Volunteerism is a large part of Forte Research System’s company culture. Throughout the year, employees are offered opportunities to give their time and monetary donations to valuable causes within the local community. This year, Team Forte expanded its reach to a global scale.
To encourage international community service and learning, Forte facilitated a volunteer trip to Lima, Peru in September, 2016. While abroad, six employees spent their time assisting members of the local community and learning about Peruvian culture and history. To organize the trip, Forte enlisted the help of Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS), an organization that arranges international volunteer opportunities and cross-cultural community service.
During their time in Lima, the six volunteers worked in a variety of environments. Volunteer activities included preparing and serving meals, assisting teachers in a pre-school classroom and making in-home visits to elderly individuals.
Some members of the group spent time at the community-based initiative, Los Martincitos, a center where elderly residents can go for meals, crafts, literacy lessons and more. The volunteers felt their greatest impact at Los Martincitos was socializing with the visitors. “The warm greeting we received from the participants at Los Martincitos each day was my favorite part. They were really kind and always so happy to see us. Many of [the residents] live alone and I think they enjoyed having company,” said Hannah Ranum, Forte volunteer and Product Support Specialist.
The volunteers also helped teachers at a community-run preschool called Manuel Scorza. Here, Forte group members worked with children ages three to five, making crafts, singing songs and providing tools for continued learning. “Working with the kids was definitely a highlight of my time in Peru. I think my work helped provide the classroom with more materials to use for learning English and I enjoyed seeing the kids’ reactions to the activities we did,” said Mike Rocke, Forte volunteer and Database Engineer.
Members were also given the opportunity to join cultural activities and tour parts of the beautiful city. During these activities, the group tried local Lima cuisine, visited the San Francisco Monastery catacombs, and learned traditional Peruvian dances. “Volunteering means I get to experience a different culture and learn about people in other parts of the world. It is eye-opening and humbling to remember that there are lots of people who don’t live exactly like I do, and it was so wonderful to feel everyone’s hospitality,” said Abby Ehringer, Forte volunteer and Senior Trainer.
During their packed schedule, the Forte group spent quality time bonding as a team. Most of the volunteers work on different teams at Forte, so this trip proved a great way to develop cross-departmental relationships and foster communication and collaboration between a variety of individuals. “One of the biggest highlights of my time in Peru was hanging out with the Forte team. I haven’t laughed that hard in years. It was the cheeks-hurting-eyes-watering kind of laughing. We all got along so well and had a lot of time to learn about each other on a pretty personal level,” said Erin Wehmann, Forte volunteer and Customer Success Manager.
While their adventures in Peru were largely positive, volunteers faced some challenges in the unfamiliar environment. For some group members, navigating the language barrier when communicating with Peruvian citizens proved difficult. However, these individuals noted even the stresses of a new environment were made easier with the support of their fellow volunteers. “We were all put in these new situations, and coping and making sense of it together was such an incredible experience,” said Kristina Lopienski, Forte volunteer and Product Marketing Manager.