We Are Randox | Charlie Graham tells us about her time spent volunteering in Ethiopia
Here at Randox we are celebrating our creative and talented work force whose fresh perspectives and world experience help Randox operate on such a global scale.
Recently, Charlie Graham, a member of the Randox Food Diagnostics Marketing team told us about her time spent in Ethiopia, volunteering with Volunteer Service overseas (VSO) as part of the International Citizenship Service (ICS) Programme.
Charlie sat down with us to tell us her story.
“I first heard about the ICS program when I was studying at Glasgow Caledonian University. My friend who was also studying Business Management with Marketing alongside me, had pre-warned me about the intense application process, and although it seemed quite daunting at the time, I have always been interested in volunteer work and international travel so I felt up for the challenge.
To be considered for a place on the program I had to firstly complete an online application. Then if you passed this initial stage you were invited to attend a group interview that took place in London. Here I undertook both group and individual assessments throughout the day that tested my knowledge of international development, conflict resolution and team work skills. Surprisingly, I found the interview process extremely rewarding as there was a strong focus on personal development and feedback. It was also interesting to learn about the possible charities that we could be placed with based on our skill sets.
I was excited when I finally received the news eight weeks later that I been matched with VSO and would be placed in a livelihoods development programme in Addis Ababa. To finalise my place I had to raise £800 that would go towards the work that I would be doing when I arrived in Ethiopia. I decided to host a bake sale in the foyer of Caledonian University and also compete a 5KM run to help raise the money.
As a group, we underwent pre-departure training before our flight from London. Once I landed there was a week of in-country training where I met up with the Ethiopian volunteers that I would be working alongside for the next three months. We also met our new families that we would be staying with throughout the duration of the program.
One of the first projects that I worked on was with the Women’s Income Generating Activity Groups. This Government funded program provided both training and guidance for local women who had received a small loan which enabled them to start up their own business ideas. One memory that has stuck with me from working with this group was the power of knowledge. Almaz, the project leader, highlighted that for many of the women learning how to read and being able to sign their own names was truly empowering and allowed them to become financially independent for the first time in their lives. This really brought home to me how valuable the work of ISC is, and how much I as a volunteer was able to impact the lives of these women by teaching them this simple act.
I also organised community action days during my time in Ethiopia. I visited a rehabilitation centre called Mecadonia that housed 170 people aged between 10 – 94 who are bed ridden or elderly. As this centre runs solely on donations we provided meals and clothing for all the residents. I even got a local newspaper to come and write about the centre to help raise awareness and potentially generate new sponsorship for the future.
One of the residents of Mecadonia was called Addis, he was 26 and was in desperate need of a kidney transplant. He had been suffering from kidney problems for five years and his family could only afford to treat him with traditional remedies – nothing had worked. As his health deteriorated he was unable to live with his family as he needed to attend the hospital for weekly dialysis. The evening that I met him, he was trying to fundraise 1 million birr which is the equivalent of £25,000 to secure a kidney transplant. His story really opened my eyes and put into perspective how blessed we are in the UK to have the NHS. After meeting Addis I felt very fortunate for the health of my family and myself.
During the time I spent in Addis Ababa one of the other projects I worked on was capacity building for a charity called Redeem the Generation which focused on the potential of young people and women. I worked on developing and improving their facilities to ensure they were providing a good service for the local community. One of my biggest achievements during the project was organising ICT training programme for women which was attended by 15 women and several community elders.
The three months I spent in Addis Ababa were truly unforgettable: I learnt a new language, experienced a new culture and made life-long friends. What’s more I got the opportunity to make a tangible difference in the lives of others.
Since my trip I have become a real advocate for international development and female entrepreneurship. My experience has not only helped cement the importance of being a team player but also developed my leadership skills – which has really helped me here at Randox.”
We hope Charlie’s story has inspired you to grab new international opportunities that will help improve the wellbeing of others. Randox is committed to revolutionising healthcare through its diverse and multi-talented team.