Equality Health University Interns Assemble More Than 2,000 Smile Bags with Esperança Inc.
By Johanna Klaiman, Equality Health Marketing Intern
Equality Health aims to create a world in which everyone has equal access to quality healthcare. Through the Cultural Care Model, a whole-person healthcare delivery system, Equality Health is dedicated to making value-based care more accessible. One step to achieving these goals is to work jointly with partners who also want to build healthy communities.
Esperança Inc. is driven by hope, fitting given that Esperança means hope in Portuguese. The nonprofit works to end health inequities amongst the communities they are involved in. Through programs on the ground, disease prevention, and health education, Esperança helps communities in six different countries throughout Central America, South America, Africa, and North America.
Their Phoenix headquarters provides the perfect opportunity for collaboration between Esperança and Equality Health. The two are partners through LINQAZ, a community resources network that connects organizations to improve the health of the community. Equality Health, like Esperança, believes that, in order to provide accessible value-based care to the community, you must actually go into the community. Equality Health “puts their money where their mouth is” by offering paid time off (PTO) to encourage its employees to volunteer.
“Providing time off for employees to volunteer aligns with our core values and our ongoing commitment to our community at large,” explains Kim Samuel, Senior Vice President, People and Culture at Equality Health. “We provide our Volunteer Time Off (VTO) benefit so that employees have the option during normal work hours to give of their time and talents – whether it be as a team activity through work, volunteering at their children’s school, or just taking time to give to their favorite non-profit.”
On June 18, the Equality Health University (EHU) 2021 Intern class had the opportunity to take advantage of the VTO benefit when they helped pack nearly 2,400 smile bags at Esperança’s headquarters. Over the course of two hours and through an assembly line reliant on teamwork, the interns packaged toothbrushes, toothpaste, and floss for dental kits. These kits will be provided to members of the Phoenix community at Esperança’s oral health classes throughout the summer. To explain just how important these bags are, Tiffany Luu, Esperança Development Manager, began the morning by sharing that when a young boy received his toothbrush he said, “You mean I don’t have to share with my brother?”
Asha Devineni, EHU Emerging Markets Intern, explains that the focus on the local community is what makes volunteer events like this especially impactful. “It was gratifying to assemble dental hygiene kits that will be distributed in the communities we strive to serve.”
“This experience is something I’ll cherish because we were able to see directly how our work will impact the lives of so many people,” says Alisha Thomas, EHU Business Development Intern.
After two hours of work, the 2,370 smile bags packaged will likely only last a few weeks due to high demand for these resources. While this could lead one to think that their volunteer work isn’t doing much, it instead inspires the interns to volunteer even more. “This experience made me want to volunteer more often and help out in any way possible,” says Alisha.
All the interns agree that the experience not only served to help the community, but also to create bonds amongst the interns. Carlos Torres-Romero, EHU People and Culture Intern, says that “the team building we had was probably a highlight,” which Asha and Alisha both echo. Evidence of this bond is clear as the debate about which assembly line packaged more kits lasts long into lunch.
The chance to get away from the desk and go out into the community is an opportunity that the interns don’t take for granted; they understand the rarity of a company providing such an opportunity. Carlos explains that, between school and work, finding time to volunteer is difficult. “The fact that a company is able to offer this time for employees to work in the community is amazing, most companies don’t do that. It’s nice to have a company want to provide you with that time to volunteer.”