Suas Volunteer Programme 09 How to Apply Guidelines

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Suas Volunteer Programme 09 How to Apply Guidelines

Dear Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the Volunteer Programme 2009. Below you’ll find information on the Suas Volunteer Programme - what the Programme entails, key dates, what we are looking for in our volunteers, how to apply and advice on how to make your best application.
There are two parts to this pack. The first provides detailed information on the application process itself. The second part contains key information on the Programme (the website has additional information on the Partner Schools, testimonials and details of former volunteers, a photo & video gallery, as well as information on the rest of Suas’ activities).
We hope that all of your questions will be answered here or on our website – if you have any additional questions or anything that needs clarifying, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. You can email or give us a call on (+353) 1 662 1412.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Laura Bennison

Suzanne Flood

Colman Farrell

Suas Volunteer Programme Team


Section A: The Application and Selection Process

  • Application Process:

  • Overview

  • Is the Programme right for you?

  • Programme Requirements

  • Application Form

  • Assessment Centre

Section B: Programme Overview

Key information from the website:

  • What is the Suas Volunteer Programme?

  • What is involved:

  • Key Dates

  • Preparations

  • Fundraising

  • Health, Safety & Security

  • The Overseas Work Placement

  • Global Perspectives

  • Return to Ireland

Section A: The Application and Selection Process

This section contains information on the application and selection process for the Volunteer Programme.

For this year's Programme we are seeking to recruit 8 teams of people who can work effectively with others to make a contribution to the staff and children of our Partner Organisations during the work placements in India or Kenya.  In each team we are looking for diverse individuals: with a mix of backgrounds, disciplines, personalities and interests.  We are looking for those who ‘lead from the front’, as much as those with a more quiet potential.  Fundamentally, we are looking for people who are committed to serving others and who will continue to make a difference on their return and beyond - young people who will be the socially responsible leaders of the future.

We are looking for people who understand what the Programme is about, the opportunities it presents, as well as the risks and challenges.  We are looking for people with upbeat, positive attitudes, who appreciate the demands of the Programme and who will be able to work through and learn from both the high points and the more challenging aspects of the Programme.

A successful application requires a combination of hard work and luck! Hard work as it takes time to complete the application form and if you are called to prepare for the interview.   Luck, as with any selection process, for example this year we might get lots of applications from people with lots of teaching skills, but few with any sports coaching experience, the next year it could be the other way around.  The key is to focus on what you uniquely have to offer our Partner Organisations overseas.

Selection Process

The application process is competitive and on average there are 3 applications for every place that we can offer. 

We run a three-step application process in order to recruit the teams:

1. Self-selection

A) Do you meet the Programme requirements

B) Is the Programme right for you?

2. Application & Short listing

3. Assessment Centre

Step 1: Self selection

A) Programme requirements: Applicants must be:

  • Between the ages of 18 and 25
    (we also consider older applicants on a case-by-case basis)

  • At least one year out of secondary school (at time of departure overseas)

  • Holder of a valid passport, or be able to get one prior to March 2009 and able to meet the visa requirements of India or Kenya

  • Committed to raising the required sponsorship for the Programme by 29th May 2009 and to paying the deposit to secure their place by February 2009

  • Physically, mentally & emotionally fit to travel in the summer of 2009

  • Willing to abide by Suas’ Health, Safety & Security, and Child Protection Policies and procedures

  • Willing to sign up to Comlámh’s Code of Practice for Volunteers

  • Prepared to get all recommended vaccinations & to take appropriate anti-malarial medication while overseas

  • Available to attend all Preparation & Return Weekends & be available for the entire duration of the placement

Programme Launch

4 November 2008

Application Deadline

4 December 2008


January 2009

Final Selection of Teams

First week of February 2009

Preparation Weekend 1

20-22 February 2009

Preparation Weekend 2

17-19 April 2009

Fundraising Deadline

29 May 2009

Preparation Weekend 3

5-7 June 2009

Overseas Departure

16 June 2009

End of Overseas Placement

28 August 2009

Return Weekend

2-4 October 2009

1. B) Is the Suas Volunteer Programme right for you?

  • Are you enthusiastic about working with children and young people?

