to export and scale. 

Morgane Clarke

Morgane has a background working in international development and global health across academic and non-governmental sectors. She currently works as a Programme Support Officer for Dóchas – the Irish Association of Non-Governmental Development Organisations. Prior to working with Dóchas, Morgane worked as a health systems researcher within the RCSI team of the ‘Scaling up Safe Surgery for District and Rural Populations in Africa’ project. She is driven towards collaborative work which promotes human rights, with a particular interest in how gender and power dynamics influence equity and equality. This interest drew her towards Women in Global Health Ireland, where she has volunteered on the leadership team since 2020. In 2018 she joined Comhlamh’s Access to Medicines Ireland (AMI) group and became a member of Comhlámh. She holds an MSc in Global Health from TCD.

Niamh Phelan

Niamh is a technologist specialising in data, analytics and digital transformation in large multinationals and public bodies. Her recent clients have included Harvard University, Trinity College, Intelsat, the Oireachtas and the Central Bank of Ireland. As a Volunteer Technologist, she has lent her expertise to charities working with migrants, older people, people experiencing homelessness, people with addiction issues and people working in the sex industry. She is a Volunteer Solution Architect with the Irish Red Cross, managing their pledging platform, and is a founding member of Dublin 8 Refugee Community Sponsorship Group. Niamh is also a founding member of End of Life Ireland, campaigning for the passing of the Dying with Dignity bill. She is also an active member of the Comhlámh Ireland Says Welcome Group and Dublin City of Sanctuary.

Siobhán Reynolds

Siobhán has over 20 years of experience in the leadership, planning, implementation, and evaluation of successful Business to Consumer (B2C) and Business to Business (B2B) communications campaigns working in tourism, media, construction and retail sectors, including the public sector.

She is a creative and analytical thinker with a proven record in brand marketing and advertising, digital, Public Relations and budget management. With excellent interpersonal skills, she is accustomed to developing strong relationships with senior management and multiple stakeholders. She is passionate about delivering metric-driven communications campaigns that impact.

You can find Comhlámh annual reports below

Comhlámh Annual Report 2022

Comhlamh Annual Report 2022

Comhlámh Annual Report 2021

Comhlámh Annual Report 2020

Comhlámh Annual Report 2019

Comhlámh Annual Report 2018

Comhlámh Annual Report 2017

Comhlámh Annual Report 2016

Comhlámh Annual Report 2015