Victor Manuel Diaz
Victor Manuel Diaz (center)
outside a school on Chiloé
Island with Patricia Flores
(left) and Pamela Vega
from Vinculos Chiloé.

In Spanish, “Vinculos” means “connecting links.” However, for Victor Manuel Diaz Gonzalez, an engineering manager for IBM in Santiago, Chile, a more relaxed translation might be “pathway.”

Since 2013, Victor Manuel has volunteered on Chiloé Island, off the southwest coast of Chile, helping improve the computer skills and education of the citizens there—many of whom are related to the indigenous people of Chile (Chiloé means “place of seagulls” in the Huilliche language).

Now, as a volunteer with Vinculos Chiloé—an organization of professionals dedicated to the socio-community development of people, organizations and institutions of the Archipelago—he is, in a sense, helping Chilotes create pathways and links from their island, which is accessible only by plane or boat, to greater opportunities.

Victor Manuel received a 2017 IBM Volunteer Excellence award for his efforts.

Building a bridge

Since Chiloé was separated by water from the mainland, many of the local traditions have been preserved, making it an extraordinary cultural location.

“I have visited the south of Chile and especially the island of Chiloé almost every summer since I was very young,” says Victor Manuel. “I visit the island for its people. Ah, its people are wonderful.”

Yet because Chiloé is an island, the physical separation has created a slight gap in resources and opportunities.

In 2013, Victor Manuel started volunteering there with the Huilliches communities, spending his entire vacation helping them in various ways, including with education.

Three years later he was introduced to Vinculos Chiloé, which provided a platform for his volunteerism on Chiloé.

“Since 2006, Vinculos Chiloé has used enrichment and educational processes of empowerment, research, and training to guide personal, family and social projects for the economic and cultural support of Chilotes,” says Victor Manual.

Working with Patricia Flores,the director of Vinculos, and Pamela Vega, one of its coordinators, he used a series of IBM Activity Kits to help the organization’s staff and volunteers get better prepared for serving the community.

“I visited the headquarters in the city of Castro and began to work with the kits to improve their computer skills,” Victor Manuel says. “They are eager to learn about new ways of working and new technologies and strategies such as analytics.”

A grant changes things

As a former IBM Corporate Service Corps team member, Victor Manuel appreciates the impact technology can have on under-served communities.

He works with Vinculos counselors on the “Culture and Technology” project, whose purpose is to increase access to technology tools in the classroom to raise the awareness and curiosity of students.

“My first way of helping was to advise on IT issues, internet management, software and hardware to instruct classes,” he says.

And things changed even further when Vinculos was awarded an IBM Community Grant based on Victor Manuel's service. They acquired a few personal computers and printers with the grant, which were connected to the network this year.

Growing the dream

About 250 Chilotes a year take part in activities by Vinculos Chiloé and the objective is to create a permanent school.

“We hope that by implementing our computer room or multipurpose room, we will be able to teach basic computer skills so that students can use computer technology in everyday life and develop new social and economic opportunities for them, their families and their communities,” he says.

In the process, Vinculos Chiloé must be a robust, knowledgeable and sustainable organization to deliver programs to the community.

To that end, in 2018, Victor Manuel says one of his priorities has been attracting and involving more volunteers to the area.

“Smiling is my tool to appeal to other volunteers,” he laughs. “The main thing is my ability to speak—I talk too much, but I’m very passionate and when I share the results of our activities with others they are interested in participating.”

His leadership skills and technical knowledge, developed over a 21-year career at IBM has given him the expertise to help the team at Vinculos Chiloé in all areas of organization—continuing to prove that the most valuable “donation” to a non-profit or NGO is know-how.

He’s looking forward to working with them on time optimization, Internet security, access and work with social networks, and the use of metrics to measure results.

And it is the Chilotes who stand to gain.

“Chiloé is a dream,” Victor Manuel says. “It motivates me to simply see others happy. The opportunity that IBM gives me to volunteer where happiness is the result…that is a wonderful benefit.”

Victor Manuel Diaz Gonzalez is among 12 other IBM teams and individuals who are recipients of the thirteenth annual IBM Volunteer Excellence Award. The award is recognition from IBM Chairman and CEO Ginni Rometty and is the highest form of global volunteer recognition given by the company to employees.

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