Volunteer field report from a business school in paradise

The island archipelago of Zanzibar, just off the coast of East Africa in the tropical Indian Ocean, is perceived as one of the most exotic and beautiful destinations on Earth. It’s a must-visit for lovers of nature, with pristine beaches, fascinating cultural diversity, and a sense of history mostly untouched by modern influences.

As with all African countries, however, this is only a small part of the picture. The Zanzibari people undergo many trials and challenges in their daily lives related to limited income opportunities. Keeping up to date with modern business methods and technologies can be extremely difficult even in developed countries. Few people in Zanzibar are lucky enough to receive anything but the most basic education. Subjects that many take for granted in the West, such as marketing and business skills, are all but unheard of.

Tourism is the fastest growing industry in Zanzibar, and therefore a vital source of income for many Zanzibaris. Import and export businesses are also a growth area for the country’s economy. Marketing and business skills can give individuals and companies a huge advantage in making a success of their endeavours in these fields, and help to boost the economy as a whole.

schoolKhaya Volunteer Projects (headed up by Martijn van der Put) have developed a program for the Economic Graduates Committee at the University of Amsterdam. 15 student volunteers are currently in Zanzibar for 3 weeks, providing local entrepreneurs with marketing and business skills workshops. The students visit selected companies in fields such as retail, tourism, or import and export, and work out a tutoring plan based on each company’s individual needs.

Here is a report from Zanzibar on the launch and progress of the project, by volunteer co-ordinator Thandi de Beer.

“Everything going wonderfully in beautiful Zanzibar! The volunteers arrived safely on Monday and were very excited and happy to be here. They have made themselves very much at home and are very happy with the volunteer house and rooms. They have rented bicycles and are making their way around the neighbourhood quite comfortably. 

We spent Monday afternoon settling in, but as soon as they arrived they already started talking about the beach so we took them all down to the for their first swim:) We had a lovely meal at the volunteer house together with the whole Khaya team and had an introduction and after dinner a little information and question session. 

chattingOn Tuesday Eman and Lamec took us to Stone Town, were we showed the volunteers around the market and showed them some of our favourite spots. They enjoyed it very much, and took lots of photos, and then we sent them back to the volunteer house on their first dala dala [minibus taxi] experience. They had lunch and quickly returned to the beach. 

On Wednesday morning they started their workshop with the local businesses that have been selected. They were very enthusiastic on their return and told me it was a great success and are very excited to start working with their partners.

Today they continued with meetings, planning and visiting various schools. And we will discuss with them later how it's going and if they have any further questions etc.

They are a wonderful group, very friendly, communicative and mature and I am confident all is going to go very well and I trust they will talk openly with us. They have had no concerns up until now.”

posedIf you are a student wanting to volunteer with projects that fit in with your curriculum and skill set, and add value to your qualification while you help develop communities that need your support; keep the following in mind: 

  • Volunteering opportunities can be just as competitive as paid work experience, as students see volunteering as a way to shine in front of employers.
  • Take note of your financial situation and ensure you have enough funds to pay for your tuition and living costs, as well as pay for your volunteering trip overseas.
  • The experiences you gain while volunteering - skills, memories and knowledge of the culture that surrounds you – will vastly outweigh the costs you incur on your tight student budget. Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone!

Khaya Volunteer Projects can put keen students in touch with programs that need you. Volunteering opportunities exist in many fields. Sports training, business development, education, public relations, marketing, event management, project management, building and construction, wildlife and environmental management, social work – and if the program doesn’t currently exist, we can make it happen for you! Contact us with your ideas.

In the column to the right are some of the programs that Khaya works with that are ideal for students in varying fields of study.


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