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Juliette in Zambia

Juliette (ACCA)
Leonard Cheshire Disability, Zambia

The first week in Lusaka

 

So, here I am, 18 months later, on my second accounting volunteer assignment through Accounting for International Development (AfID) in Zambia. This is quite different to my first assignment in Hanoi, Vietnam, in many ways. Obviously, I’m in a different continent, but this time I am working with a big UK based international NGO, as opposed to a small, in-country NGO.

 

Also, my career has changed direction. After my experience in Hanoi, I decided that I wanted to move from my treadmill in the public sector to work in International Development. I took voluntary redundancy in December 2016, and have worked hard to identify some opportunities. Not only do I have the challenge of this opportunity to help out in Zambia, but I also have a new job to go back to in BRAC UK http://www.bracuk.net/ . Exciting times!

 

I am working with the Leonard Cheshire Disability International (LCDI) charity, https://www.leonardcheshire.org/international , and am based in Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia. More than one billion people with disabilities, 15% of the world’s population, make up one of the most disadvantaged and marginalised groups within society. They are routinely denied their most basic human rights — cut off from education, employment and healthcare. Many live in extreme poverty.

 

Shockingly, in Zambia, nearly half of all children with disabilities have never been to school. Many families and communities do not see the value of educating them; families that do want to send their disabled children to school face a range of physical and social barriers including a lack of accessibility, negative attitudes and few appropriately trained teachers.

 

LCDI currently have three inclusive education projects in Zambia, funded by Comic Relief and the European Union in several districts. These projects are working to improve the life chances of children with disabilities in Zambia, supporting a total of 2,000 disabled children to go to school. In partnership with the Cheshire Homes Society of Zambia, LCDI are working with 100 schools to improve their accessibility, train teachers in inclusive teaching methods, and establish child-to-child clubs for children with and without disabilities to learn and play together. They are also raising awareness of disability with parents, communities and government and establishing support groups for parents.

 

So, I’m pretty inspired by the work LCDI are doing here, and am motivated to help them in this by helping to build a more robust financial management structure to support their valuable work. Working in conjunction with HQ in London, my main focus here is to assist with moving their accounting from a set of spreadsheets to set them up on QuickBooks accounting software, and to help build financial capacity within their partner and their project team.

 

I have now been here a week, and it has mainly been a matter of adjusting to a very different pace of life and way of doing business, and identifying the priorities that I can help with. I am staying in the suburbs of Lusaka, sharing an apartment with a young lady from the USA, of Indian origin, who has her friends round to practise oriental style belly-dancing, so life is not dull. My commute is 15 minutes walk to the office, so I need to make the most of that before I get back to the joys of South West Trains to Waterloo!

 

It is now winter here, but currently the temperatures are slightly higher than the English summer, and blue, blue skies every day, although it can be a chilly 12c at night. It feels odd though, as it’s dark by 6pm every day. I’ve joined a local gym and am trying to get there most days, although it’s basic and not quite what I’m used to, one of the things these experiences remind you is of how much we have, and really when it comes to it, how little we really need in life.

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