Richard Brandt

Nationality: Ghanaian
Age: 26

Richard was a student at The Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, Accra, when he and his three teammates - Derek, Fiifi and Jean-Paul - entered in the Google Online Marketing Challenge. Their task was to take on board a company and grow their online presence through analytics and campaigns. The team decided to focus on the NGO sector and do something good in their community.

"We thought we could have a greater impact on the NGO if it was small and that we could also use the project as a means to give something back to society" said team leader Richard. "After thorough research, we chose to work with Volta Aid Foundation (VAF)."

The experience for Richard and the team was all-encompassing. They didn't want to just sit behind the scenes and work on the computer, they wanted to get in and experience the heart of Volta Aid Foundation - our programs, our volunteers and of course our host families.

"Our first port of call was the host family's residence which was a ten minute walk from the main offices of the organization. Located in a very scenic and tree lined area the residence of volunteers to VAF is managed by an elderly man affectionately known in the area as "Todia". Well advanced in years and quite eloquent in English, Todia is mild mannered and full of experience, some of which he quite readily shares with any and all who are ready to lend a listening ear."

Todia is an Ewe word meaning 'Uncle' and is given to respected elders in the community. Todia is VAF's closest friend, Sena.

Richard and the team visited all the different areas of VAF and he described his time with VAF as life transforming experience, continuing, "VAF has values that keep the beneficiaries of the program at heart. The team does not see it as work, they see it as life, their life, and everyone is family."

"The time we spent at the VAF orphanage reaffirmed the assertion that "talent is talent anywhere" as we got to know that some of the kids at the orphanage, located in a poor rural community in the Volta Region of Ghana, were enrolled in good senior high schools and three of them were in major universities in Ghana."

"All these activities give substance to the organization's motto, "Give a little, learn a lot" and move quite smoothly in the direction the founder intended for his organization to take. I couldn't help noticing the parallels between Ashley's establishment of his organization and the challenges of entrepreneurs in setting up business. In truth, I think Ashley is the definition of an entrepreneur since he has faced and overcome most of the challenges involved in starting and running a business from the ground up."

"The experience we had in partaking in the competition is overwhelming. We gained hands on experience working with a real client and managing a live project and budget."

The campaign and assistance from the team helped VAF establish a larger online presence and resulted in 53 volunteer enquiries in one month.

"The Google Campaign went quite well" said Richard, but the real change happened internally: "seeing the kids and the way they are making use of the help offered really made me feel like not giving up."

When asked whether he had any advice to people considering volunteer, Richard described exactly what a volunteer experience should be about.

"I believe volunteering abroad is not just about helping people, but you also get to help yourself by reaching to depths of your inner self and becoming a better person."

Richard is now using his skills he fine-tuned in volunteering with VAF with his very own entrepreneurial startup, which is an online marketplace that enables employers to find, hire and pay skilled African freelancers. More on here

You can view Richard's original blog posts here and here.