Values-based Volunteering


Wham!  Yesterday I fell off a scaffold while volunteering in Kenya.  It was only five feet down bit I landed heavily on my ribs and after a harrowing drive to Nairobi Hospital and a CT scan the conclusion was that while I hadn’t broken any ribs the bruising was substantial and the pain excruciating.

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Alright, what am I doing in Kenya?  I have been working with Softchoice Corporation’s employee-led philanthropic board.   This group of people works to inspire their fellow employees by identifying charities that will benefit from the money raised internally by the company’s employees.  They believe that helping to bridge the digital divide is aligned to the company’s business which is technology and a big generator of meaning for a large part of the employee population.
We are here in Kenya to help build a new facility for a computer lab and install the network and server infrastructure for a lab that will support 30 workstations.
This year, after being certified in the Barrett Values system I suggested we do a Small Group Assessment with the board in preparation for our two week volunteering mission.
I met with each board member and debriefed their personal values in the context of the broader company culture and their perspective of the desired culture.  These debriefs were the foundation.
As a group we debriefed the team’s perspective and the learning and discussion was great.
Volunteering in Kenya, the team is completely outside of their comfort zone.  The poverty is everywhere.  We are in a small town called Maai Mahui where 4100 people call home.   The economy is driven by truckers who stop on their way into our out of Nairobi.  They seek food, alcohol, drugs and sex – a combination that leaves this community with a higher than normal HIV/AIDS rate.
Each day we start the day by reviewing on of the desired values.  We discuss briefly Commitment, for example, standing in the parking lot of our guest house and during the day I encourage the team to reflect on what that value really means.  During the day I hear people having small discussions while they sift sand, haul blocks, mix mortar or  cable a PC, update drivers, etc.
The magic happens after dinner.   We sit together and discuss the value of the day.  What gets described is a whole, fresh new view representative of a shift in consciousness that is often astounding.  The process has been huge in terms of team building.  Team building would have happened without the values discussion but this group of people is gaining a whole new perspective on their role as a board.  They want to inspire their team mates and they want to change the world.  They see the community as not just their neighborhood or city but they see it as humanity.
The number one desired value of this group?  Leadership development.  Go figure.  Unfortunately, for me I could not attend last night’s group debrief.  I has trying to find a comfortable position in my groggy-state after taking pain medication.  The team didn’t need me.  They all stepped up and led the discussion as a group. They are all leaders.
The Softchoice Cares Board is volunteering in Kenya through Developing World Connections in support of their local partner Comfort the Children.
Categories: Values and BeliefsTags: , , , , ,

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