What’s the first thing that comes to mind when we’re planning a vacation? More often than not, we picture pristine beaches, powdery slopes, or places with breathtaking trails.
Well, that’s not exactly what Mark C, a senior manager in Adobe’s Worldwide Field Operations, had in mind. Instead, he took the path less traveled. When Mark was preparing for his time off, he knew he didn’t want to spend it at home or traveling to a place he already knew. So when a co-worker gave him the idea of volunteering in Africa, he decided that sort of experience was exactly what he needed.
Mark arrived to his assignment at an orphanage in Tanzania and was surprised by the level of need — only to discover that his location was one of the better-funded institutions in the area.
“There was a cabinet that had only one instruction book for the whole grade,” Mark says. “The teacher would copy the lesson on the chalkboard, and then the kids would copy it in their handmade notebooks, and then they would go through it. Some of these kids would walk an hour or two just to get to school.”
After his second day, he bought each child a pencil, eraser, and 12-inch ruler so they could draw neat columns on their papers. These supplies were prized possessions, and Mark helped the teacher paint numbers on each piece. They collected the supplies at the end of each day to ensure the kids would be able to use them at school the next day.
“I recommend that other people do something like this,” he says. “I think there’s a lot of people who get really swept up in the day-to-day stuff of life, and they stop appreciating what they have. If you go somewhere like that, it really brings it into perspective.”