Australians Top of the Board for International Volunteers12.02.2013

It seems that Australian accountants are among the most generous in the world with more and more Aussie accountants looking to use their finance skills to help overseas charities become sustainable.

Since it was founded in 2009, Accounting for International Development has had more volunteer accountants from Australia than from any other country apart from the UK. While Cambodia has been the most popular destination for volunteering Aussies, Australian accountants have also supported charities across Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania and Nepal, spending between 3 weeks and 6 months strengthening accountancy policies and procedures through mentoring local staff. 

The result has been the secured futures of a number of organisations including a rural school, a healthcare NGO and a charity that uses sport to engage and educate children. 

Blair Jones ICAA, Manager I Tanzania I 3 Months

After travelling extensively across developing countries and feeling increasing disillusioned with the world of international finance, Melbourne accountant Blair decided he wanted to use his finance skills to help others who were less fortunate.  AfID arranged a placement with Equity for Tanzania, a non-profit organisation dedicated to generating employment and stimulating local economy in Africa through providing small business with the equipment loans they need to prosper and expand.

EFT had one member of staff working on finance who, while very enthusiastic about his work, was aware that he needed training on how to strengthen EFT’s internal controls and financial procedures. He also wanted guidance on donor reporting and Excel training which Blair was happy to provide.

The experience had fantastic results for both Equity for Tanzania and for Blair. The new skills that Blair passed onto the staff meant they could improve their donor relationships and ultimately feel far more secure about the charity’s future. For Blair, ‘AfID filled a void. I have met incredible people both locals, and people who have moved here in various capacities to try and assist in some small way.’

Graeme Heckles CAA, Group Financial Controller I Cambodia I 4 Weeks

Graeme was one of the first AfID volunteers to go on placement. Looking for a challenging but rewarding experience which would make the most of his skills, Graeme approached AfID who put together a placement with the Cambodia Vision Development Project. CVD is a local NGO that works with disadvantaged communities across the Samlaut district of Cambodia. Its work was directly responsible for improving the lives of hundreds of people but was hindered by poor donor reporting and a lack of accountability.

Graeme worked closely with CVD’s executive director to ensure that the NGO had a sustainable strategy in terms of core costs and safeguarding their future while providing basic training to their new accountant, mainly on the procurement system and report generation.   

“The appreciation of everyone at CVD is the best way of knowing that I made a positive impact and that I was able to pass on my skills, experience and personality in the best possible way. In return I’ve made new friends, learned about the workings of NGO’s, tasted a different way of life and most of all I will always be able to draw perspective from the positive people of Cambodia “ – Graeme.

Trisha Nowland CPAA, Manager I Nepal I 2 Months

Sydney based Trisha was keen to support women’s refuge projects in the developing world. AfID matched her skills and interests to Asha Nepal, a charity dedicated to furthering the rights of women and children in Nepal. Trisha was immediately interested in the work the charity did in raising the social status of Nepalese women and helping victims break free from the cycle of abuse endemic in many rural communities.

The finance staff at Asha Nepal had been using Excel but were struggling to use it effectively when formatting reports and accounts. Trisha spent the month working alongside finance staff to increase their understanding and strengthen their reporting procedures. She also submerged herself in the local culture ranging from enjoying the beautiful countryside to realising the importance of charities like Asha when confronted by the poverty of locals.