They’d told us that a couple of the key soft skills we’d need as CUSO International volunteers are flexibility and adaptability—so very true! I knew that in coming to Nigeria I was signing up for an adventure and the past month has certainly not disappointed. After having been required to evacuate from Kaduna to Abuja because of the unpredictable terrorist activities of Boko Haram in some of the northern states (including Kaduna), I spent a few days traveling through Oshogbo and Illorin in the southwest of the country as VSO Nigeria decided what to do with all the volunteers from Kano, Kaduna, and Jigawa states. It was very sad to unexpectedly leave Kaduna and Hope for the Village Child Foundation earlier than planned, but I was fortunate that a new work placement was found in Cross River State and I was redeployed within a couple of weeks.
My new assignment is working with the Mary Slessor Foundation, helping to build the capacity of the local staff who run a vocational training center for fashion, carpentry, and mechanical/welding; a small scale agricultural processing plant for oil palm and cassava; and a health clinic. The organization is based in a rural village called Akpap Okoyong, not too far from the rainforest and the Cameroonian border.
The main focus of my assignment here is putting administrative processes in place as well as establishing local management and supporting the staff in developing income-generating activities to help with the long-term sustainability of the organization. I’ve also been supporting another VSO volunteer from India who is working at an organization called Concern Universal in Calabar, conducting a market assessment on palm oil. This involved interviewing different stakeholders in the palm oil value chain (farmers, processors, etc.) in addition to conducting secondary research and compiling, organizing and editing information for the report.
I’ve definitely been able to use my experience working in Nigeria thus far (it’s been almost eight months now!) to adapt more quickly to my new position, both culturally and professionally. I’m excited by the apparent potential to have a positive impact on the local community through my work with the Mary Slessor Foundation as well as the opportunity to live and work in a rural setting. I have developed an interest in agriculture since moving to Nigeria and getting to visit local farms to learn from the farmers and purchasing their fruits is quite fun. I was even inspired to plant my first-ever garden of lemongrass and pineapple!
I’m enjoying this new work and life experience thus far and hope to serve the community of Akpap Okoyong well for the next few months.
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.