Every December 5th the United Nations (UN) observe the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development – highlighting how volunteers work together and contribute to economic and social development.

While volunteering with Raleigh International – a Virgin Unite supported organisation – Lucy Bearn discovered the power of entrepreneurship in rural Tanzania. The experience has completely transformed her life and below Lucy shares her story.

After doing a degree in engineering, I became an operations manager at Rolls Royce – Aerospace. I really enjoyed it, but after some time realised it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. There was something missing and this realisation made me take a step into international development.

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

Volunteering as a team leader with Raleigh International was the perfect opportunity for me to test my leadership skills in a new environment. I worked with a cross-cultural team of 14 young volunteers on a livelihoods project, which focussed on young entrepreneurs in the village of Mlangali, Tanzania.

My team and I supported entrepreneurs with basic business and idea development training, as well as helping them create cash flow statements and training them on how to pitch their business ideas to receive seed-funding.

Volunteering as a team leader with Raleigh International was the perfect opportunity for me to test my leadership skills in a new environment

The young people we worked with became extremely motivated throughout the process. They learnt important new business training and also grew in confidence. We had entrepreneurs that couldn’t stand up and speak at the start of the process, but by the end even the shyest people were able to deliver whole pitches to a panel. 

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

One of the entrepreneurs my team supported was Fariji, a young man from Mlangali. Fariji was an extremely motivated, inspirational guy and his business idea was based around selling chickens.

Chicken is one of the most expensive meats in Fariji’s community and if you want chicken you have to drive far to get it. Fariji was buying chickens, raising them and selling them on – so he saw this unique gap in the market for him to fill. We helped Fariji through idea generation and worked through his SWOT analysis, his business model canvas and his cash flows. Together we discovered that it could be a really profitable business.

He already had that ambition so all he really needed from us was the business training. “My entrepreneurial skills have developed tremendously. By taking part in the entrepreneurship programme, the volunteers have helped me expand my business prospects by helping me to draw up a long-term plan and identifying vacant plots of land. Mlangali faces a lot of problems – problems I believe could be directly addressed by small businesses. More businesses in the area also means more jobs and a boost to our economy,” said Fariji.

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

Virgin Unite, Volunteering, Raleigh International

I’m delighted to share that Fairji received seed funding at the end of the entrepreneurship project. My team is confident that Fariji and other young entrepreneurs will go on to have successful, thriving businesses and that they will benefit from the new opportunities they received from Raleigh.

I’m coming to the end of my six months volunteering in Tanzania and have been truly inspired by my time as a volunteer. I’ve seen the impact volunteering can have on a community – these projects are really working and changing lives.

- This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. 

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