Keira Shepperson (CIPFA) had already gained extensive experience in the international development sector with the Department for International Development. However, for some time she had wanted to see, first-hand, how the projects were delivered on the ground. Due to time and money commitments Keira had been unable to support one of AfID’s partners, but it remained ingrained in the back of her mind for a time when she could. When the time came, Kiera wanted an opportunity that would not only meet her programme needs, but also give her more of an insight into the local life and culture, which she may not have got from a normal holiday.
After speaking with the programmes team at AfID, assignment options were carefully tailored to her experience, skills and personal preferences.
Keira undertook an eight-week volunteer placement through AfID and supported This Life Cambodia (TLC) in Siem Reap.
TLC focusses on working with communities to develop projects that provide or enhance opportunities and directly benefit the lives of children and families in Cambodia. Its programmes provide support for communities to develop the essential infrastructure and skills needed to make positive change in their lives and break free from poverty.
AfID caught up with Keira to find out more about her volunteering experience…
In what capacity have you been supporting This Life Cambodia?
My main areas of work was helping then to pull together their budget for 2014/15, presenting this in a format for the board of directors, preparing a cashflow statement and setting up templates and processes to enable them to monitor progress against the budget during the year. I also did some scenario planning based on different fundraising targets and expanding existing programmes.
How do you feel your CIPFA qualification has helped you with this?
My accounting qualification and experience helped me in all aspects of the role. In some cases I had to go back to basic accounting principles as TLC had a basic accounting package. Also as NGO's are non-profit organisations my CIPFA background was very helpful in thinking about how they should budget. I also updated their finance policy and created a reserves policy using my accounting knowledge.
Can you give an example of how you added value?
I added value by simplifying the process so that it was easily understandable by staff and management. This meant that they understood the financial position of TLC and their responsibilities in managing this. The scenario planning information will enable the Board to plan for the future and make decision about programme delivery such as purchasing new assets or expanding programmes if additional funding can be found.
Was it a rewarding experience?
It was an immensely rewarding experience. I work in international development and for me this was a chance to directly see how projects are delivered and the issues faced by small NGO's. It was also a humbling experience coming from a background where the public sector gets a block grant from the government – you have to manage this but at least you haven’t had to raise it yourself year on year! It also gave me a great insight into Cambodian life and culture which you don't get when you are just on holiday in a country. I also got the chance to travel round other areas of Cambodia and see what a beautiful country it is with great people.
What would you say to other CIPFA members thinking of volunteering?
I would definitely recommend this experience. I first heard of AfID when I was a CIPFA student and I finally got to do it a few later - it was always in the back of my mind but I had to find the time and money to do it. So even if you can't do it now it's something to think of in the future. It was also a chance for me to go back to the basics of my qualification and do things I hadn't since I completed the qualification such as accounts preparation and double entry. But these are the things small NGO's are really struggling with and within an environment where you have to raise your own finances it's so important to know your financial position.