"Without Balloon ICS it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out where I fit in."
After our previous post about returned UK Volunteer Khalia Ismain, we caught up with another of our inspirational Alums to find out what they’ve been up to. Evelyn Ofori-Kuragu was a Balloon ICS volunteer in Njoro, Kenya.
BV: Tell us a little bit about what you were doing before you applied for iCS.
EO-K: I had just graduated from Loughborough University, studying International Relations. I was part of the Enactus Loughborough presentation team as well during Easter.
BV: What was your main motivation in applying for Balloon ICS?
EO-K: I had been interested in International Development for a while and my recent introduction to social enterprise made me realise the Balloon was the perfect combination of both those interests. I think that social enterprise has a great way of empowering local people. Plus I had never been to Kenya and I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to live there for 3 months without paying anything. I don’t think I would have been able to do it otherwise.
BV: Can you remember the entrepreneurs you worked with on placement? Tell us about one who really inspired you.
EO-K: Yes, I worked with Benson Gatua – grocery vendor and accountant, Martin Kinyanjui – movie retailer, Rachel Gathoni – sold computer service at the local university.
BV: What skills do you think you developed most while on your placement?
EO-K: I learnt how to use the business model canvas, what to include in a pitch deck for potential investors, how to generate financial projections for a business.
BV: What have you been doing since you returned from placement?
EO-K: I founded the Young Africa Centre based in Southwark, I worked with ‘tech for good’ startups and coordinated events at Bethnal Green Ventures – an impact investor that runs an accelerator programme for businesses that tackle social and environmental problems. I am now a Year Hear Fellow currently on placement with The Children’s Society, working with the Accelerating Impact team. Year Here helps recent graduates start their own social enterprise through frontline experience and teaching in leadership & entrepreneurship.
BV: How did what you learned/developed on placement help you to achieve what you’re doing now?
EO-K: It exposed to me how digital technology in Kenya (Mpesa – banking/fintech company) had positively impacted the people and reduced poverty in some areas of the country. I think my 3 months doing Balloon ICS were instrumental in gaining a place on the Year Here programme, which in turn helped me get an internship at Bethnal Green Ventures. It’s been a domino effect of more fantastic opportunities ever since. Being able to clearly articulate how an interest free loan impacted the business of the entrepreneurs I worked with has helped me a lot. Benson Gatua even sent me photos of the before and after shots of how his successful pitch changed the appearance of his business. I was then able to use this as evidence of some prep work I had to do for various job interviews.
BV: If you had to finish the sentence “Without Balloon ICS…” what would you say?
EO-K: Without Balloon ICS it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out where I fit in the space between social enterprise and international development. It gave me new confidence in my previously unknown abilites and helped me to adequately demonstrate that to others.