  • Have you been involved in volunteering or helping others in your home, social, academic or professional life? (For example, have you been an active member of a club or society, have you mentored others in their homes or schools, looked after a relative, have you been a school prefect or sports coach? etc)

  • Are you enthusiastic & ready to challenge yourself?

  • Are you open to and interested in learning about other cultures?

  • Are you adaptable and ready to create and make a success of your placement as you go?

  • Are you aware that you will have to give a lot in order to get a lot from the Programme?

  • Are you physically, mentally & emotionally prepared for what will be a demanding and challenging experience

  • Do you understand the challenges of the Programme? Do you have the time and commitment to undertake the preparations required?

  • Do you enjoy working together with others as part of a team?

  • Are you aware that you may not get on with everyone you will work with it and that working together to achieve your goals will be very challenging?

The Suas Volunteer Programme is not right for everyone.  It is a substantial under-taking and applicants do need to be sure that this is the right time for them to make this commitment.  We encourage potential applicants to review the website, this document, to attend a presentation at their nearest college and to speak with former participants to hear their views on the Programme.
Suas Volunteers generally have a well-rounded approach, combining commitment, determination and a positive outlook together with openness, compassion and diplomacy when required. Cultural sensitivity, patience and a very good sense of humour are a must for all Suas Volunteers.

Step 2. Application & Short listing

How should I complete my application?

We encourage you to take time and care in completing the form. We estimate to review all the information and complete a thorough application will take a minimum of 4 hours. As we don’t have the resources to interview everyone who applies, your application form is your opportunity to ensure that we meet you in person.

  • All sections in the form are important; however we review the long answer questions in the ‘General’ section in most depth, to learn about who you are, what is important to you and what you have to offer our Partners in India and Kenya.

  • Just be open & honest. We are not expecting people to have conquered Everest, or won a Nobel Prize for Peace! There is no need to over or undersell yourself.

  • Try to avoid clichés if possible and convey a sense of ‘your story’.

  • Proof read your form: Spelling & grammar mistakes, omissions, inconsistencies – all distract from what could be an otherwise strong application.

What is the process for submitting the application?

In order to apply:

  • Please download the application form

  • Complete it in MS Word 1997-2003 format

  • Save the document as (eg John.Smith.01Dec)

  • Email it back as an attachment to by 4 December 2009

  • You will receive confirmation of receipt within two working days. 

  • You are encouraged to apply early in order to give us maximum time to consider your application.

Step 3. Assessment Centre

What happens if I am called for interview?

Short listed candidates will be invited to a half day Assessment Centre which will take place in January in Dublin.  Former volunteers will also be present to answer any questions you might have on the Programme. 

The Assessment Centre consists of both individual interview and a group exercise. Interviews are held over two consecutive weekends in January. We assess all candidates before we make any final decisions and the offers are made.

Assessment Process

The Suas interviews follow a standard interview process. Candidates are assessed against the following criteria:

  • Understanding of the Programme

  • Commitment to serve others

  • Service Leadership

  • Teamwork & Collaboration

  • Planning and Organising

  • Analysis, Problem Solving & Creativity

  • Results & achievement orientation

The process is straightforward, we simply ask for examples from your everyday life when you have demonstrated that skill set. Candidates can draw on all aspects of their life: personal, professional, academic and extra-curricular to show evidence of the above skill sets. Before the interview we suggest that you think about one or two examples for each.

During the interview we will also ask you to tell us a little about yourself and your reasons for applying to the Programme at this time, as well as talking about your application form (remember to reread it before the interview!)

What happens next?

All candidates will hear the result of their application by February 3rd. Successful applicants will be offered a place via email and asked to email a response within 24 hours. If you accept a place on the Programme you will be asked to sign a contract committing to the full duration of the Programme and agreeing to the Programme’s Policies & Procedures including Health, Safety and Security Guidelines and Child Protection Policy.

