Supporting the Epilepsy Foundation!

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Over the weekend I volunteered at the Houston Zoo to help the Epilepsy Foundation with their fundraising event. The Epilepsy Foundation is a great organization that provides free medical care and support to people with epilepsy. I found the event through the Hewlett-Packard community outreach program, and I’m glad that I was able to participate. Not only was I able to help the program run smoothly, but it was a fun learning experience overall. I went in with no expectations, and left very satisfied with the work I did. The event actually made me more willing to participate in future community service events!

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This was actually my first community service event through the HPE program, so I was already pretty excited beforehand. I woke up without a problem and arrived at the Houston Zoo at approximately 6:45 AM. When I arrived, there wasn’t that many people in the area. I found a table marked “for volunteers” that was completely un-manned, but pro-actively signed in and put on a volunteer t-shirt. After locating an on-site manager, I got assigned to work the registration desk. After about 30 seconds of training, I began registering people for the event.

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The registration tasks were pretty simple. I was given several booklets, and whenever a registered user would come, I would cross out their name. I also gave each registered user a zoo ticket and a colored wristband. Purple for people with epilepsy, silver for people without. I helped a couple hundred people register into the event that day and only made a couple mistakes, but those were due to insufficient training. I’m surprised how fast the time passed! You would think that manning a registration desk would be super boring, but interacting with so many people and providing customer service is something I haven’t done in years. It got really crazy between the hours of 7 and 8am, when people were rushing to make the event on time.

After the registration period ended, I headed over to the Zoo Pavilion area. There was a little bit of wait time here (people were still strolling), so I was able to walk around and look at the animals. The last time I came to this zoo, they were still building out the gorilla exhibit. I was excited to check it out this time, and through pure luck, they released the gorillas for feeding! I was inches away from young gorillas, who were eating food out of some feeders. It was my first time seeing gorillas so close! It’s hard to emphasize how excited I was, but I’m sure it shows in the picture.

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After my short break, I headed to the main after-party area to continue my volunteer work. I got assigned to the glitter tattoo station, which meant painting glitter tattoos on children. At first I was a bit wary, since I had zero experience with this kind of thing, but like my previous assignment I just went for it headfirst. My first kid wanted a glitter tattoo on her face, so I applied the stencil and painted. When I finished, I was relieved to see how happy she was with my work. It gave me the confidence I needed to tattoo dozens of additional children over the next couple hours. At the end of my shift we raised about $130, with each glitter tattoo costing $1. About half of those were done by yours truly. It felt pretty awesome to make so many children smile!

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Doing the Elvis pose

By 11:30am the zoo was mostly free of event participants, so I said goodbye to my fellow volunteers and left. Overall it was a great experience, and I will definitely volunteer again next year if possible!

HPE’s charitable online service is amazing

I just finished using HPE’s online charity service, and I am extremely impressed without how streamlined the website is! I was able to send a donation, sign up for some local community service activities, and last but not least, receive receipts for everything. The craziest part is that HPE hasn’t even been a company for that long! We only became a company about 6 months ago, so to see this kind of service up and running is awesome. It’s kind of too bad that this service is only for employees…if HPE managed to expand it somehow for everybody, that would be even more impressive!

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My donation was sent to Wikipedia, because I use it practically every day. It’s a non-profit source of information that has dramatically made my life better, and I hope that it will continue to succeed without the influence of any corporate sponsors. The volunteer activity that I signed up for supports the Epilepsy Foundation.