I wanted to share a slightly less technical post today. Recently I returned from a week long mission trip in El Salvador, with a group of 12 people, including my sons ages 18 and 15, where we did some work at a church building there, and at the orphanage affiliated with the local church. While my personal religious beliefs and my career are separate, it was refreshing to find a commonality in supporting communities locally and around the world. The culture at VMware is one of giving back, encouraging employees to serve our communities. I am very thankful to my manager, my sales team, and the entire company for inspiring me to do something that pushed me far beyond my comfort zone.
It all started with my wife, who took several teenagers on a mission trip to Puerto Rico a few years back. Our oldest son had been planning to go on a mission trip for several years. He had saved the money to pay his own way, which is impressive for a young man. We worked with my middle son to do the same, and I intended to send them with the group, but I had no intention of going. Finally after some discussion with my wife, the presentations during New Hire training last summer here at VMware, and some deep conversations with my co-workers during VMworld, I decided I was going to join them on the trip. I was a little nervous, I hadn’t been on a trip like this before, and most of my time out of the U.S. was with the military, so a much different perspective. Not knowing what to expect, I did my best to keep an open mind, and focus on my reason for going; to serve others.
When we arrived it was late in the evening. The biggest shock was the heat and humidity. As a native Oregonian, we are used to some pretty mild climates. The country was beautiful as we drove to our hotel. The hotel was a little run down by typical U.S. standards, but culturally simple and met our needs for the week.
Waking up the first day (the heat and humidity again greeted me) we went around surveying the work we needed to do and meeting the people we would be working with. The first thing that caught my attention was the local people. They were so happy to have us there, so gracious to us. The entire week they were right alongside us, painting, cleaning, and taking part in improving the orphanage and church.
I spent most of my time doing random odd jobs, painting here or there, putting a toilet back together, planning for a shower installation, moving furniture, and even doing some physical security and IT consulting work. I was amazed by the infrastructure, by our standards not up to code, but it certainly was effective, and I was on wifi for much of the trip for calls and messaging home.
Some of us started thinking about long term opportunities for this all girls orphanage. What could we do to make a difference that goes beyond just giving money or repairing a building; how do we make a long term impact for the young ladies growing up here? One idea that came up, something I am hoping to work on, is the idea of bringing additional education to the orphanage. Imagine if we started to teach young girls in an orphanage in El Salvador about business and technology. Imagine the change in their future if they were able to leave the orphanage and go on to great jobs. Certainly many of them do currently, but increasing their odds of success is a tangible change that we can facilitate using what we have, something that goes on beyond just giving money or time, it is an investment in their future and in the future of their community.
Kevin Spacey famously said, “If you have done well in whatever business you are in, it is your duty to send the elevator back down and try to help bring up the next generation of undiscovered talent.” Throughout the past few years I have been wondering why my life has been so blessed, why I have been given so much. I felt like there was something more I was could to be doing with the talents and skills I have been given. Having worked in the orphanage, having spent time talking to girls and young ladies who are incredibly intelligent and need some guidance and support, I think that if I can help to show them some of the potential they possess through technology, maybe I can help make their world a brighter place.
This trip was life changing and I would encourage others to take advantage of service opportunities locally and abroad. I was very blessed to be able to go on the trip. There were many who helped make this possible, and I am so thankful I was able to be involved in service learning. We all have something we can do to help those around us. I think the best thing we can do is to use our talents to encourage and empower others.