“The work we do as ICS entrepreneur volunteers may not be as easy to see as building a house, but developing SMEs and helping boost the economy is the fastest was to reduce a country’s poverty rate” CW/ICS volunteer, Zambia
The first week entailed training the volunteers which all started with in the in-country volunteers (ICV’s) greeting the eager United Kingdom volunteers (UKV’s) with a live song and dance to boost morale and to forge some strong bonds between people who had very similar interests in helping others regardless of their very different backgrounds.
From here we had guest speakers of successful local entrepreneurs who communicated very valuable knowledge of their stories and how they became successful to the sponge like volunteers who were soaking up everything they could get.
Once the training has completed as a Team Leader my role is to facilitate the programme and ensure the volunteers welfare is cared for. This means I have accessibility to multiple different businesses giving me great exposure to the impact that the volunteers can have.
One volunteer partnership is helping a woodwork and ceramic art producer, who previously had their entire production facility physically destroyed by someone who believed they had a greater stake to the ground that the business was on. The business owner has fantastic knowledge on how to produce high quality art and interior design but lacks knowledge on how to increase his sales. The volunteers have analysed the market they are in, the competitors and the target audience in detail and by combining this with my personal experience in Sales back from the UK we created a highly focused sales plan that knows who to target, how to sell the superior products and how to compete more effectively in the fairly saturated market. Following this the volunteers went out to successfully sell and market the products to consumers such as high end hotels. The increase in sales meant a lot to the business owner who could see his enterprise, his livelihood, becoming more stabilised.
Another volunteer partnership is working with a fruit juice company, which started because the business owner wanted to help out the local community and so produced and gave away fruit juice for free. The juice was really good which meant that the community she was helping encouraged her to support herself and her family by selling the juice instead of giving it away. The business owner is a genuine, caring and hard-working woman but lacks the business knowledge to really grow the business. The volunteers have helped with production efficiency and hygiene, creating a set of financial books to help record cash flow and profit, and to assist her to better market her product and increase sales. The help the volunteers have provided has had a substantial influence in ensuring that the business can not only survive but to grow as well.
I have seen business owners’ looks of gratitude as they can see the volunteers’ hard work paying off and this fills me with a huge sense of reward knowing that we truly are helping these local businesses to become more successful which in turn provides great support to the local economy and ultimately help to tackle poverty.