I was placed as a VSO volunteer in 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Uganda for Governance & Participation program which is one of the major global areas focused by VSO. Let me share here how lives of the Ugandan citizens are getting changed by their active participation in governance in policy matters, especially for their socio economical progress.
The task assigned…
VSO has taken up a bold step by introducing volunteers to associate closely with government to initiate transparency in governance by involving citizens to take part in policy decisions.
To achieve this global impact, Information and Communication technology (ICT) has been taken as a tool for social auditing and social accountability.
As a VSO volunteer, I remember in August 2010 when I was placed as Information System Adviser in the E-Society Resource Centre at Kasese managed by Rwenzori Consortium [RWECO], Kasese District Local Government and Rwenzori Information Centers Network – Fort Portal, the center was functioning like other common Internet cafés and it was only called as a “resource center”. My job responsibility was as an advisory to take up the challenge of framing Strategic Plans with expected outcome of bringing transformation at the center. To bring change from being a mere internet café to a resource cum training center which would act as a hub, networking the Government, Civil Society Organizations and people. This center had to be run with high technological intervention by using IT and ICT facilities by active participation of the Government, Civil Society Organizations, and people to be commissioning successfully within time frame of nine months [tentatively by April 2011].
After that, with full perseverance and determination I got on to the job, did intensive planning and managed successful execution of strategic plans, with the support of the Local government and RICNET team. The e-Society Resource Center was commissioned successfully on 20th April 2011, which started functioning as a Regional Hub for Knowledge Management System and also acted as a full-fledged resource cum training center catering to needs of Kasese district. This transformation from mere internet café to resource based information center fulfilled all my wishes and my dream came true.
This model has brought change in the mind set of the Local Government Authorities to involve people in discussion on all policy matters and also confirms that sharing skills and knowledge could bring real change in the life style of the people to have active participation in governance.
The Progress continues…
In a nut shell, the E-Society Resource Center in Kasese is the first model in Uganda. Kasese stands as the first district which introduced this tripartite combination of Government with public and private partnership with the civil society to show the world that a healthy and transparent administrative system can be possible with the advent of IT & ICT intervention. The center invites the attention of the Community Support Organizations [CSOs] to go hand in hand with the Government to find solutions for their social problems. The center answers the issue of inadequate access to timely and relevant information, a key aspect that limits citizen’s effective participation in planning and monitoring processes in the district. It is aimed at bringing the society of Kasese into purview of electronic usage for poverty alleviation to improve their social, economical, health, cultural and educational status. This project bridges the digital divide.
As a VSO volunteer, I had wonderful self-learning period that developed my mind set with global understanding. In fact, I enjoyed my year long stay in Kasese because I found very healthy professional working environment and also living environment for which I must thank RICNET management. On my last day before departure in a farewell meeting, I appealed to all development partners working with RIC-NET and to RIC-NET as well, to keep the fire burning. I am extremely happy to share even today, in March 2014 acting as an online advisory member for the e-Society resource center and also sharing my views in Kasese district e-Society d-group.
[Reference: http://www.ricnet.info/www.ricnet.co.ug and http://www.rwenzoripeoplevoice.org / Article publication: RICNET News Letter: RIC-NET News - A Quarterly up-date from Rwenzori Information Centers Network – RICNET’s Sept 2011 Issue (page 2).]
On 29th January 2014, we accomplished GYAN on “Creating a Powerful PowerPoint Presentation” at VRC – Saltlake and the session was piloted by Ms Roma Mehta
About Roma Mehta: She is from Living Design [www.livingdesignindia.com] – a design house that believes that design and creativity elevates communication. She has created promotional material in print and digital media for nonprofits and foundations in Taiwan, Australia, DRC Congo and India. She manages a design and print business in Taiwan and is now based in Kolkata. Roma also loves art and works on creative art projects with children. Living Design helps nonprofits with design consultancy and marketing materials to enable them to create more impactful campaigns.
Here she shares recap about the session -
Creating an effective PowerPoint presentation is a lot like telling a story. The plot and the lead in is just as important as the content. Capturing the audience’s attention from the start by paying attention to some key elements can insure your success in getting your message across.
The session with iVolunteer on 29th January 2014 focused on creativity and content. After discussing the dos and dont’s of an effective PowerPoint, we took a look at some existing presentations that the participants had brought. The group then engaged in some constructive criticism and practiced on some examples.
Some of the topics covered were:
Its all about the viewer:
Most PowerPoint are about the company or individual presenting. That’s a huge mistake. The story is never about the presenter. It is about the audience. Knowing your audience means finding the hook to keep them engaged, targeting their needs and granting their wishes.
Their wish is to help you because you have just brought them into your story. You have just shown them a slice of the pie and they want more. As Steve Jobs once said, “…people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Keep the audience in mind at all times. Connect the dots for them as you walk them through your story. End on a high note so your audience takes away a positive feeling.
