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Balloon Ventures Volunteer
About the placement/internship

Why did you decide to do a placement/internship?

To gain employment experience abroad.

How did you find your placement/internship?

Organisation website

Application process

The application process was firstly conducted online, containing personal information and then questions about why you would like to be on the programme. If you are successful, you then have to attend an assessment day. When you have been accepted onto the programme you then have to fundraise a minimum of £800 as a commitment to the project and the organisation.

Main responsibilities

My responsibilities were to manage 4 microbusinesses and 1 start-up entrepreneur, upholding the objective of facilitating growth and development on their business ideas, consequently alleviating them from poverty. Combining business and financial training, I worked in a small team to empower local Ugandan entrepreneurs and encourage them to pitch for an interest free loan, to further their long-term aspirations and enhance their quality of life for themselves and the local community.
Additionally, I Monitored and evaluated the impact Balloon Ventures creates for their entrepreneurs and the local community by being accountable for the quality of the data being produced.

Typical day

My group would attend meetings with entrepreneurs in order to prepare for their pitching document. Additionally, we trained them about marketing, strategy, and their finances such as record keeping, profit analysis and cash flows in order for their business to succeed. Moreover, I was chair for the socials committee where by I planned weekly social events for the team.

What did I enjoy about my placement/internship?

Whilst supporting my entrepreneurs I was living in a host family and sharing a room with a Ugandan counterpart. This gave me a cross-cultural experience as I learnt a lot about their lifestyles and made me feel part of the community for 11 weeks in Uganda.

Challenging aspects

At times, communication was hard with my entrepreneurs. Sometimes personal things got in the way of finding out information or they got sick so it meant we were behind on certain deadlines we had to complete. However, my team learnt to be patient and not take things to rigidly as a result.
Additionally, sometimes the entrepreneurs could not understand my English accent, therefore my working Ugandan counterpart had to translate which made me feel like I had built up less of a rapport with my entrepreneurs than them due to the language barrier.

Did you use any skills learned from your course?

1) Teamwork. This was heavily present throughout the duration of the programme as I was on a socials committee where we had to work as a team and all views had to be heard. Additionally, I was working in a team of 3 with my entrepreneurs. From my course in my first year I had 3 modules where by I had to do group work assignments, so as a result I felt that when on my placement already having worked in a team to support projects it helped me assign roles and learnt to collaborate and communicate with other team members effectively.
2) Analytical skills. This was used on placement as we were analysing financial data, market research and competitor analysis. When analysing data, the use of Excel from modules really helped as I could use the formulas to collate financial information and illustrate them in a way that my entrepreneurs would simply understand.

Has your time on placement influenced your future career choice?

From working on placement for 11 weeks in Uganda, it has confirmed that I would like to go into a career of development, specifically supporting businesses abroad. Having this experience has made me feel that working in the third sector is where I would like to start my career after doing a masters in International Development.

Advice to students

My piece of advice to students

Balloon Ventures is a great organisation if you want to volunteer overseas and make an impact to other peoples lives whilst supporting development. This placement I feel has been a two-way process. I have learnt a lot about cultural experiences, living overseas and being part of a new community. Additionally I feel that I have given business knowledge to support my entrepreneurs for the future so they can have a sustainable and profitable business.

Other comments

I would be more than happy to talk about my experience with balloon ventures to fellow students.

Form completed: 11 Aug 2017

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