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What National Volunteer Month Means to Cisco Habitat Champions

By Hoa Tran

What National Volunteer Month Means to Cisco Habitat Champions

By Hoa Tran

Published 04-26-23

Submitted by Cisco Systems, Inc.

A team of volunteers at a home build site.

April is National Volunteer Month. This month is dedicated to people who give their time and talent to do good for their communities; it’s also a great time to encourage active volunteerism. Volunteers contribute their time and give back to causes they care about — such as serving meals at the local soup kitchen, fostering shelter dogs, and delivering groceries to elderly seniors. There are numerous organizations that depend on volunteers to help them do impactful work.

Cisco employees have been supporting Habitat for Humanity since the 1990s. When it became clear that this would be a valued relationship for years to come, Cisco began tracking employee volunteerism in Habitat builds in 1998. Now, Cisco supports Habitat for Humanity affiliates around the globe by providing cash and Cisco technology grants in addition to matching employee contributions of both time and money. Through Fiscal Year 2022, Cisco and the Cisco Foundation have provided financial grants and product support to more than 173 Habitat affiliates around the world.

In observance of Volunteer Month, we should celebrate volunteers across our nation and around the world for everything they do. In particular, I want to shine a light on the Cisco Habitat Champions, who dedicate their time coordinating and recruiting colleagues and Cisco partners to volunteer for home build projects with Habitat for Humanity affiliates throughout the year. These Champions volunteer with a PURPOSE — they bring colleagues and partners together for a community strengthening experience as they build alongside low-income families who need a safe and affordable place to call home.

Learn more from Champions about why volunteering with Habitat for Humanity is important to them.

Bill Falk, Customer Portfolio Manager

“I’ve been a proud and thankful Cisconian since December 1997. One of the many reasons why I volunteer 250-300 hours building two houses a year for Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona is that I’m extremely blessed by God with family, friends, health, housing and of course work. It all started in early 2013 when my son needed service-learning hours for school that I realized Habitat was an excellent place for a father-son volunteering opportunity.

I absolutely love Cisco’s commitment to our communities including supporting Habitat for Humanity. At work, I spend most of my days sitting in front of a computer. Outside of work, two of my favorite things are being outdoors and building things. Given my construction knowledge and skills, I have been supporting Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona for the past 10 years.

Through pro-bono service as House Leader, I am responsible for the home build from ground to finish working with the construction managers, team leaders, volunteers, and families to ensure adherence to construction plan, safety protocols and build timeline. I get to work side-by-side with the future homeowners who have migrated to Phoenix from all over the world looking for a safer and better life. These builds typically take 16 to 18 weeks, and the dedications are always very emotional, because in almost every case, this is the homeowners very first home coming from economically disadvantaged conditions.”

Katie Shay, Director, Associate General Counsel

“Habitat for Humanity has been close to my heart for a long time. When I was young, my first job was working as an office assistant supporting my grandmother’s real estate office. This role was very formative for me. Selling homes was not just a job for my grandmother — it was a vocation. Her passion for helping families ‘achieve their dream of homeownership’ resonated deeply with me. This value was what spurred me to get involved with Habitat for Humanity, first as a volunteer, then as a donor, and finally as a Cisco Habitat Champion.

As I’ve gotten more involved, I’ve come to appreciate that not only does Habitat for Humanity of Durham help families achieve this goal, it’s a force for our community here in Durham, North Carolina. Habitat brings people together. Through Habitat, I’ve had the opportunity to deepen existing relationships, establish new connections, and even make some very good friends.

As a Legal department here at Cisco, we have had the opportunity to work on several build projects in Durham, and it has been a truly rewarding experience. Volunteering together gives us an opportunity not just to build a home, but to build connections and strengthen bonds on our team. We get away from our screens and work with our hands, seeing the tangible impacts of our work, and feeling the intangible connection with one another and with our community.”

Rafael Ceara Batlle, Systems Architect

“Volunteering is important to me because it’s a way to give back and show appreciation for all the blessings I have in life. Volunteering provides a sense of purpose by showing love and support to those people, families and wider community that need essential help on worthwhile causes. Cisco Time2Give is an amazing program that allows employees to take paid time off (PTO) to volunteer with any charity organization. In my case, I always serve with Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity Tacoma/Pierce County in Washington state has a fantastic program in the area, and they serve most of the big and small cities in our community. The affiliate has a well-structured program that adjusts to the calendar of most of the Cisco employees in the region, and we can serve building houses across different cities in the state of Washington. In addition, Habitat has Global Village Trips where teams raise funds to travel to different countries, like building homes for low-income families in Latin American countries including Guatemala, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago.”

Matthew Wright, Renewals Manager

“The Habitat for Humanity mission is important because it is rooted in the belief that every person deserves a decent place to live. By providing people with safe, affordable homes, the organization is working to improve the lives of millions of people around the world. This not only affects their health and well-being but also their ability to achieve their full potential. Habitat for Humanity is working to break the cycle of poverty and give families the foundation they need to build a better future.

I volunteer with habitat because I believe in their mission. Through Habitat, I have had the opportunity to build homes in Zambia, Vietnam, and Lesotho, widening my cultural horizon and making amazing friends along the way. Cisco supports Habitat in many different ways, and I was able to join Cisco’s Crisis Response Team (formerly known as DIRT Team) as we provided communications support for the 2019 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in Nashville, Tennessee where 25 homes were built in one week.

Currently, I help to organize the Cisco sponsored builds in Indianapolis, Indiana and Detroit, Michigan. And as of last month, I just joined the board of directors for Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity. I’m so excited to be a part of the organization’s work to provide affordable housing to families in need and make a positive impact on the community. On a more personal note, my father, uncle, and both grandfathers were carpenters and volunteering with Habitat brings back fond memories from my youth swinging a hammer with those wonderful men.”

How to get involved with Habitat for Humanity

Since its inception in 1975, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 46 million people build or improve the place they call home. Last fiscal year alone, Habitat supported 7.1 million people with building their homes, advocated for more than 5 million people to gain services for improving their housing conditions, and engaged with more than 700,000 volunteers to help build, advocate, and raise awareness about the global need for shelter and affordable housing.

Join the Habitat Champions and help support your local Habitat affiliate or volunteer with a local organization. Here are my suggestions for how you can get started:

  1. Learn and raise awareness: Learn more about your local Habitat for Humanity. You can find a Habitat affiliate near you. Spread the word and show your support for Habitat for Humanity’s mission to make housing affordable by embarking on some of these family-friendly activities.
  2. Volunteer: Habitat offers many volunteering opportunities ranging from building homes to working in their ReStores (reuse stores) to school gardens.
  3. Donate: In addition to your time, talent and financial support, Habitat will accept gently used furniture, appliances, housewares, building materials and more. Proceeds from the sales of these items through their ReStore help Habitat’s work in your community and around the world.

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