As my volunteering assignment came to an end, I couldn’t help but reflect on the entire experience. Working with members of the Techiman Maize Traders Association (TEMTA) was incredible. It allowed me to gain great insight into an industry that I had not previously spent a lot of time working in, and it offered me the chance to share my business development expertise with the farmers.
Although the focus groups and trainings might be considered the most substantive aspect of the TEMTA assignment, I really enjoyed engaging with the farmers, aggregators and maize sellers directly in the markets. They were so eager to show me their physical location within the market and to also share a bit about their daily activities. Additionally, the farmers were pleased whenever I attempted to speak their local language with them. Although my Twi language skills were far from proficient, my attempts at speaking their language demonstrated (to them) a sincere effort to connect on a deeper level.
One of the more surprising aspects of the assignment was when the leaders and members of the TEMTA indicated that they had not previously had the opportunity to participate in formal trainings. Since the association formed in 1982, they had gone many years without the opportunity to develop their professional skills. As a result, they were delighted to have focused time to discuss their business challenges and to also gain new knowledge through the trainings that were provided during the assignment. I believe that the training participants were all committed to the learning process and were equally enthusiastic about implementing the new business practices and “tools” that they received during the trainings.
I am so glad I learned about this opportunity through the SHRM Foundation. Working on this USAID-supported project via ACDI/VOCA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program gave me an opportunity to experience first-hand the inner workings of a very important development project focused on solving real problems in an international context. I really appreciated the fact that ACDI/VOCA handled all of the logistical details associated with the assignment which gave me plenty of time to concentrate on other phases of the project—from background research to building relationships with the clients to implementing trainings on the ground.
For anyone who is interested in giving back in a meaningful way, I would highly recommend working on an assignment through ACDI/VOCA.