“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Gandhi
It’s that time of year when companies all over the world showcase the incredible work they are doing as part of their corporate social responsibility programs. Along with a small group of very talented people, I help run the corporate social responsibility (CSR) function for Skillsoft and SumTotal. We are passionate about learning and we are proud to share what we do with those in need. We track encourage our employees to give their time to charities — everyone gets a half day every quarter to give back to their local community.
A couple of weeks ago, our chief technology officer, Apratim Purakayastha, sent out his monthly technology news update. Usually we just hear about news from the tech teams, or the introduction of a new hire and other updates that help the rest of the organization get to know the tech team. But this newsletter was different. It highlighted all the charity work the technology teams were involved with throughout 2018.
I was thrilled, of course, but also a little perplexed. I didn’t know about any of these activities. They were not tracked in our CSR database. Hundreds of people decided to do something because something needed to be done. This is wonderful and really is one of the most important aspects of our culture.
Here’s a brief rundown of just some of these incredible projects and the people behind them. Thanks to everyone who took part. Thanks to all the people who took photos and told us about the amazing work done.
A group of about 12 female leaders from Skillsoft spent over 80 hours working with this organisation that seeks to empower women improving literacy rates and training some women to become pre-primary teachers. I’m delighted to say that the work paid off as they had a 100% success rate in the pre-primary certification program.
A group of SumTotal employees spent over 200 hours helping to build two classrooms and support infrastructure at Sharada Vidya Niketan, a dining hall and restrooms at MPP School (Vasanthnagar) and four restrooms and changing rooms at the Vivekananda Seva Sangam Orphanage.
A group of about 75 SumTotal employees spent over 200 hours planting over 1,000 saplings and helping an orphanage grow their vegetables. They also donated 1,80,000 rupees for the Kerala flood victims and 1,10,000 rupees for the Madhapur fire victims.
Twelve SumTotal employees spent over 20 hours supporting this program that works to improve eye care health in the community. About 30 camps are planned for the next three months at various slums around Hyderabad impacting around 2,400 people and helping improve their eyesight.
In September, a group of SumTotal engineers agreed to partner with the Cade Museum on Operation Full Steam Ahead! This unique and innovative program targets over 250-second graders across three underperforming and underprivileged elementary schools and aims to drastically broaden learning opportunities while facilitating key improvements in math and science test scores.
Every Wednesday morning anywhere from four to eight employees headed over to the Cade Museum to do their part in this program. They had one goal – to introduce software development and coding concepts to the children. The team worked with small programmable robots – Ozobots – to teach about following a basic pattern, a few simple algorithm concepts and even some coding basics.
This work continues in 2019, and everyone is excited to see where it will go next.
Rochester, New York
School supply drive
We all know how beneficial it is for students to have their markers, copybooks, schoolbag and the like as they enter another school year. Ensuring all students have these basics is why each year Skillsoft employees participate in a school supply drive. This year we chose to support the Rochester City School District (RCSD). The RCSD is working to improve academic performance and career preparedness for its nearly 30,000 students by reducing chronic absenteeism. Part of this includes visiting the families of students with the highest percentage of chronic absenteeism at home to uncover the reasons they are not attending school regularly. The District also wants to connect families to community resources and to monitor and recognize students who improve attendance as a result of these interventions.
The YWCA is a powerful resource in the Rochester community, helping women and girls face issues like homelessness and teen pregnancy. They also work hard to dispel stereotypes and promote racial justice. One of its primary objectives is to empower women to regain control of their lives and to get on a path to a healthy, successful future. In 2018, Skillsoft sponsored two families from the Rochester and Monroe County YWCA.
We are also sponsoring one family from the Willow Domestic Violence Center. Willow’s mission is to prevent domestic violence and ensure every survivor has access to the services and support needed along the journey to a safe and empowered life. Each year, Willow Center provides services to over 7,500 clients and reaches another 12,000 through prevention education in the Greater Rochester area.
In addition, we are collecting new socks, hats and gloves of all sizes for veterans at the Richards and Priscilla’s houses, operated by the Veterans Outreach Center. Richard’s House serves homeless male veterans and Priscilla’s house provides permanent supportive housing for female veterans, including those with young children.
Nashua, New Hampshire
Our employees at Skillsoft’s U.S. headquarters organized a Back to School Backpack and Schools Supplies Drive benefiting Family Promise of Greater Nashua at Anne Marie House, Bridges: Domestic & Sexual Violence Support Services, and Front Door Agency. They coordinated the collection of age-appropriate school supplies within their departments and donated 49 backpacks.
We also organized a Thanksgiving basket drive benefiting Family Promise of Greater Nashua at Anne Marie House, Bridges: Domestic & Sexual Violence Support Services, Easterseals New Hampshire Military & Veterans Services, Front Door Agency and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Nashua. Employees collected dinner items and donated 42 baskets. Turkeys donated on behalf of Skillsoft were also provided with the baskets.
Currently, the employees are hosting a holiday gift giving tree which will benefit 75 school-aged children in need at the Nashua Children’s Home, which “is committed to the care, welfare and educational achievement of children and youth within its Residential and Educational Programs, and the successful transition to adult living of young men and women in its Transitional Living Program. Nashua Children’s Home provides care and stability to boys and girls unable to remain with their families, special education services for students who have not been successful in public school settings, and supportive housing for youth that have “aged-out” of care.”
Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada
Skillsoft has a longstanding business relationship with Bulletproof Solutions. Their CEO, Steve Burns, lost his wife Sara in the tragic events that shook Fredericton just over a month ago, and our own Shawn Quinlan presented Steve with a donation for the Sara Burns Police Memorial Fund on behalf of everyone at Skillsoft.
“Terry’s Angels” relay for life team
Terry’s Angels, led by Reegan McDougall, brought in a whopping $9,000 making them the number one fundraising team in Fredericton this year. To say each member is proud is an understatement, and this wasn’t a one-off. This team has raised $417,000 over the last 18 years. A shout-out goes to everyone in the company for buying from and baking for the bake sale, for gold rush monies and attending Beyond Three Courses.
The Fredericton office also contributed to a “Computers for School” campaign, an arthritis “Walk to Fight” campaign, the New Brunswick Adoption Foundation and the Neil Squire Society supporting Canadians with disabilities through Employment, Digital Literacy, and Innovation among many others.
“The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you can alter, even by a millimetre, the way people look at reality, then you can change the world.” – James Baldwin
I read somewhere that volunteers live longer happier lives, which makes perfect sense. I mean there is nothing more rewarding, more satisfying than knowing that you have done something to help another person. That you are playing in your part, however small, in making life just a little more bearable for everyone.
Tara O’Sullivan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Skillsoft.