Volunteering with JICA in Africa: insights from Natsumi and Kanna’s experiences
On the 4th of June, two Japanese students who interned at JICA, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, came to the Ashinaga Headquarters in Tokyo to give a presentation on their experiences abroad. This work opportunity gave them a chance to apply their skills concretely and to further their understanding of international cooperation as a career. Every year, Ashinaga offers financial and technical support to a selected group of Japanese students to join the JICA internship program in different countries across the globe. To this date, five Ashinaga students were able to enrol in this program successfully. Read below a summary of their presentations.
Natusmi is a 3rd-year student at Chuo University (中央大学), majoring in Economics. From October 2018 to February 2019, she interned at JICA Tanzania. For the first two months, she focused her attention within the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV) Program in Dar es Salaam, supporting various offices and departments. During the following two months, Natsumi joined a company factory established by a former JOCV with a Tanzanian business partner, producing dried fruit locally. In this context, she was able to experience different aspects of a running business, from accounting to sales. For her last month in Tanzania, she then returned to JICA to follow experts in project site visits, and to complete activity reports.
Natsumi’s experience with the Japan International Cooperation Agency continued did not end in Tanzania. After returning to Japan she was able to join the Training and Career Development Division Department of Human Resources for International Cooperation at the Headquarters of JICA in Tokyo.
During her presentation, she outlined the outcomes and the benefits she gained from this internship with JICA. Firstly, she was able to have an insight on the various sections of an international cooperation agency. Her experience in the factory was particularly inspirational and helped her finding a clearer link between the public and private sector. Secondly, she was able to step out of her comfort zone and experience a new cultural and professional environment. Lastly, this experience helped her increasing her appreciation for all the support she has received from family members, friends and Ashinaga-San – the anonymous donors financing Ashinaga’s activities.
Kanna is a 3rd-year student at Kogakuin University (工学院大学), majoring Architecture and Community Design. Her internship with JICA took place in Uganda from January to March 2019.
Her experience focused on two main areas. The first was the evaluation of the JOCV Program outcome in Uganda. In order to do so, she connected with all the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers in the country, collecting their activity outcomes as well as their reports. The second area was marketing oriented and mainly involved the promotion of JICA Uganda through Social Media. She had the opportunity to visit JOCV volunteers’ workplaces to take videos and accompanied JICA staff members in their business trips to write promotional articles. Among these trips, she had the opportunity to follow JICA’s Vice-President in some site visits.
After her experience with JICA, Kanna was able to continue her stay in Uganda by interning at Plantek. LTD, one of the biggest construction consultants in the country.
During her presentation, she summarized her takeaways in three points. Firstly, she acquired a variety of business-related skills that will be fundamental in her professional career. This exposure made her realize the importance of administrative work as the backbone of any project. Secondly, she became more aware of international cooperation and all the work that is done behind the scenes. Lastly, this experience helped her clarifying her career goals and ambitions. She feels determined to focus on her studies for the next two years. Once graduated, she would like to dedicate her skills in providing technical support to architectural projects that relate to international cooperation globally.
We are extremely proud of Natsumi and Kanna for their experiences in Tanzania and Uganda. Their presentations showed the progress they have made in the past year and we are confident that they will continue learning more about international cooperation and transform their passion into their career paths.