International volunteering for 18-25 year olds

Meet Mahomed

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Mahomed was selling health and safety products before he volunteered with Challenges Worldwide ICS Entrepreneur in Zambia. He saw ICS as an ideal stepping stone to a long term career in the charity sector and his placement motivated him to work even harder when he returned home.

Mahomed's story

"Challenges Worldwide ICS Entrepreneur focuses on encouraging economic growth in developing countries by suporting small and medium enterprises. I worked with Entry Point Africa on a project to set up the Association of Increased Value Addition in African Commodities (AIVAAC), an organisation that wants to add value to Africa's raw products and increase export sales income.

"My work counterpart's name was Fossy. We were tasked with adding meat to the bare bones of the concept note that AIVAAC was based around. To start off with we went through numerous journals to get a better understanding of the association's goals and what it means to add value.

"After this we were asked to create a brand strategy, a marketing and fundraising plan to be reviewed by the association board members and to develop content for their new website.

"Our supervisor loved the brand strategy we proposed and was very keen to start using the tag line, vision and mission statement we provided. He was also very impressed with the new web content we came up with and will use it on the new website. The marketing and fundraising plans will be used to provide additional ideas for the board members once the association is fully established.

"All of the work we did was documented in a report that one of the board members will present at the African Union summit. There are very few organisations like AIVAAC across Africa and I believe that in five years they will become one of the leading providers of consultancy in value addition across the continent."

Working in Zambia

"Working in Zambia is tough. The local people are used to working less than the nine to five schedule I had in England. I was very lucky in having a proactive boss who gave me regular guidance, but our different ways of working along with the eight hours of power outages a day could make some days very unproductive.

"However we structured our work to complete tasks that needed power while we had it and saved other tasks for when we didn't.

"I found people very friendly. They all engaged in conversation and took interest in my life away from Zambia. They all made me feel welcome and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

My host home

"I lived with a different counterpart, Museba, and the Zimba family. I can honestly say that this was the highlight of my placement. I loved living in my host home and was cared for like I was their son. They did absolutely everything for me and I didn't want for anything. They would go out of their way to make sure I was comfortable and would regularly ask what I would like to eat for every meal.

"It’s going to be incredibly difficult and upsetting to leave as I have a new family in Zambia, one that has loved me better than I could have ever wished for. I just hope I can see them again soon!"

What I learnt

"I’ve learnt a lot from my ICS placement, but probably the most valuable thing is appreciating my circumstances. I always knew I was lucky to be living in England, but living in Zambia for ten weeks has made me realise to what extent. Simple things like education and health care, which we take for granted, are serious luxuries here and only a few richer members of society can access the best schools.

"Even simple things such as water are limited. We can access clean water whenever we want, but here many houses rely upon neighbouring houses who have bore holes to access clean water. Without power the electric pumps cannot bring water to the surface and many families go hours, if not days, without a reliable source of water.

"Consequently, this placement has given me more motivation to work harder when I’m back home. I have been afforded so many opportunities residing in the UK and I should not waste it complaining over things which in retrospect are insignificant.

"I’ve decided for certain now that a career in international development is for me. I’ve witnessed firsthand the difference I can make to society, both at work and at home, and I want to ensure that it does not stop here. I want to make a difference in the world and ICS has made me realise this."