Some of the best experiences in life are unplanned. Typically during the holidays our family travels quite a bit, but as our home needed some repairs this past December we decided as a family to stay back in Bangalore. This decision got me to consider better utilization of the holiday break (where Cisco offices shutdown for the week between Christmas and Near Years) by volunteering our time as a family.
My wife is a compassionate being and loves to volunteer many of her hours every week in giving back services. Inspired by her giving spirit, and Cisco’s encouragement that we also take time to give back to our local communities – I saw this as an opportunity for our family to dedicate time to those who need our support.
What made it even better was that I realized I had been collecting Connected Recognition throughout the year at work and these could help us give even more generously. Connected Recognition allows Cisco employees the ability to award our fellow co-workers for a job well done. We can then put these funds towards gift cards for anything from meals at restaurants, trips, or something special we might be saving for.
For me, it was an obvious choice to use these funds towards our holiday give back trips. Here is how our visits went, and what I took away from each experience.
1.Omashram – Our first visit was to an old age home named Omashram. My wife visits the abandoned grandmothers regularly to sing “Hymns or Bhajans” and read motivational stories to them. I joined my wife, and thought I would simply be doing a good deed through my attempt to make the senior citizens feel better. Little did I know I was in for a surprise!
Meeting, interacting and spending quality time with the grannies gifted me immense peace. They had beaming smiles despite the abandonment and hardships of life. Their positive attitude got me to appreciate all the blessings and abundance in my life and left me wondering why so many complain over the trivialities of life.
2.JP Nagar Slum – The JP Nagar Slum in Bangalore is a poor neighborhood, and every Thursday through Annapoorna Trust, we volunteer to serve 40 children with free breakfast to incentivize them to attend the nearest school offering free education.
This year, we also joined their holiday party. It was pure fun to celebrate the festival surrounded by the children’s energy. We distributed chocolates, cake and – most importantly – jackets to protect the children from winter.
This was all sponsored by a year’s connected recognition and some personal funds! Imagine that! In simply being appreciated for a job well done throughout the year by my fellow Cisco co-workers, we were able to give these children not only the joys of chocolates and cake during the holidays – but also the necessity of warmth in the winter. This makes me feel proud that Cisco encourages us to recognize one another, and that we’re able to takes our Connected Recognition and also use it to better the lives of others.
3.Hulimavu Samarthanam High School: To wrap up our series of volunteering activities, we decided to host lunch for around 100 children studying at theHulimavu Samarthanam High School.
My children were amazed to see the humility, respect and love showed by the kids at Samarthanam. This was also a way for my daughter to celebrate her birthday on December 25, and she had such a wonderfully powerful experience in giving back that she has since decided to celebrate all her birthdays similarly. This is just another benefit of Cisco’s compassion and encouragement of giving back – we are able to be an example to our children (and the future) to give to others. The use of Connected Recognition, and the ability to give with time, talent, and money – was a great example as well.
During this visit it was a revelation for my family to be able to feed 100 children in INR 5000 (72USD) – which is an amount we’d spend dining for a family of four!
Last year was a year of gratitude personified and our time giving back was a humbling experience. At the end, we were left happier than any of our previous holidays and our hearts were full.
The time spent with the grandmothers, under-privileged high school kids and children from a poor neighborhood gave us much more than we ever could have imagine.
It is true, between hope and possibile there is a bridge; for me, it was Cisco’s Connected Recognition.
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