As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, I’ve been thinking about what each of us brings forth when we give back. Helping others fills our soul with love and hope. It creates a more meaningful existence, for both ourselves and those we touch through our contributions. To me, volunteering is one of the most beautiful aspects of being human.
When we first established our Global Good program three years ago, we felt it was critical for F5 employees to drive our efforts. Our Community Impact Grants build on this approach by providing quarterly $5,000 USD grants to nonprofits that employees are already supporting. The program—which to date has raised $225,000 for 45 nonprofits in nine countries—is designed to help F5ers increase their impact toward causes they’re personally passionate about.
It moves me to see our people investing so rewardingly in the lives of others, and it amazes me to witness the resilience and transformation these efforts are fostering in communities around the globe.
Today I want to share the stories of seven Community Impact Grant winners, told in their own words. I hope you find them as inspiring as I do.
Tropical Institute of Ecological Sciences (TIES)
Conservation of nature, environment, and wildlife has been an area of passion for as long as I can remember. So, when the opportunity came about in early 2019 to visit TIES for a tour and learn about the non-profit’s conservation work across India, I jumped at the invitation—and have been deeply involved with its activities ever since.
TIES works in partnership with other organizations and agencies to advance conservation and connect people with nature through education and outreach. For example, TIES offers a junior naturalist course that introduces children to plants and wildlife in their area. The organization also introduces water management systems in areas facing water scarcity and is working to restore watersheds and improve waste management practices.
"It makes me feel proud that my efforts are saving lives, and that my outreach is steadily bringing about a change in people’s attitudes toward nature."
One project I’ve been involved with is the Indian Snakebite Initiative, which is working to address the snakebite mortality problem in India at a community level. Deadly snakes are a big problem in India, with an average 58,000 people killed by snakebites every year—most of them people from poor and marginalized rural communities. As a volunteer, I’m responsible for leading community workshops that build awareness about deadly snakebites, while also conducting workshops for medical, forest, and wildlife staff on how to care for those in a snakebite emergency. I’m also working on an initiative to ensure rural and tribal hospitals have sufficient anti-venom supplies in stock to meet emergency cases. The F5 Community Impact Grant has greatly helped and accelerated these efforts.
As a volunteer for TIES, my greatest joy is inspiring others to become conscious and involved in environmental work. I’m proud that my efforts are saving lives, and that my outreach is steadily bringing about a change in people’s attitudes toward nature.
Since 2005, the local community where I live in West Wittering has been supporting a school in Bo, Sierra Leone. Sierra Leone has been ravaged by civil war, Ebola and now COVID, and many children have lost their parents and live in desperate poverty. The school in Bo is open to all children, offering an education, safety, food, and emotional and financial support to those who need it. The goal is to enrich lives and give families a chance at a better future.
For me, volunteering has been a family effort. My father, Bruce Holben, is one of the founders of the community group that helps to raise funds and visits Bo in Sierra Leone to check on the school and make sure the fundraising is well spent. My children's primary school was matched with the school in Bo, and my children are pen pals with several of the children there who don’t have electricity and therefore no computers or Internet.
"Volunteering for this organization keeps me grounded and gives me a sense of what’s really important. It opens my eyes to the history and struggles of other cultures."
The Community Impact Grant will provide 50 bikes for Bikes for Bo, a school program that will open up opportunities for children who live too far away to walk to school. Many of the poorest live a long way from school and walk two to three hours a day. These bikes will cut their travel time by more than half, while helping children to get to school more safely, allowing more children to get an education, while leaving them more time to help with subsistence farming and other needs at home.
My work for Bikes for Bo is fueled by my own love of cycling and the very real need for transport these children have. Volunteering for this organization keeps me grounded and gives me a sense of what’s really important. It opens my eyes to the history and struggles of other cultures, and it makes me feel good to witness these children’s successes.
Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program
Page Ahead provides new books and develops reading activities that empower at-risk children across Washington state. Its flagship program, Book Up Summer, lets K-2 students at majority low-income Washington schools select 12 books at spring book fairs to reduce and even eliminate the summer learning slide. As a result of the F5 Community Impact Grant, 111 students got to choose 12 free, brand-new books at school book fairs, helping them become successful readers.
I’ve been involved with Page Ahead since 2017 when I joined the Finance & Audit Committee. Since 2020, I have been a part of the full board. I also volunteer with the organization, which so far has primarily been packing up books to send to schools. That volunteer relationship will continue to evolve as we move through COVID. I’m very excited to get into the classrooms and read to the kids.
"I’ve always been an avid reader and am thankful to be able to help spread that love of reading in Washington."
I really wanted to be a part of an organization that meant something to me personally. I’ve always been an avid reader and am thankful to be able to help spread that love of reading in Washington. The main reason that I volunteer is because it feels great to help people! It gives me the opportunity to learn about key issues affecting my community and use some of my skills to make an impact. It always amazes me how much a little bit of time and energy can make such a big difference.
Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center
Billy DeFrank LGBTQ+ Community Center opened in 1981 after Santa Clara County residents voted to repeal ordinances extending housing and employment protections to lesbians and gay men. Today, the organization provides community, leadership, advocacy, services, and support to the Silicon Valley’s LGBTQ+ people and their allies. I’ve been involved with the organization since about 1999, and I founded the trans men’s support group as well as the South Bay Trans Day of Visibility.
I’m currently on the board of directors, where I regularly contribute to our plans and activities. The Community Impact Grant is helping to kick-start our new Billy DeFrank Resource Line, which helps Santa Clara County LGBTQ+ people get transgender information and support, legal aid, health and mental health referrals, and other resources. It is also funding our 40th anniversary celebrations, which will include a history display, music, and other celebratory events.
"Volunteering helps me create positive change in people’s lives in my community. It also fosters my sense of contribution to the greater good."
I got involved with Billy DeFrank because I was looking for community, and I also wanted to improve the lives of local trans men. The services the community center provides are especially critical at a time when many areas around the country are launching attacks on trans people, who often face housing, employment, and sports discrimination—and frequently lack even basic healthcare. Nothing is more rewarding to me than seeing a trans person take their first step into public life at the South Bay Trans Day of Visibility and meet acceptance.
Volunteering helps me create positive change in people’s lives in my community. It also fosters my sense of contribution to the greater good, while letting me use my writing, organizing, and facilitating skills to help other humans.
United Cultural Empowerment and Social Community Organization (UCESCO)
UCESCO empowers vulnerable women and children to lift their families out of poverty and take charge of their own future. One of UCESCO’s projects is the Cujiper Girl’s project, which gives girls and young women in Africa’s largest slum located in Nairobi, Kenya a safe space to be. The project, which currently includes about 150 participants up to age 20, provides education on women’s health issues; hosts dances, poetry, and other activities; and offers emergency accommodations when needed. Many girls in the program haven’t been able to go to school due to missing uniforms and overdue school attendance fees. The Community Impact Grant is keeping these girls in school by paying these fees.
"UCESCO’s mission speaks to me. What could be more important than giving the very most underprivileged a chance in life?"
I decided to volunteer for UCESCO after visiting the organization on a recent trip to Kenya. I stayed there for a week donating school supplies and learning more about UCESCO projects. When I visited the Cujiper Girl’s project, I met so many talented girls that I decided to contribute financially, too. I supported a girl I got to know there so she could go back to school. We’ve since formed a mentoring relationship are in touch almost daily.
UCESCO’s mission speaks to me. What could be more important than giving the very most underprivileged a chance in life? Volunteering has given me perspective on life, further igniting the will and passion to help even more.
I love the Meals on Wheels motto, "Feeding Bodies, Nurturing Souls, Saving Lives.” Meals on Wheels Spokane delivers hot, nutritious meals to disabled or home bound seniors in Spokane. Their service helps preserve dignity and independence by keeping seniors in their homes.
When COVID hit, my family wanted to do something for the community so that’s when we began volunteering. My husband, son, and I have a route here in the Spokane area and deliver food to the seniors. Meals on Wheels will contact us with days that they need us. A typical route takes three hours to complete. My involvement with Meals on Wheels has underscored how lucky and grateful we are to have our home, food, and health. The people I’ve met through volunteering are living meal to meal. It’s sad to see, and it’s made me ask what else I can do to assist people in need.
"The people I’ve met through volunteering are living meal to meal. It’s sad to see, and it’s made me ask what else I can do to assist people in need."
The organization is helping to address hunger for people who can't get out of their homes to either pick up food or to even go to the grocery store. As a result of this grant, more seniors in my community are getting healthy and nutritious meals. The other impact that has touched me the most is being able to assist and check on a person to make sure they are safe and being able to help them if they need anything else. Simple things, too, like wishing them a happy birthday can make a big difference.
Magen David Adom (MDA) is the national rescue organization for emergency pre-hospital medical and blood services. The organization has also taken on a big role during COVID by opening special command centers for COVID testing and treating and transporting COVID-positive patients.
The Community Impact Grant will fund a higher-quality monitor defibrillator for the first responder unit I’m a member of, helping us extend our services to patients. Not only is this instrument helping us treat patients experiencing cardiac arrest, but it is making it possible to detect and treat cases of bradycardia and life-threatening tachycardia. The new defibrillator also includes integrated blood pressure and blood saturation probes to help us assess patient breathing and hemodynamic stability.
"Handling medical emergencies and, unfortunately, death in my volunteer work helps put things in proportion."
Following in my sister’s footsteps, I have been volunteering for MDA for over 32 years now. I started delivering first aid, then became a medic ambulance driver, and eventually completed a two-year paramedic course. I also took on the responsibility of organizing the volunteers in my town, helping with training and scheduling.
I hold a leadership position at F5, and I take that skill to my volunteer work. I also bring my skills as a volunteer back to F5. Handling medical emergencies and, unfortunately, death in my volunteer work helps put thing in proportion. I have to stay calm and handle difficult situations so when I’m feeling pressure at work, I try to apply these same skills, making sure I complete my work professionally and not emotionally.
To learn more, visit the F5 Global Good webpage.