Project Liaison & the Importance of Close Relationships with Our Projects – an Interview with Ululutho Mthana

African Sunrise is an all-female company based in Cape Town South Africa. They facilitate volunteers and interns and place them with a suitable non-profit organisation. Most of their volunteers and interns are from Sweden, and some of the most popular fields of study or interest are social work and community development.

This week, Outline Business met up with African Sunrise's Ululutho Mthana. She'll give us more insight into her role as Project Liaison at African Sunrise, why their company is different from other volunteering companies, as well as discussing her goals and ambitions for the future.


Outline: What is your role at African Sunrise and can you go through some of your typical tasks you do?


Ululutho: I am a projects liaison for African Sunrise Volunteers and Internships. At African Sunrise we work with a number of Non-Government Organisations within the Cape Town area. We, therefore, place international interns, volunteers and field study students in these organisations. Therefore, in my portfolio, I am responsible for communicating with these organisations. I approach them when we have new volunteers or interns coming, and they are also welcomed to contact me when they are looking for new volunteers. I contact them, as well, to offer our services to with fundraisers, or any programme they might be working on. I liaise between our company (African Sunrise) and the organisations to coordinate activities that occur. It is also my duty to show our clients around Cape Town on their second day after arrival. I take them to the central part of Cape Town for them to have an idea of how the environment is before starting at the organisations. This includes visiting the District 6 Museum, V&A Waterfront, a delicious lunch and a great conversation with me, of course.


Outline: What made you decide to start working for African Sunrise and how does it differ from any previous companies you've worked for?


Ululutho: The funny thing is I had already been given a job offer before attending the African Sunrise interview. After being interviewed by Tania and CJ and finding out that it's a small company run by women, I was captured, mostly, when they told me that the dress code is ‘casual'. That's when I hoped so hard that I get the offer. After attending a few programs with our sister organisation, Breaking Bread, I could not believe the work that African Sunrise is involved in. This surely interested me more as I saw an opportunity to grow as a person. I would go on and on about how African Sunrise differs from the previous companies I have worked for, but to summarise it; African Sunrise to me is not a company, yes on paper it is, but to me, it is a home, it is a family. It focuses, not only on its own growth but on the growth of others as well.


Outline: You work closely with each organisation as part of your role – Why do you think it's important that African Sunrise pays a lot of attention to each organisation you work with?


Ululutho: Each organisation is different, and our organisations have different focuses. Therefore, it is of utmost importance to be aware of all changes, improvements and shortfalls of all organisations. This is to ensure that when we place volunteers, interns or field study students; we place those who will be able to understand, assist and bring growth to the organisations. We do not want the organisations to view us as just a mere agency; we would like them to see us as part of their family. We build that kind of relationship with our organisations; it will be impossible to do so without paying close attention to them. This also allows the organisation to cry to us for help whenever they need to.


Outline: How does this benefit the volunteers and interns, as well as the organisations?


Ululutho: Our interns and volunteers have an option of informing us of what type of organisation they would like to be part of. Therefore, having a close relationship and clear understanding of our organisations makes it easier for us to find the suitable project for our interns and volunteers. This is also beneficial; as we understand that there may be moments of misunderstandings and may be conflicts; this relationship then makes us easily approachable by our organisations and of course our volunteers and interns.


Outline: You also work closely with all the volunteers and interns as part of your role. Do you have any advice for people who are considering volunteering or doing their internship in South Africa?


Ululutho: Coming to a different country, in fact to a different continent, can be stressful and online research can raise some fears. What I have observed is that our volunteers and interns appreciate and enjoy having local people to assist them in settling in and understanding the environment. Therefore, it is advisable to have a local person or people to contact whenever you need one; and to assist with the administrative matters, such as accommodation. My advice to individuals who would like to volunteer in South Africa is to be open-minded and reduce expectations to a minimum, as we may be different in many ways to the country(ies) they may be coming from, that way you will enjoy the beauty of this country without limits.


Outline: What makes African Sunrise different from other volunteering companies in Cape Town?


Ululutho: I have not worked with volunteering companies before. However, upon my research, I have noted a few differences. As I have mentioned above, African Sunrise is run by three women, this makes our company intimate, and there is always space for our visitors, and they are treated like family, as we treat each other. I have observed that other companies mainly decide on what activities their visitors will do without necessarily giving them options of doing something different. African Sunrise tries to shy away from that as we understand that our volunteers and interns are adults. We encourage them to inform us of any interests they may have, and we also give them ideas and options for different activities. This gives them independence, and it allows them to feel at home. Unlike other volunteering companies, African Sunrise does not overcharge our visitor when they approach us to assist. We ensure that we break down all the costs for them and give a clear view of how their payment is used. This is something that other companies fail to do.


Outline: Do you have any final things you'd like to say?


Ululutho: Doing the work that I do is not a walk in the park because I get to deal with people's lives, and I take that extremely seriously. I have found that respect, understanding and communication are important and necessary traits. Working for African Sunrise, for me, is not a job, it is living my life because I have the opportunity of socialising with different people, and this is the personal growth I have mentioned above. I am learning from them, and they are learning from me. If you are thinking of visiting Cape Town, South Africa, be sure to contact African Sunrise, trust me that is the best decision to make, and you can never go wrong with African Sunrise. I am waiting for you with open arms.


If volunteering or interning in Cape Town with African Sunrise sounds like something you'd like to be part of, contact the team today. And watch this space for more updates from the African Sunrise team.




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