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How a Trip to Kenya Changed the Way I Volunteer

By Kevin Lada September 15, 2017

Cross-posted from

The #SalesforceOhana knows the importance of giving back — it’s one of our core values after all! And for the last four years, I’ve taken that value to heart by using every last one of my 56 annual hours of my volunteer time off (VTO). This year, however, I was looking for a special kind of volunteer opportunity — one where I felt I could truly make a lasting impact. That’s when I found the Karibu Centre, a program that aims to address the education gap in Kenya.

After a colleague in Salesforce Chicago came back from his own journey with the Karibu Centre, he was singing its praises. I learned that the Centre offers pre-school, after school programs, and job readiness training for underprivileged families in Kenya. Not only that, the program also focuses on empowering the parents of the children they serve to drive change throughout the entire community.

I was immediately drawn in by the Centre’s mission, but I needed to learn more before committing to a trip to Kenya. After talking with folks who had been to the Karibu Centre and doing my own research, I realized one big difference between this opportunity and others I’d considered: I would be able to offer my unique skills and expertise — ones not available in the community — to make the Centre better in the long run, not just for the short time I’m there. This was it — the opportunity I’d been looking for.

Volunteering in KenyaFast forward to arriving in Kenya, along with my girlfriend, Karly, and nine other employees from across Salesforce. It was surreal to say the least. The Karibu Centre was clearly a bright spot in this underserved community. The children at the Centre were the happiest kids we’d ever met! They greeted us with high fives and fist bumps, and it was clear that their dedication to learning matched their enthusiasm. Seeing how excited they were made it easy for the team to get straight to work.

We hammered out four key projects for the week:

    1. Increase Karibu Centre employee engagement

    2. Create new STEAM after school curriculum

    3. Improve Salesforce usage

    4. Assist with content creation and process improvements for the #SocialEnterprise

As a Solution Engineering Manager at Salesforce, I jumped right in to help build the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) curriculum. The Centre often receives donations of resources (think: computers, tablets, circuit boards, etc.) that they don’t know how to set up, use, or incorporate into meaningful lessons for the kids. So, my teammates and I took inventory of their equipment and developed fun and interesting ways the instructors could use that equipment as a teaching tool (like simple machines, water cycles, breadboards, and more). But we knew just leaving behind a set of instructions wouldn’t be enough — so we also helped co-present the material to teach the instructors how to run the lessons.

While we were there, we met the Karibu Centre’s social worker (and resident jack-of-all-trades), Steve. Steve’s role is incredibly important at the Centre, because he keeps track of the children’s family life, hygiene, well being, and more, through regular home visits. He also works with parents to identify opportunities for employment, education, and financial planning. However, Steve was tracking all of this critical information in a simple notes app on his iPad. The Salesforce team knew we could do better! So, we created a survey and attendance app in Salesforce so that Steve could not only log the data more easily, but also report on it and identify trends. Ultimately, we wanted to give Steve the ability to spend more time helping families and less time tracking his visits.

Our mission on this trip was to help transfer our skills and expertise to the incredible team at the Karibu Centre, so they can continue to build on the impressive progress they’ve already made. I feel we accomplished that mission — but, as you might expect, there’s still more work to be done! So, I encourage you to consider a trip to the Karibu Centre, where you can provide your unique skills, offer a lasting impact, and make lifelong connections. Take it from me — you won’t regret a trip to the Karibu Centre!

Find out more ways Salesforce employees are empowered to give back.