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Corporate Social Responsibility

Making a difference in Malawi

At the beginning of September Claire Thomson, an Assistant Manager in our Audit team, will travel to Malawi to spend three weeks volunteering at the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology.

Volunteers are allocated to different organisations, based on their skills and experience in their fields. As such, during her placement Claire will be working with the accountant and finance team at Kusamala, providing training and support in areas such as financial reporting and budgetary control. In a country facing annual famine due to climate change, and where 80 percent of the population are subsistence farmers, Kusamala demonstrates how locally available resources can meet human needs while improving quality of life for people and the environment.

Claire is passionate about working with charities throughout Northern Ireland but says she “is excited to have the opportunity to use her skills in a new environment.”

“The work that Kusamala does is vital to its surrounding communities and to Malawi as a whole, explained Claire. It is a privilege to be able to equip and empower local staff to deliver more effective and sustainable programmes. The placement will bring many challenges, not least because I suffer from ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis, also known as chronic fatigue syndrome), but I am excited about being able to use my accounting skills in a unique environment to make a difference.”

Malawi is among the smallest countries in Africa and is bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique and is also one of the world’s least-developed countries.

The economy is heavily based on agriculture with a large rural population, and the Malawian government depends greatly on outside aid to meet the country’s development needs.

Malawi has low life expectancy and high infant mortality rates, including a high rate of HIV/AIDS.

In her role, Claire will work closely with the Kusamala Institute, using her accountancy skills to help improve the organisation’s finance functions and assist them to obtain charity and government grants.

Claire explains most of these not-for-profit organisations can’t afford to employ qualified professionals, therefore they are unable to access charitable and government funding, which they rely heavily on.

Claire applied for a voluntary placement through ‘Accounting for International Development’.

She explained she has been interested in travelling to Malawi ever since some of her friends visited the country.

“It’s definitely the best way to use my annual leave,” added Claire.

You can follow Claire’s journey on her blog which will be featured on Grant Thornton’s website in September were she will report on her experiences and progress throughout her placement.

To find out more about Accounting for International Development and the Kusamala Institute of Agriculture and Ecology, visit


First featured in The Mourne Observer.