What happens if my application is not short listed for interview?

We appreciate that this is disappointing and frustrating, especially after the time invested in the application. Ideally we would interview everyone but due to the large number of applications this is not possible.

Applicants wonder why they have not been short listed – often it is because their application form has not fully conveyed what they have to offer, or shown that that they understand the programme. Sometimes it appears to us that the programme might be something they would consider after they have gained some more experience.

At a minimum, we hope that you will have gained valuable skills from the application process and found the time spent on reflecting on what you are seeking and what you have to offer useful.

What happens if I am not offered a place?

It may be even more disappointing to be interviewed and then not offered a place. However, you have already done well to get that far. Each year it is a difficult decision to make and we are constrained by the number of places.

We hope that you will have gained useful experience from the application and selection process as well as getting a better idea of the programme overall. You can then make a decision as to whether you would like to reapply to this or other similar programmes in the future.
A final word:

All applicants should understand that if we had more resources and places they could well have been selected. Suas is working to increase the number of places we offer over the next years.

Finally, we respect and appreciate the time and interest of everyone who enquires about, and applies to the Programme.
We hope we will have answered all of your questions on the Volunteer Programme application process. We have attached the information on the Programme from the website for your convenience. If you still have some queries, check the FAQs section on our website, or drop us an email –

We look forward to hearing from you and good luck!

Laura Bennison

Suzanne Flood

Colman Farrell
Suas Volunteer Programme Team

Section B: Programme Overview
1. What is the Suas Volunteer Programme?

The Suas Volunteer Programme provides an opportunity to volunteer in a community-based school or educational project in India or Kenya, for ten weeks, while learning about different cultures. It offers the possibility to develop personal and professional skills, to work in a team, and to learn about the challenges and opportunities of development in our interconnected world. 

Since 2002, the Volunteer Programme has grown from 15 participants going to one organisation in Kolkata, to 90 volunteers working for 7 Partner Organisations in Nairobi, Mombasa, Delhi and Kolkata in 2007. In 2008, in consultation with our Partners in Kenya, we made the difficult decision not to send volunteers to Nairobi and Mombasa. 80 volunteers worked in Delhi and Kolkata with 4 Partner Organisations; Prayas, Sabuj Sangha, DAS and Vikramshila (a new Partner in 2008)

The overall success of each year’s participants has enabled the continuation and further development of the Programme. Today, it continues to evolve, learning from the highs and lows of each successive year and responding to the ongoing changes and challenges faced in the Partner Organisations.

What is it about?

The Volunteer Programme is a collaborative project between three key groups; six Partner Organisations overseas, Suas and our Supporters, and the Volunteer teams.

The Programme is a demanding, challenging experience. It is a way to meet and work with like-minded individuals working for change, in Ireland and overseas. It’s about leadership and serving the needs of others. It facilitates the creation of a network of young people who will hopefully make a contribution to their communities far beyond the Programme itself…

The Volunteer Programme is part of the wider service provided by Suas to our Partner Organisations. The Programme builds trust and respect helping us work together to make a real difference.

For more information

The website contains a broad overview of the Programme including testimonials from our Partners, from Volunteers and a few examples of projects that volunteers have worked on in the past. Applicants are encouraged to review this document which includes additional advice on the selection process. Presentation evenings will be taking place around the country from the 11th November. For more information on these please see the Suas website.

2. What is involved?
A) Key Dates
After volunteers have been selected, the programme involves a four month period of preparation and fundraising, then a ten-week placement with an education-focused NGO in either India or Kenya, followed by the Return and end phase from August to October which includes the Return Weekend and Return Reception. You will work with a team of other young people (teams of approximately 12) and a Coordinator. Your Coordinator will have the role of team leader – liaising between the volunteer team & the Partner & Suas, helping you to acclimatize and to find your way around the host city, and helping to organise and support the team’s activities.

