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Volunteer stories: Kate's story

Kate Austen – Project Development Intern

My background is varied, I’m a linguist in education, but I’ve also been a massage therapist and a youth worker; I’ve worked in hospitals, in administration and in young women’s supported accommodation. I approached SEED Madagascar towards the end of a master’s degree in translation; I wanted to take my language skills into a more exciting field, and I’d often thought about international development work. My most important aim was to be working for an organisation that makes a really positive contribution.

I applied as a volunteer translator in the first instance, and it was very refreshing to receive a positive and enthusiastic response from someone who had read my CV and had thought about how I could be useful in the organisation… I was invited to apply for a position as a project development intern, and a few months later, after a period of fundraising, I set off for Fort Dauphin, Madagascar!

Kate Austen in Madagascar

The role of project development intern can be many things; it depends a lot on the skills you bring to the role and also on what the main drive is within SEED Madagascar at the time; I was recruited as an intern for community health, for a maternal and child health project. Because you work in a relatively small team, you are involved with all the stages of project development, which might well not be the case in a larger organisation, where you could be pigeonholed into donor searching or sending generic funding applications. At SEED Madagascar, the experience that you get will really show you whether or not you want to work in international development; it’s not a training program; it’s on-the-job experience within a hard-working organisation and it can really open doors.

I worked for SEED Madagascar for one year and then returned to the UK, determined to find another position in Madagascar. Eight months later, I’m back in Madagascar, this time in Antananarivo, working for Marie Stopes as a Project Coordinator for a very large project. This wouldn’t have been possible without my SEED Madagascar experience, which ranged from proposal writing, M&E design, budgeting, project development and all the networking with partners and stakeholders that that entails. On top of all the benefits to your career, living and working in Fort Dauphin is an absolute delight. The town is stunning: ocean on three sides and mountains behind… a beautiful, friendly, relaxed place with a fun atmosphere, where I felt completely at ease very quickly, and which will always feel like home from home.