First-hand Africa Experience| Blog 4 – Working as a Volunteer

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Original 2017-10-30


Basics of interviewee

Name of interviewee: Zoe Zhao

Volunteer duration: 2016.5- 2016.9

Volunteer ID: 025326




Author: This week we will dig deep into content of volunteer work. Zoe, can you give us a brief overview of the project you involved.


Zoe: Well, I am one of the early-stage members under CIS team. I participated in the pilot project right after CIS reconstruction. I was responsible for preliminary research, coordination with slum schools and preparations part of the pilot.


Author: It sounds pretty hard-core?


Zoe: (laughs) So to speak, although these team work are also subdivided. In fact, we often work in collaboration with each other, so that the overall efficiency will be much higher.


Author: How do the team allocate workload? Is it by authority?


Zoe: This mainly depends on job requirements and personal motivation. In general it is relatively flexible, volunteers have the chance to talk about their motivations and expected outcome during the interview process, and the team will allocate work based on your strength and intertest.


Author: How is the working hours like? Can you share a bit more on your day-to-day operation?


Zoe: We do not have a fixed work schedule. And here, everyone plan their time according to work progress. There is weekly meeting for on-the-ground team in Kenya to communicate with remote team in China.


Author: You talked about on-the-ground team and also remote team. So what are they exactly?


Zoe: This is actually a manifestation of CIS’s operational model. The core team is based in China and responsible for strategy and project management, this is what I referred as remote team. On-the-ground team is based abroad where they are needed, such as Kenya. So for each project, the work is done hands in hands by two teams.


Author: So for newbies, which team will they be attached under?


Zoe: It depends on specific circumstances and work content. However, every new member will be assigned a mentor, who may comes from the core team, or may be from the local team.


Author: Why this mentorship system?


Zoe: The aim is to allow smooth transition to new work. In addition, if newbies encounter any problem at work, they always have someone to ask


Author: What sort of problem have you encountered at work?


Zoe: There were quite a few challenges, after all, it is the first time I take up such job. My work involves practical challenges, and it is also often the case they bring more challenges than theoretical challenges.


For instance, upon finalising the list of potential school partners, there was one school which scored high in most of the areas assessed. Though I was holding back as the school is far from Nairobi, and therefore would require larger amount of investment. I was very tangled.


Author: Apart from this geographical factors, how does this school perform in comparison to the others?


Zoe: It outperforms the other schools. This school does not have a steady income flow, and has a strong desire to be self-sufficient.


Author: What is the final decision then?


Zoe: Given the school has taken high initiative, and also being very cooperative, along with other considerations, we decided to give it a go. Nevertheless, we also made few adjustments to the original proposal. To control costs, we have discussed with school teachers and also put forward an innovative idea. The new proposal takes into account of school’s situation, also encourage parents to participate. Indeed a very exciting innovation.


Author: Sounds great! Do share some photos with us please.


Zoe: Of course I will. Though getting back to the discussion, there were a lot of challenges every single day, whether it was teamwork or individual task. Although I may not have been exposed to this area before, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I have made.


Author: Yeah I reckon. And what was your day-to-day routine?


Zoe: I was often on the scene with local team. I was involved in specific tasks such as training and liaison. Also every week we adjust our plan and subsequent program design according to these first-hand information.


Author: Before the end of our conversation, can you pick a phrase to sum it up?


Zoe: I guess… should be “energetic” (laugher). It was because I was interested in it, and therefore wanted to experience more. To me, it is more a process of realizing an idea with a group of friends who share a common interest!


Author: Well, let’s stop it here. And next week we will take it from here.