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Celebration of Service

One father’s gratitude leads to 150+ volunteers

Marcelo Zuccas helps disabled children train as swimmers for the para-olympics

IBM employees start volunteering for many different reasons. For Marcelo Zuccas, vice president, Business Partner and Alliances for Latin America, it was very personal. Two years ago, his 17-year-old daughter had an accident and broke her spine. After major surgery (which included the insertion of eight screws) she was very fortunate to completely recover in just a few months.

That’s when Marcelo discovered the Association of Assistance to Disabled Children (AACD), which is dedicated to helping physically disabled children recover and reintegrate into society, and is one of the largest non-profit organizations in Brazil. “After understanding the potential issues our family could have faced if the recovery had not been so successful, I wanted to help the families of children who did not have the same luck we had,” explained Marcelo.

After two years volunteering on his own, Marcelo wanted to share the rewarding experience with a few close friends He proposed a service project with AACD that was aligned with IBM’s Centennial Celebration of Service, and was overwhelmed when 157 people signed up to volunteer, all willing to use their IBM skills to generate projects to make AACD more effective.

The volunteers, with a diverse mix of technical and business skills, have already made a huge impact. They automated AACD’s prosthesis factory using IBM software, developed a backup recovery systems plan for the organization, and started a sports program to generate a competitive para-olympic team for the children.

Because of the team’s efforts, AACD was awarded a $10,000 Celebration of Service Catalyst Grant that is being used to continue to reduce costs and provide better services for patients. AACD plans to expand health care and orthopedic factory services for other non-profit institutions and private companies to generate more revenue, increase their capacity and help more citizens.

“Every Monday, Marcelo Zuccas makes the transition from an IBM executive to ‘Uncle Marcelo’ when he arrives at the aquatic therapy pools,” explained Joao Octaviano, AACD’s executive director.

The supervisor of sports rehabilitation at AACD, Edna Garcez, added, “His link with the children is something unusual. They bask in his love and confidence in them.”

Marcelo’s personal commitment not only helps the children he loves, but it has inspired scores of volunteers and transformed the organization. He truly believes that people can change the world through love and caring and AACD provides the tools to make that happen.

He has two roles at AACD – to help children with brain paralysis get in the water and potentially swim; and to help the swimming para-athletes team succeed. What does he say to get other people to consider volunteering at AACD? “I do not need to speak much,” Marcelo says. “People tell me that they can read in my eyes how important it is.”

IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.