Partnering with Free the Children to Change the World

When I first learned about Free the Children, nearly two years ago this week, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect charitable organization for SMART to partner with. Craig and Marc Kielburger’s focus on children and education matches SMART’s belief that every child deserves access to education. This world-changing organization has helped build over 1,000 schools and school rooms across the globe. Educating children empowers the next generation with the life skills to transform their lives, the lives of their children and their communities. They’re the same values my parents instilled in me many years ago.

Last April, I had joined a team of eight other SMART employees to travel to Verdara, India and support Free the Children’s five pillars and their Adopt-a-Village program. To say the trip was amazing is an understatement. It was truly a life-changing and eye-opening experience.

Our original plan was to bring technology to the school by building a computer lab. But while in India, we learned many children, female students in particular, had stopped going to this school. The dropout rate was noticeably and mysteriously high. Girls especially have to stay home to help take care of their siblings and collect water, others have to go to work to help support their family, some live too far from a school or others can’t afford school fees or to buy a uniform.

This school had a more basic need; there were no bathrooms where the girls could have privacy and feel safe. That should not be a reason for not attending school.

So we quickly changed our plans and our commitment. Yes, the computer lab was important but it would have to wait. That was not the most pressing need. We set out to demolish part of the school so we could build what the school truly needed: basic infrastructure, including bathrooms that would draw the students back to school.

Our goal was to improve the infrastructure of the school, first for bathrooms, then for brighter, larger classrooms with roofs that wouldn’t leak and power that is more sustainable. When that happens, more students will attend the school, more educators will become attracted to teach at the school and yes, some day, we’ll help provide world-class technology for the school as well.

Next year, another group of SMART employees will head to Rajasthan and have the opportunity to truly understand the power of the Adopt-a-Village program at Free the Children and the powerful impact that SMART and our employees have to the people in our village in Verdara. I am excited and proud to be part of this.

 

Together we can change the world. Learn how you can get involved with Free the Children

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Greg Estell
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About Greg Estell

Greg Estell joined SMART in March 2013 as President, Education and was appointed President of the Solutions business unit in April 2015. Greg has 30 years of global technology experience including executive positions at Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. Over the course of his career, Greg has lived and worked in Asia, Europe and throughout North America inspiring change and driving focused strategies and operational excellence leading to record growth and profitability in fiercely competitive technology businesses. He holds a BBA in Finance from the University of Iowa and an MBA from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota.

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