When I was in 8th grade, I adopted a child…a sponsor child I mean! Her name was Blessing, and she was a young girl who was living in an orphanage in Kenya and needed help. Her mother died of AIDS when she was born and her father was suffering from the same disease. So, at age 14, I decided to gather my money from birthdays, babysitting, and chores to pay for her monthly necessities.

Blessing and I have had a wonderful pen-pal relationship ever since. I’ve saved all of her letters and love seeing how well she is doing and how much her writing has improved! But there is one thing about her letters that has always made me a little sad – she often asked me to come visit.

I wanted to visit so badly! But with the demands from school and being so young, finding a way there was hard. I always answered that I would visit “one day” – but never knew when that would be.

After school, I accepted my job at Cisco. I watched as my friends backpacked through Europe and go on extravagant spring breaks. I was a little worried that, in a way, I was signing away my freedom by interning (and then coming to work full time) at Cisco. Would I ever have the time to do anything like that?

I didn’t realize that at Cisco, not only was I going to have the time, but I was also going to have the time to give back! Thanks to a new initiative, Cisco designated five days of additional time off (over and above regular paid time off) that I could use to volunteer in any way I wanted.

I knew what I wanted. I was going to meet Blessing, who I’d been sponsoring for nearly 10 years now!

I immediately contacted my church, who makes the yearly trip in January to visit the orphanage. Less than a year later, I packed my bags and was making the 24-hour trip to Kenya!

The first day we went to the orphanage and were welcomed by all of the children and teachers singing, clapping and cheering! The school administrator introduced me to Blessing. I couldn’t contain my excitement and I immediately gave her a huge hug.

Kali meeting Blessing
Meeting Blessing for the first time in person!

Blessing was very shy at first, but each day she warmed up to me more and more. On one of the days I took her shopping for new clothes. She had never been shopping before so I had to help her pick out a few outfits. She loved it and as we walked out of the store she looked up at me with a big smile and reached to hold my hand. My heart completely melted!

During the week that we were there, we handed out backpacks with school supplies for the kids, hosted an ice cream social (a nice change from the porridge and beans that they usually eat), and provided vision screenings. I was shocked to learn that about 75% of the children needed glasses. I can’t imagine going through school unable to see! This is largely due to their lack of nutrition and the intensity of the sun.

The last day of the trip was the most special. I pulled Blessing aside to show her all of the letters she had written me over the years. She absolutely loved it and laid her head on my shoulder as I flipped through them. I pointed out the letters where she asked me to come visit and I explained to her how badly I’ve been wanting to come! To this she gave me the biggest hug and told me how thankful she was and how much she loved me.

Showing Blessing's Letters
I kept all of her letters, and brought them with me to show her.

The trip was exhausting, but I have never felt such joy and fulfillment being with these children. I know without a doubt that I will be returning, and I thank Cisco for the ability to do that.

Cisco often talks about employee “Moments that Matter” and this was exactly that. I’m so thankful to work at a company that empowers its employees to give back to others and shares my passion for helping those in need.

Thank you, Cisco, for allowing me to fulfill my dream of meeting my sponsor child, Blessing!

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Káli Pike

HR Representative

Human Resources Talent Brand