BuddyForce: Helping Refugees Feel at Home in Germany
As a Program Manager at Salesforce.org, Bayly Bulkeley is responsible for strategic programs and employee engagement at Salesforce Germany. After her MBA in sustainable development at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Bayly worked on various UN aid projects across Africa.
After joining Salesforce.org in April 2016, one of the first programs she developed and nurtured was BuddyForce; an initiative aimed at helping refugees integrate into German life and culture, and also to help them gain social confidence and employability skills.
We talked with Bayly to learn a little more about BuddyForce and starting with Salesforce.org.
Bayly, tell us how you found yourself working at Salesforce.org?
Well, when I arrived in Germany two years ago, I absolutely wanted to find a job in the area of sustainable development, which was a challenge to do. I then learnt about Salesforce and Salesforce.org and saw how seriously they took their commitment to giving back – and I knew I could make a real difference working alongside them. Salesforce’s desire to give back and to support local communities is demonstrated by the fact that every employee is given seven paid days a year to volunteer. I found that this, coupled with their unique social enterprise model very intriguing.
One of your first and current projects at Salesforce.org is called BuddyForce. Could you tell us what it’s about and how it was developed?
Salesforce Germany has been supporting refugees through a number of small initiatives over the last year or so. With BuddyForce we wanted to take that a step further. There is so much intelligence, talent and heart at Salesforce Germany, which we wanted to give refugees access to. The program works by connecting a team of two from Salesforce with a refugee who they mentor on a personal level and/or a more administrative level; assisting with forms, applications, learning the German language etc.. Helping them adapt to the German way of life and work culture also plays a key part in the relationship. Ultimately, the goal is to help the refugees gain employment, not only in jobs at the lower end of the labor market, but also in positions where they can contribute their talents, develop themselves, participate in society and enrich their lives.
So, is BuddyForce about career coaching?
Not exactly. In the case of BuddyForce, we are mostly concerned with the relationship at a personal level. Both sides benefit from this. The refugees get a different look at our society – that is, beyond the initial arrival process. And our employees have the opportunity to get to know and better understand those they are mentoring and the challenges they experience. BuddyForce also includes workshops which provide concrete skills for refugees. Over several modules, participants will cover topics like safe computer usage and using word processing software. They also learn how to create application documents and get an introduction into HTML and coding basics.
What are your hopes for the future for BuddyForce?
We set up the program a few months ago in Munich, and now we are also in Berlin. I hope that soon every Salesforce employee in Germany will become a mentor. I believe in the power of such programs, because every mentor will share his/her experiences with their neighbours, friends and family members – and maybe, through a multiplier effect we can reach many more refugees and thus facilitate their integration.
With BuddyForce, we want to give refugees the opportunity to feel at home in Germany.
BuddyForce is part of Salesforce.org’s Workforce Development initiatives. Learn more about these here >>
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