A Marathon for Good: A Glimpse Into One Week of Transformative Volunteering at PIMCO

Sarah Middleton August 23, 2016 Employee Engagement

We welcome guest author Sarah Middleton, the Vice President of Global Corporate Citizenship at PIMCO, to share the successes and lessons learned from PIMCO’s 8th Annual Global Week of Volunteering.

PIMCO Tokyo volunteers sort used bottle caps to donate to Group MATE, which will turn the caps into funding for polio vaccines.

In the span of one week, from Sunday to Saturday, I decorated a young cancer patient’s room at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, packed JoyJars™ at the Jessie Rees Foundation, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless with SPIN, high-fived with first graders at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Orange Coast’s Mentor Day, and cleaned up the beach alongside OC Coastkeeper.

While I was decorating and packing and high-fiving, my PIMCO colleagues around the world were doing the exact same thing.

You see, we were all participating in PIMCO’s 8th Annual Global Week of Volunteering, one week of marathon volunteering for our 13 offices in 12 countries. And let me tell you: we had a most amazing, most impactful, most transformative experience.

One Week of Intense Volunteering

There’s just something about supercharging volunteering – it builds empathy and kindness really quickly. The energy around our PIMCO halls during Global Week of Volunteering was electric. Colleagues showed up to the office in our volunteer t-shirts, ready to dive into their spreadsheets and emails and phone calls and then dive into a volunteer project of their choice.

We’re a small firm, about 2,200 strong, and 40% of our workforce volunteered during Global Week. The ripple effects that have emerged from Global Week are moving and motivating.

But are you wondering what we did in the span of 168 hours? Let’s take a look:

In Hong Kong, our employee volunteers took children from The Bradbury Child Care Centre of Hong Kong Society for the Deaf ice skating. In London, our volunteers facilitated a workshop on basic IT skills to a group of adults living with learning disabilities. Munich volunteers refurbished a children’s playground in Neuhausen.

In our Newport Beach, CA headquarters, volunteers packaged 10,000 meals for Stop Hunger Now and helped students from the Blind Children’s Learning Center rotate through sensory activities at a local playground. High school students from Henry Street Settlement practiced their interview skills with our New York volunteers. And more New York volunteers reviewed student business proposals as part of NTFE‘s summer entrepreneurship incubator program.

In Rio, a handful of volunteers painted an area of Instituto Ensinando a Sorrir’s office so the rooms could be converted to Taekwondo and computer classrooms for local youth. Our Singapore colleagues took at-risk youth on a dragon boat outing.

OzHarvest hosted our Sydney volunteers for an afternoon of cooking meals for the hungry and homeless.  In Tokyo, volunteers spent time with residents of an elderly nursing home, and in Toronto, volunteers repaired and painted furniture at Furniture Bank. But this is just a sampling; in total, PIMCO colleagues participated in nearly 100 events.


PIMCO Munich volunteers take a photo break while building a new garden fence, building and decorating walkways, and gardening at a playground in Neuhausen, Germany.


Impact and Change

Toronto volunteers at Furniture Bank
PIMCO Toronto volunteers refurbish donated furniture at Furniture Bank.

One of our Milan colleagues wrote me after her volunteer experience at L’Abilitá, an organization that helps families and children with disabilities. This volunteer said, “It was a touching experience for all of us. We all have children and being in contact with these wonderful angels has raised thoughts and emotions we will never forget.”

A New York volunteer who helped coach youth at Covenant House on interview skills wrote: “I’m still a bit shaken by how much perspective one can gain from a two hour visit to a place 10 blocks away.”

A colleague from London also wrote about her experience serving meals at The Passage, an organization that provides care for the homeless: “[We had a] humble volunteer experience at The Passage. It was definitely a rewarding experience.”

Finding Caring and Compassion Through Volunteering

I can speak from experience when I say that volunteering can change a life; volunteering changed my life years ago. For many of us, we live in a developed world full of entitlements. And in our fast-paced environment, it’s all too easy to become impatient or insensitive. But when we volunteer, the entitlements swiftly vanish. We’re more patient, thoughtful, caring; we’re gentler people.

I love volunteering for the good it brings out in humanity; for the good it brings those who are hurting. I love corporate volunteering because, at its most basic, it is a force for good.


NB volunteers at Operation Clean Sla 2
PIMCO Newport Beach volunteers paint a mural at an elementary school in Santa Ana, CA with Operation Clean Slate.


Finding and Driving Purpose

At PIMCO, we seek purpose in our core work, and we also seek purpose by doing good outside of the firm – through Global Week of Volunteering and all of our volunteer engagement efforts. Purpose gives our mission a lens to look through; we have a singular focus to preserve and enhance our clients’ assets, and we are also intent on elevating society.

To the many, many corporate volunteer programs out there, thank you for being a global force for good and driving change.

As for me, I’m already looking forward to our 9th Annual Global Week in July 2017. Bring on the awesome volunteer projects – let’s build community and communities around the globe.

If you enjoyed this article, check out this post about how PIMCO builds leaders through global pro-bono programs