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Mango members on Placement: Stephen Hawthorne in Zambia with Build It International

Register member Stephen Hawthorne recently started his third Mango placement as the Volunteer Head of Finance in Zambia with Build It International. We recently caught up with him to hear how he was enjoying life in Lusaka despite having his hands full!

‘I’m halfway into my third Mango assignment, this time as a Volunteer Head of Finance with Build It International, based at their head office in Zambia. This is the fourth NGO I’ve worked for and my second volunteer assignment. The work is challenging but rewarding; you are part of a team that will train more than 150 Zambians in 2017, giving them building skills that will improve their job prospects. As with many NGO roles the reality of the work has been slightly different from the job description, so I’ve had to be flexible. I’ve spent a great deal more time than I expected on day-to-day financial tasks, providing the Finance Manager with much needed support for her immense workload. Over my remaining six months in the role, I hope to spend more time on capacity building and making lasting improvements to financial procedures. As in many developing country contexts, there is a real need for capacity building and skills development in NGO finance teams in Zambia.

Build It International aims to create opportunities for young people in Zambia through skills training, work experience and essential community building projects. They also work on eliminating gender bias in the construction industry. So far, I’ve been to visit one of our training locations, our own ‘Centre for Excellence’, 10 miles outside of Lusaka where Build It trains young Zambians in construction. Apart from a few volunteers here in Zambia, the remainder of the staff here are local, and Build It are therefore a great local employer.

This is my second time living in Zambia. I was previously based in Livingstone, close to the Victoria Falls, and I’m now based in the capital city, Lusaka. Zambia is a very beautiful and relatively peaceful country. It is a poor country but swiftly developing and with a growing middle class. Wages are rising rapidly, which often makes it difficult for NGOs to keep staff as they are may be offered higher salaries in the private sector. This is particularly pertinent to my role as one of my upcoming tasks will be to recruit a Zambian national to takeover my position as a paid Head of Finance.

I currently share a house with another Build It volunteer (a structural engineer) and we both keep ourselves busy with our work. During my free time I enjoy running and cycling around Lusaka, which has many tree lined streets although there are no public parks. The weather here is very nice. It didn’t rain from April until early October. Lusaka is pleasant city to live in for an expat worker with international restaurants and a multitude of modern shopping malls.

I’ve been a Mango Register Member for several years now. In my experience Mango is the most appropriate agency for getting finance jobs in the NGO sector. Whenever I have decided to look for a new role, I have always started by contacting Mango. The recruitment team have the right experience to know what to expect and I feel like I can always share my concerns with them.’

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