Cisco Blogs

How My Passions Come to Life at Cisco

February 15, 2018 - 8 Comments

Early in my adulthood, I realized I was passionate about three things: giving back to the community, doing the best I can in everything I do, and my family. These passions influence every decision I make – including my decision to join Cisco 11 years ago.

My Cisco family – and it truly is a family – encourages me to give back, to do my best, and treats me like a valued member of our community. Never was this more true than in my recent trip across the world to help children in need.

In Turkey, the Minhaj Welfare Foundation, a Canadian charity, distributes food and aid to those displaced by the violence in Syria. Recently, the Foundation wanted to explore the feasibility of building an orphan care home in the town of Reyhanli, which borders Syria.

I was driven to help. I travelled to Turkey for a week to volunteer with the foundation and help those that needed it most. I will forever be grateful to my Cisco family for the support they gave as I was preparing to leave, and for their openness to this journey. It was clear, every step of the way, that they had my back.

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My time in Turkey changed my life.

The sadness of the refugee families shook me to the core. But what I will always remember is their capacity for hope – amongst such incredible circumstances – this will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I will remember the warm, kind nature of these families. They had no reason to be kind to me, a stranger, but always were. Their profound thankfulness is a virtue I try to carry with me.

I will remember how it felt to see the refugee camp for the first time. There were many orphans, which is why the construction of an orphan care home was being explored in the area. At first, my own kids came to mind. What would it be like for them, and how would they survive without their mother and father? I was shocked, and equally saddened, to learn what the children experienced in their young lives.

I will remember the profound challenges I witnessed. During food aid distribution, we visited Syrian refugee families living in tents and rental homes. I was able to speak with them, hear their stories, and learn about their lives. Parents were proud, but sad for the conditions their children lived in. The elderly needed care that simply wasn’t available in the camp. Families wanted to make a new life, but were shackled by their circumstances.

Most of all, I will remember the drawings.  Ask a child in Canada or the United States to draw you a picture, any picture, and you are likely to get back a scribbling of a popular cartoon show or toy. The children in this community drew bombs. They drew fighter jets dropping bombs and houses falling apart. This is the life they have known.

There is no doubt that this trip has changed me. I feel grateful to live in Canada and to work for a company that believes we have a responsibility to be our better selves and help those in need, no matter where they are in the world.

Pursuing my passions would not have been possible without the support of my Cisco family. In fact, at Cisco every full-time employee is given five days per year to volunteer at a charity or organization of our choice to make a difference in the world. I used my days, called Time2Give, for my trip to Turkey.

And I’m not alone. Between August 2015 and July 2016, Cisco employees used 187,000 Time2Give hours worldwide. That’s more than 21 years.

I am proud of what I have achieved with my Cisco family, and what we can still do to help others. I’m getting ready to plan my next Time2Give trip – any suggestions?


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  1. Thank you so much for that incredibly moving article. My heart breaks to see the suffering in Syria. All of the individual contributions, whether large or small, can have a huge impact on the lives of those we touch, such as those beautiful children. I don't think they will forget what you did, Ovais, to help them.

  2. Emily Zarlenga

    Ovais you are an inspiration helping others and making a difference in the world is what will help to make the world a better place by improving people's lives.

    Thank you!

  3. Quite touching and inspiring Ovais !!

  4. Ovais – thank you for the first-hand account of harsh realities too often seen around the world, but so too the inspiration of your gift and how that in turn impacted you.

    We are often blind to such situations you witnessed in our daily lives in Canada – reminders that giving back are rewards in themselves. You do yourself and Cisco proud good sir!

  5. "Great leaders don't need to act tough. Their confidence and humility serve to underscore their toughness."

  6. Thanks for sharing your story and giving back to the community.

  7. Very inspiring story, thank you for making such a huge impact, and sharing your powerful message with all of us.

  8. Thanks for sharing this experience & for your personal efforts to make a difference! Great way to use your Time2Give hours in addition to any personal sacrifice & contributions!