I interviewed Ville Wacklin at the Finnish Church Aid headquarters in Helsinki. The reason why I chose to interview him is my interest in the entrepreneurship training at the refugee camps. In my opinion it is smart to help people to get an education during their stay at the camp. Sometimes it can be many years of their lives that they are forced to live at the camps. So it is very important to give them education that really makes a difference. In this interview Wacklin tells about how he ended up working for a NGO, what kind of work does he do and which qualities a person working for a NGO needs.
Ville Wacklin works at the FCA (Finnish Chuch Aid) as a project manager. He is mostly doing programmes/projects related to entrepreneurship and education export. He ended up working for FCA by a bit of luck and a lot of entrepreneurial attitude. After high school he travelled for several years abroad. He visited many countries in Africa, Middle East, Latin America and Asia. Then he decided to come back to Finland and start to do something that is remotely remarkable or meaningful.
He started to study to become a class teacher, but after finishing his BA he was not sure if he he wanted to be a class teacher for the rest of his life. After a while he decided to finish his Master´s degree. He became interested in education in refugee context. He wanted to collect data at the refugee camps and to be able to do this he contacted FCA and joined their research in Uganda. After graduation he pitched his ideas to FCA of how FCA could boost entrepreneurship in refugee context and after a lot of maybes he finally started working for FCA in Uganda. He was part of a team that made the curriculum for the entrepreneurship education which is a part of a vocational education. Even if the student decides not to become an entrepreneur, this education gives the student tools for acquiring a job. Later on FCA has also started to help people with start up ideas. FCA offers now different kind of education in the field of entrepreneurship in Uganda, Jordan, Cambodia and Eritrea.
What kind of qualities one should have when working in a NGO? Wacklin says that all the travelling he did for years helped him to adapt for different environments. He also feels that he learned how people interact and work in different environments. One needs ability to adjust in his line of work. It is also important for your own wellbeing to let go of micro managing in sub-Saharan countries. He says that rather than navigating the boat, you must navigate the stream. According to Wacklin, you must understand that things will happen in the last minute. It is not possible to plan a head, atleast not more than 2 weeks a head. You should always have Plan B and Plan C, because things will always change. One needs to be flexible. You will get to the goal, but maybe not the way as you wanted. For the language skills needed for the work, Wacklin says fluent written and spoken English is very important. Languages like Arabic or Spanish might also be useful depending on the country you are working in.
Does religion play any part in your work? No, not really. Even as a faith based organization, religion does not show in his work. Only when it comes to local staff in Uganda, they are very religious and we have to respect that. Being a church aid also opens doors especially in Middle East. There Faith based organizations are not seen by covernments as a threat but as more reliable than other kind of NGO´s.
Why did you choose Africa? Africa is the continent that fascinates him most. At the same time it is the most frustrating continent to work in. I travelled earlier before my work at FCA in different countries in Africa for a year. I feel that it has helped me to adjust for my work in Uganda. My competence is mostly in Africa, in how to run projects or programmes in Africa. I have learned how to deal with crazy traffic and people with different backgrounds. I know how to react when somebody calls me “white face” or wants to touch my hair. You get by well when you can talk some words local language and find a reason to laugh together with the person you meet.
What would you like to say to students wanting to work at a NGO? I want to say that be curious, be resilient and don´t take no for an answear! It can be tough but at the same time I have to pinch myself for living my dream. I am very happy and also very proud of myself for achieving all of this!
Interviewing Ville Wacklin was a very nice task. We were talking about important things both on and off tape. What I enjoyed most was all the sharing of wise thoughts and laughs. I hope the readers will find this interview useful. I recommend every one to contact NGO´s, do interviews and network, it might help you to find your dream job. So Thank You Ville for this nice interview and continue to enjoy your work and life atleast as much as you do at the moment. Keep up the good work and spirit!
Some links related to FCA (in English) and Ville Wacklin (in Finnish):