Volunteer of the Year Award 2017
Nominating Organization: Land O’Lakes International Development
Bowen Island, British Columbia, Canada
Growing up in a small town in southern Ireland, Kate Coffey dreamed of visiting far off places. These dreams, along with Ms. Coffey’s intellect, business acumen and passion for volunteering, are what led Ms. Coffey to Nepal, Bangladesh and later Sri Lanka to volunteer with USAID’s VEGA/BIZ+ program. VEGA/BIZ+ utilizes skilled volunteers like Ms. Coffey to stimulate Sri Lanka’s economy by providing small and medium-sized enterprises with the technical capabilities to become a successful business.
Ms. Coffey served as business advisor and coach for four businesses with Land O’Lakes International Development for about nine months in Sri Lanka. With many years of experience analyzing and coaching businesses, she used her expertise to support a rice flourmill, a polybag manufacturer, an heirloom rice producer and a garment factory in Sri Lanka’s northern and eastern provinces.
Ms. Coffey worked with some of the many business owners that lost their jobs, businesses, home and more due to the 26-year Sri Lankan civil war. Muruganantham of Agash Textiles was one of these business owners. Ms. Coffey regularly provided in person coaching, training in production planning and sound fiscal management, as well as providing human resource guidance to Muruganantham. “He was a designer, an artist. He wasn’t a business owner by training. Equipping him with tools like this enable him to run his business more effectively,” said Ms. Coffey. Since VEGA/BIZ+’s initial investment in 2016 and due to Ms. Coffey’s volunteer work, Agash has expanded operations, created 32 new jobs and seen a 25 percent increase in profit for each shirt made.
Muruganantham said about his experience working with Ms. Coffey, “She would spend a day with us, then give us homework…like keeping records of sales…and she helped us understand inventory and how to get more profit from the raw materials.”
Ms. Coffey enjoyed her work so greatly in Sri Lanka, she plans to return to VEGA/BIZ+ in 2018 to continue capacity building.
Read more about Kate Coffey: