Senior accountant Yoko Chiba is the PricewaterhouseCoopers Ambassador to The ISIS Group. She recently visited Kiwoko Hospital, in the Nakaseke district of Uganda, to see first-hand the benefits to villagers of a unique partnership between The ISIS Foundation, Kiwoko Hospital and local project partners.
My brief was to develop finance policies and procedures, and support staff who were working on hospital budgets. From the moment I arrived, I felt so welcomed. Within days, I already felt part of the Kiwoko Hospital community. Life seemed simple, people were happy and there was a strong sense of community. The people do not have much but everyone was grateful for what they do have and are always lending a hand to their neighbours — including a muzungu (foreigner) like me!
I found the people at Kiwoko to be resilient and positive. I heard many stories from villagers who had lived through horrific times during war – in some areas, you could see and feel the scars of war. In one village, the burial place for war victims had been left open so people could see the skeletons and remember the sacrifices made by people they loved. Despite this gruesome history, the people continue to smile and celebrate their survival and their lives.
But people in Kiwoko face serious hardship. This became clear when I analysed the budget. For example, the budget for HIV children’s treatment had been overspent because more sick children were admitted than had been allowed for in the budget. These children were so sick that, despite the best efforts of staff, half of them died. As well as being incredibly tragic, the reality was that the sicker the child, the harder the staff worked to save the child’s life, and the greater the financial cost. These rising costs were eating into funding that would have gone to other life-supporting activities for the people of Kiwoko.
My role was to point out that an overspend in one area means savings must be found elsewhere. I had witnessed the passion ofthe staff running these programmes and the people who benefited from treatment, so I found these conversations incredibly difficult. But I also realised that I, and future PwC ambassadors, could use our financial analytical skills to help staff find cost savings and help them find better ways to manage budgets. I felt proud that the skills I gained at PwC could be part of such meaningful work.
What impressed me most about the people of Kiwoko is that they were humble, curious and hungry for knowledge. This helped me appreciate the importance of providing financial information to non-financial staff in a way that is practical and useful, and that overcomes barriers like not being computer literate. This insight will allow me to apply a deeper understanding about the meaning of ‘client service’ to my work at PwC.
Witnessing life in rural Uganda made me realise again and again how lucky I am to have been born into my family and grown up in a country that has plenty. For me, this secondment to the ISIS Foundation has helped to bridge the gap between the corporate world and people living in developing rural countries. It has opened my eyes to what is possible when we use our financial skills to help others.
As a PwC ambassador, I have seen that the financial skills and experience gained at PwC can make a difference anywhere in the world – from multi-billion-dollar businesses and corporates to the smallest not-for-profit programmes.