Extreme volunteering

How one employee and one team make a world of difference

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Rayleen Bidoli, an executive assistant for User Experience IT (UEIT) based in the UK, has a passion for what she calls extreme volunteering. This single mom inspired her international team to support communities in Cambodia and Nepal. Meanwhile, she tries to instill in her daughter the value of making the world a better place.

In her own words, Rayleen shares her volunteering experiences:

The history behind our volunteering goes back to 2010. We had a regional meeting in the U.S. and for the morale event, arranged a trip to Disney World. The feedback was very mixed, so when we decided to hold a Global Meeting later that year in Hong Kong, they asked me to think up something for 330 people to do. I suggested that 330 people could make a great community impact in a place like Hong Kong.

The local Citizenship team connected us with The Crossroads Foundation /Global Hand, a nonprofit organization that distributes unwanted furniture and goods to communities in need around the world. After what can only be described as an extremely successful day that not only impacted the community we went and helped, but also those who participated, our “€œvolunteering morale events”€ became a standard feature at ALL our meetings.

They put about 75 of us at a time through a simulation experience of life in an Indian slum while another 75 or so carried out some much-needed landscaping to their premises in Hong Kong. The other 180 people were either on the cleaning-the-beach program, the community center garden refresh, or computer-center overhaul. Microsoft continues to help Crossroads improve their systems and communication tools with a number of initiatives every year.

In 2011, my then-7-year-old daughter and I took a vacation (inspired by my time in Hong Kong). We were in a tent in Greece doing turtle conservation and research with Global Vision International. Their programs range from wildlife to orphanages to construction. My daughter got to help count how many turtle tracks made it to the sea as part of the data being collected, cook the team dinners, make protective screens for turtle nests, and learn about turtles.

Then, last year ten of us mostly from work (including a 10-year-old) built six corrugated houses on stilts in a village in Cambodia. I wrote a blog post about the experience. Microsoft colleagues and our friends helped us raise the housing material funds, and we paid our own way there. We also managed to raise an incredible £3,400 plus Microsoft matching that exceeded the sponsorship money needed!

UEIT has also raised nearly $20K in fundraising through car washes and 5K runs to send a Crossroads container of household supplies to Kazakhstan and Uganda, packed back-to-school supplies that went to Tanzania and worked on a CRM solution for a social enterprise initiative in Africa that supplies renewable energy resources to villages (like wind turbines). We speak with Crossroads every other week about how we can continue to help communities in need.

This year I will go to Nepal to help set up IT in a local school with some of my Microsoft colleagues. We use our Microsoft contacts and resources to plan and find people for skills and fundraising needed. We all do this in our spare time and we fund the trips ourselves, to help bring a community into the digital age. Currently we are trying to figure out how we can supply Surfaces for the school (the Nepal Government does not allow the donation of second-hand machines).

Now, volunteering is almost a tradition at every team meeting. It’€™s amazing how many people have taken the value of €˜giving€™ with them: We have a guy in India who helps fund children’s education, we have another who set up a learn-to-read program in Egypt, a woman in Germany who has a whole family she supports in the Ukraine, a guy in Ireland who chairs an organization that helps families with mentally ill kids, and there are all the people who do triathlons/climb mountains/walk in pink bras at midnight through London for eight hours, LOVE IT!

And all this because someone complained that they went to Disney for a morale event without their children!

My daughter sees me as adventurous and as if there’€™s nothing that mummy can’€™t do! I can’t really ask for more than that. As a sole surviving parent, I have to play both mom and dad to a young mind eager for what the future holds in store for her.

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Microsoft serves communities around the world. Since its launch in 2003, Microsoft’s Unlimited Potential (UP) technology skills program has reached more than 50,000 community organizations across the world in bringing technology access and skills training to more than 170 million people. Learn more about Citizenship at Microsoft.

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