My position as Aptos’ Director of Solutions Management Operations involves a lot of problem solving – coordinating resources to meet the requirements of our business and, ultimately, the needs of our retail clients. It’s a challenging and rewarding role.
But as an active supporter of RetailROI, an organization that helps vulnerable children, I’ve also come to view the challenge of solving problems in a whole new light. And in the process, I’ve gained rewards that I would otherwise never have experienced or even imagined.
Investing in Change
The Retail Orphan Initiative is an established charitable group funded by dozens of organizations within the retail industry, including retailers, media, analysts, and technology providers like Aptos.
I first got involved by arranging and promoting fundraising activities at our corporate and industry events. And the more I heard and learned about the vulnerable children RetailROI was working to help—through some incredible stories of hardships and how they were overcome—the more I wanted to do. That meant both playing a bigger role to raise awareness within Aptos and travelling with RetailROI to Liberia to see and experience the possibilities first hand.
From Poverty to Progress
During two trips to Liberia, possibility is exactly what I found. Yes, Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world and it has been through a lot over the years—two civil wars and most recently Ebola. However, its people have incredible resilience, and a desire and joy for living that any of us would do well to emulate.
The more I learned about the vulnerable children RetailROI was working to help…the more I wanted to do.
Among those people were some remarkable community leaders, such as Bishop Emmanuel Jones and his wife Ramona, who are devoting their lives to ensure that the traumas endured by the nation’s children do not shackle them as adults, or deprive them of the kind of opportunities to which we all aspire. They do this with the help of Lifesong for Orphans and RetailROI by providing homes and schools.
Another such hero is Katie Meyler who founded the More than Me Academy, a free private school providing education and a future for Liberia’s young girls. On my first trip to Liberia, the government had just given Katie a bombed out building to build the school. On my second trip I got a chance to see the new school, the computer lab RetailROI funded, and the girls who were happy and thriving in the school.
Laptops and Love
The work these people are doing is truly remarkable. The Lifesong orphanages and schools are filled with genuinely happy kids who have a real passion for learning. They see that school is a real privilege, and they take full advantage of it. They want to be able to learn and to do something to help themselves and their country. And for me, as for Aptos, it’s a privilege to help.
We’ve focused recently on expanding the resources at the school, based on where our backgrounds and skills intersect their needs. On my first trip, we updated computers… On my second trip we brought over and set up 23 new laptops across three schools. Lifesong also started a library in the schools but only had school curriculum books and no fun early reader books. I was proud to help in that effort by bringing over 150 books that had been supplied with the help of family and friends.
The Lifesong orphanages and schools are filled with genuinely happy kids who have a real passion for learning. For me, as for Aptos, it’s a privilege to help.
The schools have also started to offer vocational training for the older students, which is something I plan to help more with on my next trip. I’d like help develop their skills with programs like PowerPoint and Excel, as well as general business and leadership skills.
But with all of the kids, especially the younger ones, just being able to offer human and social contact is also very important. On our first trip back to Liberia following the Ebola outbreak, many of them had not had contact with outsiders for a very long time, and they weren’t sure how we would receive them. Of course we embraced them with open arms, and we were rewarded in kind.
Everyone Can Play a Part
None of these gestures are expensive or complex. And in my experience, almost everyone has something to offer. It could something from your background and experience you can share that will meet a need, or just a financial contribution to RetailROI. Visit the “Get Involved” section of their website for ideas.
But for me, there has been no substitute for participating in the trips. Only by going did I truly see, first hand, the tremendous good that RetailROI was doing and the differences they were making in the lives of children who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves. And only then did I become a true advocate for the organization and their work.
It’s an experience I encourage you to share. There are many opportunities to travel with RetailROI in many locations around the world. I can promise you that taking that opportunity will be rewarding and possibly life-changing—a decision you will most certainly not regret.