I volunteer for a cause I am passionate about - #IntlVolunteerDay

Published December 3, 2014 by Naomi Senda

“On this International Volunteer Day, let us be inspired by the many individuals who selflessly serve others, and let us resolve to do our part to contribute, freely and proactively, to change conditions now towards a better future for all.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

While in their early to mid twenties, most young people want to get a job so that they can get paid and be able to access the fine pleasures life has to offer.

However, Bensolomon Baraka Karanja, a volunteer at Adeso, has a different perspective to it all.

“I decided to volunteer because I want to gain quality experience and build my portfolio as a professional in the development sector, which I have great interest in.

Every December 5th, the world marks the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development. On this day, we celebrate and recognize volunteerism and the participation of people who make a difference at local, national and global levels.

Baraka is one of these people, and today we’d like to celebrate his contribution to our work.

How long have you been a volunteer at Adeso?

Since mid-September 2014. Have you already graduated from university? I was supposed to graduate this year with a Bachelors’ degree in Agricultural Economics from Jomo Kenyatta University in Kenya, but postponed graduation to take 16 additional academic units that will allow me to also graduate with a minor in Rural Development. Hopefully I will graduate in August next year.

Why the interest in rural development?

For starters, it correlates with my main specialty: agricultural economics. It is an added advantage for someone who is interested in working in the area of food security policy formulation to be well informed on how to develop the rural economy, both the farming and non-farming sectors.

Has development always been your area of interest or did you, like many other Kenyan undergrads, just get admitted to a random course?

I was actually admitted to study Law at the University of Nairobi, but chose otherwise and sought admission at Jomo Kenyatta University to pursue Agricultural Economics. I am passionate about what I do.

Speaking of what you do, which department are volunteering with at Adeso and what exactly does your work entail?

I am attached to the Program Quality Unit (PDQ) and focus on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

You earlier mentioned your interest in food security, so why volunteer for M&E?

I have interned before with an organization where I worked on agriculture and climate change projects, but since then I narrowed my focus to rural development. In rural development, theory is not enough; it doesn’t allow you to capture what every rural society goes through.

The best way to learn is to get down to the evidence of what works and what doesn’t work for communities, and go ahead to analyze why. At Adeso, I carried out a technical assessment of agricultural interventions under the USAID-funded Resilience and Economic Growth in the Arid Lands – Improving Resilience (REGAL-IR) project in Garissa. From the data I was able to analyze, the graphs indicated an improvement in the quality of life of the communities, which is encouraging. I still feel at home volunteering under M&E.

How do you juggle volunteering with your studies?

I am currently on break in school so I have time to concentrate on volunteering before I resume classes in February next year. I am also completing my language Diploma in French. My experience at Adeso has also inspired me to take up a diploma in M&E in the near future.

Again, why did you choose to volunteer with Adeso?

At this stage of my career, gaining quality experience supersedes getting a higher salary. An opportunity with Adeso came knocking and I took it because I was impressed with the kind of projects Adeso implements at grassroots level.