Taking the road less travelled: My summer internship in Tanzania

I still remember that the key element that brought me to IESE Business School was its mission to develop future leaders with ethics, social responsibility, and a calling to make a remarkable change. Thanks to the amazing alumni network, this summer I found myself doing my second internship for an NGO, Jobortunity, in Tanzania.

Why did I intern at a non-profit

Despite not having any working experience in non-profit prior to the MBA, I’ve combined my professional skills and passion to volunteer while working with art organizations, as a music therapy performer at hospitals, and as the founder of a group promoting and doing active beach clean-ups. During my volunteering experiences, what I felt had the biggest impact was to share my stories with high schools and universities in Taiwan, to explain how I switched my career from being a musician to joining a business school, to encourage the youths dare to dream. I sincerely believe that education is the key to transforming lives and even to making poverty of next-generation a thing of the past. This long-held belief made me go to Tanzania, where I sought to apply my experience and MBA learnings to help the organization sustainably grow.

As a developing country where half the population still live below the poverty line,  power and water cuts are normal and Internet access is still very limited. In Tanzania, most people don’t lack food or clean water, but they do lack personal attention and care from their learning environment due in part to the average pupil-teacher rate of 51 students to 1 teacher. Most youth drop out of secondary school due to family or economic issues, and without a degree, they struggle to find a proper job. Poverty comes from “no choice”, and from “lack of exposure knowing that one can have choices.” It’s also why JOBO exists – to provide youth aged 18-25 with training covering computer skills, work ethics, and communication, in order to help them build confidence during 8 months of apprenticeship and routine feedback.

From left to right: Students in class, Happy lunch time, Students during apprenticeship in a local café

JOBO seeks to transform lives for people from vulnerable backgrounds, that otherwise wouldn’t have access to education and the opportunity to change their trajectory in order to make them employable. Unlike other vocational training centers focusing on hard skills, JOBO’s focus is on those soft skills that can shape longer-term impact.

After 12 years of working with wonderful students, trainers, volunteers, families, and supporters, JOBO has trained more than 500 youths along with a further 1,500 more through outreach programs.

Applying what I learnt in my MBA 

No matter how amazing the intentions of any NGO are, having consistent and stable income generation sources is the key to ongoing success. That was also the reason why Leslie Baxter, Managing Director of Jobortunity, an IESE MBA alumna from Class of 2001, brought me to this beautiful country.

On the one hand, I certainly got the chance to leverage my learnings during the first year like Analysis of Business Problem to review the challenge in a holistic scope by analyzing the organization’s business model and reviewing stakeholder mapping. In addition I had the opportunity to apply what I learned from Corporate Strategy class that how to position our organization, to stand out among so many NGOs in Tanzania, to review best practices, and to present strategic marketing and communication plans in front of managing directors and board members. On the other hand, with scarce financial and human resources, I created on-the-ground materials and practical action plans which the team can utilize without the need for extra resources or outsourcing support. Also, in order to diversify income generation sources, I also helped to launch JOBO’s 1st crowdfunding campaign and raised more than USD2300 within 17 days

My takeaways from my summer internship

During my 6 weeks in Arusha, I was lucky to stay with my team and our students which gave me totally differentiated perspectives unlike most travellers going for safari or to Zanzibar. I not only lived as a local but also had the pleasure of visiting my colleagues’ families which allowed me to understand more about their culture, social norms, problems and what drives them in their daily lives. I was surprised and impressed to learn that most of my colleagues (trainers) are graduates of JOBO’s programs. They set a positive example for the students and for their own kids that young single mothers can transform their lives to be independent from their husbands, to think critically, and to have their own career. Their resilience in facing difficulties, and their generosity to choose to always be givers are certainly phenomenal learnings I have picked up from my beloved colleagues.

From left to right: One of our colleagues being promoted to senior trainer; Celebrating with my strong and wonderful team of ladies

My colleagues also gave me the feedback that they started to accept me when they found me hanging around in the crowded local market without anxiety or worries on my face. They were also impressed by my curiosity. I eagerly wanted to learn Swahili and kept asking them tons of questions everyday regarding their tradition, society, education system, and what they and our students are going through. I feel that my Asian background in combination with studying and working in western countries help me fit in with the team quickly, while my direct but respectful communication style helped me to win their trust and bring fresh perspectives into the team.

In stark contrast to the fancy MBA life in Barcelona, happiness is as simple as life itself in Tanzania. Even though every single thing can be a battle, this teaches you to be more patient, appreciate more, and complain less. You’ll understand by heart that reduce, recycle, and reuse is not just a slogan, but a better way to live in harmony with nature. It’s indeed an amazing journey and memorable highlight not only in my MBA also my life. The unconditional love of those exemplary and inspiring people I met in that beautiful land is absolutely my biggest treasure, and I will carry those sparkles in students’ eyes and their courage facing the unknown with me no matter where the next chapter takes me.

Asante Sana.

If you would like to know more about how you can support Jobortunity, please visit this page or contact Yi-Ju Chen (yiju.chen@iese.net).

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Yi-Ju Chen View more

MBA Class of 2022

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