Seeds for Kenya

Sometimes our CSR initiatives help bring about the most interesting networks. I’m heading the public relations team – read, I AM the public relations team – for a seed project here at our Chandler site. The Intel Foundation awards up to $5000 USD to underwrite selected employee-initiated community service projects (more information is available in our 2010 CSR report This project looks to supply solar-powered LED homework lanterns to a community of Maasai children in rural Kenya, which I’ve lovingly dubbed “HL4K”… because while “Strengthening education with homework lanterns in rural Kenya” accurately sums up the project, it does not fit onto the logo I designed with Paint. Cue the project photos! Logo after the break. (photos courtesy of

Anyways, as far as I can tell, the project is being spearheaded by three key employees:

  1. Meg, a 20-year Intel veteran, first conceived the need for lanterns on a volunteer trip to the village last year while she was there building the region’s first all-girls boarding-style high school with non-profit Free the Children. This is what she does for fun. It really puts my shoe-shopping habit to shame. The school opened in January of this year with 42 inaugural students. This fall, she’s going back to Kenya with one of our IESC trips (read about last year’s Kenya trip here). As volunteering is clearly important to her, she feels incredibly fortunate to work at Intel, and is “amazed at the level of quality of the volunteer programs we have”.

  2. Vimbai, who is the project’s lead organizer, has a personal connection to the project; his great-grandparents lived in similar conditions. He has three children he wants to share his passion for giving back with. One of his personal goals is to help close the digital divide. He’s coming up on his 7th year anniversary with Intel, which means a sabbatical: 8 extra weeks of vacation – yeah, you heard that right – anyone? Volunteering is so integrated into Vimbai’s work that he’s somehow managed to work it into his personal development plan. He cites the various project management skills involved in overseeing a project like this as a serious benefit to his day job.

  3. Bill is an Intel newbie that started working here the same month I joined, but who is much smarter than I am, recently earning his PhD at the University of Florida. He found the project through our online volunteer portal and is now heading the project’s engineering team. During our interview, I asked Bill if he had volunteered consistently through school. He didn’t, but responded, “Intel makes it so easy to get involved. My PhD research was in solar, which is why this project caught my eye. There’s also a balance between just ‘doing good’, and the research and teambuilding involved in a project like this one.”

And then there’s me; a recent UC Berkeley (go bears!) graduate and self-proclaimed tree-hugger with a shoe-buying problem. I was introduced to the project by a colleague who organizes bi-weekly brown-bag lunch sessions where we watch and discuss documentaries like “Ingredients“, and “The New Recruits: Can Capitalism Save the World“. He organizes these meetings of his own free will, no less – what, did you think I blog for fun? Just kidding!

It is totally inspiring to know that I work with people who donate their time to such amazing causes (obviously, it’s extremely helpful to work for a company that actively encourages this type of behavior). I digress; the real point I was trying to make with all of this is that a corporation like Intel can’t, and probably shouldn’t, be everywhere supporting everything at once. We can, however, give our seriously well-equipped employees the freedom to choose and give back to initiatives that are truly important to them. To be able to schedule a volunteer meeting during the day – at work, and in one of our conference rooms, and to have no one question the use of my time is liberating. It illustrates Intel’s commitment to being a good corporate citizen, and to following its stated strategy (pardon my lapse into marketspeak): “Care for our people and our planet, and inspire the next generation”.

Every day I meet people who are living reminders of this. It’s good to be here!