November, 2012

  • Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for War Child

    Nancy Rademaker, Microsoft Netherlands



    At the end of 2011, four Microsoft Netherlands employees came up with the idea of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and soon the enthusiasm spread around the office as others also joined.

    The four pioneers decided to steer this project towards supporting a good youth cause and given the partnership with War Child in the Netherlands, the choice was simple. War Child is an international NGO protecting children from the consequences of armed conflict and helping them get access to education. Inspired by work of War Child and their incredible mission helping the most vulnerable youth in some of the world’s most difficult circumstances, the Kili Explorer project took off!

    At first it was decided that twenty people could join the expedition, but this soon rose to fifty. Meetings were held to clarify the goal for the expedition, namely raising $300,000 for War Child – translating into each participant committing to raise $6,000.

    A couple of days after registration for the Kili Explorer project started in the beginning of February, all of the available slots were taken and the journey which would lead to the actual expedition in September could begin.

    As for me, I only heard of this initiative two weeks after enrollment began and so I was too late. Or at least I thought I was. Luckily a number of people withdrew so I was able to join, even though I was twelfth on the waiting list!

    Immediately, two questions popped into my mind: how do I prepare for such an adventure and how on earth am I going to raise $6,000? Both turned out to be quite a challenge, but no challenge has ever kept me from acting upon it, so I decided to just get started.

    Preparing to climb Africa's highest peak and the world's highest free-standing mountain at 19,340 feet above sea level is not a simple task. Although it is said that Mount Kilimanjaro is a relatively easy ascent, the sheer height can do awkward things with the human body. So how do you prepare for this climb in a country as flat as ours? The only advice we got was: walk, walk, and walk. We had to make sure to walk quite often – at least two or three times a week – and to try and extend the distance over time. So far so good; I bought myself new hiking boots and started walking!

    Raising funds was the tough part each one of us had to stretch himself (or herself) to reach the desired goal. Speaking for myself, I put in a lot of effort trying to convey the message to as many people as possible by starting my own blog and making use of social media to draw attention to it. After five months of hard work I reached my goal and during the summer I even managed to exceed it. I wasn’t alone and we easily reached our $300,000 goal.

    For War Child, it is the highest amount of money ever collected through a private initiative and of course they were very pleased with this result. As Marco Borsato, a very famous singer in the Netherlands and the best known ambassador of War Child, said: “I get goose bumps all over when I realize that you have given us the opportunity to help over 21,000 children in Northern Uganda who are living with or recovering from the effects of armed conflict. War Child makes a lasting impact by protecting children from violence and offering psychosocial support and education. We unleash the children’s inner strength with our creative and involving approach. And inspire as many people as we can to participate in our cause.”

    One of War Child’s objectives is to increase the quality of education for children, which of course also corresponds with our Microsoft YouthSpark initiative.

    “Education is a right and an opportunity for development and self-sufficiency. It gives a sense of hope and future prospect and strengthens constructive coping. In conflict-affected areas educational services and facilities are often destroyed, or seriously underdeveloped. War Child trains teachers in pedagogical skills and (re-) establishes (non-formal) educational facilities for children in conflict-affected areas, which also gives them a sense of normalcy.”


    On September 6th our journey to Mount Kilimanjaro began. It took us four days to reach the top. Never in my life have I pushed my boundaries as far and as often as I did then. The last part of the climb started at eleven o’clock at night and so we covered most of the distance of this last stretch in the dark. It was truly a remarkable, fantastic, lonely, exhausting, inconceivable experience! Climbing at such a height leaves you with almost no energy because of the lack of oxygen and we all had to appeal to our own perseverance to reach the top.


    Finally getting there – for me at half past seven, after watching the most impressive sunrise and quite a bit later than the first ones – was awesome and basically indescribable. I took a deep breath, admired the 360° view and tried to conceive what we had accomplished. To be honest, I didn’t succeed in realizing that. It took me another two weeks back home before I ‘landed’ and all my colleagues admitted they experienced this same feeling.


    It was truly a once in a lifetime experience and all of us are full of feelings of pride and a great sense of achievement.

