Escapades of An MBA in Kenya!
From refusing ladies’ advances to making the most of a very, very small room, Aston MBA Oli Raison gives us the lowdown on his 18-month volunteering job Kenya
Aston Business School MBA Oli Raison is spending 18 months volunteering with VSO in Kenya.
VSO is an independent international development organisation that works through volunteers to tackle poverty through skills sharing and capacity building.
Oli has eight years of operational management experience in the UK logistics services industry but will be spending his time in Kenya with Kithoka Youth Polytechnic which provides a number of technical training courses to empower poor and disadvantaged young people in Meru, Central Kenya.
An interesting part of his story is that he apparently had a clear idea of what is career plan was going to be until he studied the business ethics module on the MBA, and this had a life-changing impact on him. Oli chronicles his experience of being a strategic development adviser in his (probably unintentionally...) hilarious blog.
Good internet connection is not a given. It may be hard to get enough reception to do more than read and reply to emails. Even with a Safaricom mobile broadband dongle, Oli had to source cafes in town where he could get enough reception to do more heavy duty internet stuff.
‘African time’ is very much still a reality. And possibly African measurements too! Oli quickly learned that: "Whenever a Kenyan gives you any kind of quantity (distance, journey or food preparation time etc) one should automatically mentally factor in an additional 50 to 100%”.
If you are not working in a fly expat role, get ready for some very basic accommodation. Oli's first accommodation was one room of approximately 12ft x 15ft with a small wet room attached. It is a separate unit in the backyard of the house of a young family with dozens of chickens milling around, cows that produce fresh milk and a mean cockerel that woke him up at 4am everyday. He had to cook on a gas stove, wash his clothes by hand and take cold showers everyday.
Get ready to be wrapped in warmth and spontaneity. People were consistently kind to Oli (except for that one time when his wallet was stolen on a minivan and he had to create a ruckus to get it back). You might be shocked at how people get on with life no matter how dire their situations. Oli met some men who break stones for the construction industry for £50 a month but always seemed to be in a good mood. He also introduced himself to a headteacher of a primary school and within minutes he was invited to give the students a talk on the importance of integrity.
There is no voice mail in Kenya! *SHOCKED FACE* Need we say more?!
It might take a special skill to let down advances. Oli received a lot of attention from both men and women and it was very hard for him to shake them off. You can read his hilarious conversation with a woman called Linda here. When he said he didn’t want a relationship with her, she accused him of being misogynistic, gay, and a hater of black women!
Wearing shorts to sunday church service is a no no! Unless you want to feel like you've been picked on when the priest asks you to stand up and introduce yourself to the congregration.
If you’re a stickler for planning and being action-oriented, Kenyan life may not be for you. At the Polytechnic, a plan was created to construct new dormitories, workshops, a library and to purchase computers to start delivering IT training. It soon became clear to Oli that there was no clear method in place to turn this into reality. He was even more alarmed to discover that the staff did not follow basic management principles! For instance, there was no accounting procedure in place so no one could tell how much had been spent in the last year.
Read more of Oli’s adventures on his blog! You can also find more stories about students, alumni and programmes at Aston Business School here.
If you liked this story, you might also enjoy this story about an MBA who quit his corporate job to travel the world as a volunteer.