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Reflecting on a Summer of Service Learning with VMware Citizen Philanthropists

VMware Citizen Philanthropists are active in their communities all year, adapting their efforts based on the needs of the nonprofits they serve and the communities of which they are a part. This year, to help VMware people reprioritize joy, reinvigorate passion, and refresh connections, the VMware Foundation launched a Summer of Service Learning initiative, supporting the emotional, physical, and community wellbeing of our colleagues through service. To celebrate the completion of our recent Summer of Service Learning, we checked in with some of our colleagues who supported nonprofits in their regions to see what VMware’s culture of service means to them.

James Smith, Staff Solution Engineer in Sydney:

While it may not currently be summer in Australia, a group of VMware people has been using their Service Learning hours year-round in a local nature preserve, Waratah Park.  Set in the beautiful Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park on the northern edge of Sydney where city meets forest, Waratah was once the site of a famous 1960’s Australian TV show called “Skippy the Bush Kangaroo,” but is now used by Sydney Wildlife as a rehabilitation center for orphaned and endangered indigenous species. The team of Sydney Wildlife volunteers care for kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, bandicoots, flying foxes, possums, parrots, and various other bird species.

As part of his annual Service Learning hours, James Smith organizes VMware volunteers and has mobilized a steady stream of people over the last 8-plus years to perform general maintenance, gardening, mowing, fence repair, animal enclosure repair, and a variety of cleaning duties.

Previous projects have included installing solar powered infrared cameras so that young animals can be monitored remotely and overnight, paving an area to park a new RV donated to allow mobile animal rescue and care in New South Wales, and construction of a new, small, corrugated iron storage shed for animal feed storage. The volunteers used any self-declared “limited” construction and general problem-solving skills they have, as repairs often needed to be conducted with limited materials. This has required a type of practical ingenuity they may otherwise not have had the opportunity to practice in a typical office environment.

Tingting Zhang, Senior Specialist Global Lifecycle Operations in Beijing:

Tingting, and other members of the organizing team, Bessie Yuan, Helen Yang, Patty Zhang, Olive Xu, Simon Zang, and Yutong Liu came together to support a local nonprofit called “Running in the Dark.” On July 23rd, more than 60 Beijing-based VMware employees helped organize and participated in a charity run at the Olympic Forest Park. The event aimed to encourage and help visually impaired people participate in exercises like running, and to help eliminate the prejudice and discrimination against visually impaired people. 

During the event, VMware volunteers accompanied more than 30 visually impaired people who ran in the event and visited the Sunflower Garden in the Olympic Forest Park. The camaraderie and competition were a wonderful experience for the runners and volunteers alike. Each VMware volunteer did their best to make the event a more cheerful one for their partner.

Luke Edwards, Senior Solution Engineer in Staines:

Earlier this summer, Luke led a team of VMware people, including Andy Gara, Sean McGreal, and Caroline Powell, to organize and execute a fundraising event for the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST).

The Jubilee Sailing Trust worked closely with volunteers from VMware on its Covid Recovery Campaign and helped advance its mission of inclusion, bringing together the power of people of all ages and walks of life to share the experience of crewing a tall ship together, on equal terms. Over the past forty-four years, the Jubilee Sailing Trust has shown the power of its mission by providing voyages for more than 50,000 people. The VMware team expressed its shared vision with JST to help break down the prejudices and misunderstandings between different social groups.

For their recent June voyage, VMware volunteers supported the Jubilee crew and sailors from Spinal Injuries Ireland with all day-to-day logistics. Spinal Injuries Ireland is Ireland’s only dedicated support service for the 2,100-plus people living with a spinal cord injury and their 20,000 family members. Twenty-six people aged 18 to 73 and three JST Watch leaders took part in the voyage, eight of whom were wheelchair users.

One of the participants said, “when trying to make activities inclusive, it’s very easy to get things wrong, not so on this trip. Everything from safety briefings to climbing the mast was inclusive, and I felt like a valued and important member of the crew throughout the entire voyage.”

Chris Weber, Senior Blockchain Specialist Engineer in Ohio:

Chris got involved with the Summer of Service Learning and joined a group of other VMware volunteers to help clean up the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. This group Service Learning event, organized by Chris, also included colleagues Andy Bidlen, Rick Steele, Les Botfa, Dave Kaber, and Samantha Hutter – all from the Cleveland area as well. The river clean-up was a collaboration with a few local nonprofits and the Cuyahoga River Conservation Group.

Chris said, “I’m so thankful that I was able to spend the afternoon with a great group of people helping to have a positive impact. Together we pulled 9 bags of garbage out of the Cuyahoga River. It was dirty, meticulous, satisfying work and a stark reminder that single-use plastics wind up back in our freshwater supply.”

Even though the #SummerOfServiceLearning has come to an end, you can read more stories about VMware’s Citizen Philanthropists all year-long here.

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