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Sharing financial know-how in Uganda

By Alison Smith, an accountant and VSO Volunteer, shares her experience of working with Trócaire Uganda

I can’t quite believe that I’m at the end of my two-year placement with Trócaire Uganda. When I applied to volunteer with VSO back in March 2013 I didn’t know where I would end up, but Uganda has been a fantastic experience. Everyone here is very friendly and welcoming, and the scenery and wildlife are just the icing on the cake. 

I’ve been working as a ‘Volunteer Partner Finance Capacity Building Officer’ which is a bit of a mouthful but it does at least accurately explain the placement. My focus has been on working with the local partner organisations on the Sustainable Livelihood Programme in the North and North East of Uganda. These partners do amazing work on land rights and sustainable agriculture, with a particular focus on helping women.

I‘m a Chartered Accountant and have worked for many years in the charity sector in the UK. It has been a great opportunity to take my skills and experience and apply them to situations a quarter of the way around the globe. 

I’ve visited the partner offices all over Uganda to help them to monitor their grants and meet Trócaire’s financial management standards. We’ve then worked together to develop their capacity to move to the next level. Overall I’ve carried out 66 partner visits and have visited nearly every corner of Uganda.

Alison planting a tree in West Nile

Alison on her final visit to West Nile, where she was invited to plant a mango tree on the College grounds.

A particular focus of the placement has been to encourage programme and finance teams to talk to each other and work together. The teams have different strengths but by putting their knowledge together the improvements have been fantastic, one plus one really can equal three! 

Over the placement I’ve designed and delivered 15 days of finance training covering everything from understanding the minimum standards for the programme team, to cost recovery, to reconciliations, to Excel training. I’ve just returned from a week-long visit to the Addis Ababa and Nairobi offices to share some of the findings and materials from the placement around the Horn and East Africa region. The less time we spend ‘reinventing the wheel’ the more time we have to help the partners. 

In the final few months I’ve worked on some cost policies and training to help partners to know and understand the organisation running costs and include a fair proportion of these in their grant applications. I hope this will help the partners to prepare programmes that are more attractive to funders. 

Uganda is a beautiful country and it has been an honour to have spent two years here. 

Thank you Trócaire!


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