E-volunteering and contributing to global development from home during the pandemic
While COVID-19 has heightened social pressures and increased inequalities around the world, it has shown us the importance of working together with our international partners and intensifying our efforts to address these challenges. This is why we adapted quickly in the wake of the pandemic to support our partners in Africa and Asia. Supporting our partners through the efforts of our Canadian e-volunteers has been key to continuing our work on advancing long-lasting solutions for today’s most important global development issues.
Around the world, the pandemic has increased the inequalities and vulnerabilities of refugees living in camps, particularly in terms of loss of livelihoods and limited access to healthcare services. The Dzaleka Refugee Camp in Malawi currently hosts close to 40,000 refugees and asylum seekers, originating mostly from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda and recently Mozambique.
This is why the work of organizations like There is Hope – an organization in Malawi that supports refugees and the host community to overcome poverty and become self-reliant – is so important. There is Hope provides new education and income-generating activities for refugees that normally have limited opportunities in Malawi. Kibébé, for example, a social enterprise registered by There is Hope since 2017, aims to create employment especially for women and to provide quality environmentally friendly goods and services, nationally and internationally. Kibébé donates all of its profits to vocational training programs and college scholarships for refugees by There is Hope.
Switching gears to make meaningful change during a time of crisis
Florian Leclerq, e-volunteer and Business Development Advisor with There is Hope in Malawi is a great example of the impact of volunteering internationally even if done remotely from the comfort of your own home.
Florian, a French-born permanent resident of Canada, worked for many years as a Business Advisor in the private sector. As the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he decided it was time to make a meaningful change in his life; he decided to quit his job and start his Master’s Degree in global development. But he did not stop there: he wanted to use his business experience and newly acquired knowledge of global development to make a change in the world. This is why he decided to apply as an e-volunteer with an international partner. For him, it was the perfect opportunity to not only share his skills in business but also to learn about a new country and culture.
Florian started his e-volunteering placement in August and recently finished in December 2020. During his assignment his main objective was to develop new programs and pursue funding opportunities to support refugees and their host community become self-reliant. Florian’s specific tasks involved researching new suppliers, finding logistic partners, and exporting legislation. He also provided assistance in marketing initiatives to a number of different regional audiences, developed proposals, and responded to funding opportunity calls.
Although four months was short for Florian to achieve his main goal of finding a fitting supplier in Africa that is environmentally friendly and that has reasonable costs, he was able to find an opportunity: a potential company in Burkina Faso that could become one of Kibébé’s partners in manufacturing organic fabric. This could represent a milestone achievement in terms of a South-South partnership between two African countries, that could work together in creating an enabling environment for women’s entrepreneurship development and gender equality, and ultimately foster sustainable trade practices for the exchange of goods and services.
“E-volunteering permits you to travel from home”
In the end, despite the fact that e-volunteering has not permitted Florian to truly experience the culture of Malawi, he feels like it has still been a life-changing experience, a “valuable opportunity for volunteers to gain and advance their professional skills and experience and grow their network.” Florian tells us that e-volunteering gave him comfort in changing his career: “It gave me a real sense to my job by supporting and working with local partners to improve their strategy. It felt good to finally be able to give back.”
For him, the most rewarding thing about this experience is that “it permits you to travel from home, learn from a new country, partner and a good way for you to personally give a sense to your free time.” It hasn’t been without its difficulties; “balancing between my full time job, my personal life and my work with There is Hope, was the biggest challenge.” Notwithstanding these challenges, he mentions that he was successful in overcoming them thanks to his listening, understanding, flexibility and adaptability skills.
Florian’s advice to people looking into volunteering: “go for it, it will be rewarding and you will always learn something.” By supporting There is Hope and Kibébé through his expertise in business development, Florian definitely left his mark: the organization is now better-placed to grow its social enterprise in an eco-inclusive way and to continue to improve the conditions of refugees while providing more opportunities for women refugees in Malawi.
The IGNI+E (Innovative Global Networks for Inclusion + Equality) initiative, funded by Global Affairs Canada, supports over 70 partner organizations to advance gender equality and the economic empowerment of 1.2 million youth around the world. IGNI+E harnesses the knowledge, capacity and expertise of skilled Canadians through volunteer assignments and public engagement activities to assist partners in improving their performance, advocating for gender equality, and implementing more sustainable, innovative and inclusive initiatives and services for poor and marginalised youth, particularly young women. Join us! Click here to see all our current e-volunteer opportunities.Back to stories and news