Building Homes and Giving Hope

by Agnieszka Jank · Regional Lead · Russia & CIS, Commercial and Partner Organization

I woke up on April 25 and began to get ready to fly to Montreal to join our partners at the Cisco Partner Summit. My older son then informed me that a 7.9 earthquake had hit Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.

My thoughts and prayers went immediately to Nirmala Tamang and her family who I had met in 2014—are they safe, is their house damaged? For 10 long days there was no news as communication within the rural areas of Nepal was very difficult. But finally news came: they were safe. Their village of 36 houses, which I helped to build, had resisted the damaging force of the earthquake and all the families were safe.

Five months earlier in November 2014, I joined a team of international volunteers under the leadership of Habitat for Humanity to build 36 houses as part of the Everest Build Project. Together with the volunteers, I helped build a house for Nirmala Tamang and her family in a rural area of Nepal. Just prior to that, I had raised US$3,000 to support the project—and this was matched by Cisco.

The Habitat for Humanity team of volunteers from the Everest Build Project in Nepal.

Why did I go to Nepal? I love to make a difference in people's lives; I love teamwork and enjoy partnering with other people for success. This gives me energy and keeps me motivated. Every day I am inspired by what we already do at Cisco and I wanted to contribute more. Working for Cisco and being a mother of two young children can be very demanding and usually fills every free moment of my day. Until last November, I was only able to make a difference to a few charities by donating money. But deep inside my heart I wanted to get more engaged on the ground and help "with my own hands".

We built a house for "our" family with a group of 15 people whom I hadn't previously known. None of us had any real experience in construction work—most of us worked for IT companies. Despite that, from the very first day we were able to work together using each of our strengths to accomplish our tasks. Having the very real goal of giving the first solid house to a family of seven helped us to overcome our lack of skills and tiredness.

Building a new home for the Tamang family. Seeing their determination to break out of poverty and anticipate a better future was simply fantastic.

During my 10 days in Nepal, I found out how difficult it is to cut bamboo and even more difficult to plaster. I learned how each of us can really make a positive impact on the lives of other people. I also experienced that when you give you receive so much more in return.  Fundraising with the help of family, friends and colleagues, I was able to raise awareness of the housing needs in Nepal. The work we carried out will not only have a direct impact on the lives of Nirmala and the other families there, but it will create a ripple effect—encouraging other families to build homes and generate more funds to work together.

If you are feeling inspired and want to build houses with your very own hands—let me know. Maybe we can do it together.

Habitat for Humanity is heavily involved in helping to rebuild Nepal following the devastating earthquake. If you want to give some hope to the people of Nepal please donate: http://www.habitatnepal.org/

The Cisco Foundation in cooperation with Community Relations has launched the "2015—Nepal Earthquake" employee giving campaign. Find out more about how Cisco can match your donation.

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