    We would like to encourage all of our colleagues worldwide to start similar projects!





  • Announcing the Windows 8 Apps for Good Contest


    Do you have an idea to help people better track their energy usage? Do you want to help students learn math or science? Have an idea about how to track online donations? Show us how Windows 8 apps can help the world and you can win up to US$15,000.

    To celebrate the launch of Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8, Microsoft announced a new contest to encourage developers to create apps that positively impact the world around them. From clean energy to improving access to education, developers have the chance to use technology as an agent of change.

    For the purposes of the contest, Microsoft Citizenship defines a social good application as “a good or service that provides some sort of benefit to the general public and doesn’t solely exist to provide the maximum possible return to shareholders.” Some examples of social issues include clean water, literacy, food security and a healthy environment. These are all issues that can be aided through the creative use of technology, including apps.

    Contest Information

    There are 3 key steps to entering the Windows 8 Apps for Good contest:

    1. Create a Windows 8 app focused on social good (see definition above)
    2. Publish the app on the Windows Store or Windows Phone Store
    3. Register the application project on the contest website

    The contest begins Nov. 5, 2012 and all entries are due by Feb. 28, 2013. After the contest ends, Microsoft Citizenship will open up the entries for public voting, which will end March 15, 2013. The contest winners will be announced March 25, 2013.

    Need help? For the purposes of this contest, Microsoft Citizenship recommends the TechSoup Hacker Help Wiki as a reference. You can also find Windows 8 developer tools on MSDN and be sure to check out the Microsoft YouthSpark Hub for additional resources.

    Good Luck and Happy Coding!

  • Update: Supporting Hurricane Sandy Relief Efforts - November 2nd 2012

    Akhtar Badshah, Senior Director, Citizenship & Public Affairs, Microsoft

    Our thoughts and best wishes are with all those impacted by Hurricane Sandy which earlier this week left a devastating trail across the eastern region of the United States.  While relief and recovery efforts are well underway there remains much to do.

    There’s been an incredible response from individuals and corporations in supporting nonprofits and government agencies undertaking relief efforts. 

    Microsoft has been closely supporting our impacted employees in the region, while our Disaster Response team has been providing support and services for first responders, nonprofit relief agencies, customers and partners, and citizens in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

    From a corporate perspective, we have committed cash donations to the American Red Cross and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City along with in-kind donations of software, hardware and services to support relief efforts, altogether totaling $2.5 million.

    We’re continuing to work closely with a number of nonprofits who are actively responding including:

    The Microsoft ReadyReach portal is providing the latest information on how and where to donate goods, support nonprofit relief agencies, and access resources on aid and assistance. 

    We’re committed to continuing to support the incredible work being done on the ground to restore services and help people recover.

    For all the latest news and information on post-storm efforts follow FEMA.

    Another great resource is the American Red Cross’s Hurricane App. It provides great information about hurricanes, what to do immediately afterwards, and location-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) alerts.

    Access the ReadyReach portal to find out ways you can help.

  • Helping our veterans starts in our local communities

    Michael Allen, Chief of Staff, US Public Sector, Microsoft


    Do you know a veteran? There’s a good chance you do but may not realize it.

    I bet some of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy met some when the National Guard and Marines arrived to help.

    There is a long history of military service in my family. I had two great uncles that fought in WWII. One landed on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day Invasion and was severely wounded. My great aunt, his sister, put her life on hold and took care of him for the rest of his life. The other flew P-51 fighters over Europe.

    image   My parents met while they both were in the Air Force. My brother-in-law was an Air Force Academy graduate and flew F-4 fighters. My sister’s world changed drastically when an Air Force sedan pulled up to our house with a chaplain and public affairs officer to tell us he had been killed during a training mission over South Korea.

    My wife’s cousin was a cadet at West Point and served during the Iraq War and my nephew went through Officer Candidate School and led a platoon in the Afghanistan War.

