CIPFA's Spreadsheet Magazine meets AfID Volunteer Mike Fearon16.07.2018

Earlier this year CIPFA accountant Mike Fearon travelled to Rwanda’s bustling capital Kigali to provide accounting and financial management support to social agribusiness High Performance Service (HPS)

HPS mills and packages rice, and supports smallholder farmers in generating sustainable incomes through improved access to national markets. They are one of the 500 partners of UK based social enterprise Accounting for International Development (AfID), who arrange overseas assignments for accountants.

We caught up with Mike on his return to hear all about his six-week placement.

Q. What was your motivation to volunteer?
A. I am now almost completely retired from work, I’m not very good at golf, and I hate the idea of going on cruises. I liked the concept of working with people in emerging economies, and helping them to develop their existing skills.

Q. Why did you decide to volunteer with HPS?
A. A developing economy needs capital, and to access investment for enterprise it needs credibility, particularly in accounting and financial management processes. This assignment was about helping a commercial enterprise to present its accounts to potential investors, and convince them that it has sound financial management and reporting processes.

Q. How do you feel you made an impact to the organisation and the local staff?
A. Jean Baptiste, the company’s accountant, is recently qualified, and starting his career. I have been helping him to apply his skills to the specifics of financial reporting and the application of international Financial Reporting Standards.

Q. What was your most rewarding experience?
A. I have helped Jean Baptiste to implement an accounting package, and to modify existing spreadsheet based records and link them via a tailored import package. He has taken up the challenge and succeeded, and to see this rapid professional development is very rewarding.

Q. What about outside of work?
A. I stayed in a small hotel with a largely African clientele, and was fortunate to meet a group of academics from various European countries on an intensive study tour looking at post conflict (in this case post-genocide) reconciliation in Rwanda. They stayed at the hotel for a week, and passed on a lot of information about their experience, and their contacts with the top levels of the Rwandan Government.

Q. How has volunteering benefitted you personally?
A. I have new contacts with Non-Governmental Organisations working in developing countries, and with politicians and civil servants in the Rwandan government. I am sure this will result in further opportunities to work in Rwanda or other countries, and to develop my own skills and those of others.

Q. Would you recommend volunteering overseas?
A. Without hesitation I would recommend this, particularly to those who are young and recently qualified, or retired but still cerebrally active. There is a great need and opportunity, particularly for people who have retired, and do not have to command a salary commensurate with their experience. It is a great way to learn about, and experience, the wider world.


Original article featured in the June/July edition of CIPFA's Spreadsheet magazine.