Small company makes a big difference in Guatemala

Group shot on the first day

NAP’s Vision Team (from left to right, front to back) Patty Zenz, Linda Egelkraut, Sarah Marz, Dan Hilgers, Diane Berg, Joel Chwialkowski and Linda Sexton.

Vision Team Makes a Difference in Guatemala and Back Home

Network Access Products, a telecommunications company located in Ramsey with a staff of 43 people, has experienced a positive change in its office dynamic after seven of its members went down to Guatemala on a Vision Team from November 30th-December 7th of 2014. Tom Koll, owner of Network Access Products (NAP), is a Common Hope sponsor and an advocate of volunteerism. Tom paid for his employees’ airfare and provided them with paid time off as a means to eliminate some of the obstacles associated with volunteering abroad. The Vision Team from NAP did not necessarily work closely on a day-to-day basis before their trip, yet they demonstrated a great capacity for collaboration while in Guatemala. The group also received an overwhelming amount of support from many of their colleagues. Fellow coworkers donated notable sums of money during their fundraising efforts and they covered their shifts during times of absence.

The Spirit of Giving

Upon returning from their Vision Team, the group gave a presentation about their experience during their staff holiday party, which was, undoubtedly, a highlight of the celebration. They shared anecdotes, photos, laughter and tears. When the presentation came to an end, there was a minute of silence, Tom responded: “Doesn’t this feel like Christmas should feel? I’m so proud I can’t find the words…I wish I could find the words. I hope we can see this sort of Christmas every year.”

A New Kind of Company Culture

The NAP Vision Team spending time with Tom's sponsored child, Cristian and Cristian's family. The hand-made mirror was a gift to Tom from Cristian's father.

The NAP Vision Team spending time with Tom’s sponsored child, Cristian, and Cristian’s family. The hand-made mirror was a gift to Tom from Cristian’s father.

For Tom, the holiday party was also a time for reflection and appreciation. He explained that, since starting NAP, he has strived to create a new kind of work environment and company culture in which goodwill and collaboration preside. He says that he alone cannot make up this culture; rather it is up to people to make it happen. Tom stated: “It was probably the proudest day of my life, frankly, when they were giving the presentation about their experience and what they had done in Guatemala. Here I was listening to these seven people’s stories…and it was exactly what I was trying to create in our company.” Patty Zenz, the team lead, affirmed that a company does not have to be a big corporation in order to do what they have done. After going on a Vision Team with her colleagues and working with them in a different context, she feels that the work environment in Ramsey has improved. “If you provide an opportunity like this one, you’re going to see so much reward,” she said, “We started seeing it before we went to Guatemala–people were coming together.” When asked about the office dynamic, Tom says he sees a level of interaction that didn’t exist before. He mentioned that his employees came back raving about the way they got along, the way they brainstormed, the willingness they demonstrated when taking on challenges, the ability to laugh and be themselves yet work hard and get things done. “We can’t lose sight of what team work can do,” he concluded. 

After hearing about the Vision Team’s stories of volunteering in Guatemala, many employees of NAP have expressed their interest in becoming involved as a means to help those in need. Patty says it is hard to describe being a part of a Vision Team but insists that people have to go down and experience it for themselves.

We extend a warm thank you to Network Access Products, the NAP Vision Team and Tom Koll for letting us share their story and also for their time, generosity and dedication to our cause at Common Hope. An article on the NAP Vision Team has also been published in the Anoka Union Herald. You can find that story here.

If you would like to learn more about participating in a Vision Team, please contact Brianna Jensen by calling 651-287-0716 or email her at briannaj@us.commonhope.org.

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