More than 300 Cisco employees recently travelled to a neighborhood just outside of Atlanta, Georgia to help build a 2,000 sqaure foot house for the Stephens family. These employees, using their Time2Give volunteer hours signed up to build a house over a 12-week period. Created in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, this effort is a fully Cisco-run project called Americas House.
This Americas House program is built around Cisco’s Americas Sales team and the surrounding communities where the teams live, work, and play.
“The house is 100 percent Cisco Americas Sales funded and built,” says Americas House program manager Joy Bradley, “We provide the funding for the house itself, like the permits, licenses, supplies, and materials, and then send a team of volunteers each week to build the house. We really focus on the volunteering, to go and build houses in communities near our offices in the Americas. We want to create lasting impact in the communities that we’re living in.”
Americas House—the origin
Bradley came up with the idea for Americas House in the summer of 2018. She believed that the Americas Sales team could do more to help their community if they focused all of their efforts on one volunteer project.
“We could have an even bigger impact if we focused on a specific house or village, and sending all of our people who are interested,” says Bradley, “We wanted to have something that the Americas team could put their name to and physically show the impact we had in our communities.”
Cisco employees have five paid days of volunteer work per year, called Time2Give, to use on their volunteerism of choice. Using that Time2Give, each week a group of Cisco employees arrive from all across the Americas, covering their own expenses and committing to a full week of volunteer work.
When Bradley pitched the idea to Jeff Sharritts, Senior Vice President, Americas Sales, he was immediately supportive.
“I brought the idea to him and he said, ‘Let’s do it and lets announce it on-stage during the Americas Session at the Global Sales Experience conference,’” says Bradley, “Jeff’s been to the site to visit the house and has met the family. He’s a huge supporter of the project.”
The Americas House fits in perfectly with Sharritts’ and the Americas team’s Be The Light program, which is focused on their give back efforts and making a change for good. Through this, the Americas teams focuses on providing housing, food, and education to those in need. The belief of the Americas House project is that if someone doesn’t have a safe place to rest their head, then education or food is even harder to come by.
The house in Georgia
The Stephens family, recipients of the house in Georgia, is a family with five kids (two with special needs). The family is currently living in a 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment that suffered damage from last year’s hurricane. By the end of each week, most of the employees have met at least one or more members of the family. It’s a crucial part of Americas House that the volunteers feel connected to the family, to the work of Habitat for Humanity, and to each other.
The overall build cycle lasts about 16 weeks and of those, Cisco sends volunteers for 12 weeks. The other four weeks are comprised of skilled labor, like electricity and plumbing.
Going around the world
Because of her work with Americas House, Bradley’s peers at Cisco nominated her to attend the Global Citizen Festival in South Africa, a trip designed to celebrate Cisco employees who have changed their communities in a positive way.
The trip included the chance to go to Johannesburg, South Africa, attend the massive Global Citizen Festival with headliners like Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Ed Sheeran, and spend personal time with Cisco CEO and Chairman Chuck Robbins.
“It was the most unreal experience I’ve ever been on, and I still struggle to put words to that trip,” says Bradley, “To be able to go to South Africa and the festival, in and of itself was over the top. But I felt like the other employee winners was what made the trip. You couldn’t have hand-picked a group of people who had more similar hearts and worldviews. We came out of that trip with amazing new friendships.”
Moving forward with the project
After the inaugural house in Atlanta is completed, Americas House will build homes in Latin America this spring, and then Canada next fall. The plan is then to rotate and head back to America.
“It’s our own little NGO within Cisco,” says Bradley, “Americas House could have been something I did on my own time. But I think the coolest thing about Cisco is watching Jeff Sharritts in the room the day I pitched the idea. There wasn’t even a hesitation to make this a full-on Americas Sales project. It was such an amazing testament to who Cisco is, who our leaders are, and this company’s commitment to changing the world.”
The house will be completed by February 23, when the Stephens family will receive the keys to their new home during the Dedication Ceremony hosted by Cisco and Habitat for Humanity.