A year in Nigeria

Arrival in Kaduna

I still find it hard to believe that I’ve finally arrived in my new home for the next year: Nigeria. After an extensive application, interview and screening process as well as a slight entry Visa delay, I’m happy to be settling into life on the African continent.

I graduated from Florida International University (FIU) in 2007 with a Bachelor of Business Administration and went on to work in public relations, marketing and project management in various U.S. cities and abroad. Being challenged by different business opportunities, problem-solving for world-class clients around the globe and building relationships with invaluable partners were all aspects of my career thus far that I thoroughly enjoyed, though at the end of a typical 14-hour work day I couldn’t help but ask myself what lasting impact my efforts would have on the world.

A few months ago. I was conducting online research to find an opportunity in which I could volunteer abroad and came across the North American international development organization, Canadian University Service Overseas-Voluntary Service Overseas( CUSO-VSO), which is a branch of VSO International. I filled out my online application, provided the required references and flew to Ottawa, Canada for an assessment day. After being accepted as an international business and management volunteer, I was selected for a specific position as a capacity building advisor with a rural development non-governmental organization (NGO) in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Christine Adolf makes her first visit to a rural village in Hope for the Village Child’s vehicle.

My role as a capacity building advisor with Hope for the Village Child (HVC) will primarily involve facilitating the development and implementation of the organizational development (OD) and strategic plans as well as helping the organization run more efficiently and effectively overall. I’m especially interested in helping with “women’s development,” one of the areas in which HVC supports rural communities. I’ll also be helping with a few training workshops for the HVC staff to build their capacity in different areas such as basic IT skills.

Getting started

After a couple of days of VSO Nigeria’s in-country training with other incoming volunteers from Canada, Ireland, India and Uganda in the capital of Abuja—training that iincluded sessions on security and health in Nigeria and lots of administrative tasks, among other things—I’ve made my way a couple of hours north to my volunteer placement in Kaduna.

“We balance work and pleasure” sign in the hotel in Abuja, where volunteers stayed during the in-country training

My accommodation is just outside town in a community called Unguwan Makama. I live in a compound with four units, just one block from the local secondary school.

Work at HVC is going well thus far and all my Nigerian colleagues are extremely friendly and helpful. Each morning I walk 10 minutes from my house to the main road and am picked up by my colleagues for another 10 minute drive to the office.

The highlights of living in Nigeria so far are definitely all the fresh produce (pineapples, bananas, tomatoes, etc.) and riding on the back of motorcycles (called ‘okadas’). I’m also looking forward to learning some Hausa, which is the main local language spoken in the north of Nigeria.

A traffic jam or “go slow” in Kaduna, Nigeria

From what I’ve experienced in my short time here, Nigerians are incredibly welcoming. I’m excited to see how my work here will progress and to learning a lot from working with my Nigerian colleagues and the rural communities in which HVC operates. I’m also looking forward to connecting with my neighbors in Unguwan Makama. I’m happy to report that my West African adventure is off to a great start!

Christine M. Adolf (BBA ’07) is spending a year in Nigeria as a CUSO International volunteer, exploring how she can use her background in business to empower people living in poverty around the world. Her interests include yoga, reading, dancing, social entrepreneurship and exploring new places.

View all articles by Christine M. Adolf.


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