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Career Corner: Olivia Barker

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Olivia graduated from the University of Manchester in 2011, with a BA(Hons) in Economics. She currently works as the UK director for Kids Club Kampala.

Tell us a bit about Kids Club Kampala.

We are a charity working in the slums of Kampala, Uganda, aiming to bring hope and love to vulnerable children. We work to empower children and parents from disadvantaged communities through different development projects and supporting their basic needs.  KCK currently works in 16 different centres in and around Kampala, reaching over 4000 children and families, with a team of over 60 dedicated Ugandan volunteers helping in their local communities every week. Projects currently include Children’s Activities, Feeding Programmes, Clothing Projects, a School Sponsorship Programme, Women’s Initiatives, Community Development programmes, Agricultural Projects, a Music and Dance project and a Football League.

What are your main responsibilities in your current role?

Fundraising, recruiting and training volunteers, undertaking publicity, communications and social media, budgeting, and writing funding proposals and applications to grants and trusts for support.  ·

Did you know you wanted to work in Uganda before you graduated?

Before I started at the University of Manchester in September 2008, I’d spent several months living in Uganda during a gap year programme, working mainly in schools. One day a friend invited me to go into the slums of Kampala to meet the children and the community there. I was heartbroken to see the situations they were living in, and went back every week to play with the kids, feed them, and to try to help them in some way.   After I left Uganda, my Ugandan friends continued this work and I sent some money to help. I went back to Uganda in the summer after my first year of uni and realized that something needed to be done – money had run out, but the volunteers desperately wanted to continue this work and so did the kids.  I tried contacting other organisations in the UK and Uganda to help these children, but none were interested so we realized that we had to do something ourselves. In June 2009 I set up the charity Kids Club Kampala, to bring hope and love to these children living in desperate situations in the slums of Kampala.  When we began, we were working with 200 children in one slum community, but over four years KCK has grown to reach over 4000 children in 16 different communities throughout Uganda!

Until March this year, I ran KCK in my spare time – undertaking lots and lots of fundraising, organising volunteers, publicizing and raising awareness about the charity, and travelling out to Uganda myself at least once a year. In Uganda we have a great team of over 60 Ugandan volunteers who give up their time every week to help their local communities.  But since winning some funding from Vodafone, I’ve been able to work for Kids Club Kampala full time.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

I studied BA Econ, specialising in Development Studies, and I also did my dissertation in Development Studies. I learned a lot about International Development, theories of development, and also practical skills such as project monitoring and evaluation – as well as learning a lot about myself and my own interests and passions.

After graduation, I got a job working for an International Development Consultancy company and having my degree from Manchester definitely helped me to secure the role. However, I still spent most of my spare time running Kids Club Kampala in the UK, and spent all of my money and annual leave on going out to Uganda which is my real passion.

What would you say has been your greatest achievement to date?

Being selected as one of the winners of the Vodafone World of Difference Awards, which has funded me to work full-time for Kids Club Kampala. It’s a dream come true.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing a similar career route?

I was very involved with numerous societies when I was at Manchester, particularly Student Action, which played a huge part in my life as a student. You have to have a passion for what you’re doing, and be incredibly determined to succeed. It was very hard at times running a small charity with no money in my spare time whilst at uni, and then when working full-time. But I knew that I needed to help these children, and that’s what kept me going.

For more information about Kids Club Kampala, visit kidsclubkampala.org.

 With thanks to Rosie Haynes at the University of Manchester Alumni Association. 

For careers advice, visit careers.manchester.ac.uk.

Tags: BA Econ, Career Corner, careers, charity, economics, international development, interview, Kids Club Kampala, Lifestyle, Olivia Barker, Uganda

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