It all started on 10th/02/2017 with a congratulations message from Marcel Koomson the Challenges Worldwide Programme Co-ordinator in Uganda telling me that I had been accepted on the programme as a Volunteer Team Leader. I would be responsible for supporting a group of volunteers from Uganda and the UK during a three-month period from February to May 2017.
Challenges Worldwide is a social enterprise based in Scotland. They support entrepreneurs and enterprises to strengthen their skills and abilities, helping them to grow business that generate income, sustainable economic growth and employment. Challenges Worldwide ICS is a development programme that brings together young people from the UK and developing countries and offers them the chance to play a key role in reducing poverty in some of the world’s poorest countries. Challenges Worldwide volunteers work with growing businesses across Africa and Challenges have been working here in Uganda for several years.
I was excited about joining a team of vibrant young people with diverse knowledge and cultural background from Uganda and the UK at the same time nervous about my position and responsibilities as a Team Leader. Filled with mixed feeling I knew it was the perfect opportunity for me to improve my knowledge on how social enterprises operate and how to improve their effectiveness in creating social and economic change. My first week in the programme was really a learning period, I learnt how to live with my fellow team leaders Patricia from Uganda, Anna and Chris from UK with support from Challenges staff members, especially the Programme Manager Nicola and Co-ordinator Marcel. I was able to adapt to the new cross cultural working environment. I am building my social capital and my network with people in business, volunteers and staff who I believe will be very essential in developing my career.
Before joining Challenges Worldwide I had worked with different organizations both government and non-governmental in different positions. I have been looking for an opportunity to get business experience and learn how it can be integrated into social projects to create lasting change in the Ugandan community. This programme has offered this unique opportunity and I am now learning the potential that businesses have in changing people`s livelihood and improving economies. Since I joined the programme, I have been able to interact with different social entrepreneurs in agriculture, ITC, Health, Education renewable energy. Through these interactions I have been able to understand how different businesses operate and are managed. This experience has already improved my understanding of business which I believe will be relevant in my future work.
Through the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) trainings, we are learning how different tools, theories, and approaches can be used in improving social enterprises and enable them make more impact in their communities. Being a Team Leader, one of my roles is to facilitate CMI sessions for the volunteers and ensure they are applying the knowledge and skills in their business. This has helped to improve my communication skills and also my knowledge about business consultancy and building an effective client relationship. This programme has offered me a unique opportunity of new learning. This experience gives myself and volunteers a chance to understand what methods work in a particular setting, which is not offered in the training institutions in Uganda.
I can confidently say, even just five weeks in, that this programme has not only contributed to my career development, but has provided a perfect opportunity to contribute to the development of my country through supporting businesses and enterprises in Uganda to operate more effectively and increase their social impact to create a sustainable and a more empowered community.