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How Softchoice Cares Inspired a New Mission

Culture | Posted on November 19, 2013 by Joel Hoidas

It’s part of the Softchoice culture to find ways to give back. It’s contagious even. A single employee-led fundraiser has the potential to inspire new ideas, new ways to give back, and a greater personal connection to the company’s grassroots charitable efforts.

Case in point, Softchoice Cares’ international aid missions – in which we leverage our partnerships and expertise in technology to build computer labs in developing communities – are a cornerstone of our corporate giving program.

Inspired by Softchoice Cares’ efforts abroad, New York-based employees Robert Miller and Scott Baldwin found a new way to give back. After a chance conversation with a long-time client, they took the initiative to organize a new mission, a grassroots mission to Teupasenti, Honduras.

“I didn’t have any expectations going in, I just figured let’s just see what we can do to help,” Scott said. “We took inspiration from Softchoice Cares and the work they’ve done, and I thought now let’s carry the Softchoice banner on a new mission that aligns with the same values and same goals.”

Their client leads a non-profit organization called Children’s Rescue Mission (CRM). Similar to Softchoice Cares, which was borne from the 2004 tsunami that devastated South East Asia, CRM was created in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, which wreaked havoc throughout Central America.

“Teupasenti is a very poor farming community where the vast majority of people depend on working the coffee fields for income,” Scott said. “If they have a bad crop year, like this year, and especially in the wake of Hurricane Mitch, the situation turns from bad to worse for many families.”

When CRM hit the ground in Teupasenti for the first time in 1999, the situation was pretty dire. The village and its people lacked basic quality of life items like clean drinking water and proper clothing. Then CRM went to work. First focusing on basic needs like food, water, clothing and shelter, CRM has since evolved – building on their efforts year over year – to also address infrastructure needs, health care, education and vocational training.

After speaking with their client and CRM’s other founder, Miguel Giron, Scott and Robert saw an opportunity for Softchoice to help CRM take the next step in their development efforts and help bridge the so-called digital divide. With the help from co-workers Alicia Soltys, Melvin Griffen, and their sales and service teams – as well as local vendor partners – Scott and Robert were able to fundraise and secure hardware donations for a computer lab. They assembled a team spanning three Softchoice offices and hitched a ride with CRM on their next mission.

“Learning English and even some basic computer skills has the potential to change lives there,” Scott said. “It means they can apply for jobs in the capital at the hotels and resorts. It gives them a chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.”

As is usually the case for anyone who participates in these types of missions, Scott said the experience was life changing. While the mission to Honduras is over, the real mission for Scott and the New York team is just beginning.

Scott and Robert have committed to sustained annual fundraising to maintain the computer lab and hopefully increase its capabilities. He estimates a few thousand dollars a year will help to keep power on in the computer lab, provide Internet access, and allow for future development opportunities.

“As soon as we got back, we started thinking of new ways to fundraise, build awareness and build on the progress being made there,” Scott said. “How amazing would it be to have video conferencing capabilities there and be able to teach children and adults lessons from over here?”

Regardless of which side of the globe you live on, your education, or your financial situation, hope is contagious, Scott said. And spreading hope is a powerful thing.

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