Why not consider the possibility of volunteering at home as an alternative to going overseas? Both poverty and underdevelopment exist in Ireland, despite its wealth relative to that of many other countries. Actions to end poverty and injustice can therefore come from both a local and a global base. If we only go overseas to help, but do not act to challenge the root causes of global injustice, including its manifestations at home, our actions will not help prevent the recurrence of present problems.
Some issues which are not likely to be resolved without a significant shift in public awareness leading to increased political will in developed countries include:
- debt burdens;
- unfair trade relations;
- arms sales;
- gender inequality;
- environmental destruction and global warming;
- low levels of development aid by rich countries; and
- sweat-shops, child labour and lack of union recognition.
There are a large number of groups in Ireland that work for development with a global perspective without undertaking projects overseas or regularly sending Irish people there. Comhlámh’s INDEX contact list contains information about many of these organisations and is available on the Comhlámh website.
Solidarity work from home can have the following positive effects:
- Raising awareness among Irish and European people about an issue, its causes and effects, and their potential role in working for change;
- Building the political will for change, so that politicians realise it is in their best interest to bring about change;
- Bothering and embarrassing the power abusers, whether they are Northern governments or firms, international organisations, or Southern undemocratic regimes;
- For people in developing countries who are struggling against oppression in one form or another, our solidarity can be an encouragement to them;
- It has a moral and ‘historical’ value, in that we benefit morally from having sought to convey the voices of those who are oppressed.
However, it is worth remembering that solidarity work in Ireland will not provide you with the same experiences as volunteering overseas will. The experience of being directly involved with a project in a developing country will give you first-hand insights into the realities of life for people within the host community. Solidarity work can require a more long-term vision, as progress can happen very slowly. Both types of work can be very valuable in working to achieve global justice: it’s important to remember that they are not mutually exclusive and that many groups would welcome your involvement in solidarity work from home without having previous experience of living or working in a developing country.