My name is Renata Comin, I’m participating in a 3-month mandate as a Fashion Design Officer, in CECI’s volunteer remote program, and I’m currently working with an organization in Bolivia, called Red OEPAIC. Recently, I was thinking of ways that I could share my incredible experience at CECI, and since I am also a current Fashion Managemenet prostgraduate student at Humber College, I thought – why not creating a newsletter that will be shared with all Humber students and professors? A new way to promote all work that’s been done by volunteers at the organization. Also, two other Humber students participated in the same mandate as I did and they also had amazing experiences to share with everyone, so let’s make a lemonade out of all these lemons, right?
I’m very excited to share in this blog the article that will be published at Humber’s Dean Newsletter. I hope everyone enjoys it!
THE JOURNEY OF HUMBER STUDENTS VOLUNTEERING AT CECI HAS JUST BEGUN
CECI is an international cooperation organization that combats poverty, exclusion, and inequality through sustainable development projects in Africa, Asia, and the Americas, and students from Humber got the opportunity to volunteer in a three-month mandate at the organization for their summer placements as Fashion Design Officers.
Leadership, project management, teamwork, self-management, and intercultural skills were some of the main capacities that students had the chance to develop during their assignments.
Volunteer work can be very challenging to students as it usually involves skills such as self-motivation and self-management, aspects that usually require a lot of discipline, structure, and organization, being one of the reasons why companies value so much past volunteer work from their candidates. Humber College provided the opportunity to its students to participate in CECI’s remote volunteer work for their summer co-op experiences, in order to gain industry knowledge, develop abilities and graduate at the end of the semester. Three students from Business Faculties (Fashion Management Postgraduate & Bachelor of Commerce – Fashion Management) participated in the selection process and were hired for the period of 3 months, a three-month mandate as defined by CECI, working along with CECI’s partner organizations in Bolivia, called “Red OEPAIC” and “Mistura”. The internship required students to develop a trustworthy relationship with the partner organizations, in a short period of time, as well as defined their mandate work plan (with activities and responsibilities) and were able to manage their deliverables considering the organization’s priorities.
Beginning the mandate
It was really interesting to see was how CECI organized along with the partner organizations the main tasks and responsibilities for the students, considering their background and skills, at the beginning of their mandate. Despite the fact that all students were working as Fashion Design Officers and were dealing with matters of the fashion industry, CECI was able to link that with their previous experience, taking advantage of their knowledge to fill in the gaps and needs of their partner organizations. In Renata’s case (postgraduate student in the Fashion Management Program), for example, the organization took into consideration her digital marketing and social media background in order to attribute the main tasks and objectives for her assignment. At the same time, Bhaswati (also a postgraduate student in the Fashion Management Program) took over fashion research and design activities.
Apart from the work plan, defined at the beginning of the mandate, students and other volunteers at CECI participated in a 3-day training, exploring all of the aspects of the internship and giving to the volunteers practical tools and exercises on how to conduce different kinds of experiences, such as:
- Sexual violence and harassment training
- Advice and orientation on how to work remotely and conduct online meetings with the organizations
- Code of conduct introduction and explanation
- Intercultural and communication exercises
The training was a very relevant moment to students as they were able to already meet some of their peers and it gave students practical examples on how to behave in certain situations, especially when it comes to dealing with a different culture and also with the expectations that students put on themselves. Understanding that the partner organization may have a different time on responding (depending on their culture and team resources), how to work when you have extremely different time zones, how to prioritize with the organization the activities within the mandate period, how to do follow ups, among others. All these factors constituted a very useful guideline for students, and it provided them with the necessary support to start their own activities.
Volunteers’ achievements and experience
Three months may not seem much but the amount of work that students were able to do within this period of time was extremely gratifying. From a whole social media and ecommerce diagnosis to its strategy, implementation proposal, and guidelines to extensive research on 2022-23 fashion forecasting. “The main project in this internship was to design a collection of luxury accessories for MISTURA. I did an anthropological research for inspiration on two regions of Bolivia – Chiquitania and Tarabuco, which introduced me to a vibrant culture that would not have been possible otherwise. I learned about various communities and their history, lifestyles, crafts, and traditions.” – Bhaswati Saikia, Fashion Management Student at Humber.
Students worked almost as a consultancy agency, understanding their partner organizations’ strategy, products and their goals and proving them with smart solutions, based on their work, school background and research. In order to achieve that, project and self-management skills had to be used – from developing the mandate timeline (considering its milestones and deliverables) to organizing weekly and bi-weekly status meetings with the organizations, creating WhatsApp groups for better communication and managing the daily activities.
Communicating with the partner organization was a very important aspect of the mandate too as it’s not usually simple to understand the priorities and most important needs and wants, plus doing that in a different language (Spanish, since the organizations were from Bolivia) can double the challenge up. “I was very pleased to help my peers during the internship since I speak Spanish and some of them did not. I think it was really good for me as I was able to improve my language skills and it was also very satisfying to see that my help was needed. It also increased the levels of trust, understanding and communication with the partner organization” – Renata Comin, Fashion Management Postgraduate Student, at Humber.
New cultures and fun!
Meeting new cultures and working with them can be challenging at times but it can also be very fun! Afterall, this is not a regular opportunity and one can take this moment to learn more about the world that’s around us. “The experience was very fun, interesting and positive. It has been such an amazing opportunity to learn and grow during this experience.” – Emily IP, Bachelor of Commerce – Fashion Management Student, at Humber. It’s fair to say that students open themselves to new perspectives and they enlarge their vision on the industry, as whole, especially when talking about the fashion industry. These two organizations in Bolivia (Red OEPAIC and Mistura) develop many initiatives to promote the work of more than three thousand Bolivian artisans who produce handcrafted fashion, incentivizing the laws of the fair commerce such as equity, new opportunity for the underprivileged community, capacity development, fair payment, among others (redoepaic, 2022). “It has been a unique experience on its own to have meetings with people on a global level. It is truly a multicultural experience since we are from different backgrounds, speaking different languages and stationed across the globe.” – Bhaswati Saikia, Fashion Management Student at Humber.
“It’s just a small part, but it surely makes the difference. I was able to open my eyes to a different side of the fashion industry and being able to help this community of artisans in Bolivia warms my heart, and I don’t believe that may jobs can do that. It was a very richening experience, and I’ll hopefully take everything that I’ve learned to the future to come”. – Renata Comin, Fashion Management Postgraduate Student, at Humber.
Thank you to:
Humber Fashion Management Program Coordinator and Professor Rossie Kadiyska, Humber Placement Advisor – Faculty of Business, Maria Theresa Camu, CECI Youth Programming Officer Laurence Dubuc-Valentine, CECI Knowledge and Learning Manager & Volunteer Coordinator Maria Crespo, CECI Responsible for Volunteers’ Engagement Ana Isabel Otero, Humber Fashion Management Student Bhaswati Saikia and Humber Bachelor of Commerce – Fashion Management Student Emily IP.
Red Oepaic. (21 de 07 de 2022). Red Oepaic. Fonte: https://www.redoepaic.org.bo/nosotros/red-oepaic-odes/: https://www.redoepaic.org.bo/nosotros/red-oepaic-odes/