June 14, 2018 / All Stories

Giving time, gaining perspective

During AbbVie’s Week of Possibilities, community projects inspire lasting commitments.

Every year, AbbVie employees around the world throw on their “volunteer” T-shirts, and get to work. During the annual Week of Possibilities, nearly 8,000 employees in more than 50 countries spend their days giving back to the communities where they live and work.

Sometimes they build houses, or paint classrooms; they might sweat together under a hot sun while shoveling mulch, or join in the awe of a child’s first time seeing themselves as a scientist.

No matter what their Week of Possibilities activities may be, employees share in one common experience that emphasizes the power of giving back. For some, though, the impact goes even deeper – changing their worldview, or provoking them to make volunteering an ongoing commitment.

As we embark on our fifth Week of Possibilities, a few employees shared their thoughts on how this global event made a very personal impact on their lives.

Conno Hendriksen, the Netherlands

As a creature of habit, I almost always take the same route to work. Sometimes by bike, sometimes walking.

On my route, there’s a building that always intrigued me. It has, in big letters, the words "Nos Casa" on its front. My Spanish is not that good, but I kind of figured it meant "Our House," and was wondering what the place was about. I saw people going in or out at times, but with their windows, doors, and curtains closed, I never knew what sort of place it was.

Conno Hendriksen (left) and colleague during Week of Possibilities.

That all changed last year when we signed up for Week of Possibilities. We were going to work with the Salvation Army here in the Netherlands, and looking through the options, I saw one of the locations available was that mysterious place I always passed going to work!

So I signed up, and was able to help paint and renovate two of their rooms. I also got the opportunity to drink coffee with some of the people living there, some of whom were coming from dark places in their lives. It was rewarding to try to help them.

Now, when I cycle or walk past that building, I have a much better understanding and appreciation of the great things the Salvation Army is doing, as well as respect for the people walking in and out of that building.

Walter Borges, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Last year, I participated for the first time in Week of Possibilities. We had the chance to carry out an activity at Lar Esperança (Hope Home), a nonprofit that cares for the elderly. Their activities are supported by donations and social campaigns.

We were responsible for painting and renovating the area where the senior citizens ate. During the volunteer activity, our group realized we could offer something more than a paint brush or hammer – we could interact and create a relationship with the residents at the facility.

Walter Borges and team celebrate their volunteering efforts.

Together, our group decided to exchange our planned lunchtime for an afternoon coffee with all the beneficiaries and employees of Lar Esperança. This afternoon coffee was the magic moment of our Week of Possibilities. Being able to interact with the residents was thrilling. They had so much to teach us, and we felt thankful to be there with them. Many of them talked to us as if we were visiting relatives – which is poignant, as some of them have been abandoned by their families.

Something important that struck me was the affection of the employees who worked at Lar Esperança; they knew every resident’s name, every resident’s story. It was a truly inspiring experience to spend time there.

By the end of the day, our team realized that face-to-face attention is sometimes more important than a material donation. That’s why I have continued to visit Lar Esperança throughout the year, to spend more time with the incredible residents and employees of this facility.

Yolandi Arnold, Johannesburg, South Africa

Week of Possibilities is more than just volunteering; it’s an experience that changed my heart and opened my eyes to people’s suffering, making me aware of how hard it is out there.

We have some of the most impoverished people in South Africa. Yet we take things for granted, and think nothing of it to pay for a cappuccino, but that same amount of money could pay for a pack of cornmeal that feeds a family for a week.

During Week of Possibilities in 2016, we volunteered at three informal housing settlements in Johannesburg, South Africa, planting gardens that could be sustainable food sources for the families living there.

Yolandi Arnold (right) and colleague get ready to renovate a home.

The settlement’s community members maintain the garden, and are not only sustaining themselves but also selling the vegetables they grow to provide a much-needed source of income. We received reports that the gardens gave the community hope. Some of the residents now have full-time employment and have started businesses.

To even make a difference in only one life is worth it, so it was amazing to go back a year later and see a garden we helped plant was thriving, and actually feeding a community’s children.

Learn more about our Week of Possibilites efforts here.

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Mary Kathryn Steel
Email: mk.steel@abbvie.com
Call: + 1 847-937-4111
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