Participating in the UCDVO volunteering programme was one of the highlights of my degree in UCD. It has increased my awareness and appreciation for new cultures along with allowing me to make new friends”. (UCDVO volunteer 2021)

Over 40 students and alumni from across UCD, from civil engineering to actuarial studies, from physiotherapy and dietetics to business analytics and law, all decided to take part in UCDVO’s (virtual) volunteering and global citizenship programme. 

For the first time in UCDVO’s history, the entire volunteering and global citizenship programme took place remotely. Most volunteers were juggling part-time jobs, caring responsibilities, and of course online studies, as well as taking part in the UCDVO programme which involved global citizenship education workshops, project planning sessions and fundraising.

In spite of the challenges, UCDVO implemented six virtual volunteering projects with partners in Uganda, Tanzania and Uganda. Three health projects were implemented in partnership with the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science (SPHPSS). 36 children were assessed and fitted for physiotherapy equipment which will improve their quality of life and inclusion in their communities. The teams also designed nutrition and physiotherapy education resources. Three education and livelihoods projects were also implemented in Uganda and India. Over 70 IT and basic business management sessions were delivered to young people in Uganda. In New Delhi, UCDVO volunteers collaborated with students from local universities to support 40 young girls from vulnerable communities to access online education.

Almost all of the feedback about virtual volunteering and global citizenship programme was positive while noting the limitations. Many respondents commented on the accessibility and convenience of virtual volunteering and were surprised how much could be achieved. It was noted that virtual volunteering provided a “safe and effective and non-invasive way to volunteer in a community”. Following the volunteering and global citizenship programme, most participants reported that ‘I am confident about engaging in ongoing action for global justice. 

Volunteers, partners and community members taking part in UCDVO Virtual Education Project, New Delhi, India

In their own words – UCDVO’s volunteers share their own perspectives 

Kylee Geary

“Being a part of UCDVO this past year has been an impactful and unforgettable experience. Due to COVID, we didn’t get to travel to Uganda or India, or Tanzania this summer, but I can honestly say that the experience of volunteering with UCDVO and the overseas partners was not diminished. It was inspiring to work with other volunteers who adapted so well and creatively to the challenge of virtual volunteering. The entire project was done virtually, from project and group meetings to the very last lesson.

I remember thinking back at the very start of the programme how daunting it seemed to pull together a four-week teaching project without ever meeting in person and across multiple different time zones, but it came together wonderfully in the end. The teaching was split up so that everyone did an hour of teaching each day over Zoom live. At first, I was a little unsure of how teaching virtually would go but by the end of the first week, everyone in our group had found their groove. We taught lessons on IT, health, and business and did cultural exchanges with our classes. Although we were the ones teaching, I think we learned just as much from the experience. I came to admire all the volunteers and the overseas partners who worked so hard to pull the programme together”.

Kylee is a 3rd year student studying BSc Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She was a student leader and volunteered with Nurture Africa, Nansana, Uganda on the Vocational training project.

Kylee Geary [pictured 2nd row, middle] at one of our global citizenship education workshops.

Roisin McDonagh

My experience volunteering with UCDVO has been unlike any other volunteer work I have done in the past. The virtual nature of the programme due to COVID-19 was a unique opportunity for me. I knew I would not be able to commit to the normal, in-person volunteering due to my college placement. Despite my enthusiasm, I had no idea what virtual volunteering actually meant, or what impact it could have.

The online programme days prior to the project were great fun and a chance to meet other volunteers. These sessions were very beneficial, however, I still found myself questioning what lasting effect virtual volunteering would have. It wasn’t until May when I started to see the project coming together. Meeting the Ferrando team and seeing how determined they were was really motivating for me. Their positive attitudes were extremely infectious for all of us!

I am enormously proud of what we achieved. Being a part of a team with Ferrando’s first nutrition student volunteers was a fantastic opportunity to put my degree into action. Getting to work with a group of physio and nutrition students was an invaluable learning experience that I will always remember. Volunteering with UCDVO has been very fulfilling. I have learned far more than I expected about being a global citizen, teamwork and, of course, Khasi and sign language! I am humbled at how meaningful online volunteering was. The project being virtual did not take away from the personal relationships that were formed and how emotional everyone was during our final Zoom call was a testament to this. I am so grateful for the time I spent volunteering with UCDVO. It has been an unforgettable experience that I cannot praise enough”.

Roisin is a 4th-year student studying BSc Human Nutrition at UCD. She volunteered with the Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre, Meghalaya, India.

Roisin McDonagh [pictured top right] at a workshop with partners and community members from the Ferrando Speech and Hearing Centre, India

Applications are now open for UCDVO’s volunteering and global citizenship programme 2021-22.

UCDVO’s 2021-22 volunteering and global citizenship education programme will combine the best of in-person global citizenship education with online/virtual international volunteering. A decision on a possible return to overseas travel will be made early in 2022. The programme is open to all UCD students and alumni. Staff and faculty are also encouraged to apply for leadership roles. See UCDVO’s website for application forms and details on how to apply.

The closing date for applications is Monday 18 October.