I am a 19-year-old student studying International Relations and International Development at the University of Sussex. Having just finished my first year, I was looking to gain some work experience in the charity sector whilst I was in London. I came across the work of Excellent Development and was instantly intrigued...

I emailed the Head of Programmes, Christine, and had a meeting set up with their Programme Officer, Callum, to discuss how I could be of help.

Through my studies and previous volunteer experiences, I have been particularly drawn to organisations that take a localized and sustainable approach to tackling issues within a community. In the case of Excellent, sand dams are used as a low cost, low maintenance method to ensure rural, drought-stricken areas are able to receive clean water. The concept is quite simple: when rainwater flows over the concrete dam, sediment-laden water fills up the dam. This water is embedded and stored within the sand – ensuring protection from evaporation or disease, and allowing for up to 40 million litres of water to be accessed.

Watch how sand dams work here:

The impact is profound. These sand dams not only reduce the distance to a water point but also enable communities to focus their attention on other activities, such as animal husbandry and vegetable gardening. Above all, community members are provided the necessary means to alleviate themselves from issues of water scarcity and food insecurity.

Excellent sets itself apart from other organisations in that it approaches development with the objective of providing a self-sustaining project. These sand dams are far from being a handout; rather, community members are tasked with constructing the dam themselves with the support and resources of Excellent and its partners. Thus, the community itself is given ownership of the project, and I believe this establishes a greater sense of responsibility and purpose. 

My two weeks working here have taught me a tremendous amount. Not only was I fortunate enough to work with individuals who had years of experience working in the charity sector (and who were happy to impart some advice) but I was also trusted and given the responsibility to manage important tasks. This included looking for potential partners in countries outside of those that they currently operate in, drafting up community impact stories for their website, and consolidating data from the baseline and evaluation assessments conducted by their strategic partner in Kenya.  For someone with limited experience, these tasks were invaluable as they allowed me to understand the operational and managerial skills necessary to ensure the success of an NGO.

Working here has been a massive learning experience, and I have gained skills that I know will aid in my studies and future career. I also feel a great deal of comfort knowing that many communities around the world have benefited from – and will continue to benefit from – the work that is being done here. Once again, I’d like to thank those at Excellent for being so welcoming and making my short time here an enjoyable and enriching 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.

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