Joseph Okello and his Challenges Worldwide volunteer experience

Joseph Okello, before having his Challenges Worldwide volunteer experience in Uganda had two part-time jobs, “one was at a foundation called UBUNTU where I was assisting as information and advocacy officer. Also, I was a part-time tutor and editor of English language and literature at Everest school in Uganda.”

However, he wanted a change in his career, he wanted to gain business experience, which was the reason why he decided to join the Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteering programme. “I have no business background; none of my family has business experience. So I wanted that experience, especially interacting with small-scale businesses.”

As a Business Support Associate, Joseph worked with GRS in Kampala, who provide solar electricity and renewable energy solutions to give people cleaner and cheaper energy solutions.

“My work with my enterprise began with a week of interaction and a lot of reading. The CEO felt like me and my counterpart, Angus, were not ready to analyse the business until we developed an understanding of the industry.”
After their consultancy job in GRW, they found out that the central weakness of the business was in the financial area. “The main problem was that the business was not winning licences. The main reason was that there was no image of accountability in the business. That’s why our aim was to make the business more accountable and organised, improve its visibility to customers and improve its ability to penetrate the market.”

Joseph and Angus developed a financial spreadsheet to improve the financial efficiency of GRS and, therefore, its accountability. “There were so many costs which were unaccounted. We wanted to improve its financial efficiency.”

“We saw our recommendations being put to work. The first recommendation we met was about the organisational structure. The CEO told us a week later that he reorganised his staff. He promoted the Financial Manager to a director and agreed to hire 3 more permanent staff. The CEO has told us how much we have changed the business. He has appreciated the collaboration that we have given him.

For Joseph, what he learnt as a Business Support Associate is a big question, “I have learnt a lot that’s why I think it’s a big question.”

“I have developed a good work ethic like setting goals and meeting them. Being on time. I have developed my analytical skills using the workbook. Definitely the business skills. My CEO has taught me a lot on partnership and collaboration in business. Proposal writing too. I admire his leadership style. I’ve learnt how to manage people.”

Also, all this experience broke stereotypes and paradigms that he had. “I had never had the experience of working with people from outside Africa. I had stereotypes in my head. So I feared that I might meet people very opinionated and stubborn. I didn’t think my counterpart would be receptive. My opinion has completely changed. I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to change my mindset.”

“I would recommend Challenges Worldwide placement. It has been a journey of self-improvement. Challenges Worldwide does work in an organised way with very clear strict goals. I think this is important for any professional as it gives them experience working in a busy working environment.”

“I am very grateful to challenges for the opportunity. To have the opportunity to develop myself and learn. As I said, I have learnt so much.”