Volunteer in the spotlights
Read the interview...
Interviewer: Sybren Devoghel
Program Manager Exchange
I am meeting Riet Dubois at a cozy eatery in Ghent. Riet has been active as a volunteer at Exchange for over 5 years. Why did she choose to become a volunteer, how did she end up at Exchange and what drives her to take up the function of program coach? We believe it is high time to record the story of Riet.
Riet, how does your daily life looks like?
I am teaching general subjects at VTI and Okan in Kortrijk. In addition, I am also active as an independent Q-coach consultant at Westtoer and as a supervisor at Joker travel. Tourism has always taken an important place in my life. I ran my own hotel in Oudenaarde for a while.
How did you end up at Exchange? Ans why did you choose to work as a volunteer?
After selling my hotel in 2013 I missed entrepreneurship very hard. I needed a new challenge and informed for opportunities at VVOB. They are mainly engaged in education and referred me to Exchange, where I was immediately included in the voluntary work in an enthusiastic way. Given that Exchange places emphasis on doing business in the South, this was a perfect match for me as well!
How does your Exchange background look like?
My first mission was in Zambia. Later on, there was also a mission in Uganda. These projects were all centered around tourism. Eventually, I was asked to become country coordinator in Malawi (a position that is now the responsibility of the program managers). This was a new subject since it went broader than just tourism. As a country coordinator I got to know the business climate in Malawi thoroughly and the country now feels like a second home.
Within the renewed working of Exchange, I take on the role of program coach within the tourism programs in Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda and Mozambique. In other terms, the ideal combination for me. A function that I am very enthusiastic about after 5 years of Exchange.
What sticks in your memory the most from your role as a volunteer?
Various projects and entrepreneurs in the South have made a huge impression on me over the past 5 years. But the passion and drive that I see with many female entrepreneurs in the South is still the most impressive. Many of the female entrepreneurs I met there have an unrivaled urge for progress and dare to dream big. They succeed, despite the many barriers they encounter on their way, to grow their businesses into sustainable companies. More than often these women incorporate social aspects within their businesses. These entrepreneurs make a tangible contribution to the economic and social development of their countries. Women with fire, I love and admire that a lot!
According to you, what are the strengths of Exchange?
Unlike many organizations active in development cooperation, Exchange does not focus so much on financial investments, but on true knowledge and skills transfer. This creates the real basis for sustainable development and brings a tangible impact. As a facilitator, Exchange plays a very important role in bringing together North and South entrepreneurs and the exchange of expertise. In the new operational model, I see many opportunities to further strengthen this role as a facilitator.
What future dreams do you have for Exchange?
If I may have one wild dream for Exchange, it's an own quality label which it can award to South companies. For example, the "Exchange label" could be awarded to companies in the South that manage to incorporate both economic and social aspects within their business. It could be a fair trade label for social entrepreneurship. Why not dear to dream?