The world is a big place, but maybe it’s not that big when you focus on a specific area that you want to influence and make an impact on. Jinani Nissanka travelled over 6,000 miles, from Australia to Nairobi to join Dignitas as a volunteer for one month. We interviewed Jinani recently to learn more about her background, her passion, experience in Kenya and the impact she has achieved. She has been a great resource to Dignitas in the last few weeks enabling us to get a lot of work done. Jinani is very inspiring, she is dedicated to her role, she is a great teacher and it turns out that she also has amazing recipes! The team has had a chance to enjoy a few treats from Jinani in the last week.
Tell us about yourself, your current career path, education background, what you are passionate about and why you decided to work in accounting.
I was born and completed my secondary education in Sri Lanka. I always liked accounting as a subject when I was in my secondary school. When I finished my Advanced level, I went to Australia to further my studies. I went to University of Wollongong (80km from Sydney) to study Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Accounting. Once I graduated from Australia after 3 years, I returned back to Sri Lanka. After two years of working in accounting field I wanted to pursue my studies further. I decided to study Postgraduate Diploma in Management in order to add more flavor/skills to my accounting background. I also got married had a son just before I started my Postgraduate. During this time the civil war in the country was pretty bad and I decided to leave Sri Lanka for good in 2000. Australia is my adopted home. After returning back to Australia I wanted to pursue my professional career since the accounting market is very competitive. Having a young family and juggling with my work, my perseverance gave me the opportunity to complete my CPA. In early days in my career I always did more than my responsibilities and wanted to learn as much from others in order to gain my skills. I was never afraid to ask more work or take extra responsibilities when required. I am self-motivated and have can do attitude.
During the last two decades of my career, I have implemented many accounting software systems, streamlined processes, improved financial and management reporting systems for organizations. I have mentored my colleagues and shared my knowledge and experience with them. I always enjoy seeing when I add value to my employer or/and see when someone learns from me. I have done very significant changes to where I had worked before. That brings me the happiness and achievement in my career. That’s why accounting is my passion.
Tell us how you decided to come to Kenya/Africa to volunteer. What prompted that decision?
One day I came across in one of the jobs seeking website’s in Australia about volunteering jobs in overseas as an accountant. That really stuck in my mind. When I contacted AfID (Accounting for International Development) about the volunteering opportunities, Africa was my first priority. I have been working for NFP sector for more than 12 years. My compassion towards under privileged or under resourced communities grew over the past many years. I thought this would be a great opportunity to give back to the community. Going through the volunteering processes with the AfID, last December they sent me 4 placement choices. Since this is my first volunteering job and also coming to an African continent for the first time, I decided to select the one in the city. That’s how ended up in Kenya!
Share with us what you are doing for Dignitas during your volunteering period.
My main tasks are to assist Mercy, the Finance Officer at Dignitas to complete and prepare the year end accounts for 2018 for the audit. Review accounts and other financial documents. Assist to upload the 2019 budget into Quick Books. Improve processes and write procedures for financial controls of the organization. I also prepare a cashflow statement for the organization and assist the Executive Director, Deborah to implement the new business model of the organization.
How has your experience been at Dignitas so far? Share highlights, new things you are learning, your experience with the Dignitas team?
It has been a great experience to work out of your comfort zone. Working with a friendly and passionate team are key things that really bring me to work every morning. My main highlights are making a difference for a good cause and seeing a change in the Dignitas financial processes.
Please share with us some of your thoughts on education and why it is important for all children.
Education can close the gap of poverty. Every child deserves a quality education. If children can have a vision of what they want to be from younger age that can motivate them to perform well in schools. They should also have inspirational teachers in schools to support them. I am pleased to see that Dignitas’vision is to improve the quality of teaching of school teachers so that students can get opportunities learn well in their schools.
What are some of the things you have learned about Kenya that you did not know before your trip?
The Staple food of the country is Ugali. I have also noticed that Kenyans are not coffee drinkers. I was expecting to get quality coffee in here since Kenya is famous for coffee. Walking on the streets is challenging which I never thought of before arriving to Kenya.
What are your reflections around International Women’s Day that coming up on 8th March?
What inspires me is that any woman can stand up on their own feet and make a difference to the community for a good cause.
Thank you Jinani! With International Women’s Day coming up on 8th March, we celebrate Jinani and other women who are working to share their knowledge and empower others.