One year after joining IBM in Hortolândia, Brazil, Carolina Ferreira, or Carol as she prefers to be called, signed up for a volunteer assignment. “I had always wanted to volunteer to help, but wasn’t sure how to do it,” says Carol. “When I got the email asking to help the IBM Corporate Service Corps (CSC) team coming to Brazil, I immediately went to my manager who said I should pursue it.”
IBM’s CSC program enables select employees to develop additional leadership skills through projects in growth markets working on economic, social and environmental challenges. In 2009, an IBM team from around the world assisted several non-governmental organizations (NGO) in Brazil as part of the CSC program, and Carol acted as one of the local liaisons.
“When I arrived at IBM and saw the CSC opportunity, I recognized that the company truly supports these [volunteer] activities. I thought this is the way to start as a volunteer as I can get the correct guidance,” Carol recalls.
Strategy, but what about execution?
Carol’s assignment was to assist the CSC team helping the Dr. A. C. Corsini Centro de Controle e Investigação Imunológica, or simply Corsini Center, in her hometown of Campinas, Brazil. Corsini Center is a twenty-five year old NGO devoted to the prevention, research, diagnosis and treatment of adults and children with HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections. They also maintain a child support unit that is a shelter for children and teens affected by AIDS and other diseases.
Corsini Center was built on the passion of well-meaning people dedicated to a cause, but it lacked a documented vision and mission, along with an accompanying human resources plan. The CSC team, with Carol and two other local members from IBM developed an approach to focus Corsini Center’s resources on the internal administration to support their intended impact.
The international CSC team spent much of its assignment properly uncovering organizational issues and obstacles before making recommendations. In addition to identifying stepping stones for Corsini Center to achieve its mission, other items like physical work conditions were also noted. “Corsini used very large metal shipping containers as some of their office space,” says Carol. “If you know about our weather here, it was horribly hot inside and work could not get done so it really wasn’t a cost savings.”
While the strategic roadmap from the CSC team was well received by Corsini Center, a classic challenge came into play: the organization knew what needed to happen, and they knew why it was important, but they didn’t have the resources to get it done—the international CSC team’s assignment was over and they had returned to their countries.
Volunteering with patience, love and strength
“After the CSC guys left, Kelsibele Farias and I stayed to help Corsini,” says Carol referring to one of the other CSC liaisons from IBM Brazil. “I realized that I can have a role helping the world be better, and I can do it here with Corsini. They deserve the help, and [the patients] need it.”
It’s been almost two years, and Carol and Kelsibele are still volunteers at Corsini, which now has the right personnel in place to further its mission. A new office building has been built, replacing the shipping containers, and a culture building is under construction. Carol has also participated in campaigns generating donations. In 2010, Corsini Center received a grant from IBM for servers and a printer to support their efforts.
Every Wednesday is healthcare day at Corsini Center, and Carol has an opportunity to meet patients who come for medication. She says that while it is difficult to see some people who are at the end of the disease, it reinforces the importance of her volunteerism. “I tell people who are thinking of volunteering that it takes patience. Sometimes it’s not easy, but you can make a difference,” Carol says.
Carol and Kelsibele coordinated Corsini Center’s participation in IBM’s 2011 Celebration of Service Day, with support from IBM managers. More than 40 volunteers from IBM and the community helped Corsini with two projects: one effort organized the non-profit’s records into an improved archival system (no more misplaced documents), and another planted a new garden with vegetables and trees.
“I think Corsini is on the right track to be financially strong, though we need more doctors to participate,” Carol says about her hopes for the future of the Center. Her commitment is firm: “It’s necessary to help someone try to enjoy their last days, or help someone get the correct treatment. That’s why we volunteer, to give, through Corsini, patience, love and strength to those who need it.”
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.