Author: Kevin Lee
Having been an active volunteer for nearly six years, I often find myself as the ultimate beneficiary of the community projects I do. Living in the high cognitive demand environment of modern society, it’s easy to get into a routine that takes away from being able to try different things. Fortunately, I have had a lot of success using volunteering as a way to enrich my mind and soul through new experiences.
That’s exactly what the Social Development & Entrepreneurship Internship offers on top of a sense of accomplishment and personal development, which will benefit you long after the program ends. By the end of the project, you will gain a new perspective on global affairs and feel empowered to help solve worldly issues.
You get to travel the world and contribute to social development
I enjoy traveling the world for magnificent scenery and equally value the beauty in culture. Fortunately, the African Impact internship program gives plenty of opportunities to experience Africa’s nature and people, which makes working quite enjoyable. They go hand in hand in shaping the development of this region since tourism and wildlife play a critical role in the local economy.
In the rural parts of the country, high unemployment rates threaten the natural ecosystem as desperate individuals resort to finding destructive and unsustainable ways of earning a living, such as poaching endangered animals. Prosecution fails to prevent crime if those in poverty don’t have an alternative way to sustain life.
I was schooled and had my eyes opened wide to the economic and non-economic costs of unemployment. Entrepreneurship internships aim to gradually alleviate unemployment by creating an entrepreneurial culture in the youth that will stimulate economic growth and development.
The program has been developed to empower locals to be self sufficient
The mission has proven to be particularly difficult due to the lack of basic education, infrastructure, and other fundamental ingredients required to foster a business community. However, in spite of the many challenges, the community remains resilient and has a tremendous desire to be more productive.
During the internship, I met local people who were as eager to listen as I was to help. To my surprise, they remembered and greeted me by name on my second visit, which is a testament to the deep relationship African Impact has built. They welcomed and trusted our support, which gives us a great sense of responsibility to be thoughtful about every engagement.
Unfortunately, there is no antidote for the problem and any lasting change begins by equipping the community with the right skills to accomplish their goals. In line with the ultimate goal of the project, the African Impact team developed a program to coach the youth on the principles of entrepreneurship through agriculture.
The objective of the internship is to develop a curriculum that can be used for people with potentially very different education levels and business experience. The challenge is to break down the complexity of entrepreneurship and give guidance on selected key topics to those willing, so that they can begin exploring entrepreneurial opportunities and gain experience on their own.
Interns work with project coordinators to improve the program
Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. It calls to mind a skill I’ve worked on honing for many years: that of distilling a large amount of information into relevant, bite-sized pieces for easier consumption.
Most of my internship was spent brainstorming learning exercises that future volunteers can use to deliver knowledge to participants with a focus on maintaining bilateral communication. The personal interaction that volunteers give is a subtle but important factor to bring trust and confidence to the program.
The African Impact team on the entrepreneurship internships work tirelessly to create a structure that maximizes the utility of each volunteer that comes through. Interns and volunteers are encouraged to maintain an active dialogue with project coordinators to improve the program.
A seamless system ensures progress continues long after you have left
The organization developed a system that accommodates the turnover of volunteers because they understand codependency is necessary to make the system work. The end result is a seamless support system for the community that continues to make meaningful progress towards the ultimate goal.
Being part of the program has awarded me invaluable lessons on problem solving, teamwork, empathy, and most importantly, that small changes can have big impacts.
The Social Development & Entrepreneurship Internship in the Greater Kruger National Park supports local entrepreneurs by helping them learn and ultimately establish their own business start-ups. When successful, their innovation creates job growth and improves standards of living.