Catherine, aged 23 from Masatepe in Nicaragua, volunteered through the Raleigh ICS programme in autumn 2014. Her team supported young entrepreneurs from rural Nicaraguan communities with high levels of youth unemployment to set up their own businesses.
“I studied Sustainable Tourism at university in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. After graduating I began to search for job opportunities but every door that I knocked on was shut. I discovered the Raleigh ICS programme and decided to apply because I wanted to undertake something life changing. I wanted to help to change lives in Nicaraguan communities where there are few opportunities for development. I also hoped it would give me a new perspective of the world. I was fortunate enough to be selected for Raleigh ICS, and that’s how I started this incredible experience that has changed my life.
My team worked in the two rural communities of Sonis and Aguas Calientes in the north of Nicaragua, alongside our project partner INPRHU. The aim of the project was to support young entrepreneurs from the communities to develop their own businesses, which in turn would encourage economic growth in the region. We were working to develop business plans that had already been created by the young entrepreneurs with the support and guidance of previous Raleigh ICS volunteers.
We worked one-on-one with each of the entrepreneurs so that they would have a better understanding of how to develop their plans. We also gave workshops to train the entrepreneurs in areas such as marketing, money management and sourcing finance, as well as supporting the young entrepreneurs to put into practice what they were learning in the workshops. It was a challenging process for the team, but very rewarding.
The training that we delivered helped the young entrepreneurs gain a greater understanding of how to run a business. Hopefully seeing these young people turn their business ideas into reality will encourage further entrepreneurship in these rural communities and will inspire others living in the area to start their own businesses in the future.
From this new experience I have learnt to be more tolerant, perseverant, to fight for my dreams, to overcome my fears, and to learn to live with fewer resources. Living side by side with my host family in the community was also a great learning experience. I learnt to always live with a smile on my face and to not worry about problems but move forward. I also learnt to work and live with people from different cultures.
The experience of volunteering with Raleigh ICS has helped me to gain important new skills. Before the programme, I couldn’t speak English, but through living and working closely with the UK volunteers I began to practise and I realised that speaking English opens up many doors in the world. It has also helped me grow on a professional level, and has given me a better understanding of how business plans can be developed and put into action.
In the future, I would like to volunteer again with Raleigh and keep changing lives in rural communities where there is little development. I also hope to eventually find work in sustainable tourism, which is my passion.
Raleigh is a window to new opportunities, both for volunteers that want to help develop our country and for the young entrepreneurs that want to improve the quality of their lives and those of others in their community.”