Symantec’s 2012 Corporate Responsibility Report explores our commitments to our employees, the world, and your information. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be featuring blogs from Symantec employees and partners that focus on how they are making a difference. This week, we hear from Vijay Suryawanshi, Director of Engineering.
We generally call community service “reaching out.” However, I’ve learned that it’s actually “reaching in” to better understand our own strengths and weaknesses and learn what’s really important in life. The five years I’ve been volunteering with Akshar Bharati (AB) have provided me with an opportunity to not only help children in India, but also further develop my own skills.
India currently has the largest illiterate population of any nation on earth – only 65 percent of India’s population is able to read and write. There is also a wide gender disparity in India’s literacy rate, with female literacy at 54 percent. Caste disparities, lack of resources, and the general state of the economy also impact school enrollment and drop-out rates. Illiteracy’s economic costs are estimated at $53.6 billion USD—second only to China. And although schooling is free and compulsory from age six to 14, school facilities are often inadequate or totally lacking.
To help address this issue, AB nurtures life-long reading habits in children from ages 5 to 15 by building community libraries with well-selected books to inspire and educate young minds. I spend ten to 15 hours a month visiting potential sites for new libraries, designing and delivering skill-set development programs for children, planning various fundraising events, and creating promotional materials.
It’s great to work for an employer like Symantec, who values these activities and provides support for employee efforts. I utilize our Dollars for Doers program to access funding for the organizations which I support with my time, and our Matching Gift Program pays a dollar-for-dollar match of my personal charitable contributions. I’ve also been able to involve many of my colleagues in the work of AB. My relationship with AB has led to really strong relationships not only with my work colleagues, but also across business units and with other companies.
There’s a real world beyond project deadlines and bottom-lines. And a large portion of the world is not privileged. It’s difficult to isolate ourselves from the society in which we live. I feel it’s our responsibility to extend a helping hand when we are in a position to help.
For more information about Symantec's approach to environmental performance, human rights and responsible sourcing, and community investment, visit The World section of the corporate responsibility website.