What do we do ?

My volunteering experience at Better Life Vietnam - Ivan Nkenla

My name is Ivan Nkenla, I am a young Cameroonian. I recently graduated from Emlyon Business School with a master of science in Corporate Finance. After my graduation, I wanted to do something interesting like serving people and supporting humanitarian projects. Moreover, I was looking to work with an international team so I devised a strategy to achieve my goal.

First, I attended conferences in person and online, held in Cameroon and led by NGOs. The conferences concerned the NGOs’ missions, how they work and how to become a member of staff. Secondly, I decided to explore different online volunteering opportunities and I discovered www.onlinevolunteering.org. This website is owned by the United Nations (UN) and it was practical and easy to navigate through the different voluntary roles that were on offer. At first, it was not easy to find a mission that suited my qualifications and aspirations but I kept searching nonetheless. Fortunately, I discovered Better Life Vietnam (BLV), a Vietnamese social enterprise with a focus on education.

BLV was looking for a Business Model Analyst. I applied for the position and shortly after, I received an invitation to attend an interview with Mme Thinh Nguhen, the founder/director of the children’s charity. She wanted to know more about who I was, in order to understand my aspirations, my aims, and what I could achieve in the project. As far as I remember, the interview went well because I was well-prepared and highly motivated to make a good impression. In addition, Mme Thinh Nguhen was inspirational and enthusiastic. I was astonished at the amount of work she had already done at BLV.

One major campaign at BLV, as an charity providing education, is to donate children’s books to schools in impoverished areas. This will help underprivileged Vietnamese children and youths - a mission which suited my aspirations perfectly.

After the interview, I was excited at the prospect of being accepted. A few days later, I received a confirmation letter inviting me to join the Sales team at the foundation. I was grateful and really happy. However, I knew that accepting the job would entail a lot of responsibilities. 

I really enjoyed the first meeting, mainly because we are an international team. The members are all located in different countries: Cameroon, Russia, UK, USA, India, Vietnam and Germany. I am really happy to be part of this team as we are dedicating our minds, strength and motivation to run the project. During the meeting, I was expected to have an overview of the mission and vision of BLV.

As I mentioned, BLV is an Vietnamese charity working to improve educational conditions and access. BLV’s program has three areas of focus: the implementation of a books library, scholarships, and English classes. This program has led to better employment opportunities for the disadvantaged youth of Vietnam.

In order to sustain our work, we have launched two business projects: these help the children’s charity to fundraise. The first is Tours for Books, where BLV organise tours and provide travel services in Vietnam. A portion of the profits raised will support education projects. The second, “Coeurs de Papiers”, is an initiative selling handmade quilling artwork products in order to support disabled youth across Vietnam. We are currently focusing on the “Coeurs de Papiers” project, because of the sentiment that “anything is possible with a willing heart”. The heart symbol refers to the disabled youth who have the heart to overcome difficulties in their lives in order to be independent. It also refers to the volunteer members who are ready to contribute their time and talent to make the project happen. It is the “heart” element that has unified our global team.

As a member of the Sales team, it is my duty to acquire strategies to sell the crafts, produced by the social enterprise comprised of Vietnamese children and youth. I contribute by sharing new ideas with the team and we work with the best and most feasible idea. Although we are only at the beginning of the project, we are really motivated to design a sustainable action plan. We are carrying out surveys on our target market and potential customers. Currently, we are looking to build partnerships and cooperate with other shops and we hope that they will be sensitive to our mission.

We are developing a strategy to convince foreigners to take part in a tour of Vietnam through our service, which will raise money for the education charity. The aim of our survey is to identify the probable difficulties of the market, propose good customer services and establish affordable prices according to the expectation of the client base. The current difficulty is the shipping of the product and how we can satisfy customers’ orders internationally. Our team is working on a solution to this problem.

My mission at BLV is of great importance to me. I have gained experience working in an international team and it has been interesting to see how people work together to reach the same goal. I am highly aware of how my voluntary service has had an impact on the lives of children and young people in Vietnam. For all of the things that I am currently achieving at BLV - the joy to work with a great team and the aim of this project - I strongly recommend to anyone who wants to do something interesting and who wants to give a part of his or her heart on a mission that changes lives, not to hesitate in applying to a volunteering service. In my opinion, being a voluntary member of the Sales team at this education charity is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. It will be rewarding both personally and professionally, and is an experience that I will cherish and value forever. Volunteering is the best way to use my free time.