Finance Gives

Skills-Based Volunteering Changes Lives and Touches Hearts

Finance GIVEs (Global Initiative for Volunteerism and Engagement), is a skills-based volunteer program bringing advanced financial and procurement expertise to Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation grantee partners in Africa. Capacity building is a core component of the Foundation programs and Finance GIVEs has helped more than 30 nonprofit partners improve financial and management systems, supporting their delivery of critically needed services in their communities.

At the same time, the program has changed the lives of the Bristol-Myers Squibb colleagues who volunteer as ambassadors to serve three-week assignments working in Africa with the leaders and staff of grantee organizations.

“Serving as an ambassador was a rewarding, humbling and very emotional experience,” Mara Davella, head of finance for Bristol-Myers Squibb Brazil, says. “I have tremendous gratitude for being able to work with people who, despite severe challenges, fight for a better future for themselves and their communities.”

One of the nonprofits Mara worked with was Sex Workers Education & Advocacy Taskforce (SWEAT), South Africa’s leading sex workers' human rights organization.

“HIV infection and cervical cancer rates are incredibly high among sex workers in South Africa,” Mara says, “It was moving to work with people who dedicate their lives to fight for the human rights of this group, to make lives a bit less painful in a society where they are particularly marginalized.”

Mara also worked with Children’s Radio Foundation, which uses radio training and broadcast to create opportunities for youth dialogue, community building and leadership, and for YPGOL - Young Positive Generation of Lesotho, a nonprofit that conducts positive speaking sessions about HIV in schools and communities and encourages young people to get tested.

Working with the nonprofits, Mara was inspired by the energy and innovative thinking she saw. “The staff found ways to help people despite limited resources, terrific challenges and hardships. That inspired me and my colleague to use our expertise to help them even more.”

As rewarding as her experience was, it was also bittersweet. “Working with such extraordinary people makes it extraordinarily difficult to say goodbye,” Mara says.

Another ambassador, Nakhli Khoury, a finance professional based in Israel, was so moved by his experience, he decided not to say goodbye. He is now partnering with other volunteers to form an Ambassador Alumni program to continue helping the organizations they worked with through Finance GIVEs.

“Every ambassador has come away from the experience with a commitment to continue to help others. We’re working to find a way to make that happen,” Nakhli says.