Hannah: ISEP Service Learning Program in Barcelona (June 2021)

During my semester break at the University of Auckland, I volunteered at two organisations through the ISEP Virtual Learning Service Programme in Barcelona: Islamic Relief and the IBO Foundation. Working for both these organisations opened me up to a whole new world of humanitarian aid that I had never before experienced first-hand. Throughout June, I developed fundraising strategies for the humanitarian organisation, Islamic Relief. As a student in New Zealand, I presented the possibility of promoting the organisation within NZ schools to gain parents’ attention and potentially sponsor a child in a developing country, as one of my ideas. Other ideas included improving advertising of the organisation in countries where Islam is not the major religion. I discussed the potential idea of partnering with a Christian humanitarian organisation in New Zealand such as Caritas, which could enhance the effectiveness of both organisations.

By July, I began my volunteer work for a new organisation called the IBO Foundation. This foundation works primarily in the Ibo district in Mozambique which was unfortunately devastated by Cyclone Kenneth in 2019. As a result, poverty in this country notably the Cabo Delgado region, has worsened. My tasks involved updating the foundations’ database. This database was created by previous volunteers containing potential international donors that IBO could reach out to and ask for funding from. I updated the spreadsheet to a clearer format and contributed several ideas by adding contact details of other organisations that would potentially fund the IBO Foundation. Alongside this, I gathered research to update the organisations’ information on Ibo and the Cabo Delgado region. I specifically focused on the weakening tourism industry and also women empowerment in Cabo Delgado. The latter has always been an important issue to me that I aim to pursue in the future, so it was great to experience this type of work in a real-life situation.

These two experiences helped me to grow as an individual through interactions with my supervisors on the other side of the world. In this current pandemic climate, I have been able to experience a slice of Spanish culture without having to leave home! The most obvious cultural difference I observed was the relaxed nature of the Spanish. At times, this was a little frustrating particularly when organising a video call during the week. Often these did not start on time, a very different approach to what I am used to in New Zealand. In order to overcome this, I simply adopted the same approach and ensured that my schedule was free for a lengthy amount of time to allow for lateness or technical difficulties, as this was also a potential problem I identified early on. The time difference and limit to the internet made work a little more challenging but it certainly taught me the skills I will need as we enter an age of increased digital communication!

But all differences aside, the best part of the experience was, in fact these video calls with my supervisors. It was an incredible experience to chat with someone in Spain, and work with them and their organisation to improve the services. The potential of these humanitarian organisations to succeed and provide aid to those most in need is immense and absolutely necessary! To all future students entering this programme! Your intercultural competence will be tested to the limit. The variance in culture between Spain and New Zealand is much more vast than you may think and may be difficult at first! By going into this programme with an open mind and a willingness to improve yourself as an individual but also to support an organisation as best you can, you will gain an immense amount of knowledge and skills that will be beneficial throughout the remainder of your lives!

University of Auckland – ISEP Study Abroad

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