I moved to South Africa from the United Kingdom eight years ago for love. Yes, I fell in love and married a South African man – but, also, my mother was born and brought up in East Africa. So, my memories of the beautiful landscapes, smells of the earth after it rains, and the variety of wildlife here have always drawn me in. Having the opportunity to move here and work here at Cisco as a Director of Regional Sales has been a true dream come true. But being able to give back here, has shown me that we’re a company with heart (and a rather big heart at that)!
In recent years I had the opportunity to graduate as a Courageous Leader Coach (one of the other amazing benefits of working at Cisco is being encouraged to grow within your career) and through a visit with other coaches in 2019, I was introduced to Gail Styger of the Wot-If Trust. As we were both located in Johannesburg, a great friendship formed, and I was so taken with the incredible work and the service Wot-If Trust was providing to so many within the Township of Diepsloot.
The Wot-If Trust
The Wot-If Trust helps small entrepreneurs who rely on the office facilities, and through these efforts it helps 80-100 businesses operate and continue to grow. Throughout many countries in Africa, including South Africa, unemployment rates are extremely high. If just one person in a family is employed, it can support another 7-10 family members around them. Because of this, there is an incredible desire and passion to do better for oneself. You can also see the impact the Wot-It facility clearly makes to the community.
In 2020, like so many other NGOs, the Wot-If Trust suffered greatly as most of their financial support from external organisations was withdrawn. Yet, it never ceased to amaze me how Gail’s focus and determination (and the entire Wot-If Trust team) only grew. This work was, of course, far from easy with lock downs, restrictions, and immense financial cuts. But we did what we could to stay motivated and coaching guidance between us was timely.
Cisco Nonprofit Partnerships and Grant Programs
In early 2021, Cisco Corporate Affairs provided a global disaster relief fund for those qualifying organisations, and the Wot-If Trust did qualify! This funding helped them to get back into a structured, functioning operation and they once again opened their facilities. It seemed just as we were celebrating, a stark reminder of how many more hurdles we would have to clear popped up as the Wot-If Trust was hit with repeated IT challenges and continual ransomware attacks. Cisco came to the rescue again, through an IT product grant.
As the Cisco Executive Sponsor for both initiatives, this made me feel not only immense relief that the Wot-If Trust could continue their powerful and necessary work, but also proud to be working for such an amazing company with heart that is dedicated to making the world a better place!
And the help didn’t stop there.
Together, so many Cisconians – from systems engineers to Cisco security, Collaboration, and small business – and our partners (like Makwa IT) collaborated, designed, and implemented a state-of-the-art facility with a full IT Networking system so that the Wot-If Trust, and all those who benefited from their programs, would be able to continue their work. Their selfless determination to do something to lift others up inspired me and made me realize that it is very much at the heart of what we do at Cisco – we collaborate and innovate to change the world.
The momentum of so many coming together for the success of this endeavour had us all so deeply invested that we knew we could not fail. This was a TRUE team effort that took so many talented teams at Cisco to make the impossible, possible! From little steps and acts of kindness to those who dedicated so many volunteer hours in seeing this through, it was when we joined forces that we made the largest impact of all for the Wot-If Trust.
And we’re going to continue this good work, still. Cisco doesn’t just encourage employees to volunteer for organisations we’re most passionate about. They don’t just give us 40 hours each year, separate of our PTO, to volunteer. They also MATCH our charitable donations to approved organisations – and yes – the Wot-If Trust is an approved organisation for Cisco matching!
Can one person change the world? I think so. But I also know, and have seen, that when we come together – we create change that much faster and we can do more good for others than we ever previously dreamed.
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