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Hundreds of Cisco Volunteers Put All Hands To Work In A Bangkok Build

263 International and Local Staff Helped Build 30 Houses In Sai Mai District

BANGKOK, 24th April 2007: All Hands was a fitting theme for Cisco’s employees’ recent build with Habitat for Humanity Thailand in Bangkok. More than 260 staff members from 15 countries took part in the project in Sueayai Ruamjai community, Sai Mai District, about one hour’s drive north from Bangkok.

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Unity: More than 260 Cisco employees from different parts of the world building with Habitat home partners in the Sueayai Ruamjai community.

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Teamwork: Cisco volunteers digging holes for footings (top) and pouring cement into footings (bottom).

The build was the first in Thailand for the 263 employees of the California-headquartered company. Cisco, the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate, supports staff volunteerism as part of its corporate philanthropy strategy. In a corporate citizenship report, Cisco’s chairman, John P. Morgridge, said: “From our earliest days, we have believed at Cisco that doing good will always contribute to doing well.”

Doing good was just what the Cisco volunteers did. They poured cement into footings for 30 houses, dug holes for footings, tied wires for the foundation’s steel bars and covered the septic tank with dirt using hoes. The 96 sq. m. houses being built are of a two-storey duplex design to cater to large, extended families.

The 88 families in Sueayai Ruamjai originally lived near Ratchada Road in the center of Bangkok. In November 2006, the families were ordered off the land by the landowners. With assistance provided by Community Organizations Development Institute, the national governmental organization that supports Thailand’s housing activities, the families were able to purchase a 64 sq. m. plot in Sai Mai district. Most of the families are either construction workers or food and vegetable sellers with an average monthly family income of 10,000 to 15,000 baht (US$312 to US$468).

Habitat’s Save & Build microfinance scheme is used in the Sueayai Ruamjai project. Typically, Save & Build involves a group of 10 families saving for the cost of building each other’s houses. When one-third of the cost of one house has been saved, Habitat and its partner organizations contribute the remaining amount and construction begins. Among themselves, the home partners decide who will first get the house. The savings cycle goes on until every saving group member’s family is housed.

The benefits were clearly felt by Habitat home partners and Cisco volunteers alike. Home partner Yupin Sujarit said: “I really appreciate the volunteers’ help. The pouring of cement into footings is a hard and time-consuming job. It warms my heart to see them helping build our new community.”

One of the volunteers, David Rubio, the Hong Kong-based vice-president of Cisco Services, Asia Pacific, said: “It’s my first time volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. It is such a rewarding experience to serve the people who need our support. Today, so many of us at Cisco are helping become a part of the dream of people less fortunate than us. Cisco has a culture of giving back and this is an example of giving back to the communities where we do business.”

“It’s a nice way to get people to realize the reality of a country, so we decided that the whole team should contribute to this reality. Most of us work together on a daily basis in an office environment; today we are also working together in making a difference to the people who will be established here. I can see the same team work here as I see when we work closely together on daily projects.” he added.

Another first-time Habitat volunteer is Karen McFadzen, the Sydney-based vice-president of technical services, Asia Pacific. “We decided on the theme ‘All Hands’ because we would like to bring the volunteers together to help the community; we want to show that one team can achieve many things and make a difference in the real world where basic necessities cannot be taken for granted.”

She added: “I really enjoyed working here and it means a lot to me personally. It’s a humbling experience to help people who need our support. This is the generous spirit that I want to highlight; in Cisco culture, we put much gusto in everything we do, and it is evident in our group here.”

The words of Chris Heckscher, Cisco’s director for advanced services, Asia Pacific based in Hong Kong, could well sum up the build: “It’s terrific and truly rewarding experience to see a smile of the people and children who will live here. It has been a day well spent with my team and the people of Thailand.”

Habitat for Humanity Thailand’s CEO, Panida Panyangarm, said: “This is the first time that HRC (Habitat Resource Center) Central has hosted a large number of volunteers. I admire the dedication and the enthusiasm that the Cisco volunteers showed during their work. Even though the weather was very hot, they continued working. It was encouraging to see the homeowners and volunteers working side by side. I hope that Cisco will continually support us in our mission of building decent and simple shelters for people in need.”

Founded in 1984, Cisco employs more than 54,500 people worldwide and has US$28.5 billion revenue in FY2006. According to its corporate citizenship report, 6,000 Cisco employees who represent 15 per cent of all staff, logged 160,000 hours in volunteering activities. Habitat for Humanity is cited as one of Cisco’s two strongest volunteer programs.

Habitat for Humanity Thailand began in 1998 in Udon Thani in the northeast. Habitat Resource Centers, which extend the reach of Habitat’s programs by providing such services as construction and housing microfinance, have been set up in northeast, north, central and southern Thailand.