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On a Mission to Find a Mission


I have been with Cisco for almost 12 years, and 2 years ago, our family moved from the Bay Area to RTP to be closer to our extended family. I am a mother of two boys, an active participant of a local food pantry called Western Wake Crisis Ministry, a health and fitness lover, and a project manager focusing on employee events.

Photo of Catherine and Tony
Catherine and husband Tony who without his support this trip would not have been possible.

Last year I posted on Facebook, “I am on a mission to find a mission. Anyone have a suggestion on where I should start?” It has always been a dream of mine to go on a mission and then of course life happens (work, marriage, children, schedules, etc.) and I never got around to it. Until NOW!

In August I went on a Mission to Haiti through Poverty Resolutions, a non-profit who helps rebuild communities by way of offering jobs, providing food, water, medical services and education. I was beyond excited and nervous (in a good way), to see what would unfold while I was there–I had no expectations. I looked forward to learning about Haiti, the culture, struggles, life style and of course, meeting and learning from the natives. I also used the time to reflect on my own life and gain perspective on what is truly important.

As a human being, we tend to get caught up in things that we think matter, but if we really think about it, these things don’t matter. When we take all that nonsense away, life tends to get simpler and clearer.

I am committed to making a difference in the world. As a mother, it’s important for my children to witness how efforts can make a change in people’s lives. Never having experienced poverty at this level made me realize that the world I live in, is not how the rest of the world lives. This experience opened my eyes and my heart to what reality is for many people. As I stood in the Haitian community observing, it was the first time I felt I couldn’t make a difference, that the problem is way bigger than me. But then I realized, if I can impact ONE person’s life, that would make the world of difference to them. And so began my journey.

Photo of a Village
A nearby village.

The poverty level was overwhelming, as we drove through several villages, there was a common theme—small huts (some with 3 walls), no electricity, no running water, and big families crammed into one home. I had never experienced anything like it. Clothes and shoes are a luxury, clothing is not for fashion, it's simply to cover your body. And most people have only a few things, if anything at all. The children have no diapers and most don't wear underwear. The commercials you watch on TV where children have flies on their face, their bellies extended from malnutrition is NO joke! It’s what I saw every day.

We spent most days at Poverty Resolution’s property playing, reading, painting wooden airplanes and interacted with the local children. These children are so full of life and so self-expressed with absolutely no boundaries around personal space. It was common for a child to grab your arm and want to play. They will also grab your sunglasses right off your face and put them on their own. They love to push buttons on your watch, phone or just touch your hair. We provided them with a small snack; a handful of goldfish and a couple sips of water, for some, that's all they'll eat for a while. We also delivered new shoes to a few families.

Photo of Catherine and Wilson
Catherine with 4-year-old Wilson.

What impressed me the most of Haiti was the incredible connection and community. The term “it takes a village to raise children” is Haiti. Every single member in this community watches over each other's family, it's beautiful. I made a special connection with a four-year-old boy named Wilson. He reminds me a lot of my younger son.

Wilson is one of eight children. His dad is a farmer and his mom stays home to watch the children and sells produce at the market. I had the privilege of meeting his mom who asked me if I loved Wilson, when I told her yes, she asked me to adopt him and take him home with me. Like most of you reading this, my heart broke and I had no idea what to say. My first thought was; how could you give your child away? But she did this out of love, wanting Wilson to have opportunities. She can't afford all these children. Again, I'm sure you are wondering why she would have so many children if she can't afford them—but in this culture, women do not have a say.

I am sponsoring Wilson, which will allow him to stay with his family and get food, clothing, and an education. And I will come back and visit.

We also had the opportunity to visit a children's hospital where we held and fed babies. These babies are so malnourished, some of them can't pick up their heads. The first one I held was 7 months and he was the size of a 2 month old–skin and bones and had a very high fever, I got to give him a cold bath. Some babies were hooked up to IVs from dehydration. This is their life. It was heartbreaking.

Photo of Lala
Wilson’s older brother Lala standing outside their home.

I didn’t realize the level of impact this trip was going to have on me. While I was there, it was natural to ask the questions: Why? How can it get like this? How can people live like this? But I learned that the way I’ve lived my entire life is not the way the rest of the world lives. The culture is so different and I had to keep reminding myself that my experiences shaped who I am and their experiences shape who they are.

To my surprise, everyone I met in Haiti is very happy with their life and the only thing the adults want, is a job so that they can buy food. They represent the true meaning of community. They have each other and that is what is important.

Since my trip, our family has met with the founders of Poverty Resolutions and brainstormed on how we can make a bigger impact with Wilson’s family. One of the many things Poverty Resolutions does is employ locals and our family will be funding Wilson’s mom to have a job there.

This was an experience of a lifetime and I look forward to my next trip. I learned so much about a country I knew nothing about and about myself.

If you are interested in joining a mission, I highly encourage you to do so—it's life changing.

I am so proud to work for a company that not only supports, but encourages giving back. To me, that says a lot about who they are. As I spend time volunteering, I don’t feel like I’m doing it alone. I feel like I have all of Cisco behind me—and it’s a great feeling to #LoveWhereYouWork.

Disaster Support

Since writing this story hurricane Matthew has caused significant impact to Haiti. The Cisco Foundation has opened a $100,000 matching campaign for Hurricane Matthew relief efforts. The Cisco Foundation will match your eligible donations to responding organizations, up to $10,000 without affecting your annual matching limit. Please use Community Connection to secure your match, and remember to include the text for "2016 - Hurricane Matthew" in the Designation field. Visit Disaster Support for more information.

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