With each year that Maintenance Connection continues to prioritize giving back to communities around the world, the reason why MC Gives Back is such an important pillar to MC’s core values and the way the company does business becomes even clearer.
This year, MC sent 13 employees to Estonia, a somewhat unknown and obscure country in Eastern Europe that was once part of the former Soviet Union. Estonia was chosen for MC Gives Back because one of MC’s own, Customer Coordinator Joel Mayer, lives in Tallinn, the capital city of Estonia, along with his wife and five-year-old son. Joel moved his family from the suburbs of Denver, Colorado in late 2012 to fulfill a life-long calling and passion – to see his life make a difference in the global community. Joel works part time for MC on various projects as he partners with Serve the City, a humanitarian organization attempting to meet the needs of the less fortunate not only in Tallinn but all over the world. Needless to say, this year’s MC Gives Back trip was highly anticipated not only by the 13 people on the team, but also by the whole company, with excitement to see what Joel has been up to these last 18+ months while in Tallinn.
After months of planning, the team met in Denver on August 22 to depart for Estonia. Due to significant delays in Denver caused by air traffic control issues and, of all things, a broken exit sign on the aircraft and a broken jet ramp at our layover destination, Washington Dulles (Can anyone suggest a good work order system for United Airlines?), a connecting flight from Dulles to Frankfurt, Germany left without the team. After several hours of working with United to adjust the itineraries of 13 people trying to travel as a group, the team departed for Frankfurt only a few hours behind schedule. However, upon arrival in Frankfurt, the final leg of the trip from Frankfurt to Tallinn was booked incorrectly by United, thus resulting in nearly an 8 hour delay in Frankfurt. After many jokes to keep the mood light and a quick tour of Frankfurt, the team finally arrived in Tallinn 33 hours after departing Denver.
Tired but ready to work, the team began our Gives Back projects by serving underprivileged and mostly homeless people at a soup kitchen in Tallinn. While Joel works to continuously improve and monitor MC User Connect content for Maintenance Connection, among other projects, he also regularly helps at this same soup kitchen with Serve the City. The entire team pitched in, running soup, bread, and smiles to almost 200 people who don’t often have much to smile about. It was an incredibly rewarding experience for the team and met such a basic but critical need in the community where Joel lives.
Following clean up at the soup kitchen, the team piled onto a train to take a 3 hour rail ride to the far south of Estonia, to a little village very close to the southern border with Latvia called Voru. While Tallinn is the quintessential European village, from the narrow, cobble-stone streets to the centuries-old architecture, Voru was much smaller and far more rural. Through Joel’s connections in Estonia, MC discovered a small school in the Voru area had recently been cut off from government funding and had fallen into disrepair as a result. The local community recently decided to privatize the school and fund it locally, so MC was able to partner with their efforts to revitalize and renovate the school.
Realizing that the existing computer technology at the school was outdated (read: ancient) with mostly non-functioning software, MC elected to donate 20 brand new computers to the school, all running a clean copy of Windows and Microsoft Office 2013. In addition, MC donated two ceiling-mounted projectors and screens, as well as a brand new wide-area wireless router, completely updating and improving the school’s local wireless network.
Part of the team worked diligently for the next few days to prepare the computers for use by students and teachers, while another team worked on mounting the projectors and screens. Another part of the team installed brand new counter tops in the computer lab for the computers to be placed on, making the room much more functional and easier to move around versus the old desks scattered throughout the small room the school had previously.
Another part of the team was able to further the renovation project underway by painting the school’s gymnasium from top to bottom, including a section of the lower wall that the school wanted to be striped with the school colors. One day, while some of the team continued to work on the renovation projects, a few took a moment to have some fun and games with several of the kids who go to the school, working with the students on some crafts and playing hide and seek.
After several runs to the hardware store, some spilled paint, a lot of sweat and pushing through some jet lag, the team was able to turn over a brand new computer lab to the head master of the school. Her tears of joy and genuine appreciation made a trip half way around the world with significant delays entirely worth it.
Not only that, but through MC’s technology donations, this small community of children now have a capacity to learn and grow that is as good as anywhere in the world. The ripple effect of these students having technology like this at their disposal they otherwise may not have had access to will improve their opportunities in life in ways that are immeasurable.
After a bus ride back to Tallinn, the team caught quick a ferry ride north to Helsinki, Finland, and spent a day celebrating together and reflecting on all we accomplished.
Needless to say, the team was very fulfilled and rewarded, knowing that this small rural community in Eastern Europe will be forever changed thanks to Maintenance Connection.