“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!!!