After 25 years as a senior finance professional, William Duperouzel BEM FCPA relished the chance to join a charity that turns old tools into new skills for communities in need.
When William Duperouzel BEM FCPA began in an administrator’s role at UK charity Workaid
in 2006, he found himself tackling everything from finance to administration, and making the coffee.
It was a far cry from his 25 years in a senior accounting role in the UK with Scicon Computer Services, a subsidiary of British Petroleum. Yet Duperouzel considered each task, however minor, important to the end goal.
“People aren’t involved for their own glory; it’s to be a cog in a bigger wheel,” he explains.
Workaid refurbishes and distributes old tools to communities in need in East Africa and the UK. For Duperouzel, a founding committee member and former president of CPA Australia’s Europe branch, it was a way to use his skills as a finance professional, and help people in Africa without leaving the UK.
Two years after joining Workaid he embarked on a trip to Uganda, travelling 2000km to visit 19 of its projects across the country. Through the simple donation of tools and time, Workaid has changed people’s lives by teaching them skills such as tailoring or carpentry, enabling them to become self-supporting.
The gift of a sewing machine or tools means they can build self-esteem, escape poverty and educate their children.
“It takes your breath away how someone’s old tools that belonged to their grandfather and were going to be thrown out can be such a gift if they are recycled and given to someone else,” says Duperouzel.
By the time he retired from Workaid in 2011, Duperouzel had become the charity’s CEO. He is still a trustee and coordinates its speaking engagements on a volunteer basis.
He says it was his wife, Janet, who first sparked his passion for giving back through her involvement with the UK brain injury association, Headway. After taking part in a charity bike ride, he offered to organise a similar event for the local Headway group she had co-founded. The event ran for 16 years.
That experience gave him a lot of new skills.
“I did admin, designed the website, there was fundraising, I organised volunteers, so by the time I wanted to get more involved in charity I had lots of experience, not just in finance,” he says.
Duperouzel is originally from Perth in Western Australia, and met his wife during a working holiday in the UK in his early 20s. He moved there in the 1970s to be with her, and says his adopted land has been good to him.
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In 2005, when it was announced London would host the 2012 Olympic Games, Duperouzel signed up as a volunteer for both the Olympics and Paralympic Games. He ended up volunteering one day for every year he’d been in the UK, a statistic he finds serendipitous.
Duperouzel has also been involved with his local Bedfordshire community since the 1980s; from schools and the Catholic Church to health services. In June 2016, he was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for his services to charity and the community, an honour he is both humbled by and grateful for.
He encourages others to look for ways to give back to a cause. He cites his accounting experience, with its requirements for application, probing and attention to detail, as a tremendous foundation.
“It’s been a springboard for other things, rather than just being a bookkeeper or a treasurer. CPAs don’t have to give back in a finance role, they can be inspired to do whatever touches them,” he says.
“CPAs ... can be inspired to do whatever touches them.”
Workaid, East Africa and the UK
For more than 30 years, Workaid volunteers have been breathing new life into old and unwanted tools and sewing machines to use for vocational training projects in Africa and the UK.
Operating under the motto of “tools for life”, Workaid aims to tackle poverty by providing disadvantaged people with the tools and practical skills they need to grow crops, produce goods to sell, or offer services in order to earn a living.
Workaid sent its first container of tools to Kenya in 1994 and now sends up to eight containers a year across East Africa, filled with 80 tonnes of equipment saved from landfill. Its 100th container was sent to Tanzania in 2017.
In 2015, Workaid was awarded the Queens Award for Voluntary Service and today there are more than 200 workshop volunteers and a team of local collectors around the UK.
Workaid also runs a supported workshop in the UK, where people with learning disabilities can gain workplace experience and build their social and communication skills in preparation for employment.
Volunteering to save the lives of mothers and babies in Tanzania