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Cisco Systems volunteers help build a dream in Colombia

October 27, 2010

By Andrea Paola Mora Salazar

   
 

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Cisco Colombia volunteer team

Ana Judith Camacho López is a 62-year old woman who lives in Ciudadela Sucre, just south of Bogotá. She has been a widow for 19 years and has four children, one who passed away several years ago, two who are married and one who lives with her and works unloading merchandise at a warehouse.

Ana Judith works every 15 days cleaning houses in the north of the city, earning around USD$14 a day. With much sacrifice, she has managed to save approximately USD$1,087 to buy a small lot. Later, she saved enough to build the first stages of her home – the foundation and walls dividing the bedroom, kitchen and bath – but had been unable to continue.

On October 15, Habitat for Humanity Colombia, in partnership with the San Juan de Dios Order, invited Cisco Systems employees to help Ana Judith finish building her home.

After making the hour and a half journey from Cisco’s offices to the work site in Ciudadela Sucre, the volunteers received a brief introduction at the San Juan de Dios’ San Benito Meni Center. From there, the team walked to Ana Judith’s house so the volunteers could put their hands to work.

   
 

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Ana Judith Camacho and Simbad Ceballos, General Manager for Cisco Colombia.

Fourteen Cisco employees responded to this call – passing buckets of sand, mixing cement, laying bricks and smoothing mortar. Among them was Simbad Ceballos, General Manager for Cisco Colombia. “I am here today with the Cisco Colombia team, collaborating and working for the community,” he said. “We came today to build a house with Habitat for Humanity. We want to contribute our grain of sand so that a family can be happier, and are going to build this house so that two people who lack a proper roof can live in it. We are very glad to be doing this, and want to thank Habitat and Cisco for allowing us the opportunity to partner with a family.”

Cisco Volunteer, Marta Lucia Posada agreed. “This seems truly important to me, to support the community. I am very glad that Cisco is considering this issue – more than anything in helping people like Ana Judith. Seeing the genuine emotion she felt, being able to contribute something, and each one of us doing something today in this one day of work… I think this is very valuable. I like that this is a worldwide initiative for Cisco. These seem to be the issues that can truly impact the country and that can set an example – to do something for others from within the company where you work.”

Fernando Rodríguez, Director of Development for Data Center Solutions with Cisco said, “It has been a very interesting experience. We arrived full of doubts and without really knowing what we were going to find here. But even without knowing much about construction we have tried to do the best job we could. More than anything, the best thing for us is that we can participate in an initiative that represents a worldwide alliance between Habitat for Humanity and Cisco. What we are doing here can multiply… from this first work, hopefully more will come.”

Ana Judith helped the team throughout the day. “I am very glad that before I pass on I can say that this is mine. I want to thank Habitat for Humanity Colombia, San Benito y Cisco for helping me to build my home.”

After seven hours of work, the volunteers joined members of Habitat for Humanity and the San Juan de Dios Order to the center of town to close the event. Participants shared their reflections on the day’s activities. To conclude, Simbad Ceballos affirmed that it was an experience of personal growth, and thanked his team for having taken the time to participate. “I feel very proud of my team,” he said. “I invite all those in the company to be willing to take this challenge.”

About the partnership between Cisco Systems and Habitat for Humanity
Cisco Systems employees have been participating as volunteers with Habitat for Humanity since the 1990’s. Now, Cisco offers support to Habitat organizations around the world, helping in construction and subsidizing membership and internet services, in addition to matching employee contributions of time and money. As of fiscal year 2009, Cisco has given more than $7,500,000 in financial support to more than 93 U.S.-based Habitat organizations and 47 national organizations in the rest of the world.

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