While observing schoolchildren on a soccer pitch in Uganda, a universal truth hit home for Deloitte professional Anthony Scolaro: children are children, no matter where you are in the world. And thanks to Deloitte’s International Development Fellowship (IDF), Anthony was able to play a behind-the-scenes role in ensuring children in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and South America have that chance.
One of nearly 30 professionals across Canada who have taken a leave of absence through Deloitte’s IDF program to spend up to five months working on-the-ground with an international development agency, Anthony contributed his professional skills to Right To Play International. Supported by high-profile athletes around the world – including over 100 Canadians – Right To Play is dedicated to improving the lives of children in developing nations using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.
(left: Anthony Scolaro (far left) visits a Right To Play school in Kampala, Uganda, on a Deloitte International Development Fellowship leave)
Brought in to review Right To Play’s internal financial processes, part of Anthony’s role involved visiting program sites to get an inside view of the organization’s operations. It was a far cry from his usual client visits as a Private Company Services specialist for Deloitte in Toronto. “One of the best parts was going to the schools and just playing with the kids,” recalls Anthony, who saw first-hand how a post-game group discussion led by coaches could transform the defensive rules of a sport into a lesson on protecting yourself against malaria or HIV.
Based in Right To Play’s regional headquarters in Kampala, Uganda, and travelling further afield to Zambia and Botswana, Anthony had the chance to actually get in the game, gaining a hands-on understanding of the operational flow straight from donor funding to Right To Play program implementation. One of the most perspective-altering visits, Anthony says, was to the Nakivale refugee camp on the borders of Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Set up as a temporary site during the 1960s, the camp has housed thousands of fleeing refugees– many of them children. Right To Play has become an integral part of the community, running programs to keep the children healthy, both physically and emotionally.
Although the work itself drew from the same skill set as Anthony’s day-to-day role at Deloitte, it required flexibility and creativity to apply Western practices in a developing world business setting. At the office (a three-storey building that housed regional and local Right To Play operations), he was faced with rolling power blackouts and sporadic internet access. While such conditions would virtually shut down business back home, they were taken in stride by Right To Play’s staff – who always remained focused on the positive impact of their work, rather than the challenges they faced.
After three months in Africa, Anthony insists he came away with much more than he left behind. No small feat, considering his work included developing an internal audit system that will be sustained by Right To Play in the future. Having now returned, Anthony says the experience has provided him with a greater appreciation of things previously taken for granted and now sees endless opportunities for individuals to make a difference. He has one piece of advice for others considering such an experience, “Go. I promise you that you won’t regret it.”
Established in 2008, Deloitte’s IDF program allows our people to take an unpaid leave of absence to contribute their professional skills to volunteer projects in developing nations around the globe. For more information on the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.