Before starting the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A. (AKF USA) fellowship in November 2013, I was working as a Grants Finance Officer for Aga Khan Foundation Tajikistan, which targets a number of development challenges by forming intellectual and financial partnerships with organizations that share its objectives. As part of a team, I helped to implement projects – such as Rural Development in Badakhshan on the Tajik-Afghan border, the Shurabad Market, and Local Governance – which raise the socio-economic life of Tajikistan’s population.
Joining AKF USA has proven to be a good opportunity for me to gain extensive practical knowledge in accounting and grants management, especially from a donor’s perspective. I have received helpful support from AKF USA staff, and guidance whenever I have needed it. I also gained remarkable experience connecting with people and improving my communication skills. I studied English at the University of Central Asia in Dushanbe, but not until I came to Washington, DC did I get so much practice. AKF USA has an ideal working environment that encourages staff and fellows to work hard and achieve their goals.
At AKF USA I have had an opportunity to work on different projects, with a variety of donors and partners. As a member of the Finance team, I review the accuracy of reports received from implementing partners, ensure compliance with donor and internal AKF requirements, and compile reports and budgets for various audiences. I also work closely with the Programs Team and am learning how to manage various projects and how to communicate with donors. Workshops on USAID Rules and Regulations and Financial Management for US Government Funding proved essential, and I gained knowledge that will be valuable in my future work with the Aga Khan Development Network.
I have had an opportunity to work on a number of important programs: Education for Marginalized Children in Kenya (EMACK), Head Start! in Egypt, the Chitral Child Survival Project in Pakistan, Social Cohesion through Community Based Development in Kyrgyzstan, and more. This fellowship has been a good opportunity to learn about the conditions and challenges in different countries. At the same time, I can compare the conditions of these counties to life in Tajikistan and AKF projects there.
The chance to attend events in DC is another advantage — meeting people of different backgrounds and sharing ideas. It is very exciting to know about their cultures, their cuisines, and how they live.
The relationships that I have built with colleagues during this fellowship are its most important benefit. These relationships will stay with me for a long time and will have a significant influence throughout my life. They are helping me grow both professionally and as an individual.
By Sakina Vanjova, Professional Development Fellow at the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A.