Alumni profile: Meet Marjon Castelijns, International Business Studies, 1999

Marjon Castelijns, International Business Studies, 1999

I studied in Maastricht from 1994 to 1999. My main attraction to Maastricht was the international aspect of my studies and the Problem Based Learning approach. I could never have imagined in 1994 that my study and life would bring me to the “Pearl of Africa”- Uganda.

During my career I always worked in international environments starting at KPMG Consulting, then Avery Dennison in the Netherlands and Spain. After working for almost 10 years I was doing really well in my career and suddenly I started realizing that maybe this was what I actually wanted for my whole life! I decided to give it a shot and see if I could do volunteering “or so”.

I sent my CV to some organisations, not really knowing who they were and not expecting any response. However, UNICEF Uganda offered me the 6 months position of Logistics Specialist. That job really opened my eyes to what the “development sector” is like. But most importantly it took me to Uganda. I loved it from the first moment; the warm and welcoming people, the climate, the tropical greenness, the chaos…

After UNICEF, I joined IPA Africa and became one of the shareholders. This awakened the entrepreneurial side in me which I didn’t know I had! Following this epiphany, I decided to leave IPA a few months ago to start my new firm, Equate. My company will focus on the execution of operational aspects in development projects around Africa and Asia. We will also represent companies from Europe that want to expand their business to the African market. The business opportunities over here are all around, it’s a matter of picking your favourite.

Besides work, I have initiated a project “Nurture the Child” in the slum-area close to my house where we are sponsoring 100 children in primary school and are providing food. This aspect of my live is very important in fulfilling my “philanthropic intentions” of being in Africa.

I truly believe that my ending up here was a matter of destiny, or my “godsend”, though I would say I have experienced both many of the most beautiful and the most difficult moments of my life in Africa. Life is intense in every way, people here give me happiness, warmth and friendship, but I have also been deceived and disappointed. Most especially in business I have learned to be very careful; I have noticed that I have changed from a naïve “Brabants meisje” into a very cautious, almost mistrusting business lady.

Thinking of Maastricht I always remember the “kinderkopjes”, my house in the Lenculenstraat, café De Preuverij, many friends and, of course, my sorority Pandora. My wonderful Pandora friends keep me in touch with Maastricht through Christmas dinners which I attend whenever I can around that time of the year. I would like to contribute to the University of Maastricht and to my sector in by being a link for students and alumni that would like to visit do business or work in East Africa. I would also gladly help the University incorporate some aspects of the development sector into their curriculum. I still have a dream to one day teach at a University, so… who knows? But, the least I hope to achieve is that articles like these will open the eyes of some people to the possibility of exploring the development sector.

Managing Director, Equate (U) Ltd.
Founder, Stichting Nurture The Child


Source: Alumni newsletter, September 2013

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