Volunteer Alex Perham-Marchant describes his four months working with the Excellent team and learning about sand dams...

In September 2018 I graduated from the Institute of Development Studies with a Master’s degree in Poverty and Development Studies with particular interests in Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Climate change. Whilst searching for entry-level jobs in the charity and NGO sector, I stumbled across Excellent Development.

After a quick look through the website, I realised it was exactly the type of organisation I wanted to be a part of – in whatever capacity. I submitted an application to volunteer and quickly arranged a chat with the Head of Programmes, Christine, to see how I could get involved. I was particularly drawn to the charity due to their focus on sustainable and innovative technologies for providing clean and safe water to communities most at-risk to the impacts of climate change in the world’s dryland environments, as well as their progressive attitude to supporting communities to transform their own environments and lives.

After meeting the rest of the very friendly and welcoming team, I was taught how the sand dams are built, how they capture and store clean water, and the benefits they bring to communities in dryland environments.

Watch how sand dams work here:

I was really struck by the simplicity of sand dams as a technology, given the huge impact they have on communities. They don’t only provide year-round clean water, but also contribute to gender equality by freeing up more time for women and children (having had to walk miles to get water every day) to go to work or school. In addition, sand dams store excess water for livestock and irrigation purposes, allowing a great array of fruits and vegetables to grow which contributes in an improved diet for community members.

One of the best things about volunteering with Excellent is that you’re given the responsibility to take ownership of important tasks that feed into how the charity operates. For instance, I was tasked with finding potential in-country delivery partners for the charity to help them expand their operations in Mozambique as well as conducting research into the potential benefits of safe water provision on women and girl’s health through community-built sand dams. I was also given the opportunity to get involved with the charity’s communication channels through writing social media posts and an article on the potential of sand dams in combatting climate change and desertification in Somaliland.

I will forever be grateful to the team for the fantastic experience I had during my four months and the invaluable experience I gained in both communications and charity programmes. Volunteering with Excellent is a fantastic way to build a tangible portfolio of work for anyone interested in entering the charity sector, and in particular for those interested in safe water provision and tackling climate change in a community-led, sustainable manner.

I am now working as a Climate change and Disaster Risk Reduction Project Officer at another NGO and use many of the techniques I learned at Excellent on a day-to-day basis, such as, budget tracking, donor report writing, and conducting research for learning needs assessments.

My experience at Excellent vastly strengthened my subsequent applications for jobs as I could draw on a wealth of diverse experience that entry-level jobs in the sector look for.

I have also left knowing that the communities served by Excellent are supported by such a dedicated and hard-working team who deeply care about helping dryland communities access safe water and combat the impacts of climate change.

I would like to end by thanking Excellent for such a wonderful opportunity and experience.


Volunteering can make a huge difference – helping Excellent to progress important projects that our small team would otherwise struggle to find time to take forward. If you have any time you can offer, please get in touch for a chat at: [email protected]


Could you help more people to break free from poverty by supporting them to build sand dams and carry out climate-smart farming, so they have enough water to drink and food to eat? Please donate what you can.

Please select a donation amount: *
Set up a regular payment Donate