I should maybe start this post with telling you the purpose of my stay here in Africa, as I’m not entirely sure I’ve mentioned it before.
I applied to come here to do an internship/voluntary work and I was intending to do a project on either HIV/Aids and Gender or Human Rights Promotion. However, both of these projects collapsed and it was in my hands to look for another project to occupy my time with.
I finally joined the “Microfinance and Entrepreneurship” project and it turned out to be one of my best decisions here so far. This project focused on giving the students some basic knowledge about the things you need to keep in mind when you want to start a business and that, if you have innovative ideas, passion and a good plan, it is possible to start a successful company. Although I don’t know much about the subject itself it was a great experience for me. I could learn about the topics of economics and business, but also teach a bit to try help improving their presentation skills. We taught for two weeks in a small college and organised a Closing Conference at the end. There the students were able to present the business plans they worked on in front of a large crowd, including succesful entrepreneurs and other students. We also worked hard on getting partnerships with banks and microfinance institutions. Both initially agreed and were quite enthusiastic about this idea, but then cancelled at the last minute, which was a big disappointment for us, as well as for our students.
This project was supposed to be a trial run, to be expanded if it turned out to be successful. Today we saw how successful it really was.
We went back to the school today to hand out the same surveys they were given before the project started. “Do you want employment after you finish school, or start your own business?” “Did this course meet your expectations?” “Would you recommend it to others?”
The feedback was around 99% positive and very enthusiastic. At the beginning only 4 out of 38 students were thinking about maybe starting their own business after school, now more than half of them do. All of them would recommend this class to others. It met and even succeeded their expectations and pretty much the only negative feedback (if you can even call it negative, since we fully agree with them) we got was that the time was way too short and they wish to expand it to more weeks, if not months.
They wrote that this lecture made them happy, that it was a great way of teaching and that it changed their outlook on life and their future. I had goosebumps while reading the feedback and talking to them. This is so much more than we had expected. So much more than we could ever have hoped for. I’m so proud of my “teammates” in this project. Since I joined late I wasn’t as involved but they actually shaped the entire concept of this class themselves and it must be such a reward for them as well. I could not be more proud.
Eta: I named this post “Change?” because I was always (and still am) highly sceptical if volunteer work can actual change anything at all. I would never go into this experience with this as a goal I work towards, for me things like this are a pleasant side effect that will never cease to surprise me.