Working in the international development field has become the dream of many ambitious young professionals all around the world. The most attractive part of this job is that your efforts count; every day you work towards a goal that, if planned and executed well, will make a difference for a social group you care about, and eventually for the whole society. However, if you have ever tried to get started in this professional sector, you will know that it is by no means easy: it is tough, it is competitive and it requires sacrifice.
The best place to get started are small charities like LAFF, where you can get real hands on experience and be involved in all aspects of NGOs’ management. Having first volunteered and then worked for LAFF over a period of one year and a half, I have first-hand experience! My time as a volunteer was the first step in my journey working for LAFF: I developed a better awareness of the local context, I learnt about the functioning of a small international NGO and I had the opportunity and honour of being a workshop facilitator for wonderful young people. The next step I took was the most important in my whole career: becoming the manager of LAFF was and still is the most complete, challenging and rewarding professional experience of my life.
The LAFF Programme Manager is in charge of all projects implemented in Cusco and Lima and is responsible for maintaining good relationships with all local and international stakeholders. He or she manages a team of local and international volunteers, also recruited by the Programme Manager. Since I have taken up this role, I had the opportunity to develop professionally in several different areas, even some that I would never have imagined! Currently, I am part of a team tasked with setting up a bakery as a social enterprise project. Beforehand, I had never known much about bread making, especially on an industrial scale. Now, I can tell you which are the best ovens you can buy in Peru, how big the “amasadora” should be for daily bread production of a small bakery and what kind electric power you need for your machines. I also have basic knowledge on how to run a guinea pig farm and regularly host a British pub quiz in Cusco!
In addition to these special and unusual experiences, LAFF has given me invaluable training in all aspects of Project Cycle Management,
communications, finance, fundraising and people management. As a Programme Manager I had full control of and responsibility for all wonderful LAFF initiatives. It has been challenging managing three, four, or even five projects at once, while at the same time, making sure that LAFF’s internal activities, such as communications, fundraising and recruitment continued fuelling our internal capacity. However, the pressure kept my concentration and motivation high and I was able to enjoy the responsibility of taking important decisions and the creative space I was given when working out the best way to meet our partner organizations’ needs.
Technically, the greatest learning curve for me was the financial side of LAFF. In my previous experience as project coordinator and manager, I had always had the invaluable help of an accountant. At LAFF I had the privilege of sitting next to our temporary volunteer accountants who trained me on account charts, accrual basis accounting, budgeting and so on. My abilities managing and allocating budgets increased significantly, as did my knowledge of financial reports. As for my personal skills, the best gift LAFF gave me was through challenging my leadership skills working with different people and in various situations forcing me to go beyond myself. In such a dynamic, fast-paced and diverse environment, it is sometimes difficult to keep everyone happy, even for someone like me who has always been praised for her people skills. I understood that it was not just about delegating the right tasks or stepping up to solve conflicts with dialogue but also about designing the right “structure” within and around the team so that everyone could feel valued, motivated and supported with the few resources we had access to.
It is sad I have to leave LAFF now. I would like to give back everything I have learnt. But more than everything else I will miss the wonderful people I have met here: the directors of our partner organizations, so dedicated to their mission, and of course, all of the children and young people I have worked with. After having worked with many children and young people over the last ten years in three different countries, I now understand that there is no limit to what they can teach you. LAFF exists to give these young people better opportunities than the ones they had before through gaining support and shelter at our partner organizations. LAFF works to give all of our young people access to education and to give them the personal and social skills they need to build a successful and happy future for themselves. This is what the job of Programme Manager involved and what his or her daily efforts mean to Carlota, Alfredo, Maribel, Jaime and all the rest of the young people LAFF supports.
If you would like to be the next Programme Manager hurry up! You have until the 6th of May to present your CV and application. Follow the instructions you find here.