Application Launch

November 4th

Application Deadline

December 4th


January 6th, 10th, 11th, 17th, 18th

Final Selection of Teams

Beginning of February 2009

Face to face training weekends

February 20th – 22th

April 17th- 19th

June 5th-7th

Fundraising Deadline

May 29th

Overseas work placement

June 16th – August 28th

Return weekend

October 2nd – 4th

Return reception

October 3rd

B) Pre-departure Preparation

On accepting the offer of a place on the Programme, you will be asked to sign a contract, committing to the full length of the Programme.

Effective preparation is key to making a positive contribution to the Partner Schools overseas, as well as to working through the challenges that the Programme presents.

The four month period from February to mid-June forms the Preparation Phase. This involves each volunteer working with their Team Coordinator, fellow and former volunteers, to ensure that they are sufficiently prepared to offer a quality service to their Partner Organisation in India or Kenya.

There are four main components to the Preparation Phase:

  1. Knowledge and Skills Development

  2. Getting to know your team & colleagues

  3. Fundraising

  4. Health & Safety

We understand that volunteers need to balance their commitments to the Programme with their other personal and professional commitments. Former volunteers have managed to successfully complete exams and finals, submit their thesis and finish work projects etc.., while also preparing sufficiently for the Programme; however it is demanding and requires an up-front commitment from the time they accept a placement.

1: Understanding the Context

Understanding the needs, challenges, and history of the Partner Schools, as well as the local circumstances of their staff and pupils, is the first step towards an effective placement. Volunteers are also expected to build on the lessons learnt from previous placements by reviewing reports and talking with former volunteers.

As part of the Global Perspectives strand of the Programme, volunteers are also expected to learn about the wider political, historical and social context in which the Partners operate. Finally, as volunteers will be representing Suas overseas they are expected to have an understanding of our programmes and activities.  

2: Preparing yourself: Skills Development

Before departing overseas volunteers are expected to develop basic skills in the following areas:

  • Teaching

  • Language

  • Cross-Cultural Understanding

  • Project Planning

  • Impact Assessment

  • Health & Safety

3: Working with Others: Teamwork & Leadership Development

Learning to work effectively with their team, the Volunteer Programme Team and the staff of the Partners and is critical to working together through the highs and lows of the Programme

Preparation Phase: Weekends

The Volunteer Programme Team organises three face-to-face weekends to assist you with your preparations. Using the PLAN-DO-REVIEW cycle the team supports you to make the best use of your preparation time. The other aim of the weekends is to give the you an opportunity to get to know your teammates and to meet former volunteers who can tell you more about the projects and people with whom you’ll be working in our Partner Organisations.

It’s important to note that, while we aim to pack as much into these weekends as possible, time is limited and we can’t cover everything, or go into as much detail as we would like. You are expected to take primary responsibility for your preparations, for example: reading up on our Partners, host country and city, reviewing reports from previous years, meeting former volunteers, working on the local language with a book or tape, spending a few days in a school and getting advice from a teacher, all can go a long way towards ensuring the overseas experience is as positive and rewarding as possible, both for the Partners and the volunteers themselves.

The responsibility for your preparations is in the hands of you and your team, and that’s part of the challenge!

C) Fundraising

Each person who accepts a place on the 2009 Volunteer Programme must commit to raising a minimum of €2,995 towards their costs.

Given the recent downturn in the economy, Suas appreciate that fundraising for the volunteer participation fee may be especially challenging for this year's group. For this reason, we have increased the level of support we offer to volunteers.

What the €2995 covers..

Your contribution covers: A donation to the Partner Organisations, Flights, Accommodation, Insurance, Training Costs, Global Perspectives expenses, Coordinators and in-country support, and a contribution towards the running costs of the programme.

What is not covered?

Volunteers will need to obtain the required country visa at least 6 weeks before departure

Volunteers will need to complete a course of vaccinations and submit a signed completion form from a GP at least 4 weeks before departure

What happens if a Volunteer raises more than €2995?

Any money raised over the participation fee goes directly to our Partner Schools in India and Kenya. In 2008, the amount raised by volunteers reached €70,000.  To put this in context:  

2,170 - is the estimated cost of running one education centre for one year, including teacher salaries, school uniforms, educational materials and a mid-day meal for each student, as well as health check-ups and extra-curricular opportunities for the students (~ €70 per child per year)

310 Average cost of providing educational materials for one education centre for one year (€10 per child per year)

Our support...


