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Mango Members on Placement: Christina Mangunda in Sierra Leone with the British Red Cross Society
Christina Mangunda joined our Register of Finance Professionals in 2016 and started her first Mango placement in 2017 with the British Red Cross (BRC) in Sierra Leone. We recently got in touch with her to find out how she has been enjoying her new role, collaborating with different branches of the Red Cross, and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Sierra Leone.
This is my second time working in Sierra Leone, having previously worked in the country with Restless Development. I’m originally from Zimbabwe, but I’ve also worked in other African countries including South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as working elsewhere in the UK. My role mainly involves overseeing financial and administrative systems, processes and procedures relating to the running of the BRC office in Freetown, and managing grants advanced to the Sierra Leone Red Cross (SLRC). I work closely with the SLRC and a large part of my role involves supporting the SLRC in developing key financial competencies such as budgeting, cash flow forecasting and financial reporting. The main difference between this role and my previous jobs is that before I was much more involved in the general day-to-day running of finance operations, whereas now there is much more management and oversight. At times, this means that the role can feel much more laid back compared to previous roles – even a bit of a breather – and I’m enjoying it a great deal. I’m particularly enjoying the mentoring and coaching aspect of the role, as I’m glad to have the opportunity to impart knowledge and to see people grow. The grant management aspect of the role is also of a more senior level than the grant management I have previously been involved in.
The Red Cross Movement is a very interesting organisation to work for as it is made up of a multitude of different national and international Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The British Red Cross and the Sierra Leone Red Cross work together in this country but it is important to recognise that the SLRC is a separate organisation, and therefore it is always important to respect their independence. Since working here I’ve learnt a great deal about the value of collaboration, co-operation and also good communication. One positive outcome that has recently been achieved is that we have committed to regular quarterly meetings with our partners which has been an excellent opportunity to meet with, listen to and learn from each other. There has been much better communication between branch managers and the head office and I feel like we are working more efficiently as a result.
At the moment I have committed myself to staying put in the Sierra Leone office for the first year, so that I can finalize the year-end processes. Once I’m confident that there are robust financial systems in place, I’m hoping to have more of an opportunity to visit other Red Cross offices and learn more about their programmes, such as in the Senegal office. However, I have already had the opportunity to travel to the UK for the British Red Cross ‘international delegate week’ where international delegates from across the world meet up to discuss their work. I particularly enjoyed this opportunity as I used my free time to meet up with friends and former work colleagues in London and made use of the time to eat some of the food I have been missing here in Sierra Leone – especially a good steak!
Sierra Leone is a very beautiful country, and despite its recent history of civil war, it is a very peaceful country. I have been struck by how people live in harmony and the relationships between people of different religions. For example, it is quite common for Christians and Muslims to marry one another. We are surrounded by stunning beaches here and I’ve taken advantage of the multitude of water sports on offer, trying my hand at some snorkeling! However, it is still a developing country. Whereas in Zimbabwe and South Africa there were much stronger systems and institutions, this is not the case for Sierra Leone, and there are often issues with the provision of water and electricity.
The British Red Cross in Sierra Leone supports a diverse range of programmes delivered through the Sierra Leone Red Cross. We largely support community-based health programmes working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and the Ministry of Water Resources. Sierra Leone is a country very prone to disasters – indeed just recently there was a series of fatal mudslides and floods in the west of the country – and so the British Red Cross supports a lot of work on disaster risk reduction and response. The British Red Cross has been working in Sierra Leone with the Sierra Leone Red Cross for more than 50 years now, so we have a very established reputation in the country.
This has been my first placement through Mango. Jackie heartily encouraged me to apply for the role and I received great support from the Recruitment team during the application process. One of the things I found particularly helpful was the competency framework which I found on Mango’s website. I would encourage anyone looking to apply for a role to make full use of this free resource!
For more information on how to join the Register of Finance Professionals click here.