When I signed up for the CIIP, I was looking for an adventure. I knew I was going to a place I had never been before – a place most tourists don’t go. I knew I was going to work with nine other Celanese employees that I didn’t know. I knew I was going to help someone else and make the world a little better.

About a month before we left, we were told which NGO (non-governmental organization, a.k.a. charity) we would be working with and what they wanted us to do.  Rick, Barry and I got a “Scope of Work” that was two paragraphs. It said Casa Betesda’s registration, inventory and donation systems were all on paper and they wanted them computerized so they could use the data more easily.  Sounded very reasonable for a four week assignment, right? A few excel spreadsheets, teach them how to filter and make pivot tables for reports and we’d be done. Was I wrong!

When we got there and started work, I got my adventure! No one at our NGO spoke English.  Every question had to be translated into Portuguese. Every answer had to be translated back into English by our wonderful college student volunteers. Then, we realized sometimes our translators weren’t translating; sometimes they were interpreting which changed what we thought Casa Betesda needed. Turns out they knew how to use email and Word but not Excel. They didn’t want to enter data into a spreadsheet, they wanted a data entry form.  They wanted to click on a button and have reports print.  We didn’t say “we don’t know how to do that.” We put our heads down and started teaching ourselves how to program.  We reached out to our Celanese colleagues for help (many thanks to all!).  We spent hours watching YouTube videos. We even found a local programmer willing to help out!  The three of us were aligned on our reason for being there, we were empowered to make it happen, and we were committed to making it a success.

Our group had to stretch ourselves beyond our wildest dreams.  I can spend three hours describing what happens inside a micelle in one of our emulsion polymers, but I didn’t know anything about building user forms or search functions. Barry can find the cheapest source of stainless steel pipe in Asia, but he didn’t have any experience designing a system to make sure Casa Betesda had enough meat to feed the patients. Rick can spot a safety hazard at 20 paces and convince you why it needs corrected, but he had no experience getting three Brazilian women who were shouting at each other to slow down long enough for the translator to catch up so he could help them. This led to some frustration, lots of laughter and a few tears; but we did it together.  We picked each other up when things didn’t go as planned, and we got it done.

We started as three individuals, working toward a common purpose.  We left a team, capable of achieving anything we set our minds to.

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of 10 blog posts by team members of the first Celanese International Impact Program to Uberlandia, Brazil.