Data, Data and Downtime: Thank you Zambia, for Sharing your Gift!

Hello world. My name is Sharon, I’m 54 and I’m the newest intern at Joel Village. I’m originally from England but I’ve been living in Southern Africa for 17 years and consider Knysna, in the Western Cape of South Africa, my home. I’ve had a long and very varied working life starting off as a Chartered Surveyor managing and valuing commercial property, then in to IT Sales, then to Africa where I ran my own business’s before working on the admin side of an International Investment Consultancy.


Over the years I’ve been attracted to the NGO sector and have applied for many jobs but to no avail, it’s a tricky nut to crack! After spending some time in Vietnam, teaching English, I was looking for my next position and there it was: my dream job with Impact Network, working in Africa, in education. I have a deep love of Africa and being given the opportunity to play a small part in raising the education levels in rural communities is very special indeed.

Fortunately, I love working with Excel and Databases. Just after I arrived here both month end and end of term coincided to produce a perfect storm of data!  I felt a bit overwhelmed at times especially with the month end reports as the raw data needs a lot of manipulation and cleaning (and chasing people to update) to produce the end result. There’s also a deadline to adhere to as a lot of the information goes to our funders; the people behind the scenes who make all of this possible. Monica, my predecessor, had explained what was required but watching somebody explain the ins and outs of compiling the reports and then actually doing it yourself is a very different process!  Anyway, I now have a month end under my belt and the next one should be a lot more straight forward, especially as I’ve started working on some strategies to streamline the production of the reports.

The end of term data is a whole other story. Results for the six examined subjects, (handwritten, on paper) were collected from teachers gathered for the training days. This task was overwhelming purely because of the sheer volume of information that had to be processed manually but everybody contributed with the data input, both in Zambia and New York including some volunteers (Thanks, Reshma’s Dad!). The resulting spreadsheet is standing at over 4700 lines (so far) and is the biggest data collection undertaken by Impact Network. I think I can speak for all of us when I say we’re waiting with baited breath to find out what the data will reveal!

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With my head, ‘in the zone’, stuck in my laptop it’s easy to forget the realities of my present location. Until, that is, a cow or goat sticks his head in the office door to see what’s going on. Or, whilst figuring out a tricky data manipulation, I ask my best friend Google how to do it, and wait…… and wait….and wait. Eventually, I grab my phone and wander around outside to find a cell signal and repeat the question….and wait….and wait. There’s no 4G here people! There’s no point getting frustrated, it’s just the way it is. While you’re waiting it gives you a chance to appreciate the small moments happening around you: the beautiful clear, blue sky; the cows, goats, chickens and dogs living their lives; the lizard scampering up a tree; the crowd of children that have gathered; the women collecting water from the borehole. Having the time to recognise and appreciate the small moments in life is a precious gift that few of us experience.

Waiting for the Internet.....

Waiting for the Internet.....

Thank you Zambia, for sharing your gift!

- Sharon