Ana Cortes: Challenges Worldwide Technical Assistant

Positive, long-lasting change. It takes a lot of effort to drive it, but most importantly, a passionate community to achieve it.  At Challenges Worldwide I learnt that enthusiasm, hard work, and teamwork can truly transform communities and improve the lives of all of those involved.

I believe in our own power to move mountains. I was incredibly fortunate to work at Freshsight, a student-led consultancy focused on empowering socially conscious clients. Freshsight gave me the tools and the confidence to believe that I can be an active catalyst for positive change. For this reason, when Freshsight presented me with the opportunity to volunteer as a Technical Assistant at Challenges Worldwide, I jumped to it without thinking twice.

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During my summer with Challenges Worldwide, I experienced entrepreneurship in its purest form. Over 12 weeks, I oversaw 8 teams of Challenges Worldwide ICS volunteers as they supporting small to medium sized enterprises to transform into efficient ventures with innovative business models. Besides empowering the development of their communities, these enterprises had the potential to disrupt business at a global scale. From a company that devised a clean flame, low carbon dioxide cooking stove that used forestry waste sawdust as fuel instead of charcoal, to a local enterprise dedicated to transforming less valued fish into nutritious products to increase revenue streams for Zambian fisherwomen.

Working with Challenges Worldwide taught me my biggest lesson yet about the potential for success when limited resources are used without a limit in creativity.

This experience undoubtedly taught me how to be a force of change through guiding others. As a TA, I was tasked with reviewing all of my teams’ deliverables and providing feedback to ensure that these were tailored to each company’s needs. Challenges Worldwide prepared me for this challenge by equipping me with materials that taught me how to channel my experience into improving the quality of my teams’ work.

Personally, this experience also shaped my own future by supporting me in attaining my Professional Consulting qualification, accredited by the Chartered Management Institute.

I look forward to working with Challenges Worldwide again in the future, and I cannot recommend this experience enough to anyone seeking to develop their entrepreneurship and be a driving force of change, too. I am proud to have worked for an organisation that is wholeheartedly committed to empowering students to create a world of opportunity. Regardless if you join as a business support associate (ICS volunteer), team leader, business mentor or technical assistant, at Challenges Worldwide you get the opportunity to learn while you change the lives of people working to create better future in developing countries.

If you are a volunteer about to go on a placement, my advice is to let your curiosity fly. Research your destination country and the landscape of their economy thoroughly.

However, remember that at the end of the day, it is about the people that you’re helping, so learn as much as you can about their intrinsic motivations, passions and needs. Empathise with them, that’s how you will understand how to best add value to their lives and to their businesses. Finally, know that you have what it takes to make positive change happen and always remember that your goal is to leave the place better than you found it.