We sat down with Communications Fellow Hannah McCandless to learn about her new role and the path leading her to Village Enterprise. Hannah is originally from Shaker Heights, Ohio. She received a Bachelor’s in International Studies from Ohio State University where she also studied Economics and Kiswahili.
- What will be the primary focus of your work with Village Enterprise?
As the Communications Fellow, I am now Village Enterprise’s ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground. I will be collecting and sharing stories and experiences from the field that illustrate our unique work and impact. A significant part of my work will be helping to elevate Village Enterprise as a thought leader in the international development industry. We have such a powerful model, one that you can see the impacts of on the ground everyday, so I am looking forward to ensuring that the world knows what we are doing.
- What attracted you to Village Enterprise?
When I first saw this job posting advertised, I knew it was for me. Village Enterprise emanates such a good vibe. The work is incredible, and the impact even more exciting. I was impressed by the fact that 95% of Village Enterprise’s field staff is East African and we have an incredible presence in the communities in which we work. All of this has been confirmed in the weeks since I’ve arrived. I leave our team meetings feeling energized and inspired.
- Why is extreme poverty a cause you care about?
I believe that development is about empowering individuals to be agents of change in their communities. Extreme poverty inhibits this in so many ways. Individuals living in extreme poverty could be teachers, doctors, and presidents. By eradicating extreme poverty, we can unleash the promise of all of these potential world changers, and that’s exciting to me.
- What do you hope to gain from living in rural Africa/Uganda?
A full heart! I really look forward to the relationships that I will form with our staff and business owners in Uganda and Kenya. I am so grateful to be a part of such an enthusiastic and inspiring team that does such important and impactful work. How could I possibly walk away from this experience unchanged by that?
- What challenges do you expect to face?
I think that a crucial part of being a non-national working in development is a constant questioning of where and why you fit into the work you do. While such a questioning is necessary, it is not always pleasant. Not every career path begs that you constantly question your own legitimacy! That being said, I welcome this challenge as I attempt to deepen my understanding of the complexities of development in East Africa.
- What aspects of your background and experience do you feel will be most valuable in your role as Communications Fellow?
I have been lucky enough to have had a significant range of experiences thus far in my career. Each opportunity brought with it some unique component that I think will empower me in this position. Overall, I have had a lot of opportunity to engage genuinely with people from incredibly diverse backgrounds. As such, I am comfortable overcoming difference. Particularly, having lived and worked in Tanzania, I gained an understanding of East African culture (and I speak Swahili!) and an appreciation for the patience and stamina required for field work.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
I have been settled in Soroti, Uganda for just a few weeks now, and I cannot articulate how grateful I am to be a part of this passionate, funny, and brilliant team.