This week IBM turned 100. As part of this anniversary the company pledged a “day of service” for all its employees to give back something to the communities we operate in. The service could be to help a social charity, go into schools to talk about the importance of science and technology for our future, or do something for the environment. In total, IBM is donating more than 2.5 million hours of volunteer services to communities worldwide.
In our lab, we decided to offer two activities for those who wanted to do something with their colleagues. We started to engage with a charity called Rainbows for Children which wants to improve basic education in Ethiopia. Here we apply our IT skills to help bring wind power to Ethiopian schools to power PCs in computer classes and better manage the schools through IT. This is an ongoing project that is not finished with just one day of work.
The other project where over 100 colleagues participated centered around another (grassroots) charity myblueplanet.ch whose goal is to bring down green house gas emissions by changing our own behavior and through projects that have a positive impact on climate change. One of those projects is to plant 100’000 trees that carry fruit varieties that have become rare in our industrialized food industry. We decided to support this project through planting rare apple trees in Rüschlikon the community where the lab has been located now for more that 48 years of its 55 year history. In addition we worked in the local forest to protect the rare yew tree from being destroyed by deer who consider the young, extremely slow growing trees a delicacy. The forest ranger who helped us distinguish yew trees from the more common silver fur, later on commented that he had never worked with such a disciplined and focused group of volunteers before. So as we try to be the best in our research, we strive to excel at volunteer work as well
We were very lucky, for our day of service the weather was splendid and so we managed to accomplish everything we had set out to. As we had randomly assembled the teams, a lot of people got to talk to colleagues they usually don’t meet. We concluded the day with a nice picnic.
Quite a few people commented that we should do such days of service not only when the company celebrates its 100th anniversary but more often. I will take up that idea and we will find something for us to do next year again. Maybe we can make this into a regular activity?
I’d be curious to learn what my readers would suggest we could do?