AfID volunteer Michelle Wright featured in CIMA magazine08.12.2016

After growing up in Stockport, outside Manchester in the north of the UK, I gained a 2:1 BA Hons in Economics & Business from Leeds Metropolitan University. Following some temping for the Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, I was hired by tile retailer Topps Tiles.
I took on this role in the purchase ledger department on the basis that I would be supported by the company to study CIMA. FinanciaI controller Martin Horton FCMA, CGMA backed me and I started CIMA in 2007 and was promoted to assistant management accountant.
I subsequently moved to become a trainee management accountant at Bolton Wanderers Football Club in 2009, despite being a Manchester United fan. I was then promoted to the role of management accountant once I’d passed CIMA.
It was a fascinating experience working for Bolton, who were riding high in the Premier League when I joined. But when the club was relegated to the Championship, the league below, it resulted in a lot of changes including redundancies, following a drop in the amount of TV revenue the club received.
In 2013 I left for Canada, where I stayed for two years working in various capacities and in different locations. I then set off for Central America and it was during this career break that I thought I could use my skills in a volunteering capacity after seeing the work of Accounting for International Development (AfID) on the CIMA website.  
AfID gives accountants the opportunity to use their accounting and finance skills to support charities and not-for-profits across the developing world. Through their Volunteer Services Manager David Busby I went to work at a charity called Amigos de Santa Cruz in Guatemala. It was set up to improve the lives of the indigenous people of Santa Cruz la Laguna, a remote village near Lake Atitlán and surrounding villages, through education and sustainable economic empowerment.
Santa Cruz is considered by the Guatemalan government to be one of the 45 poorest townships in the country, with illiteracy and malnutrition almost amongst the highest. Amigos believes that education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and allows those who live in the region to improve their own lives and that of their communities.
I had a brilliant experience because I was able to make a big contribution. The two English-speaking administrators had no finance experience and Rosalia, the only person with any finance competence, had taught herself and needed retraining. She was very receptive to my guidance and her eagerness to learn correct procedures, and the appreciation shown by all the staff, was a huge part of what made the experience so enjoyable.
Once I had taught myself how to use the financial software I was able to upskill not just the finance staff but others across the charity on issues such as co-ordinating spreadsheets and budgeting. 
I didn't realise that there was such a need for volunteer accountants. I was nervous about what help I would be able to provide but it turned out that there were so many ways they could benefit from the skills that CIMA has afforded me. 
I have just started a new role at the Manchester-based digital marketing agency Dentsu Aegis Network, so I don't have any plans for another foreign placement in the near future. But I would be open to volunteering in the UK.
My experience helped me to get my current job because it required me to demonstrate confidence in tackling a wide variety of challenges using the skills I learned studying CIMA.

Original article featured in CIMA's Financial Management magazine