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Taking skills abroad

I have spent 25 years of my corporate life working for a global pharmaceutical company and a global management consultancy, and I currently work in the City.

I wanted to look at other ways of using my skills. I considered the idea of volunteering during an extended holiday.

I contacted Accounting for International Development, which offered me the chance to work at the Women’s Resource Centre (WRC), a drop-in centre for women in Siem Reap.

Having previously spent time in Siem Reap, close to the Unesco world heritage site, Angkor Wat, I decided to take up this role.

The fundamental task involved improving the accounting of the WRC, where women could discuss their issues and feelings in groups, or individually with peer counsellors, as well as benefiting from a researched referral system that helps them to obtain the support and care they need at other partner agencies.

This initially meant assessing the cashbook, which was sent to me in advance, setting up a budgeting and monthly reporting model and training local staff.

This process is vital for the WRC to attract new donors, who require two years of financial information from charities in order to make funding decisions, and also for building the capacity of local staff so they were able to use their newly acquired accounting skills once my placement ended.

At first, I found it a little difficult because the working environment was a lot more relaxed than what I was used to.

But, after a couple of days, I was able to settle in and complete a full financial audit that would allow another volunteer accountant to follow up three to six months later and provide further accounting tools and training as required.

I found the experience of working in a developing country hugely rewarding and would certainly do it again. It was great to be able to help less fortunate people in their daily lives and I really enjoyed interacting with the locals.

Without the CIMA qualification, which provided me with the training and knowledge to advance my accounting career in leading organisations in the UK, I wouldn’t have been able to join the programme.

Photo: Getty Images

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