I've had 18 years of wonderful experiences at Gap Inc. - starting with being interviewed for my first position at Gap Inc. by one of our Founders, Don Fisher himself - but the 5 days that I spent in Guatemala last week were among the most inspirational and reaffirming.
I spent time with 24 committed employee volunteers who were chosen from among hundreds who applied through Gap Foundation's Community Corps.
I was asked to be an executive sponsor for this year's trip to Guatemala, where Gap Foundation was partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build homes in the outskirts of Antigua. With logistics covered, I was told my job was to provide "inspiration and cheers" to the team as needed. I could handle that.
After a red-eye flight out of San Francisco, a delay in Houston, a detour through Honduras due to unprecedented rain storms in the region - I finally met up with Gap Inc. volunteers from New Hampshire, Ohio, Las Vegas, Oregon, Japan, UK and elsewhere... and headed to the build sites.
More than half of the people in Guatemala live in poverty. We rode past women balancing massive baskets of produce and dry goods on their heads, "real" cowboys on horses tending their maize fields, and beautiful children holding hands with each other as they walked into town. At three different sites, families had inspirational stories about dreams of home ownership.
There was Jorge and Carmen, with their 6 girls. And, Christian whose mother had us tear down half of her house to make space on her plot of land for her son and his wife, who were expecting their first child.
We dug. We moved dirt. We moved dirt again. We tied re-bar. We knocked walls down. We made cement. And, we got really, really wet and dirty. Friends came down with colds. We ran out of clean jeans and dry shoes. We told lots of bad jokes, talked politics (Yes -
the latest on Will and Kate does count) and shared stories about our communities and volunteerism, and helped change lives - it was beautiful.
After 3 days, we closed the "build" with a celebration including the families, our Habitat colleagues and lots of tears and exchanges of warm wishes. In a short time, we fulfilled our vision to be what’s possible, both by helping to create new possibilities for these families and opening ourselves to this meaningful experience that will motivate all of us to expand our commitment to our communities.
I came back with a connection to Guatemala and a bond with 24 amazing, quirky, kind, innovative Gap Inc. team members with courage, creativity and compassion that led them to Community Corps.
"Cheers" are indeed in order!