Community connections: Non-profit agency fair showcases volunteer spirit
By MARY STEVENS DECKER Redmond Reporter Reporter Oct 29 2009, 3:59 PM
To some in Redmond, Microsoft Corp. may seem like a monolith. But there is no denying the company’s legendary philanthropy and the individual contributions of thousands of its generous employees.
On Microsoft’s Redmond campus this week, a non-profit agency fair, in conjunction with the company’s annual giving campaign, allowed workers to meet with representatives of more than 50 organizations addressing local, national and global needs. Each had some personal tie to a Microsoft employee, such as a life-changing event, a place where an employee actively volunteers or even some non-profits founded by Microsoft workers.
For example, Charles Duze, a software engineer at Microsoft, started the LittleDrops Orphange Fund (www.LittleDropsOrphangeFund.org) that supports 26 orphanages in six African countries and has touched the lives of 2,000 children.
The name LittleDrops, Duze explained, comes from the fact that “Little drops (of help) add up — you don’t have to start with a million dollars.” The organization helps impoverished children with immediate needs such as food and water, but also long-term needs.
“We let kids express who they want to be when they grow up,” said Duze. “Most wanted to be a doctor, a pilot or an engineer but most end up as a seamstress or apprentice. Where do their dreams go? I didn’t want it to be like the commercial with the Trix Rabbit — ‘Silly rabbit, dreams aren’t for orphans!’ We help them to say, ‘I’m gonna work hard, I’m not going to cheat, I’m going to do my homework.’ We help them go to college because they deserve to be there, or if not college, a trade school. We prepare them in high school with tutoring, so they can succeed.”
Federal Way-based World Vision brought its Experience: AIDS exhibit to Microsoft’s non-profit fair. The interactive, walk-through display features true stories of innocent children who were forced to become soldiers or brides and their struggles to survive amidst the devastation of HIV and AIDS.
Microsoft employees who visited the exhibit could buy caregiver kits for World Vision volunteers in Africa, Asia and Latin America — and include hand-written notes of support.
Akhtar Badshah, Microsoft’s senior director for global community affairs, said the non-profit fair was especially relevant this year because of the global recession and a skyrocketing need for human services right here in Redmond. Through organizations such as the United Way, Microsoft employees help people in need “in their own back yard,” as well as across the globe, he noted.
The company provides matching dollars for employee gifts to charities and also pays $17 an hour, for a minimum of 10 hours of volunteer service, for work done on behalf of “PTAs, youth sports clubs, helping elderly people with their tax forms, painting walls in a school or picking up garbage.”