Understanding the Wider Context
In addition to the work placements overseas, the Programme offers Volunteers the opportunity to learn more about the culture, society and politics of their host country, and the development challenges they face. The “Global Perspectives” theme offers reading materials, field trips, lectures and meetings with a wide cross-section of people from the public and private sectors, as well as local and international NGOs.
Pre-departure, Volunteers are encouraged to learn about the social and political context of their host country. The preparation weekends include an overview of key issues and talks from invited speakers. Previous topics have included:
- 'Leading in the HIV Challenge' by Dr Ceppie Merry, Realta Foundation.
- 'The Rwandan Genocide' by Dr Andy Storey, UCD Development Studies.
- 'Migration Stories of African Women in Ireland' by Salome Mbugua Henry, AkiDwA, African Women's Network.
- Introduction to the work of Irish Aid by Frank Flood, Irish Aid.
- Introductory talk on Concern by Tom Arnold, Concern CEO.
Throughout the work placements, Volunteers have the opportunity to meet people from a wide range of backgrounds and to visit other NGOs in their area. Previous Volunteers have met with representatives of: UNDP, UNICEF, WHO, Concern, WB and Transparency International.
Mid-way through the summer, all of the Suas Volunteers in each host country gather for a series of workshops and field trips called Global Perspectives Week.
By this stage, Volunteers will have spent 4 to 5 weeks working at a grassroots level for their host project; the Global Perspectives workshops provide a chance to take a step back, and to put what has been seen at a local level into a broader context.
For example, some Volunteers will have faced the difficulties of working in an overcrowded classroom, and may ask: why are these class sizes so huge? What are the challenges of providing Universal Primary Education? What is the government doing to improve education? What other challenges is the government facing? And how do other organisations like the UN, the World Bank and other NGOs fit in? What are the challenges faced by the Partner Organisation? Why have they arisen? And what can be done about them?
Development raises many complex questions and the Global Perspectives theme does not seek to provide clear answers, but to support Volunteers to develop their own views.
In addition, the week provides a forum for the Volunteers to review what is going well and the challenges faced, then to develop ideas and agree plans for the second part of the placement. It is also an opportunity to relax and have fun.
After the Programme
Although the return weekend marks the formal end of the Programme, many Volunteers are involved in follow-up projects after their return. Previous projects have included: writing articles for local, national and college papers, giving presentations in schools and fundraising events. Volunteers also have the option of signing up for one of the Suas Global Issues courses.