Cardiff graduate Sophie Bright describes how she applied the skills she learnt at university to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
Sophie Bright in Africa.
During my time at Cardiff University, I learnt a lot about business, management and finance and was taught by some really inspirational lecturers. Both during and after my studies I’ve tried to put the key skills that I’d learnt to good use.
In the summer vacation of my first year at University, I volunteered for three months in an orphanage for Tibetan refugees - teaching English and helping with the daily running of the orphanage in Nepal.
During my summer vacation in the second year I went to Uganda and Kenya for three months to work on a variety of projects with a local Non Governmental Organisation (NGO) called VOLSET.
In Kenya, I worked in an orphanage for children affected by HIV/AIDS in the heart of a slum in Nairobi. The conditions were abysmal. 56 children sharing four beds, no running water, no electricity, no sanitation, and barely even a tin roof over their heads. Some days the children were not able to eat when donations ran dry. None of the children were in schools, despite the fact they are free (there are still a lot of hidden costs, for example buying their own desk and chair to take to school). I set out with some other international volunteers to do my best to find ways to improve their living conditions. We sent letters of appeal back home urging people to open their eyes and take action with us. We got such a huge amount of support…people were donating to us from all over the world. We were soon able to raise enough funds to buy beds and blankets for all the children, solar panels to generate electricity, a water tank with a shower, build a new roof and to send every child to school.
In Uganda, I visited many remote villages and islands in and around Lake Victoria where I carried out HIV testing and counselling and helped organise seminars about HIV/AIDS prevention and care. It was here that I met a group of 16 women all affected and living with HIV/AIDS. In Uganda, the Government offers free AIDS related virus treatment for patients but many people in remote places don’t have the funds or transport to get to the hospitals which can be two or three hours away. They barely have enough money to feed themselves and their family let alone travel huge distances for treatment.
I decided to fundraise enough money to start up a project that would help alleviate this problem: using an idea involving micro-loans. The money raised was given to the NGO where we then distributed it to the 16 women in the form of loans for the purpose of setting up their own businesses…from selling corn on the side of the street, to breeding and rearing pigs, to planting vanilla. All women were given training on how to run their own business including how to do bookkeeping, profit and loss accounts and how to keep their businesses efficient. The profits they made were then used to pay for the transportation to get to the hospitals for treatment and to buy food etc for them and their families. Once they made enough profit the money that VOLSET had loaned to them was given back to the NGO and distributed out again to others living with HIV/AIDS in these rural communities.
This project was such a success that more money has been fundraised to help 60 more people living with HIV/AIDS. I am still working with VOLSET, and have been appointed as an associate director, helping to organise business information booklets, newsletters, advise how best to distribute funds and also to help fundraise for them.
I can't say enough how thankful I am to the people who supported and continue to support both of these projects, and to the lecturers who taught me at Cardiff University…the skills I have learnt will be a valuable asset to me for the rest of my life. I would also like to take this opportunity to wish Cardiff University a Happy 125th Birthday!
Sophie Bright studied at Cardiff Business School and graduated, BSc Hons in Business Administration in summer 2007.