In January, we welcomed a new community-minded corporate group to our Antigua site—24 volunteers from Allina Health.
The trip was inspired and organized by Ellie Zuehlke, Director of Community Benefit and Engagement at Allina, and Aimee Pappenfus, Manager of Community Engagement, both of whom visited Common Hope on a Vision Team last year and got the idea to plan a trip. Ellie and Aimee knew that Allina has a strong value in volunteerism—the company gives small grants to employees who have a volunteer project in mind. They also knew that Allina employees had many connections to Common Hope, including one pharmacist who has sponsored a Common Hope student for 15 years. Still, the pair broke new ground with a volunteer project in Guatemala—this is Allina’s first international trip, and Common Hope is very honored to be a part of this milestone.
Strengthening community inside and outside the company
Team members represented departments from across the organization, from physicians to nurses to supply chain managers to executive assistants. Most people didn’t know each other before the trip, and Ellie says it was a great opportunity for the diverse staff members to strengthen connections internally in addition to coming together to contribute to the community.
The team split their time between working in housing construction, accompanying social workers on home visits, and visiting San Rafael to paint the playground area. Ellie said that one of her hopes for the trip was for people to dip their toes in the water of volunteerism. “Sometimes people don’t know that they want to volunteer or where to do it, nationally or internationally,” Ellie says. She is hopeful that the trip has been a positive experience that will inspire continued volunteering after they return. “Our work is building a culture of volunteerism,” says Ellie, “and this is a very powerful way to do that.”
Ideas for deepening their support
The team did show a strong interest in staying involved. While in Guatemala, an incredible 12 team members sponsored a child, and almost all of them got to meet their sponsored students. Plus, a doctor who plays in a band decided to plan a benefit concert for Common Hope in the near future. It is heartening to see this interest in providing ongoing support.
On that note, Ellie and Aimee hope the Vision Team experience becomes an annual trip, perhaps with a couple of 2014 team members heading up the team in 2015, with Aimee and Ellie providing backup. If the interest in this year’s trip is any indication, a repeat won’t be hard to do––the demand was more than double the number of volunteer slots available. How inspiring to see this kind of interest in giving back.
We look forward to continuing this collaboration. Welcome to the Common Hope community, Allina! Scroll down for more highlights from their trip.