Anna Sosnowska spent three months volunteering in Eldoret, Kenya with International Citizen Service charity Balloon Ventures, which aims to tackle poverty in emerging countries. Anna’s project focused on supporting local entrepreneurs to develop their businesses, which in turn will positively impact their community. Anna was awarded a £300 Individual Volunteer Grant by the Jack Petchey Foundation to help her reach her fundraising goal of £800.
Anna’s role in the project was to find ways to innovate local businesses, to introduce new ideas different to those which are common in Kenya and teach vital business skills to local entrepreneurs. Together with two other volunteers, Anna worked directly with businesses in technology, food, retail and craftwork industries. She carried out the relevant market research, introduced innovations to the existing businesses and helped to establish business start-ups. Anna’s focus was on ensuring the businesses had a viable future strategy for expansion and sustainable development, as well as paying attention to their impacts on the environment and local community.
The programme made a measurable difference to the entrepreneurs that her team were working with. The majority of businesses in the programme were successfully awarded an interest-free loan which will help them to expand their businesses further, improve the livelihood of the entrepreneurs and their families and possibly create new employment opportunities for others. Unlike many financial organisations and banks, the programme awards successful entrepreneurs interest-free loans which provide the businesses with the missing capital to develop further without strenuous interest rates and a complicated vetting process.
The project also focused on the personal development of the entrepreneurs, teaching them vital business skills and knowledge, which will allow them to continue developing their businesses once the programme has ended. The team of volunteers also took part in community work such as organising various community events promoting HIV and AIDS awareness, supporting local special needs schools, orphanages and organisations supporting street children. Anna and her team noticed the poor conditions of one of the local orphanages and decided to raise money to purchase mattresses for the children to sleep on.
Anna said “The experience has been truly amazing and rich. I have learnt a lot about entrepreneurship, marketing and finance aspects of business. Before the programme, I was not aware of the importance of testing one's business ideas as many times as possible whilst paying attention to what the customer actually wants and satisfying that need accordingly. Similarly, I have learned a lot about the Kenyan market, its business trends and customs.”
One entrepreneur was very grateful for the programme, saying “Thank you to the UK Government for bringing this programme to the Kenyans as most of the youth in Kenya are unemployed and this can give them a chance to do something that is constructive.” Another entrepreneur added “Balloon Kenya is an entrepreneur’s superstore - a never-ending pool of ideas!”
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