Volunteers Create a Circle of Giving Back in Kenya

Oct 28, 2011 7:00 AM ET

Microsoft Citizenship Blog

One of the things we regularly see through employee giving at Microsoft is the passion people have for making a positive difference.

Several employees are utilizing their volunteer hours here to support the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC), a nonprofit organization that helps underprivileged girls in Kenya to overcome extraordinary odds to complete their university education. By mentoring students in the program, Microsoft employee volunteers are providing Kenyan girls with the support and insight they need to gain valuable workforce skills and training and complete their education. The GGBC creates a cycle of empowerment in Kenya by requiring the girls in the program to share their newfound knowledge with their local communities upon graduation through various give back “commitments” of their own choosing. For example, a group of three GGBC graduates currently studying at the University of Dubai committed to educate young women about the dangers HIV/AIDs through a website they have designed and developed called “Hey Sister, Get Clued Up.”

Microsoft employee mentors maintain long-distance relationships with their mentees via e-mail and Skype to provide advice, guidance and direction and to ensure that the girls stay motivated throughout high school and until they graduate college. A critical time mentors focus on is the gap period between high school and college, which can be lengthy in Kenya. Mentors advise on several topics from life lessons as a working woman to writing tips for college applications. And while the advice is invaluable, another critical success factor for GGBC students is a nine-month technology skills training in one of two state-of-the-art computer labs in Kenya, supported by Microsoft and other partners.

One example of a Microsoft GGBC mentor is Lei Ma, a technical writer for Microsoft in Developer User Education, who also participates in the giving campaign every year. She says her GGBC mentoring experience feeds her long-time passion for international development and global education. With a doctoral degree in education and specialization in education, technology, distance learning and instructional design, Lei is able to leverage her educational background to support this program as well.

“I understand that women could face social or cultural barriers that limit their access to education in a lot of countries,” said Ma. “I think education is the great equalizer in our society and can increase economic opportunities for disadvantaged girls.”

Microsoft matches time that employees volunteer in the community, donating $17 per hour to the eligible organizations they serve. Global Give Back Circle’s founder Linda Lockhart recently discovered that Microsoft employee mentors who are tracking and submitting their volunteer hours can completely sustain the funds needed to see a girl student through high school, the Microsoft technology training course and college graduation, which is approximately $11,500 per student. That’s a key component of success for GGBC to expand throughout Kenya and even to Uganda. Right now, Lockhart is actively recruiting Microsoft employees to join as mentors to help sponsor the next group of graduates. Her goal is to recruit 120 new Microsoft mentors.

Ma says her involvement in the program has been a fulfilling experience, particularly through building relationships with a mentee in another country.

“I’m excited to find out that my mentee wants to be a doctor in the future to help others in Kenya,” she said. “My job was to help her believe that everything is possible and encourage her to pursue her dreams. “

Are you looking for a way to give back?

Take a moment to visit globalgivebackcircle.org and click the “Get Involved” tab to become a mentor or donate money to help a student through the program. Or, write to Lizzie Lahey of Global Give Back Circle directly at Lizzie@GlobalGiveBackCircle.org