Thoughts on Choosing a Volunteer Role I

I realise that it is not very clear from the blog what work I actually do down here in Zambia. That is partly intentional as I tend to come out in a rash when reading blogs that are nothing more than a tedious description of somebody’s daily life. In spite of this a few hardy souls have asked me to describe my role within the organisation and how I came to volunteer with them.

Over the next two weeks as I enjoy some of the amazing sights Zambia has to offer with my parents, I thought I might post a few thoughts on what I do and how I came to do it. As this global recession doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon, it might be useful for those with a bit more time on their hands than they would like and an interest in taking a different path for their next job. So this week, what I do…

Well my rather grand title is Senior Management Advisor to Alliance Zambia, a linking organisation of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance. We are a proudly Zambian non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting community action for health and HIV in Zambia. We employ over 30 full time employees and a network of over 500 volunteers across the country.

What that means in practice is that I support the management teams in Lusaka (5 senior managers, 5 junior managers) in the day to day running of the organisation. That covers a whole variety of tasks and activities but has so far included the selection of a new board, the generation of a new brand and marketing strategy for the organisation, evaluation and redesign of organisational structures, training sessions on management theory and practice and generally helping out wherever and however I can.

I trust you get the general idea – trying to bring some of the skills and experiences I have gained from the private sector into the public/non profit sector. This rather nifty concept in skill sharing is the brain child of Julie Saunders, Sujit Gosh and the good people at PEPAL. This is it’s pilot year and I am proud to be in one of 9 such partnerships around the world.

So far I cannot be happier with how things have worked out. I really do feel like I can put some of skills to good use and the perspectives and experiences it has given me on life and development on this side of the world are truly mind blowing. I could not recommend the experience highly enough for those thinking about taking the plunge.

That said, it is to the unending credit of my colleagues here in Zambia that they have welcomed me with such open arms and provided the forum for us to work together on so many interesting and hopefully useful projects. It is worth saying that now sitting on the inside of an NGO, I understand that it is not always easy to find the right place for volunteers and they can often take more time and energy out of the organisation than they go on to provide. I am extremely grateful to all the staff at the Alliance for investing the time in me and the partnership to ensure its success.

How I got here is a whole other story, which I will save for next week.


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