By Natasha Bridge, Management Consultant, Accenture and VSO Volunteer
Results from a recent national online poll, commissioned by leading international development charity VSO, show that 56% of British full time workers would freely volunteer their skills to fight poverty in a developing country, if they had the support of their employer. The ‘Perception of Corporate Volunteering Poll’ - undertaken by Gorkana - surveyed 3,000 professionals across the UK in November 2015.
30 year old Natasha Bridge from London is a Management Consultant for Accenture UK. Recently married, Natasha and her new husband - 31 year old IT Consultant, Chris - spent much of their two month honeymoon, volunteering with India's ‘Ministry of Rural Development' through VSO’s Knowledge Exchange. VSO Knowledge Exchange – established in July this year – is a UK government backed initiative which gives skilled employees from the private sector, an opportunity to volunteer and change lives in some of the world’s poorest places. Natasha, helped adapt program policy which would improve work opportunities for people living with disability, while Chris produced a report which explored why candidates drop out of job placements and training. Corporate volunteer, Natasha, reflects on her placement:
“Our experience in India has been excellent! One of the reasons we chose India is because the scale of the help they need is actually mind blowing. I wanted to use my skills on a project that makes a difference to people's lives.
India’s Ministry of Rural Development aims to address poverty and deprivation among a rural population of 857 million. We were both working on the ‘DDU-GKY’ programme which provides skills, training and job placement for the young, rural poor through various agencies.
Specifically, I helped adapt programme policy so more people with disabilities would benefit. Through field visits, interviews and questionnaires, I began to understand how agencies, which deliver training and job placement for people with disabilities, operate and how they could be improved.
It was fascinating! One visually impaired person showed me how he operated a computer without monitors or a mouse, which was truly inspiring. My most challenging interview was with a trainer who trained people with hearing and speech impairments. He had a hearing and speech impairment himself, so in order for me to communicate with him, one person translated English to Kannada (the local language) and then another person communicated to him via sign language.
I visited the ‘Samarthanam Trust’, a fabulous organisation in Bangalore set up by an inspirational, visually impaired founder. Here they train people with disabilities and place them in jobs. They also have a primary and high school for children with disabilities and even their very own blind cricket team who play with a ball which rattles!
I met visually impaired people at their Business Process Outsourcing Centre who did telesales for Vodafone and Coca Cola. I also met people with hearing and speech impairments working on data entry who had a higher accuracy rate than their non-disabled colleagues! Employees with mobility impairments were also doing both types of work. If there was anything to persuade employers that they should be taking on more people with disabilities, it’s this centre!
The ‘Samarthanam Trust’ even have a group of young people with disabilities, called ‘Sunadha’, who perform classical Indian song and dance. These very talented professionals, who also perform in the UK, put on a great show.
My biggest challenge was organising and facilitating a workshop for forty-four attendees which explored changing targets, buildings, training materials and trainer qualifications for people with disability. Representatives from government, NGOs, training providers and employers came together to discuss my proposed policy changes which would benefit more people.
The workshop was a resounding success and a great foundation for the new guidelines which are now with the Ministry of Rural Development for final approval. Once approved, they will become official policy to be followed by organisations who employ people with disabilities.
I've learnt how to work with people with disabilities and understand the types of challenges that they face. I now understand more about how government processes and policies work. As a result, I’m very interested in working more with people with disabilities as their challenges are not limited to a developing country but are the same worldwide.
We've really enjoyed our experience and feel honoured to have had the opportunity to work on such a worthwhile project for the Central Government of India. Although challenging at times, my experience was extremely rewarding, knowing that the work I did will directly lead to more people with disabilities getting skilled and placed into employment. It’s great to know that the work we've done will make a difference.
We hope that our work will be the start of a long and prosperous partnership between the Ministry and VSO Knowledge Exchange with many other volunteers following in our footsteps.”
To see full summary of results visit: http://www.vsointernational.org/news/over-half-of-british-workers-w...
To sign your company up to VSO Knowledge Exchange visit: www.vsoknowledgeexchange.org
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