Essex Civil Engineer Helps Bring Solar Power to Zambia’s Rural Population

When Natalie Cheung decided to embark on a Challenges Worldwide ICS placement in February, she was looking for the chance to “learn how I can help to tackle global issues and try something new”. The 23-year-old civil engineer from Upminster was one of 12 UK and 12 Zambian Business Support Associate volunteers supporting local enterprises in Lusaka, Zambia.

Her first experience working on an International Development project, Natalie and her counterpart Obed Katukula were assigned to Solarquest Ltd, a small renewable energy enterprise with high growth potential. There, Natalie worked collaboratively to collect and analyse data about the business and local industry, before presenting formal recommendations to Solarquest.

In the second half of her three-month placement, Natalie supported the implementation of her recommendations. These included the cultivation of a project with significant environmental and social impact: providing solar power to rural areas of Zambia. This is particularly important in Zambia. The country’s current electricity production does not even meet half of the demand, and only 3% of the rural population has access to electricity. As Natalie stressed, “an increase in solar power would benefit any country but is particularly beneficial in Zambia”.

As part of any Challenges Worldwide ICS placement, Business Support Associates complete an enterprise diagnostic tool. This tool scores enterprises in 6 areas of core business competencies before the consultancy interventions and after. At the end of the 12 weeks, Solarquest showed an overall positive development – most notably in the Environment and Social Impact score, which saw an incredible +25% improvement!

Natalie Cheung solarquest social media marketing

Alongside her work with Solarquest, Natalie took every opportunity for personal and professional development available to her. During her stay in Lusaka, Natalie voluntarily ran employability and digital skills workshops to local young people, including students at the University of Zambia. Natalie reflected, “I learnt a lot about business on my placement through the formal management training and through supporting a real enterprise. Teaching local youth was a good opportunity to pass on my knowledge.”

Natalie also raised awareness of Challenges Worldwide’s work in Zambia. She represented the charity for interviews on Pan African Radio and QTV, and was invited to speak on Our Perspective, a talk show on Zambia’s Muvi TV, about youth and social entrepreneurship.

Natalie Cheung Zambia radio talkshow

Natalie was an exemplary volunteer, demonstrating all of the core ICS values throughout her placement. She is currently undertaking a Diploma in Professional Consulting with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), while preparing for a Team Leader position with YCare International later in the year. Natalie is also considering completing another CMI qualification in Management & Leadership following her TL placement.

We hope that Natalie’s experiences with YCare will allow her ample opportunity to improve her leadership and project management and gain a further qualification that will help her in her future career. We wish her the very best!