International volunteers for homeless honoured

THE Irish diplomatic corps yesterday honoured the army of international volunteers who work with the homeless in Ireland.

But a recession-driven surge in the numbers of Irish people signing up for full-time volunteer work with the homeless charity has prompted calls for a change in Government policy.

Noleen O’Callaghan, the head of Simon’s volunteering wing, revealed that international volunteers arriving to work full-time in Ireland are officially registered as tourists.

“There are no official statistics on how many international volunteers are here,” she said.

“I would like to see the Government promote full-time volunteering in Ireland by recognising it officially.”

And she also called on the Government to remove barriers which are preventing more Irish people from signing up for full-time volunteer work.

Simon has about 80 international full-time volunteers from 14 countries working all over Ireland. They sign up for a minimum six months; accommodation is provided; and they receive living expenses and a weekly allowance.

But the numbers of Irish people signing up for full-time volunteer work has soared from about 10% to 40% of the overall volunteer numbers in the last 18 months. In Cork alone, eight of 20 full-time volunteers are Irish.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheál Martin led the tributes to all the full-time volunteers yesterday as he launched its 2010 Simon Week.

Mr Martin said the attendance by members of the diplomatic corps is an acknowledgement of the contribution made by international volunteers.

Simon chief executive Patrick Burke said the charity wants to use the week to celebrate the contribution they make.



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