Engage, Inform, Motivate:
In order to engage, inform and motivate your audience, your story has to do just that. Engage. Inform. Motivate. Not deliver facts and figures that you have collected and compiled on a few slides. Keep the text on the slides to a minimum, speak more and try to use one or two impactful visuals instead of using too many bad ones.
Less is more:
Your audience can only grab three key points in one session. Focus on the three most important aspects of your work that you wish to convey and elaborate on those. The rest is will follow once you have them interested.
As a presenter, your body language can speak for you. Be animated, show your enthusisasm with gestures, voice control and facial expression. Eyes, voice, body can all convey authority on the subject you are speaking about. Practice in front of a mirror or a colleague so you can feel comfortable. Keep the audience engaged by being engaged in what you are saying. Enthusiasm can be infectious.
Selecting good visuals, paying attention to grammar, punctuation, spellings, and fonts are essential for making a good impression. It may sound like small stuff but they are all key elements of the big picture.
Visuals are the single most powerful element and should be chosen carefully with an eye to aesthetics and functionality both. Harmonise colours, create a feeling by understanding what emotions various colour ranges evoke. Create a colour palette that matches your choice of photos.
Check if cables, connectors, equipment are all in order. Do a practice run. There is nothing worse than having your audience wait due to some technical hitch.
- Know your audience
- Is your target audience familiar with your organization?
- Is there a preconception you need to overcome?
- What new information are you giving them?
- What do you want them to feel and do?
- Check your equipment
- Check sound and light
- Set up your audience seating
- Practice your introduction – less about you and more about your work
- Keep the audience engaged by throwing out an occasional question
- Use a powerful visual that encapsulates your message
- Refrain from reading out slides; say the words, show the pictures
- Create a visual story in words, color, images and content flow
Thanks for reading
“Hi Nirakar, this email is from iVolunteer Overseas regarding your application for volunteering with VSO. We are glad to inform that you have been selected and your profile is matching with an organization in Mozambique!”
I was excited but bit nervous at the same time! I went with researching more about the political, social and economic facts about this country. A further look at Wikipedia, I noticed that the people of Mozambique speak Portuguese, which is their official language. Questions ran through my mind “Portuguese? Will I be able to speak Portuguese at work?” At first, I was hesitant to accept the placement since language was going to be a big issue. But I knew this was a great way to challenge myself, an opportunity to learn about a new culture, hence I gave a green signal to VSO. I was ready for my VSO placement in Mozambique!
To work in a different country, culture and diverse people is definitely a challenge but I have to be really thankful to the ‘Preparing for Change Training’ of VSO before my departure where I learnt to apply the cultural aspects and different types of power theory into practice while volunteering.
The exciting phase had started for me, my life changing experience. During the process of departure, I used to dream about their food, culture, life style, language, people, safety and security issues. Pretty much everyone tends to run over these points in their head before living and working in a new country. Now, I introduce myself as “Eu sou Voluntario da VSO” – “I am a VSO volunteer”.
Joining my placement…
In February 2007, I arrived in Mozambique. My in-country orientation involved language training and understanding the VSO policies. I have to say, the 100 hours of Portuguese learning helped me a lot to accomplish my task thereon. It’s a life changing experience for me now as I speak Portuguese, I got an opportunity to work with UN in Angolae, again an opportunity to enhance one’s career and think out of box. It is certainly worth being a volunteer with VSO in many ways.
My personal quality of being flexible coupled with positive thinking and adaptability helped me not only to work in the organization but also to manage other issues like accommodation, travel, food, meeting people and community at large. The values and principles of VSO complemented with my personal qualities to complete not only 2 years of the placement but further extension of another two and half years. In total, I volunteered for 4 and half years (February 2007 to August 2011) and continued contributing to my volunteering enthusiasm. It was definitely an enriching experience.
For my placement, I was assigned to a local organization in Chimoio located in central part of Mozambique in Africa. The organization is called Kubatsirana, which means mutual support “an ecumenical Christian organization”. Their working areas are nutrition, youth, HIV and AIDS, livelihood, training on adolescent, community development, and universal access to ART (Anti-Retro Viral) for people living with HIV & AIDS. I contributed to the organization in a number of ways –
- strategic planning
- change management
- capacity building for staff and community leaders on small business management
- advising to management board
- lobbying and advocating for universal access to treatment for people living with HIV and AIDS
During my placement, I contributed to the partner organization and at the same time sharpened my skills and knowledge on management issues. Hence, it was a great platform for sharing and exchanging skills while volunteering for fighting poverty and enjoying life at the same time. Volunteering for me was not only about contributing two years of my life but building a life where you understand and learn many things which are important for a successful life.
