19 Dec How Filsan turned volunteering with EQWIP HUBs into a career
In today’s job market building an impressive resume is only half the battle. Obtaining specialized skills and experience will give you a competitive edge. It is through leveraging your professional networks of carefully cultivated business relationships that will turn this competitive edge into real opportunities and employment success. Volunteering abroad can not only provide you with essential job skills and experiences but also invaluable professional networking opportunities through working with our global network of partners.
Filsan is a Canadian volunteer who recently returned from EQWIP HUBs Tanzania, where she was a Facilitation and Training Assistant, and started her career as a Youth Engagement Digital Coordinator with our international partner Taking It Global. We asked her about her time volunteering abroad and how she was able to make the most of her experiences in Tanzania.
Why did you volunteer with EQWIP HUBs?
After graduating, I was at the point in my life where I was ready for a change and looking for significant job experience. I discovered the opportunity to volunteer with EQWIP HUBs shortly after I graduated. I was very excited for the opportunity to travel abroad again and work with youth. Working as a Training and Facilitation Assistant allowed me to interact face-to-face with youth every day and I gained skills that have positively influenced the trajectory of my professional career.
What were the top skills you learned while volunteering abroad?
Adaptability – There were multiple times when things did not go as planned and it was important for me to see it as an opportunity rather than challenge. I had a vision of what I expected from my position, but as with any role, or overseas travel, my expectations changed. Once I realized I couldn’t contribute the way I had previously thought, I had to change my thinking and find creative ways to make the impact I had envisioned. This led me to create the first girls’ club in Zanzibar, which is a safe space for young women to learn and grow.
The importance of verbal and non-verbal communication – Being in an environment where most people you interact with do not speak English, makes it important for you to be aware of all forms of communication. I had to recognize the importance of my role as a volunteer coming into a community and my duty to try and learn the local language. Having a Kiswahili teacher, and constantly practicing the local language, helped me better interact and communicate with the local youth and community that I was now apart of.
Teamwork – Although I have been a part of numerous teams throughout my academic and profession career, being a part of a team in a foreign country requires a great deal of cross-cultural understanding. It was important for me to constantly challenge my traditional ideas of how things should be done and embrace new ways introduced by my team members. Working with volunteers from across Canada and with local staff taught me the importance of knowledge exchange and sharing. I was able to welcome new ideas and perspectives based on the lived experiences of my colleagues.
What was your experience working with our global partners?
Throughout my placement, I was constantly exposed to such amazing individuals whose hard work is driving the EQWIP HUBs project forward. I had the opportunity to work with the Vocational Training Authority who are the partner organization in Zanzibar. I was regularly meeting with the global partner which created a platform for discussion and learning. As a Training and Facilitation Assistant, I was able to utilize this partnership to support my fellow volunteers and staff members in delivering key materials to youth.
What can Canadians do to get the most from their experience working abroad?
First, you need to do it. While it can be difficult, particularly for recent graduates with student loans looking to start their careers, you need to look ahead and take the plunge. You will grow as an individual, you will be more well-rounded, you will be a better communicator and you will have great experiences. A year or two abroad does not mean you lose anything, you will only gain. If you don’t take advantage of these opportunities, you will be missing something.
What advice would you give to current EQWIP HUBs volunteers?
The best advice I have for current EQWIP HUBs volunteers is to open their minds. It is so important to not have any pre-conceived notions or assumptions on how anything will go. Tackle every new day with a sense of optimism and adaptability. Once you begin to do that, you can overcome any obstacle and challenge. It is also very important to remember you have a support system in-country with your fellow volunteers and staff members.
I would also encourage volunteers to make connections throughout your journey. I was very lucky to have come back to Canada with so much experience and knowledge that resulted in my finding employment based on the connections I made during my placement. I truly believe the best things in life are those that scare you the most. Once you pass the fear, you open yourself up to life-changing possibilities.
Volunteering overseas is a truly unique and transformative experience. That’s why EQWIP HUBs offers Canadians life changing international volunteer opportunities in Bolivia, Ghana, Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Tanzania. Working in partnership with a global network, you will collaborate with local youth seeking new, job-ready skills and acquire some of your own in the process. With departures throughout the year in January, March, May, July, September and November, you can find the right position for you based on your skills and availability.