CaimanCares: Reflecting on our past year of service

Photo of Raazi Imam

Growing up, my parents always encouraged us to spend time serving the community, whether it was visiting sick children and the elderly, supporting food drives, or volunteering at the local mosque. We spent a considerable part of our weekends and holidays in the service of others. It was something that was part of our “normal”, so I didn’t give much thought to prioritizing or planning to incorporating service into my life.

cares1Today, with work, family, and other obligations that seem to find their way into life and occupy more and more of my time, volunteering is something I have to make a conscious effort to do – otherwise, it would be very easy to deprioritize it or just let life push it out of the way.

One way I try keep it top of mind is through Caiman’s core value of Stewardship. While Stewardship includes having a “company/people first” mentality, serving the community is definitely part of the essence of it. I am constantly inspired by what our team does through CaimanCares, our internal stewardship & volunteerism initiative. Our consultants are so passionate and engaged through our work and outside of work, and CaimanCares is one concerted effort we make to be inclusive and engaging with the many organizations we partner with in the communities we work. And for this I want to thank Nicky Shane, Rebecca Lashley, and Robert Nelson, who lead our CaimanCares initiative, and Will Sharick and Michael Cohen for your consistent and dedicated support.

cares2This year our team supported four major causes: Illness Prevention & Treatment, Environment, Education & Mentoring, and Homelessness & Housing.

The range of activities we participated in was vast. We racked nonindigenous grasses up and mulched a butterfly garden with Don Edwards San Francisco Bay Wildlife Foundation and supported King County Parks at the Big Backyard 5K. In Seattle, we prepared and served lunch and listened to stories at the Puget Sound Veteran’s Hospital on St. Patrick’s Day, followed by our Bay Area Caimanites serving dinner to 60 veterans and their loved ones staying in the Defenders Lodge – a short-term residence for veterans undergoing outpatient procedures. Our consultants also led afterschool STEM activities at local Boys and Girls Clubs.

Following our annual meeting in Maui, Caimanites flew shelter animals to the mainland through Maui Humane Society’s Wings of Aloha program to help address the Hawaiian Islands challenge with overpopulation of stray dogs and cats. These examples show that there are many incredible ways to learn and grow from service, and contribute to your community. I am excited to participate in what we have planned for 2018!

cares3Considering how much time our team has spent on volunteering this year, it is important to answer a key question: what is the value of doing all this? Are we getting press? Does it help us with recruiting? Does it make our consultants better at their jobs?

The answer is far more complex than a yes or no for any of these questions, but I believe that volunteering and participating in programs like CaimanCares benefits our team in a number of ways.

People that volunteer are healthier and happier. Studies have shown that volunteers live longer and have better mental health. When we are healthier and happier, we are better to our families and better at our jobs resulting in huge social and economic benefits for the individuals and those they collaborate with as well.

Exposure to experiences makes us more creative thinkers. When people have exposure to new and different experiences, our diversity of thought increases which allows us to better empathize with people and situations. This makes us more grounded human beings and better consultants. We are able to look at problems from different perspectives and find more creative solutions.

Volunteerism has connections to design thinking. Design thinking is a way of applying design methods to problem solving and innovation for competitive advantage – starting first by empathizing and observing multiple views for a more comprehensive understanding of challenges and pain points. Many of the volunteer activities gives us this opportunity to empathize, sympathize, and observe.

This all sounds great! Everybody should get involved in what we are doing today, right? But there's an important catch in all of this. Dr. Michael Poulin, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Buffalo in New York, says, “Helping appears to only be good for you if you really care about those you’re helping.” In other words, feeling resentment or obligation will erase the benefits that we might otherwise receive in both our emotions and our physiology. So, only support those causes that you have a passion for. While I believe supporting causes one feels a personally affinity for is critical, I also think it is important to explore new experiences. How does one know what they have a passion for if they haven’t ever tried it?

I want to leave you with a quote that really resonates for me: “Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – Marjorie Moore.

Hope to see you at a CaimanCares event in 2018!