Although Makutano ya Wajasiriamali has been providing continued support locally, Chezuba is the first outside platform that they’ve seeked volunteers from. As believers of traditional and onsite volunteering, it is only through the platform they’ve learnt how outside volunteering can be helpful for them. Simeon says - “As a young organisation, we do not have much experience making strategies in order to increase our growth chart. It is always better for my organisation to grow, for which strategy is needed. Through this project, we wanted to plan long term goals like, the number of employees we will need to run the organisation, how much funds need to be sourced for smooth running of the organisation, what programs can be executed, etc. Summing it up, I was looking for a professionally advised dIrection to run my activities and use this document to reach out to potential donors.”
Simeon had started work with two volunteers, Zorawar and Sidika respectively. Before reaching out to the NGO, the volunteers needed to understand if they were on the same page, for which they had set up a call to understand why they'd both chosen this project in particular. They discussed the key aspects of the material the NGO had shared with them immediately post match which they both thought was extremely well-structured and actually took them by surprise since it wasn’t exactly what they had in mind while taking up a volunteer role. They assumed that the NGO won't be as organised and as fast as corporates. Sidika said “We had to go through a module which TATA sent through which we understood that there would be a lot of ambiguity. We were warned that we are working with remote NGOs so requirements may not be clear and communication may not be great, but Simeon did so much with the little workforce he had. We were going to be dealing with a different geography, market, people and culture. I had a lot of apprehensions about the right things to say and what would be taken offensive. Simeon bridged the gap beautifully as we didn't know the landscape or environment around Tanzania. It was the first call when Simeon came on and Zorawar was there, it didn't feel like we were interacting with somebody across the world, instead the atmosphere was very comfortable. Simeon is a very amicable person and affable in nature. He gave us a warm welcome. He was very clear about what he wanted. He sent us two documents - one about the organisation and other was the areas he wanted us to focus on. The title of the project upon first glance, was broad. Like an organizational strategy is a lot of things but he had very articulately stated 5 specific points he wanted us to work on. Very clear, very focused. That's something that really helped us from the beginning. We felt like we were partially working in a corporate setting.”
They had connected over WhatsApp and used the roadmap provided by Chezuba to track the progress of the project. The first meeting involved discussing the deliverables of the project and all three of them agreed upon which points need to be ironed out. After which, the volunteers started off with understanding the data provided by the NGO and consulting different sources for inputs. The engagement was mutual between Simeon and the volunteers, as Simeon was also assigned some tasks to do like, letting the volunteers know what content he regularly teaches in entrepreneurship programs, based on which assessment tools were prepared. They initially had weekly meetings, but once they got a hang of the project, they met fortnightly and so on. Both the volunteers said there was freedom to propose what they wanted hence, they would all have a constructive discussion and only then move forward with any decision.
With everything having been put down crystal clear by Simeon, the only challenge the volunteers think that came up was to manage between the project and their regular jobs, it obviously got difficult to pace at a point. There were instances when one couldn’t devote time when they had a busy week. Someone or the other wasn’t available for a few meetings. The motto that led them to get the better of these challenges is - If a team has trust among one another, you can overcome it.
Unfortunately for them, Sidika had to drop out midway toward the second deliverable of the project as her family was affected by COVID. That didn’t stop any of them from giving up on the project although there was ambiguity that led to some confusion. Instead, Zorawar had put in the extra hours to compensate for Sidika’s absence. Sidika was so motivated to work on the project that she eventually came back and when asked the reason why, she said she always wanted to work with this project as it was very interesting. When she came back and asked Zorawar about the status of the project, she was immensely surprised to hear he almost completed the project by himself. She was just eager to help, that was when they had a 3 hour call with the NGO when Simeon said he could use some additional training material. She asked Zorawar that she wanted to work independently on these deliverables to make up for her absence. According to her, this was the highest point in the project for her as Simeon was thrilled to receive this document and said this is exactly what he was looking for. “The first instance reaction was heartwarming for me”, she said.
On a personal note, Sidika quoted “The project clarity was great but some deliverables lacked clarity. We understand most NGOs do not run with many resources. The geography is different, the schooling system was different compared to ours. Understanding some of the terminology differences between them and us was difficult but research helped with all of that. Simeon was there so that was perfect. I am sure we bothered him a lot every other weekend with how things worked. Me dropping out would have been a challenge for both of them, but the team was so supportive. Of course, all's well that ends well. It all wrapped up as a beautiful gift.”