Overseas Volunteering with AfID I Accountancy Magazine08.08.2011

In a little over 18 months since our first volunteer, Accounting for International Development (AfID) is pleased, and incredibly proud, to announce the placement of our 100th volunteer accountant.

On 17th March Sarah Johnson, a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young, will travel to Pondicherry in southern India to support the very deserving staff at Sharana, a small community based organisation working hard to give disadvantaged children an education. Sarah’s eight week assignment will take the total hours of pro-bono financial management, coaching and consultancy by our amazing volunteers to over 12,000. An extraordinary effort, that assisted the development, and in some cases survival, of some fantastic organisations.

“After 3 years working in air-conditioned offices, drinking lattés and compiling endless excel workbooks of audit testing, I’m thrilled to be able to use what I’ve learnt and see my efforts add real value to those most in need.

Having recently qualified and benefited from the expertise and training provided by ICAS and E&Y, I felt the time was right to give something back” said Sarah. A sentiment shared by probably all of our 100 volunteers. 

Grahame Woodward, an interim FD running his own business in Birmingham made time around his client commitments to share his wealth of experience with the Comboni Samaritans of Gulu in Uganda. His expert advice over 4 weeks was invaluable, strengthening their control of day-to-day financial activities and ensuring that a sound financial strategy was in place which would enable the organisation’s work in the community to continue should donor funding be reduced in the future.

“I was overwhelmed by the extent of the appreciation of my support and advice from the staff. My expectations, personally and professionally, as to what I could achieve were more than fulfilled. AfID’s support in providing the opportunity and delivering such professional support was critical. Indeed, I strongly believe many working accountants would love to become involved in this process. It’s just a matter of spreading the “word” and making it easy to happen!” As a newly qualified accountant with Deloitte Rob Davies had the opportunity to take a four month sabbatical and volunteer in Tamil Nadu, India, providing much needed accountancy and entrepreneurial advice to a small charity, which included budgeting & financial planning for a new market stall selling the crafts of local women. “Whilst I feel I have contributed to making a real difference in people’s lives I have also taken a lot from the experience for myself. It is one of the best things I have ever done; I have more confidence, met some fantastic people and had the experience of a lifetime. I will definitely be going back to see my new friends” said Rob.

AfID offers accountants the opportunity to make a genuine difference as overseas volunteers while at the same time gaining invaluable hands-on experience in the international development sector. Assignments of between 2 & 12 weeks form part of an ongoing strategy to build the financial management capacity and long term sustainability of small community based charities across Africa and Asia.

It’s worth noting that 100 volunteers equates to over 12,000 hours of professional coaching, close to £750,000 of accounting services. But in real terms the true value of this time is immeasurable, as they have all made a tremendous difference to long term sustainability of many amazing community organisations. We asked Sarah how she felt to be the 100th AfID volunteer and she said, “I am delighted and I hope that I can inspire 100 more! This is a fantastic achievement and goes a long way to dispelling the myth that accountants are boring! ” We couldn’t have said it any better.