Comhlámh promotes responsible and responsive volunteering practices through the volunteer sending agencies we work with, and you the volunteer.

In doing so, we hope to ensure that overseas volunteering has a positive impact for volunteers, the sending organisation, and the host project and community. Here are some of the supports we provide for you the volunteer.

Comhlámh offers a range of courses designed to increase the capacity of individuals and groups to engage in development education and campaigns on issues of global justice.

If you have returned home after a period overseas of three months or more, Comhlámh warmly invite you to attend our next Coming Home Weekend.   These informal and relaxed weekends are held twice a year and provide an opportunity for returning volunteers to meet with fellow returnees, to reflect on their experiences overseas, to share mutual experiences (successes and challenges) of being overseas and to explore opportunities to use their skills and stay involved in development issues from Ireland. Previous participants have commented on how heartening it is to discover that others have felt similar fears, joys, frustrations and hopes.  Also click through for advice and tips in our Coming Home guide and some coping strategies for reverse culture shock

Readjusting to life in Ireland after a period of working overseas can be a challenging experience, with many highs and lows.  Many returning development workers and volunteers find that engaging with debriefing and/or counselling can be helpful in the process of re-adaptation.  Comhlámh recommends that everyone should, at a minimum, have access to both a personal and an operational debrief.

A personal debriefing usually involves one session where you talk to a debriefer about your time overseas.  The session will typically last 2 ½ – 3 hours, with a follow-up phone call taking place approximately two weeks later. Counselling generally lasts for a longer period, involving 6 – 8 one hour sessions held over a number of weeks.  The topics discussed may include the period spent overseas, but it may also cover other aspects of your life.Comhlámh can provide you with information and confidential advice to help you access these services.  Enquiries for debriefing and counselling will be treated with confidentiality.

To find out more, email or telephone 01 478 3490 and ask to speak to the Information Support Officer. You can also check out our Coming Home Book, which provides a comprehensive guide to all these issues.

A Code of Good Practice for Sending Organisationshas also been developed. This sets out the responsibilities of organisations that arrange volunteer placements, including some of the steps they take to support the Volunteer Charter. Organisations that have signed up to the Code will be willing to provide copies of this Charter to volunteers, and to discuss the Code in exchange.

The Volunteer Charter has been drawn up by Comhlámh, the Irish Association of Development Workers. Comhlámh has over 30 years’ experience of engaging with overseas volunteers and development workers. It was drawn up through extensive consultations with the three main groups involved in volunteer

Comhlámh is responsible for administering the Volunteer Development Worker Scheme on behalf of the Department of Social Protection which has special arrangements in place to protect the social welfare rights of Volunteer Development Workers (VDWs). We also administer the Public Service Pension Scheme for Volunteer Development Workerson behalf of Irish Aid (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade).

You can find the Volunteer Development Worker Scheme’s Form here

Special note about social insurance and pensions.

Part of preparing for an assignment overseas should include thinking about your options for remaining within the Irish social insurance system.  Considering one’s options for social protection may seem unimportant now, however it becomes extremely important for returning volunteers/development workers in accessing short-term benefits upon return, such as Unemployment Benefit, Maternity Benefit, and Treatment Benefits and for state pension entitlements upon reaching retirement age.  The Support Services team in Comhlamh is available to provide information on current options for remaining within the Irish social insurance system.

For further information please contact us on 01-4783490 or email

If you are a public servant serving as a development worker after 1 January 1995 on an authorised leave of absence or career break you may be entitled to avail of the Public Service Pension Scheme.

Volunteer development workers wishing to receive funding from SUSI for third-level studies need to check the most recent and up-to-date residency criteria from the Department of Education and Skills.  You are also more than welcome to email or telephone 01 478 3490 and ask for the Information and Support Officer, who will discuss the residency criteria to you.