Softchoice sends employees on international charitable missions for a number of reasons, among them are to develop leadership skills, experience the impact of giving first hand, and to help bridge the digital divide – providing computers and technology know-how to help children and adults develop new skills and break the cycle of poverty.
Some wonder if it would be better to save the cost of flights and accommodation for 14 employees and just donate the money and technology instead. We don’t think so.
We believe these experiences are a force multiplier. Our people come back with incredible firsthand experience they can adapt to their daily lives. And they become ambassadors for the power technology has to improve lives, as they share their stories within our company and with their friends and family.
A group of Softchoice employees, myself included, recently journeyed to Maai Mahiu, Kenya for the 2013 Softchoice Cares International Mission.
Here are some of their stories.
“I was teaching a woman and her two teenage granddaughters how to use the Internet. As we moved past the basics of opening windows and when to click and double-click, we started to surf the web. We opened page after page on Wikipedia reading about elephants, Chinese temples, coral reefs, and on and on and on. As we were all reading a page on sea cucumbers, she looked at her two granddaughters, looked at me, smiled and said ‘now we can explore the world.’” –Dawson Smith, Telesales Development Coach “The incredible team at Comfort the Children (CTC) and their enduring passion to change the lives of so many is what left the biggest impression on me. The human struggle is immense in that small town, so to see the smile of hope on so many faces was truly uplifting. CTC has accomplished great work and instills trust and belief in this community, which in turn enabled the people to have trust and belief in us.” –Theresa Tomczyk, IT Business Systems Analyst “It wasn’t until we were in Maai Mahiu, Kenya that the true purpose and impact of the trip hit home for me. Seeing our Solution Architect, John Martin, putting in extra time to set up the computer lab – always taking time to explain to the CTC team how it all works – I realized it’s not just about providing the technology, but transferring knowledge and expertise that will have the greatest lasting effect.” –Heather Brown, Outside Sales Representative “One of my lasting memories was the day we visited a local school. Supplies are so scarce that three or four students have to share the same desk, the same books, and even the same pencil. We handed out new pencils to each of the kids and they were all so excited. It made me think that if such a simple thing as a pencil can make a difference in their education and development, imagine the world of potential that awaits as they learn to use a computer and the Internet.” –Craig Bator, Business Development Supervisor “The biggest takeaway for me was the thirst for knowledge and the joy that comes from learning. I think we in North America take for granted all of the information that is available at our fingertips, and turn away opportunities to learn new skills. To see the lengths that people go in Kenyan communities to provide younger generations an opportunity for a better life was very refreshing, and one that I will never forget.” –Alex Drozd, Outside Sales Representative “Bridging the digital divide was something I was passionate about but didn’t truly understand until we opened the computer lab. Everyone was excited and eager to learn, not because they wanted access to Facebook, but because they believed they could work as a community to make a better life.” –Jane Bioletti, Professional Services Consulting Manager “Coming home from this experience I have a very different perspective on my life and the things I’ve taken for granted. To see those people overcome shortcomings with a bulk of compounded issues (poverty, disease, limited resources, etc.) gives me a new sense of direction, and drive to be a better person and overcome my perceived roadblocks and reach my goals.” –Ian Zagrodney, Territory Sales Representative
To check out more stories and photos of Softchoice Cares’ mission to Kenya, visit their Facebook page here.