What makes Cisco different? It’s not rare for companies to allow some time for volunteering and giving back, yet Cisco goes above and beyond and truly adheres to the mantra, “Giving back is in our DNA.” The difference – Cisco allows me (along with all of their full time employees) the unique opportunity to have five days to give back to a charity of their choice without infringing on the use of their annual PTO. And in October 2016, with Hurricane Matthew projected to barrel through the Caribbean Islands before eyeing the East Coast, I knew this benefit was about to mean a whole lot more to me than I ever expected.
Hurricane Matthew is a storm that will not soon be forgotten. Many knew the fear on the east coast of the United States. But, prior to it threatening our coasts – Matthew devastated the already impoverished nation of Haiti with a force unlike any other. In the wake of this deadly hurricane, more than 1,000 lives were lost and over a million Haitians were left in need of humanitarian aid.
When my wife, Chrissie, and I saw the devastation on the news, we were deeply concerned. You see, we had made the decision some time ago to sponsor a young Haitian child and we had no way of knowing whether or not he and his family had survived the hurricane. Imagining what it would be like if the lives of our children were suddenly threatened and our home swept away drove us to action—Chrissie managed our home and I was off to help how I could in Haiti.
I volunteered to work with the Servant’s Heart Haiti Mission in Lefond, Haiti for a week in November. I had previously pariticipated with them in other missions trips and felt I had a bond in place with this group. Lefond is an extremely destitute village in the desert part of the country—food and water are always scarce for these humble people.
While in Lefond, I had the opportunity to assist with a number of important projects. Among rebuilding, renovating, and rewiring projects, there were plenty of odd jobs that had to be done. In the picture below, you can see the local school children took a keen interest in the work I was doing to repair a generator. I was quite amused by this, as it was the first time in my life I actually felt like a celebrity.
A week later our work came to an end and I returned home with a heavy heart, as I knew there was still so much to be done in Lefond. I saw an urgent need for improvements to the existing electrical wiring and the need for additional space for the leadership of the village. Back home, Chrissie and I discussed continuing our work with the Servant’s Heart Haiti Mission. We concluded that it would be best if I return to Lefond in 2017 (something my Cisco volunteer hours will allow for again in a new calendar year) and we have been working hard to make that happen ever since.
In May, should funds allow, I will be leading a project that will provide two new buildings in the village of Lefond. The buildings will allow for an office for the Pastor and the School Superintendent in a shared structure and a building for a generator to run the electric for the complex. Along with this we will also be burying electric and providing proper electrical connections from the new generator building to the other facilities on site. This will provide an urgent need for electricity for the village and in a safe manner as well. This also has a benefit for the people of Lefond in that they earn money while they work on this project and food while performing the labor as well.
A Servant’s Heart Haiti Mission team is composed of many volunteers with diverse skill sets. Getting the team to Haiti and providing the tools and materials required to get the work done can be a difficult, but not insurmountable, task. If this is something you feel compelled to assist with or learning more about, I’ve provided links below.
Finally, and above all else, we were overjoyed to find out that the child we sponsor, Ralph, and his family had weathered the hurricane. This news brought a smile to our hearts and tears to our eyes. This is a picture of me holding the little guy, along with a snapshot of me and my beautiful and supportive wife, Chrissie.
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Would you like to donate or learn more about this this cause? A Servant’s Heart is part of the Cisco Matching program.
Cisco Employee Donations
Cisco will match your contribution dollar-for-dollar, up to $1,000 per year. Please use the following link to take advantage of this opportunity: Servant’s Heart Haiti Mission. You’ll be required to enter your CEC credentials to log in and complete the donation.
Non-Cisco Employee Donations
Please use this link to make your donation: Servant’s Heart Haiti Mission. This link will take you to a secure PayPal site. If donating specifically to fund my trip, please enter “Jeff Smith” in the memo/note.