  • A practical guide to fundraising

  • Sponsorship Cards

  • Details of how to set up a donation page on my

  • Sample press releases and newspaper articles

  • Sample letters to schools and businesses

  • A stock of images and videos

  • Suas T-shirts and Buckets

  • Standard event poster templates

On-going support (February - May)

  • Advice and support from the Suas fundraising manager

  • A fundraising mentor per team (this person will be a past volunteer with fundraising experience and will be on-hand to support volunteers from Feb-May)

  • Specific fundraising sessions at the preparation weekends including: project management, event planning, time management and goal setting.

  • Monthly updates to support  volunteers' progress

  • Assistance from the office in booking events, bag packs, table quizzes etc.. 

Fundraising can be a challenge; but there will be support available. Furthermore, the skills that Volunteers develop during this process will benefit them throughout their careers; project management, setting & achieving challenging goals, working with a team, event planning and management, communication and marketing skills.

For more information about how former volunteers have fundraised for their place on the Programme please see the Suas website.

D) Health, Safety and Security (HSS)

The safe return of All Volunteers without serious incident to programme participants, staff or children of the partner organisations is the number one objective of the Programme.

We have a three part approach to achieving this goal:

  1. Prevention: Staying healthy and understanding local conditions & cultures and the associated risk of activities in the new context of a developing country

  2. Preparation: Being ready to respond in the event that something does happen

  3. Personal Responsibility: Taking responsibility for your own health and safety as well as that of your team and colleagues, and the partners

The Programme is a physically and psychologically demanding experience. Living and working in the rough and tumble environment of urban slums, you are prone to minor accidents and upset stomachs caused by water-borne diseases. This physical challenge is compounded in India by the heat and humidity with temperatures in the range of 30 to 50C.

Also, living & working in close proximity to your team-mates can be claustrophobic at times, especially in Nairobi and to a lesser extent Mombasa, where getting personal space is sometimes restricted by the security guidelines. In addition there are the day to day challenges of living in a developing country.

Preparation Details

You are required to attend a health screening with your GP in advance of your departure, to certify that you are both physically & psychologically fit to travel and take part in the programme. You are also required to receive all recommended vaccinations for the particular host country, and to take appropriate anti-malaria medication and other medical advice as recommended by your GP. You are recommended to be in good physical shape before you depart and also to look after your physical well-being when abroad.

The training weekends will provide an overview of how to stay healthy overseas and to how to work and travel in safety. You are expected to understand and follow the Suas Policies and Procedures on HSS. You are also expected to develop the skills and understanding to enable you to work abroad and return home safely. During your placements, you are expected to stay abreast of local events which might have health or safety implications and to subscribe to a travel alert service such as the British Foreign and Commonwealth website.

You need to understand that in order to take up the offer of a place on the Volunteer Programme; you need to be fully committed to playing your part in ensuring the safe return of ALL volunteers without serious incident.

E) Your Overseas Work Placement

The volunteers work with children (aged from 4 -17 years) and staff in our Partner Organisations. The volunteers’ perform a variety of roles – from teaching assistant, to coach, to mentor, to friend, to student.

Before the summer, the Volunteer Programme Team agrees a needs analysis and a very broad outline of the work placement with each Partner.  Then, on arrival, the volunteer teams collaborate with the local teachers to define and create their projects and schedule.

The placements are an 'in at the deep end' experience and there is a need to be highly flexible and adapt to the needs of the placement on an ongoing basis. It usually takes several weeks before volunteers settle in and their roles become clearer.  Even then, the work remains demanding and all volunteers will have to work through periods of frustration and uncertainty.

It is up to each volunteer and their team to use their initiative and work in partnership with the Partner staff to see how and where they can best contribute. The placements are not highly structured in advance – a feature that makes them both challenging & filled with opportunity!    


