Please join me in welcoming Wells Fargo team member Stephanie Hellman to the Environmental Forum. Stephanie leads our Consumer Debit Card Product Management, Customer Experience and Marketing team. She also is a winner of our company’s Volunteer Service Award program, which grants team members paid time away from work to support a cause they care about. We heard Stephanie’s story through our company news and wanted to share it with the Environmental Forum as an example of how an idea that starts small and close to home has the potential to make a huge difference. (PH)
When I heard that I was selected for our Volunteer Service Award, I was already in the West Bengal region of India performing the service I’d proposed in my application: preventing childhood death by teaching the importance of hand-washing.
Whether I was selected or not, this was a dream I was committed to fulfilling. Learning that my application was approved was an incredibly joyful moment I will never forget.
My idea started small. As the mother of three, I wanted to help my daughters understand their privilege in a way that wouldn’t make them feel guilty or ashamed. I came upon an idea we could connect with: water and the experiences of children in other countries.
In parts of the world without access to clean water, girls their age are responsible for fetching the water, which entails walking up to 5 miles each way with a five-gallon jerrycan that weighs 40 pounds when full. The trip can take all day, so it means they can’t go to school, and they often go alone, exposing them to dangers on the road.
Inspired by this story, I developed a “Hope for Water” event and presentation about the importance of access to clean water in cooperation with Blue Planet Network, which is a member organization that supports various global water efforts. Then, my daughters and I hosted events at their school and in our community, eventually raising enough to sponsor two wells.
The feedback from the kids, the community and Blue Planet was tremendous. It felt really good and I wanted to do more. The CEO of Blue Planet connected me with Project Well, and rather than being asked to dig wells, I was offered the opportunity to visit villages to raise awareness of the importance of hand-washing. I learned that, in India, diarrhea kills approximately 800,000 children under five every year and hand-washing with soap could prevent many of those deaths.
To prepare, I developed a presentation on hygiene and hand-washing. Then, over two weeks, I took my show on the road to India for Project Well, visiting six schools in Maslandapur, presenting to more than 1,050 children.
This has been a life-changing experience for me. I’ve always read about the Volunteer Service Program and dreamed about what I could do someday. Being part of it and experiencing our company’s commitment to supporting our global community has made me grateful and appreciative of being a Wells Fargo team member on a much deeper level.