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Celebration of Service

Building a sustainable future

IBM volunteers help kids in Colombia brainstorm ideas for a smarter planet

If you could save the world simply by taking a shorter shower, would you? Of course you would, and so would students in Bogotá and Medellín, Colombia who devised the idea of installing water sensors in showers to help reduce consumption.

These ideas and others were brainstormed during the Centennial Day of Service, when 330 IBM employees used the Mission Innovation Activity Kit to explore issues of sustainability with more than 1,300 students in 40 schools throughout Bogotá and Medellín.

“I’m very proud of the deep sense of social responsibility demonstrated by more than 300 employees of IBM Colombia. They shared the message about the importance of innovation in science and technology. We discussed the important challenges facing our planet, such us the shortage of natural resources, the usage of the energy and traffic problems,” said Francisco Thiermann, the general manager of IBM Colombia.

In 2011, IBM awarded two separate Catalyst grants to an NGO called 100 Años de Progreso Para Compartir (100 Years of Progress) that supports schools in Bogotá and Medellín . The grants will allow schools to implement a complete sustainability program. Working with teachers, students, and parents, Nestor and other employees of IBM Colombia will plan, develop, and implement initiatives proposed by the students themselves to improve processes related to the consumption of resources within their schools, such as printing all school communications on recycled paper.

It makes me feel proud to be part of an important initiative that can change the lives of children. Also, it definitely encourages me to strengthen my leadership, communication, and social skills, as well as my collaborative thinking. We need these skills to be successful everyday not only in our work but also in our personal life,” says Nestor Ruiz.

“It is a wonderful opportunity to energize us, to renew our commitment and our own understanding…of how we want to develop the future of IBM, develop in society, and develop in the communities in which we operate,” said Fabian Castellanos, an IBM branch leader in Medellín.

Many bright ideas

During the Centennial Day of Service, students came up with a variety of ideas that ranged from the simple to the complex. One student proposed that schools install more windows to make use of passive solar energy and reduce the need for lighting.

IBM volunteer Juan Carlos Jerez, said, “It made me happy to see the enthusiasm of the kids and the ingenuity they used to solve problems within context.”

Over the next few months, Nestor and the team at IBM Colombia will evaluate the applications from schools in Bogotá and Medellín, choosing a single school that will integrate the IBM sustainability curriculum into their lesson plans. Once the school is identified, IBM employees will perform a diagnostic assessment to identify the current energy consumption and the areas where the school can improve.

Nestor hopes that the school that is the recipient of the Catalyst Grant will then extend their sustainability habits beyond the school walls, and work to reduce consumption at home and in the students’ future workplaces.

Francisco puts it well when he said, “It is very motivating to see our capacity to influence our society about environmental progress, and to contribute to the future innovators of Colombia.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.