MovingWorlds recently got the chance to sit with financial wizard, Rustom Dalal, to talk about his time Experteering in Honduras with Honduras Child Alliance. Here is what he told us:
It’s funny, you never really know what small action or event will change the course of your life. A week before winter break began I sent a short, one sentence email to my career adviser asking about an alternative way to spend my winter break. She then directed me to Mark Horoszowski who she had met at a conference in Seattle and that’s how I discovered MovingWorlds and Experteering.
Why did you decide to go Experteering?
I had done a lot of volunteer work in my home country, India, and had enjoyed it and so I wanted a chance to volunteer again. I figured I have two years for my Master’s program, so now would be a good time to do it.
I also really wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before, somewhere warm and tropical so I could escape the dreaded Boston winter!
What was the process of finding a host organization like?
I decided that I wanted to go Experteering in late November, but was only available from December to January. Because the timeline was so tight it was mandatory that everything happened quickly. Mark, the MovingWorlds CEO, was super helpful and attentive. He asked me about my interests, searched for a few projects for me and sent me their links in a very timely matter.
Additionally, to help speed the process along, the MovingWorlds matching team offered me a referral to an organization — that way I could start applying immediately. By the end of the second week and through the beginning of the third, I started getting responses!
Why did you choose to Experteer with the Honduras Child Alliance?
What stood out about Honduras Child Alliance was its emphasis on education — which is a topic I am really passionate about. When I lived in India I was involved in various education-related issues. I volunteered with Drishti Nazariya, a social development organization that uses theater to convey messages on gender equality and religious tolerance. I was also a part of my college’s social impact initiative; we would organize tree plantation drives, cleanliness drives, blood-donation drives and visit nursing homes in an effort to sensitize youth to issues that we weren’t accustomed to experiencing, in our usual more protected lifestyles.
I felt that Honduras Child Alliance was really solving the root of the economic problem in Honduras with their supplemental education initiative. I realized that education is key, and that clicked for me.
Additionally, I had an English-only requirement and a lot of the volunteer opportunities in Central America had Spanish speaking as a necessary skill but my role as a financial adviser with Honduras Child Alliance didn’t require it.
What was your role as an Experteer with the Honduras Child Alliance?
As an Experteer with Honduras Child Alliance, I played a dual role as both a financial advisor and a teacher.
As a financial adviser, I helped organize and build a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. I also assisted in writing a grant proposal. My job required me to revisit all of HCA’s finances and see where their money was going — that way I could find ways to allocate their funds properly and optimize funding for their programs, so they could get the biggest bang for their buck. I used all the usual financial tools to accomplish this task: pie charts, graphs etc.
I was Experteering during HCA operations hiatus from December to January. This was advantageous because I got to spend a lot of time with their team and we were able to figure out exactly what adjustments needed to be made to make their budget work for them.
A big priority for HCA was the healthy snack program they had just started. The program was aimed to make sure that the children were getting properly nourished but their organization was having trouble funding the initiative. To solve this, I created a grant proposal which was then received and approved! This was the first grant they’d received in the history of their org, so it was a big success.
Were there any surprises during your time Experteering?
Something that really surprised me about Honduras was how prominent the country’s drug cartels are and how strong the mafia presence is. In fact, it’s currently ranked the second most dangerous country in the world! It’s difficult for young people to stay out of the mafia because there aren’t many opportunities for youth in Honduras. This makes growing up in Honduras a high risk, high rewards game. So as a young person there, if you can’t speak English and don’t have any skills, you can easily get pulled into the mafia.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of Experteering?
If you really want to do something, you should do it regardless of the challenge, because there’ll always be a reason not to go.
When I was preparing for my Experteering trip in late November I was on quite the time crunch, and so all sorts of things came up. My parents didn’t approve, and it was all very last minute — I could’ve easily just picked one of those reasons and not have gone. But now looking back and knowing that I was able to help those kids so much by giving so little of my time, I couldn’t be happier I went. Every time I reflect on it, it warms my heart and puts a smile on my face.
What is your favorite memory of your time in Honduras?
My favorite memory would have to be this time when one of the student’s parents made me a home cooked meal. Their family didn’t have much and were living hand to mouth (paycheck to paycheck) but they were still so warm and hospitable to me. It amazed me that people with so little could still be such great hosts and share what they had. And it really opened my eyes to what Hondurans value in life.
What do you treasure most about your time as an Experteer?
It was exciting knowing that I was able to help accomplish something bigger than myself and make a real impact — even in short amount of time :)