    I thought I was an expert on all things related to our veterans but I wasn’t. I’m still not, but living outside Washington DC I have been fortunate to learn more from some amazing people that are helping and from those that have served. I have had the privilege of meeting many veterans that served during WWII, Korea, Vietnam and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I have met wounded warriors and talked with their families about the sacrifices they were making. I have met homeless veterans, those that are struggling with unseen wounds, some feel guilty that they survived and some were fortunate enough to serve and come home safe. They all served for personal reasons and the one common quality I have noticed in all of them is pride; pride in our country and pride in their service. As a nation, we are blessed by those that have stepped up to serve.

    One of the most important facts that I have learned is that our veterans come home to communities, not commands. When our wounded warriors come home to heal it isn’t just about the hospital or the veterans center, it’s their community that steps forward and has the services they need to reclaim their lives.   image

    Every community play a central role as our veterans, our wounded, their families, and the families of the fallen transition back to civilian life but many aren’t ready to meet their unique needs.

    Fortunately there are organizations that are stepping forward to help. Organizations like Easter Seals, the USO, TAPS, Operation Mend, Fisher House, Hope for the Warriors and others are working to help communities provide those essential services. Another important area of need is employment and that’s where corporate America can step in and help and many have. Companies like Disney, American Airlines, Home Depot, Sears, JP Morgan Chase and my company, Microsoft, have special programs for our veterans. Microsoft has a strong veteran’s community and has created We Still Serve, which helps veterans understand how their skills translate to jobs at Microsoft as well as the Elevate America Veterans Initiative, providing no cost IT skills training and certification for veterans and cash donations to organizations that are helping them.

    image   Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Michael Mullen started a grass roots effort called the Sea of Goodwill to bring public and private solutions together to help our veterans. He truly understood that the challenges facing our veterans were too great for the government or a handful of companies to solve alone.

    The current Chairman, General Martin Dempsey has continued this effort. We need everyone leaning forward to fill the gaps in services and opportunities.

    So what can you do? It’s pretty easy actually…listen to them.  Listen to their stories and their experiences.  I started an organization, Homefront Heroes, that creates short documentaries to share stories from the wounded warrior community and may be a good place to start. You can also give back as one neighbor to another by being a mentor or introducing them to your network of contacts and give to an organization in your community because that's who they come home to and where they live.

    Our veterans are pretty awesome. They make sacrifices many of us don’t realize and their families endure situations civilians never experience. We can give back and thank them for their sacrifices and it
    will make a difference.


    Interested in reading more about Veterans? Read the latest issue of MSN Causes!


  • Giving Back: A New Post-Thanksgiving Tradition

    By Microsoft Citizenship Team


    The holiday season is quickly approaching and like many, you are likely already thinking about upcoming holiday activities, family gatherings, and yes – shopping!

    But the holiday season is about more than just getting ‘stuff’. It’s also about giving thanks and giving back. And that’s why we are proud to be a founding partner of #GivingTuesday—a movement that will transform the giving season by helping communities in need around the world.

    What is #GivingTuesday?

    #GivingTuesday is a new national day of giving that will kick off the holiday season. This year, it will be on November 27. On that day, charities, families, businesses and individuals will change the way people think about, talk about and participate in the giving season. #GivingTuesday will support hundreds of nonprofit organizations helping people around the world.

    How is Microsoft involved?

    Recently, we launched a companywide initiative called Microsoft YouthSpark. The goal of YouthSpark is to create opportunities for 300 million youth around the world over the next three years by empowering young people to imagine and realize their full potential. As part of YouthSpark, we created Give for Youth, a micro-giving portal that makes it easy for people to fund and follow youth around the world.

    On #GivingTuesday, when a donor (somebody like you) makes a donation on Give for Youth, Microsoft will match that donation dollar for dollar, up to a total of $100,000. In this way, we hope to play a small part in transforming the holiday season into the giving season for those with the greatest needs.

    Wondering how to get involved?

    It’s simple. On November 27th your family, community, company or organization can all get in on the giving. Please tell everyone you can about what you are doing this giving season and why it matters. If you want to get involved with what we’re doing at Microsoft, simply make a donation to your favorite youth project at, and we’ll match your donation—you give a dollar, we give a dollar and we fund a lot of dreams. You can also follow the conversation online by tracking #GivingTuesday.

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