Adventures and fun during my placement…
Social life and making friends was easy while volunteering. I have to say, I met many volunteers and got to know their culture, life styles and ways of living. I also came to know many people from Japan, USA, and Africa. It was all during organising an event on International Volunteers Day. Volunteers from Peace Corps, JICA and volunteers from German organization joined with us to celebrate and share their experience for people’s empowerment. So it was an opportunity to know people and enhance the networking capacity for wider range of problem solving. We went for many exposure visits to Malawi and Uganda after that, for greater exchange of skills and knowledge.
A life changing experience….
It’s a great experience to work in Africa, particularly in Mozambique where I got a life time opportunity to learn a new language, people and its culture. Mozambique is a great country to work and live in. Its folk culture, music, roads, nature, scenic beauty, food and life style are really remarkable. I am sure, I have not and I will not forget these memories for ever.
It taught me so many things in my life; travelling, meeting people from the community and in particular how to cook. Before leaving from India, I only knew how to cook rice but living there and getting to know people from all over the world has taught me many different types of dishes. However, it’s not just food or people but the greatest learning has been how to work in a different culture and with diverse people. It sharpened my skills in management and organizational development in many forms, consequently as I mentioned before got a job in UN immediately after my VSO assignment. It’s a BIG life time achievement for me for sure.
I heartily thank iVO and VSO for this win-win opportunity into sharing skills and changing lives!!!
Meet Hammad Abedin who volunteered with Nai Umang Positive Welfare Society for 5 months and strengthened the non-profit through many ways.
Tell us about yourself
Hammad – is a Lebanese name which means a person who praises God or praiseworthy. I believe in the motto of ‘we have only one life to live, so don’t waste it and live it to the fullest’. I was born & raised in the Great walled city i.e. Old Delhi, and enjoy roaming around the historical monuments. I went to Jamia Millia Islamia for pursuing Commerce in Bachelor’s &Masters in Social Work. I have worked with organisations like Pratidhi, Saalam Balak Trust (on child rights)Kaarak (on livelihoods generation, social research) Pradan (for Value chain analysis) and Maitri India (for homeless population in Central Delhi). I believe in the potential of technology for good, which led me to join NASSCOM Foundation (for skill development, digital literacy of youth population).
What does volunteering mean to you?
Firstly, volunteering is all about passion to help someone without expecting anything in return. And when one volunteers, he / she works on a new project with a new team with a new goal, a vision towards a new target which leads you to the achievement of something beyond from your regular job. This drives me to start volunteering.
Describe the Impact projects you were involved in with iVolunteer.
Initially, I joined Nai Umang (a community based organization working towards empowering HIV positive families and individuals), keeping in mind that I will be working on Marketing & promotion strategy of their products. But, when I joined, their requirement was much beyond this. So, after a thorough discussion I started working with the Nai Umang team on different verticals of communication, fund raising & event planning.
In Communications – I worked on their Facebook page (on increasing number of likes, regular updates, what to share on FB etc.), Brochure (helped them to design their latest brochure), mailers (crafted standard PPT, mailers, templates for them to use in their all communications), press releases (wrote press release for their annual AIDS day celebration)
Fundraising – I did a secondary research & created list of banks in Delhi / NCR who can be potential donors for Nai Umang. I also trained / helped the team members on how to communicate with donors.
Event planning, proposal writing – I helped them in planning of their annual event of AIDS day celebration. I also helped them in writing few program proposal for financial assistance.
How was your experience, volunteering for this project?
There was support from both ends- iVolunteer and Nai Umang. iVolunteer guided me well with my work. Nai Umang always tried to utilize my knowledge, skills & experience in the best possible way. I’ve been humbled by the kindness and warmth that I’ve been shown by team members. After this, all I can say is Volunteering will be a constant part of my life from now onwards.
Any interesting learning you took away from this project?
Empathy – before Nai Umang I have not worked with any such group who deal directly with PLHIV (Persons Living with HIV). It was a great learning from the team – the way they counsel PLHIV & their families.
What do you feel is the best thing about Impact Projects?
“Impact projects” is a great platform to cater to the demands/ needs of the various community based organizations (CBO) with the supply of skilled volunteers. The way iVolunteer team manages both sides of the coin (i.e. CBO’s & volunteers) is truly commendable. The very recent Impact Gup Shup was a very innovative concept of meeting, engaging volunteers in a mix of casual & formal manner. I feel that I have lots more to learn & achieve, and this experience will really go a long way to help me in my future volunteering rendezvous.
What advice/pointers would you like to give to other “Impact Volunteers”?
We always want to take a break from our regular routine lives no matter who we are – student, professional, home maker etc. But most of the times we can’t take the desired break due to different reasons. If you want to do something different, achieve something without expecting anything in return, hone your talent/skill then Volunteering is for YOU!
To volunteer for Impact Projects: Click here
To sign up as our NGO partner for Impact Volunteers Click here