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Want a job that's worthwhile? Action on Poverty on working in the international development sector

International development might seem like a highly competitive sector to break into, despite its rewarding attributes. Epigram spoke to Tom Goodyer, recent Bristol graduate and Fundraising and Communications Assistant for charity Action on Poverty.

By Zaynab Nassurally, Second Year Economics and Management

International development is a rewarding yet highly competitive sector to break into. Epigram spoke to Tom Goodyer, recent Bristol graduate and Fundraising and Communications Assistant for charity Action on Poverty.

Action on Poverty is an international development organisation based in Bristol, who partner with local people in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to find sustainable solutions using community-led projects that will improve livelihoods. In contrast to traditional interventionist methods, the organisation works with individuals to build their skill sets and address barriers to safe and lasting work.

Traditional methods often focus on short-term solutions, and do not acknowledge or resolve the structural issues and root causes of poverty. This can create relationships of dependency, and can lead to inefficient use of resources in the long-term. Action on Poverty is making an active effort to move away from these approaches.

According to Tom, the main objectives of the organisation are to ‘Improve their incomes, improve their rights as workers, and prevent children from falling into harmful child labour. There’s quite a diverse set of things that we do, but I’d say it’s focused around livelihoods.'

‘Because our projects are valuable, people carry them on. We get information from our partners, and then semi-regularly programme managers go on monitoring trips as well, who take interviews with people in those communities, and then feedback stories. They also take data and things like that, so we have a good sense of how our projects are going, based on how many people it’s reached, and how many people have reported improved incomes’.

In 2021 alone, Action on Poverty worked with over 295,000 marginalised people in East and West Africa to strengthen the community structures through which their rights can be collectively realised.

Tom highlighted the benefits of the charity’s small team, allowing them to redirect the majority of their donations to projects, rather than funding admin costs.

The charity covers a wide range of causes, and primarily works with women and people with disabilities. The impact of their projects are evident from the stories told by the people who participate in them.

Abie, from the Moyamba district of Southern Sierra Leone, was a housewife with two children and little to no source of income before she was introduced to the livelihoods and food security project. In the Moyamba district, over 83 per cent of the population are affected by poverty. The project focused on factors that increase access to sustainable incomes, including literacy skills training and help accessing small business loans. In 2018, Abie took part in a baking apprenticeship, where she learnt both cooking and business skills that led to her earning a steady income selling bread.

Projects like these make real changes to people’s standards of living. In Sierra Leone, the literacy rate for young women has increased from 37 per cent in 2005 to 63 per cent in 2018. However, there are certain aspects that are fundamental to an individuals standard of living that cannot be quantified. Positive qualitative feedback such as ‘increased confidence’ has been reported by women and whilst this cannot be numbered, it is still extremely important.

Epigram asked Tom how students who want to pursue careers making real change can take the first steps towards a career in the sector? As a former University of Bristol student, Tom said that he utilised and highly recommends the SME internship scheme, ‘Especially if you want to get into the charity sector, and if you have a specific cause that you care about.'

The internship scheme provides four weeks of paid work experience with small or medium-sized enterprises in the UK. The scheme funds organisations to provide opportunities for internships where students can make a difference, so it is particularly useful for students looking to pursue volunteering or charity projects that might otherwise charge a programme fee.

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Tom advised that volunteering experience is also extremely useful for getting into international development. Tom worked at LGBT+ education charity Each UK, and volunteered in the Vathi refugee camp in Greece prior to his graduate scheme at Action on Poverty.

His graduate scheme is run by the charity Koreo, who want to increase participation in charities by giving graduates an opportunity to get into the NGO sector 'Without having to take all these unpaid internships, while giving you lots of training and conferences.'

Featured Image: Action on Poverty

On the 25th of April, Action on Poverty are hosting an Evening of Comedy night (feat. The Lovely Boys) at the Alma Vale Tavern from 7-10pm. All of the proceeds from ticket sales will go towards their work with marginalised people.

If you are an avid runner, there is a fundraising Wye Valley Tunnel Run, so you can have fun and get fit whilst helping people living in extreme poverty in East and West Africa.

You can also donate directly to Action on Poverty here.