A Future for 500: Softchoice Cares 2012 Mission

When the idea of heading to Bali on a philanthropy mission first came up, most of us balked. As members of the Softchoice Cares Board, we represent Softchoice employees in every decision we make. Telling the company we were going to spend two weeks ‘giving back’ in a tropical paradise sounded like a PR nightmare.

So we did what any other responsible board would do, we looked at other projects in other places – in the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Kenya. To be truly scientific, we created criteria and weightings and put every option through a formal review process. We looked at the relevance of the mission to our purpose of bridging the digital divide, charitable impact, safety and, yes, the optics of the location.  And when all the analysis was done, there it was again: Bali.

Even the most clinical process imaginable can’t remove the emotion inherent in a decision like this. But the more we talked and the more research we did, the more confident we were that Bali was the right mission for Softchoice Cares.

Here’s why.

At an emotional level, we came to appreciate that Bali really is a victim of its own image. Beyond the resorts and the glossy brochures, what most people don’t know is that 60 percent of the population lives in poverty. Getting an education – the one sure way to break the cycle – requires tuition fees which forces poor families with more than one child to make a decision most of us can’t imagine: choosing which child to send to school. As we learned, if you’re a girl, odds are it won’t be you. In the worst case scenarios, girls as young as 12 end up being sold off as second or third wives or even more tragically, into the sex trade.

But the biggest reason for choosing Bali was impact. The Widhya Asih Foundation (WAF) – the focus of our efforts – is an organization that supports roughly 500 orphaned children across seven different locations. They manage their operations, including all government-mandated reporting and record keeping, without any IT infrastructure whatsoever. We saw the potential to drive transformative change by providing a server and database software that will allow WAF to centralize their records management processes. Beyond the efficiencies this will create, it will also serve as a valuable training ground as local staff acquaint themselves with the basics of data entry.

The second project will be to set up a new computer training facility to enrich the educational experience for the 500 children WAF supports. The impact here is significant. High school graduates who are computer literate can earn good salaries, or go on to higher education. That’s how you break the cycle of poverty. And that’s the goal of this mission: to use technology to create a better future for 500 children.

With so much need in the world, choosing a mission like this or even which charity to support can be a political and emotional mine-field. But more than any QFD, RFP or voting process you might put in place, being clear on your purpose and how you can make the biggest impact possible is the most important thing. For Softchoice that’s all about technology. And for our 2012 mission, Bali is the place where we’ll make the biggest difference.

About Eric Gardiner

Eric Gardiner is the Manager of Communications for Softchoice.

  • Anil Ahlowalia

    Going to a tropical area to do any type of charity work always seems to bring out the suspicion in people. They only see the brochure and commercials of these “get aways” and fail to see the endless poverty that has wrapped up the rest of the people that live away from the resort areas.

    My family along with York Regional Police and the York Catholic District School Board go down at least once a year to Jamaica to help out in the slums of Kingston. If you ask people what we do, they think that we are playing on a beach with little Jamaican orphans. But in reality we are helping disabled orphans who are severely handicapped and are always on the verge of death.Charity work is always looked at as noble and no matter what someone thinks or what they may say about your work, keep on doing it cause a child’s future is in your hands. Keep up the good work Softchoice. You really are an amazing company.-Anil Ahlowalia

  • Wendy Potter

    Hi.  I am Wendy Potter, who was recruited by my friend Bill Taylor as sponsor to one of the girls at Melaya Widhya Asih Orphanage, and who joined Bill and a group of sponsors on a visit last Spring.  I recently learned from Bill that Softchoice has chosen Widhya Asih for its 2012 project, and what a blockbuster impact you will have!  Thank you!

    I think I am the only Canadian so far among the sponsor group, so I am particularly proud of this great contribution from your company.

  • Wayne

    Hey Eric, hope you are well.  What’s the latest on the video production from the Bali trip?  Would love to see it.

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