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Surath (QBE)

The Partner

Barefeet Theatre
Lusaka

Barefeet Theatre is a non-governmental organization (NGO) that uses play, creativity, and empowerment to give vulnerable children in Zambia a chance at a better life. 

 
Barefeet was founded by former street children as a response to the plight of young people living on Zambian streets. Through the power of performance, educational workshops, and more, it develops vulnerable youth into physically healthy, cognitively, and socially competent young people.

Barefeet Theatre

The Volunteer

Surath (QBE) Name
Surath (QBE)
Employer
MITRE
Position
Finance Manager
Surath, an experienced Finance Manager living in Denmark, had previously volunteered through AfID at Barefeet Theatre in Zambia. Barefeet Theatre is a non-governmental organisation that uses play, creativity, and empowerment to give vulnerable children in Zambia a chance at a better life. Even before this volunteering experience, Surath had previously shown his commitment to pro bono work at two separate organisations. 
 
Surath moved back to the USA in late 2013 where he took up a full-time role in the sector at MITRE, a not-for-profit organisation that operates research and development centres sponsored by the federal government. Even though Surath wasn’t able to commit to another overseas volunteer programme, he was still interested in supporting one of AfID’s partner organisations more locally. 
 
AfID introduced him to Global Minimum, an organisation that runs tinkering laboratories and design challenges in Sierra Leone, Kenya, and South Africa that all provide enabling tools, mentorship, resources and network to youth between the age of 13 and 18. Surath assisted Global Minimum remotely from Washington and helped to establish a financial policy & procedures manual, create a monthly bank reconciliation system, implement QuickBooks and establish a standard receipt book. 
 
AfID caught up with Surath and Mathias, Co-Founder of Global Minimum, to see how the remote volunteering opportunity went… 
 
Global Minimum – Mathias Esmann - Co-Founder, Treasurer
 
Why did you require a volunteer? 
Our organization had seen a lot of growth in terms of revenue and the number of people served, and no one on the team had the expertise to put accounting systems in place to handle this growth. We needed a helping hand to set up the proper reporting structures so that we could focus on our core service. 
 
What was the reason you chose a volunteer over a permanent member of staff?
The systems we need to have set up are fairly uncomplicated to use, but setting them up requires accounting acumen.  
 
Were all the key deliverables met and how successful was the placement?
Yes, without a doubt. Surath met expectations on all accounts and even offers his time after the end of the assignment to help us implement the tools he developed. 
 
What would be your advice to other orgs. considering an AfID volunteer?
Do it! This is one of the fastest ways to get accounting expertise in to your organization. Be sure to devote enough time to the project since it will be a rapid knowledge transfer. 
 
How was the recruitment process managed by AfID? 
It was very smooth. We were given several resumés to choose from and the opportunity to interview each one without having to necessarily engage any one. 
 
Global Minimum – Surath Wijetunga - Volunteer
 
What was your role at Global Minimum?
I assisted with setting up QuickBooks so that it helped the organization do their reporting to key customers such as the IRS, Donors, and internal management.  Also, I recommend policies and implement procedures that will help them improve on financial controls.
        
Did you work in the office, or remotely? If so how did this work out for you?
I worked remotely with one face to face visit with the COO of the organization.  Communication was via video chat on Skype or Google Hangout as well as email.  Also, I used the share screen functionality to be able to walk through presentations or show documents.  One of the main challenges with the organization was time zone differences and trying to organize meetings that fitted in with everyone's schedule.
 
Did you meet all the key deliverables of the assignment?
Yes. The assignments specific deliverables were to:
1. Establish a comprehensive Financial & Accounting Policies and Procedures manual for the organization
2. Establish monthly bank reconciliation utilizing QuickBooks
3. Assist with setting up QuickBooks so that it helps the organization do their reporting to key customers such as the IRS, Donors, and internal management
4. Establish standard receipt book which the programs can use to submit back information on transactions that did not come with a receipt.
 
Would you consider doing another local (USA) volunteer assignment in the future?
Yes, I enjoyed my experience and I would be happy to provide my services again.
  
What would be your advice to other finance professionals considering a local volunteering placement?
Be fully committed with your time and make sure you agree up front on what your key deliverables will be, with the organization you are working with.
  
How did AfID handle the recruitment process/ introduction?
This is my second time with AfID and they were great.  I cannot say enough about how important a role this organization plays in acting as a connector in bringing qualified professionals to organizations needing help. Absolutely fabulous.