When discovering and delivering new medical innovations, our people push through challenges, learning from failures and working collaboratively to adapt. That same resolve for solving tough health care challenges can also be found when serving our communities.
Year after year, AbbVie employees give back by making donations (matched by the AbbVie Foundation) to nonprofits and causes they support, and by volunteering throughout the year and during Week of Possibilities, our global week of community service events.
After a two-year pause due to the pandemic, in 2022, Week of Possibilities is back in-person for a seventh year. This year, approximately 15,000 employees in more than 50 countries are expected to volunteer in projects that will make a real impact in communities. Over the course of a week, volunteers will work with trusted community partners to complete hands-on projects aimed at strengthening local communities, expanding educational programs and making a positive environmental impact.
Among those participating this year are repeat volunteers. Get to know a few of them and hear how their dedication and creativity has delivered a meaningful impact and inspired them to continue to give back in 2022.
After first participating in Week of Possibilities in 2019, AbbVie associate scientist Essence Underwood was disappointed to learn the event had to be postponed due to the pandemic. Rather than see this as a moment to give up, she and other colleagues in our development sciences team chose to see it as a challenge – one they would eventually overcome. Reaching out to North Chicago Community Partners (NCCP), a nonprofit organization helping children meet their full potential, they set out to inspire students near AbbVie’s global headquarters virtually when in-person volunteering was not possible.
“We reached out to NCCP to say, ‘Help us help you innovate’ because we knew it wasn’t an option for us to simply not try,” Underwood said.
Through their collaborative partnership, they came up with multiple volunteering opportunities that would address community needs and could be facilitated virtually. This included hosting a career panel, which gave students the chance to interact one-on-one with our diverse scientists; building thank you kits for North Chicago teachers; and hosting a science day to get 3rd grade students excited about STEM.
“We had not done any of these kinds of things historically in my department, so one of the biggest obstacles in the beginning was just figuring out where to start,” Underwood says. “Once things were underway, we also had to learn how to engage students who were experiencing challenges of their own while studying remotely, such as an unstable home environment or poor internet access. Throughout the experience, our resolve, flexibility and compassion is what really enabled us to continue to serve.”
Anticipating the return of Week of Possibilities, Underwood is all the more excited.
“I’m looking forward to building on what we’ve learned in the past to hopefully make an even greater impact in our community,” she said.
Like many people at AbbVie, Gilberto Cruz-Jiménez, an IT manager in Puerto Rico, has been a volunteer for just about as long as he can remember.
“Since I was a kid, my parents raised me to always look for ways to be of help to others,” he said.
Since joining AbbVie, Cruz-Jiménez has helped organize new ways to personally give back to the community by partnering with nonprofits and fellow colleagues. Their team started out small, with just a handful of people taking the initiative to coordinate events, but over the years has grown – as has their impact. From making repairs to safe houses for victims of abuse and supporting the basic needs of orphan children, employees across both commercial and operations teams in Puerto Rico have rallied to support their community.
“People here really want to help. It’s just amazing to see and makes me proud to work here,” Cruz-Jiménez said.
In 2019, Cruz-Jiménez and colleagues personally volunteered their time at Puerto Rico’s largest school for deaf people. Their task – to help paint the basketball court and to buy an additional projector, since there was only one for the entire school. But, when the day of service arrived, they were rained out, cutting the project short. Rather than leave the project partially done, Gilberto, his wife and another colleague showed up later in the week to finish the job and brought two new projectors along with them.
“The administrator was surprised to see us come back, but we knew we had to. These kids and our community deserve our best,” Cruz-Jiménez said.
Since Week of Possibilities first began, Judy Low has not only been a volunteer but also acted as a coordinator. Having helped organize events and oversee activities as part of AbbVie public affairs in her earlier role and now, in international communications for Allergan Aesthetics, she knows that things don’t always go right all the time – but has always been impressed by how people have rallied together in a pinch.
On one occasion volunteers had planned an event to grocery shop with underprivileged children, but health issues caused the event to be cancelled with little notice.
“This left us with 20 volunteers who were ready but had nowhere to go,” said Low.
The team quickly adapted. With the help of their nonprofit partner, they pivoted to host an event doing pottery with youth who have special needs.
“People were willing to jump in right away. This is the wonderful thing about our volunteers - they come together to make things happen and are flexible and open to serving in whatever way is needed,” she said. “Looking back at how much we were able to achieve together these past years, I’m excited about what more we can do this year.”
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