Long Term Volunteer Is a Role Model for Diversity and Outreach

Bahram Maghsoudi, a senior managing consultant for Global Business Services at IBM Germany works with public sector clients all around the globe and designs new enterprise resource systems with them. But the most rewarding IT project he has worked on was helping a church-based non-profit home care service in rural Germany assess, upgrade and implement new technology.

“I started volunteering with Förderverein Diakoniestation Altenstadt-Glauburg-Limeshain – or Home Care Network – 17 years ago,” says Bahram. “When I turned 18, Germany had a draft and young men had the opportunity to get waived from the military by joining a 15 month “civil service” at a local non-profit of own choice. I did that and joined the Home Care Network and supported their accounting and bookkeeping team.”

The Lutheran Outpatient Home Care Network is affiliated with 26 area churches. The Home Care Network serves approximately 200 patients per year, who do not need to be church members. Most patients are elderly locals who are encouraged to stay in their homes instead of going to a nursing home. “Studies show that even care-dependent seniors fare much better in their houses than being hospitalized,” says Bahram.

An organization called a “sponsor’s club” supports the Home Care Network – the equivalent of their volunteer base and their board of directors. “The sponsor’s club is open to any local community member willing to provide support. We currently have 800 members and they mainly contribute financial donations—for example, providing co-funding for new apprentice nurses, securing good deals on cars or apparel, and other volunteer assistance to the network. The members provide a yearly financial contribution, but we also have one-time donors like IBM,” says Bahram.

Technology planning for the 21st century

As vice president of the sponsor’s club, a long-term volunteer, and an IBMer, Bahram was able to secure an IBM Open Demand Community Grant for the sponsor’s club so that they could upgrade the Home Care Network’s IT infrastructure. But first, Bahram used the Technology Planning Primer Activity Kit available on the IBM On Demand Community site.

“Using the Activity Kit, we did an inventory of all hardware, software, networks and licenses in place. The next step was a look at the website, its merits and flaws, etc,” Bahram says. He continues, “We then assessed existing IT skills and capabilities in the teams in order to gauge staff training needs. We also spoke to our vendors and asked how they might contribute to our planning activities.”

After this very thorough task, Bahram and team documented what they found. “The existing infrastructure was home grown and not really structured. We found numerous systems and network connections coexisting. In addition, the skills among the staff are quite limited—which would be an obstacle to implementing mobile computing and social networking.”

Bahram’s team identified areas for improvement and standardization including, updating the Home Care Network web site with an external local IT provider, providing IT trainings for Home Care Network employees (nurses, admin staff, management), and assessing and implementing social media for messaging and fundraising.

“With IBM's donation, we have already updated and relaunched the website, and provided IT training for the Home Care Network employees,” says Bahram.

The gift of time

Many of the patients the nurses see are octogenarians. “They are always worried they’ll be left behind technologically speaking,” Bahram relates. “But as soon as they see tangible tools, like a mobile device equipped with their picture they become curious and want to know everything about the equipment. One gentleman even asked whether we would now install a big computer at his home to power all these devices.”

All joking aside, the technology – along with the gift of time – “makes a big difference in my community,” Bahram says. “We have already had coverage from the local newspaper, and many new local folks joined our club due to our PR activities.”

Bahram also points to a unique aspect of this volunteer position. “As a Muslim, working in a mainly Christian organization is a great example of interfaith outreach and I hope it becomes a role model for diversity and multitude in the region.”

Using IBM skills at work and play

Bahram closes with a final thought about how his position at IBM has helped him be a better volunteer. “I use my IBM consulting skills when I give guidance and input for our board meetings, yearly assemblies and meetings with our management and external sponsors. In addition, I am able to phrase and translate the IT language into their business language in order to communicate effectively—also something I thoroughly do in my IBM job.”

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