This year marks 50 years of ACDI/VOCA mobilizing volunteers from the United States and around the world to support global development efforts in agriculture, business, and more. As part of our celebration, we are honoring five participants of our Volunteer Programs who had an exceptional impact on the communities they served with the Charles Cox Excellence in Volunteerism Awards.

These awards serve as a tribute to Charles Cox, a passionate supporter of volunteer programs whose career with VOCA and later ACDI/VOCA spanned over 30 years. Cox, who passed away recently, was Senior Vice President for Latin American and Caribbean Programs. Read more about our award-winning volunteers below!

Volunteer Impact Award: U.S. and Kyrgyz Volunteers Honored for Their Support of Women Entrepreneurs

In February and March 2021, Dr. Mark Wade, of Florida, teamed up with Masudakhan Mambetova, of Kyrgyzstan, to coach four women’s groups made up of 209 fruit and vegetable producers, including Masudakhan herself. During those four weeks, Mark and Masudakhan completed two volunteer assignments through ACDI/VOCA’s Farmer-to-Farmer Program, funded by USAID, in the Jalal-Abad Region. Mark trained the women’s groups to market their products, find alternative markets, process cut or dried fruits and vegetables, and manage a commercial kitchen.

Meanwhile, Masudakhan worked with them on analyzing the business environment, competitors, and pricing as well as exploring packaging options. Mark created a positive, sunny brand logo featuring the geographic region for the groups to market their products. He later created labels and sample packaging for three dried fruit products. Mark also donated $600 of his own funds to help the women’s groups purchase vacuum sealers and dehydrators.

“The cornerstone of so many rural communities are the women that live and work in those communities, often doing hard, physical agricultural work. It is so satisfying to be able to contribute to their growth, and I know that future leaders will come from these entrepreneurs.”

— U.S. Volunteer Dr. Mark Wade

With this support, the groups plan to produce their own branded goods and create a processing shop with a drying cabinet and refrigerator. They also have plans to buy a yurt frame for roughly $435 that would allow them to also make wool crafts and participate in mobile markets everywhere from villages to the capital city.

Remote Volunteer Award: U.S. Volunteer Lends His Expertise Remotely to Ghana-Based Investment Fund

Last summer, U.S.-based financial expert Camille Accad, volunteered remotely with AV Ventures, a subsidiary of ACDI/VOCA that focuses on impact investing and oversees three for-profit funds.

Camille worked closely with staff in Ghana who manage the West Africa Fund. During this assignment, he built a portfolio monitoring workbook that now provides AV Ventures with a consolidated tool that reduces the risk of errors. Camille also gathered market intelligence on competitors and investors, which allowed him to learn about the impact investing and venture capital space in West Africa. This work with an organization that provides catalytic funding to early-stage companies was relevant to Camille’s career progression.

Today, he works with a microfinance management institution providing financial services to low-income customers around the world. And the impact of his volunteer work remains. The tools and workbooks Camille created can be used across all three AV Ventures funds and will help the organization monitor portfolio activities and assess future investors more efficiently.

Regional Volunteer Award: Ghana-Based Volunteer Provides Remote Training to Zambian Businesses

In May 2021, Bernard Cudjoe, an entrepreneur and business manager based in Ghana, volunteered remotely with the USAID Zambia Enterprise Development and Growth Enhanced (EDGE) Activity, which is implemented by ACDI/VOCA in Zambia. He extended his initial volunteer assignment of three months to spend a total of seven months mentoring eight small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) specializing in horticulture, poultry, groundnuts, honey, and fish and fingerling production. He taught the owners of these SMEs to use financial models to track the health of the business. He also trained them on financial management and accounting systems.

“Working with the SMEs has taught me a lot. I have benefitted from the work — not in monetary terms but in knowledge.”

— Regional Volunteer Bernard Cudjoe 

The eight SMEs benefited from being able to identify their businesses’ weaknesses ad make corrections. By keeping financial records, they are also now more likely to secure approval for business loans or small grants.

Local Volunteer Award: Zambian Volunteer Offers In-Person and Remote Coaching to Zambian Businesses

Kabita Kabita, an accountant and financial specialist based in Zambia, also supported the EDGE Activity for seven months, beginning in May 2021. During that time, Kabita mentored 27 SMEs specializing in crops, poultry, animal feed, soybean, sunflower, groundnuts, and veterinary equipment. The owners of these SMEs learned about business management skills and financial planning and management.

Due to COVID-19-related precautions, Kabita volunteered both remotely and in-person with small groups or individuals. He not only taught these SME owners about financial recordkeeping but also helped them develop business plans for growth and repositioning.

Kabita has taught participating SMEs proper bookkeeping and how to develop and use financial models to track the financial health of the business. Using these financial models, the SMEs can understand if their business is running at a profit or at a loss and they can take steps to adjust their record-keeping and management activities as needed. Like Bernard’s efforts, Kabita’s efforts will help the SMEs secure business loans and small grants in the future.

Interesting in becoming a volunteer? Learn more about how to volunteer with ACDI/VOCA.