Placement Overview

IN 2009, we will be sending 5 teams to work with our Partners in India and 3 Team to work with our Partners in Kenya. All the placements are broadly similiar, however there are differences between India and Kenya and then again between each individual Partner. Also, each placement varies from year to year as the Partners adapt to their changing needs & challenges. And the programme itself is constantly evolving to build on the lessons of each year.

Suas provides a general introduction to the volunteer role overall - but each team is expected to learn about the specific needs of their host organisation.

India placements

To date, the volunteers have focused on the teaching assistant role in non-formal teaching centres with children aged 4 -12. These centres support disadvantaged children to mainstream into the Government run Primary Schools. Volunteers generally work in pairs, across a number of centres – teaching English and Maths, as well as introducing new games, rhymes, songs and teaching techniques & tools. The centres are generally small with one or two classrooms and around 60 children per centre (although this varies significantly depending on the centre). 

Additional activities specific to each organisation are listed below:

Prayas, Delhi:  Former volunteers have organised extra curricular activities such as ‘Creation Week’ with five days of sport, culture and environmental awareness for 120 children.  Volunteers have also worked in the Juvenile Justice Unit, the Resources Unit, the Girls' Shelter, as well as the Prayas Educational Unit helping with research and IT.  Suas have been working with Prayas since 2004.

Prayas Jahangirpuri, Delhi: 2008 was the first year that Suas volunteers worked with the staff and children of Jahangirpuri home for boys. There are approximately 200 boys (aged 4-17)  living in the centre. The boys are there for a variety of reasons: orphaned, court order (due to juvenile crime), run-aways, or rescued from child labour. Volunteers worked with the boys teaching English and Maths. In 2008, they also organised afternoon activities such as art & crafts, break-dancing, music, and basketball.

Development Action Society (DAS), Kolkata: Volunteers have worked closely with DAS staff, supporting the teachers to in order to create comprehensive lesson plans, assisting with data input on DAS' new impact assessment project and organising staff excursions. The volunteers have assisted in the painting of schools and have accompanied DAS pupils to the Children’s Parliament.  Suas have been working with DAS since 2002.

Sabuj Sangha, Kolkata:  Previous volunteers have worked with the Sabuj Sangha teachers to make classroom materials and teaching aids.  Volunteers have assisted in painting murals, sports days and have worked with boys at Sabuj Sangha’s residential centre.  Volunteers have also spent time in the rural area called the Sunderbans.  Suas has been working with Sabuj Sangha since 2003.

Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Kolkata: 2008 was the first year that Suas Volunteers worked with the staff and children of Vikramshila. They worked as assistants in the Nabadisha non-formal education centres, teaching basic numeracy and literacy to children aged 4-14. The 2008 team also worked on curriculum development; organised sports days; and held art & craft activities in the afternoons

Challenges reported by the volunteers on the Indian placements include:

  • Language barrier

  • The climate: temperatures range from 30-50C or higher with high humidity

  • Lack of resources in the centres

  • Witnessing the poverty of the local area and understanding the challenges faced by the children and your families

  • Cultural barriers

  • The infamous ‘Delhi belly’

  • Transport (Long train journeys to many schools)

An average day working in Sabuj Sangha:

7 am

get the train

8 am – 11

assist in school

11 am – 12


12 noon – 3

assist in school

3 pm – 4

train home

1- 2 hours

preparation in the evening
( or go to St. Mary’s orphanage)

Kenyan Placements

In Kenya, volunteers have focused primarily on a teaching/teaching assistant role in the classroom, working with students mainly aged between 9 – 18 years. Volunteers have been of particular use supporting Maths, English, and Science as well as correcting exams.

Volunteers also get involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, drama & music.  Volunteers have shared IT skills with the teachers, held seminars on topics including: alternatives to corporal punishment (which is formally banned but used at times), business skills, public speaking and study skills. In the second half of the placement, volunteers design and deliver a three week ‘Summer Camp’ with a range of extra curricular activities and additional tuition.

