The much-praised, purple-jacketed Gamesmakers of last summer’s Olympics have done wonders to raise the profile of volunteering in the UK, but have you considered international volunteering? You can do it through challenges worldwide.
Whether you’ve recently retired, have been made redundant or are simply looking for a career break, international volunteering can be a great opportunity to use the skills and expertise you’ve already acquired in a new and exciting environment.
One of the biggest challenges facing entrepreneurs and small businesses in developing countries is not lack of ideas, energy or commitment, but access to investment finance and the support of experienced business professionals. That’s where Challenges Worldwide can help.
Our network of volunteers give up their time to work with businesses and social enterprises in low and middle-income countries, sharing their expertise with staff and management. Not only do our volunteers enjoy facilitating this skills transfer, finding it a hugely rewarding and beneficial experience, but the organisation gains access to a knowledgeable mentor which they simply wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.
Each of our assignments begins with a request from an organisation in the developing world; from helping a Malawian vaccine company to improve their accounting and reporting systems, to training local entrepreneurs in Tanzania on sustainable business models. Whatever it is, it will have a real and lasting impact, which is why our returning volunteers always speak of the personal and professional satisfaction that a Challenges assignment brings them.
As one of our volunteers recently blogged:
“Every day brings me into contact with people who truly inspire me in the meaning of happiness. These people educate me, humble me and encourage me to be the man I aspire to be. I have a lot to learn and my personal growth is ongoing.
"I'm learning to be a better listener, as this new career requires active listening skills. It’s not about me any more it’s about them. Whatever skills I am sharing I know in my heart they are teaching me just as many skills.”
Those words are from Jerry, a volunteer who recently left behind a career in corporate advertising to focus on work that was more fulfilling and is now on his fourth mentoring assignment with Challenges. Reflecting on the end of his first assignment, where he provided support to Eco-Fuel Africa, a Ugandan business supplying an eco-friendly alternative to charcoal, Jerry felt that:
Finding my life's purpose.
“Connecting with Challenges Worldwide and being partnered with Eco-Fuel Africa has given me the purpose and direction, that for so long escaped me. For the first time in ages, my senses are stimulated by everything I see and do.
People talk about the ‘light bulb’ moment when they realize their life’s purpose. It took me a little longer, and a few bumpy roads, to get here but I really believe I have found it.”
How to go about it
If you, like Jerry, are interested in using your skills and expertise to support the development of private-sector development in low and middle income-countries, then do get in touch.
Browse the articles and suggestions on the ItsNever2Late2 website, which will help you identify where you strengths and interests lie, then let us know when you’re ready to embark on a new and exciting challenge.