Gatoto, Nairobi: Former volunteer teams in Gatoto have helped to organise an extra tuition programme to support and complement the existing class timetable. Teachers and volunteers have worked in tandem to design the three week camp at the end of the Programme including field trips, sports days and variety shows. Fundraising projects have been undertaken to support the School Choir. Suas have been working with Gatoto since 2003.

Kongowea, Mombasa:  Former Kongowea teams have worked with the teachers to organise school trips, hold Sports days and variety shows.  Volunteers have organised guest speakers from local Non-Governmental Organisations, such as Kwacha Africa and the Kenyan Alliance for the Advancement of Children’s Rights, as well as from the local Polytechnic College to speak on subjects such as career options, children’s rights, drug abuse, and the commercial sex industry. Suas and Kongowea have been working together since 2004.

Maweni, Mombasa:  In previous years volunteers have collaborated closely with the Maweni teachers to deliver an extra tuition programme to support the class timetable.  Volunteers have assisted in First Aid courses for students and staff, along with Health talks, as well as organising a reading club for the pupils. Volunteers have worked in partnership with the teachers painting the staff room and creating murals. Maweni and Suas have been working together since 2005.

Some of the key challenges that previous volunteers have reported include:

  • Large class sizes (up to 110 in Maweni & Kongowea)

  • Cultural barriers and differences in approach

  • Lack of resources in the schools

  • Teacher motivation (esp. where class sizes are very large)

  • At times yous have been asked to teach a class

  • Safety & security restrictions

  • Witnessing the poverty of the local area and understanding the challenges faced by the children and your families

  • Organisations very over-stretched

An average day working in Kongowea:

8 a.m - 12

assist in classes

12 to 2 pm

lunch with teachers

2 pm to 3 pm

assist in classes

3 pm to 5 pm

grinds and extra curricular activities

1 – 2 hours

preparation in the evening

F) Global Perspectives

Understanding the Wider Context

After the Programme

In addition to the work placement 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 both Public and Private Sectors, 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 include:

  • 'Leading in the HIV Challenge' by Dr Ceppie Merry of the 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 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, Transparency International and local NGOs.

Mid-way through the summer, all the Suas volunteers in each host country gather for a series of workshops and field trips - 'Global Perspectives Week'.

By this stage, volunteers will have spent 4-5 weeks working at a grassroots level for their host project, and 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– 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, other NGOs fit in? What are the challenges faced by the Partner Organisation?  Why have they arisen? 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 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.

The week also provides a chance to relax a little and have some fun!

After the Programme..

Many volunteers have shared what they have learnt and experienced of other cultures and the challenges of development through giving presentations, talks, writing articles for local, national and college newspapers. Volunteers have also the option of signing up for one of the Global Issues Courses.

G) Return to Ireland

Return Weekend

On their return, the volunteers attend a debriefing weekend in October. This provides an opportunity to reflect on their experiences and what they've learnt, both as individuals and as a team and to hear more about the experiences of other volunteers in different locations. Over the weekend the volunteers and their team revisit the highs and lows of the Programme, capture feedback and provide suggestions for future Programmes. Towards the end of the weekend volunteers will focus on the ‘what next’ question.


Each volunteer completes two individual reports: the first half-way through the placement, the second at the end. Each team also provides a Placement Report for the Volunteer Programme team and following year’s volunteers. The Partner Organisations also report on the activities, benefits and challenges of the volunteer placements, including their recommendations and requests for the subsequent year.

Return Reception

This provides the volunteers an opportunity to present the activities of their Partner Organisation and their placements, to their friends and family, as well as to the Programme’s supporters and donors. Returning volunteers prepare a photo exhibit and videos for display on the night.

Short-term action projects

The Return Weekend marks the formal end of the Programme. Many volunteers conduct follow-up projects after their return; these include anything from writing articles in local papers, giving presentations in schools, to fundraising for their host project.

Volunteers also have the chance to become involved in the ongoing activities of Suas, such as the Suas University Societies, Suas Alumni Network, Partner Support and the ongoing development of Suas’ projects in Ireland and overseas. - -

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