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People first, energy forward

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People first, energy forward

November 28, 2023

Baker Hughes works to support its employees, as they foster a sense of shared responsibility for the common good.

 

When Eric Bracho, University Recruitment Manager for Baker Hughes in Latin America (LATAM) added a volunteering event to the schedule for 59 soon-to-be graduate engineers visiting the company’s facilities this year, he was blown away by the enthusiasm with which these prospective employees embraced the activity. “We got such amazing feedback,” he says. “The students had been on visits to technology companies in the past, but they said adding a volunteer experience really shows the values of Baker Hughes — I’m still getting notes about it being a great initiative.”

Based on the southeast coast of Mexico, Baker Hughes’ Ciudad del Carmen facility is the LATAM regional center and the company’s largest facility in Mexico to support offshore operations. ‘’We hire about 50 interns annually there and about 300 in the whole region’’ says Bracho. He was organizing the day for students visiting from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) and Universidad Juarez Autónoma de Tabasco (UJAT), when he heard a few colleagues talking about a plastics-collection group that sells what they gather to a recycler on the outskirts of Mexico City, and donates the funds to support children being treated for cancer.

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Students visit the Baker Hughes Ciudad del Carmen facility in Mexico

 

The money is used to buy medicines, and to help the families who bring their children to city hospitals. These families often live on the streets nearby without the means to even pay for food.

Bracho decided to have the students, accompanied by around 18 Baker Hughes employees, clean up and sort the garbage at Playa Norte, one of the local beaches. Among the debris, which Bracho says is washed in by the sea or left by people who visit the beach, they collected 70 lb (32 kg) of plastic. The recyclers, non-government organization Fundación AYABS, gave a talk to the students about how it is working to solve the dual challenges of accumulating waste and the cost of healthcare for kids with cancer. “It’s absolutely a win-win,” says Bracho.

Baker Hughes Mexico after beach clean
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Students and Baker Hughes employees volunteer at beach clean event in Mexico

 

In almost every jurisdiction where Baker Hughes operates, government resources are stretched, community facilities may be crumbling, and people are in need. To bring to life its value of caring for communities wherever it operates, the company has programs in place that recognize and award grants for employee volunteering. On top of that, the Baker Hughes Foundation financially supports employee-nominated causes, matching employee donations to recognized charities.

 

How to “Play with your city and enjoy your life”

On Italy’s Adriatic coast, a Baker Hughes Project Engineer, Fabrizio Milone, coordinates the efforts of “Retake”, which aims to restore the amenity and beauty of public places in his hometown, the historic city of Bari. 

Before and After photos of Retake Bari

 

Retake is not a registered or recognized charity; it has no administrative center — “Officially, we do not exist,” says Milone. Rather it’s a “spontaneous movement” started in Rome by Rebecca Spitzmiller, a US expat and Professor of Law at University Roma Tre who responded to the buildup of garbage and the scourge of vandalism in her own Rome neighborhood, by cleaning up and beautifying. Many people who observed her personal efforts wanted to participate. 

Before and After photos Retake Bari 2

 

The movement is now active throughout Italy, where citizens initiate and undertake improvement projects, sometimes in collaboration with public or private organizations. Volunteers are mobilized via social media. In 2019, Spitzmiller was awarded the highest honor of the Italian Republic, the Order of Merit, by Italy’s President, Sergio Mattarella, for her public service.

“We are very proud of this,” says Milone, who has been coordinating the efforts of Retake Bari for the past seven years. “In Italy in general,” he explains, “there is decay, probably due to the fact that there is not enough money for the government to maintain all the squares, the gardens, the buildings. So, without volunteers, it is almost impossible to have all these places in good shape so that citizens can enjoy them. But thanks to Rebecca, the Retake movement is consolidated in many cities.”

Retake Bari volunteers
Fabrizio (4th from the right) and other Retake Bari volunteers

 

In Bari, Retake forms and morphs from one-hour flash clean-up mobs to crowdfunded beautifying projects that might take weeks. It has refreshed parks by painting and replanting planter boxes, removed litter from beaches, made highway underpasses safe and beautiful places, and rescued school facades from demoralizing displays of vandalism.

 

Re-setting and revitalizing citizen expectations

Milone is most proud of the transformation of a Bari school attended by his son and daughter. “The external part of the school was completely full of vandal signs and symbols, not just graffiti. I asked all the parents, ‘Why should the children get used to seeing this?’” He said that parents and teachers themselves no longer registered the toxic mess. “I took nine months to speak with everybody to make people understand that it's important to clean it up, and then to realize a fantastic mural.” The mural represents a siren saving migrants from the sea and bringing them to Bari — “a safe place”.

Child and adult volunteers
Family activity cleaning city walls for Retake Bari volunteers

 

Milone says many people believed the school would be vandalized again, but as with other Retake projects the mural has inspired people in that part of the city to view their surroundings differently. “Because” he explains, “It's not like it comes from the top; the desire to improve the city is coming from the people who live here.” Even would-be vandals might have friends and family members who were involved in the project. “Long story short, the wall is still in perfect condition.”

The motivations and passions of volunteers are varied. Milone says the seed of volunteering was planted by his childhood days in the Boy Scouts, and its founder, Sir Robert Baden-Powell’s exhortation to “try to leave this world a little better than you found it”. 

 

Privilege pays back

For Josephine McManus, executive assistant to the Vice President of Baker Hughes’ Asia-Pacific (APAC) operations, volunteering started when she was in high school in India: “I was part of the Youth for Youth Group which visited slum areas to help children there to study.” At Baker Hughes, she brings her organizational skills to the programs of almost every Employee Resource Group (ERG), and is co-lead with Commercial Operations Manager, Sherief Nada, on many volunteering projects. Nada is inspired to volunteer “simply because I know I’m in a position where I'm able to help people around me”. 

Employees celebrate World Food Day in Australia
Josephine McManus and Sherief Nada (2nd and 3rd from the left) celebrate World Food Day with the Baker Hughes team in Perth, Australia
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Baker Hughes employees celebrate World Food Day in Thailand

 

This year, the two colleagues coordinated a regional celebration of World Food Day, commemorating the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in October 1945, with the aim of amplifying awareness of food insecurity. “Almost 1 billion people across the globe consistently face food insecurity and our event this year was to raise awareness and raise funds through a specific portal,” says Nada. 

He estimates he’s been packing food hampers for people who don’t have the means to nourish themselves for around 15 years, starting when he was back in Saudi Arabia. Now living in Perth on the west coast of Australia, he puts together parcels with organizations such as Foodbank, the Muslim Women’s Support Centre and CARAD which supports asylum seekers and refugees.

In October 2023, McManus and Nada brought together Baker Hughes volunteers in eight  countries – Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam – to activate food-relief events. Around 1,200 employees across these nations tuned in to a Teams broadcast meeting at which Ian de Nazareth from Foodbank Western Australia talked about the work being done locally to alleviate hunger, and shared many lessons learned. Throughout the region there followed a variety of potluck lunches, soup kitchens, fundraising and other volunteer opportunities.

Team handing food in street
Baker Hughes team handing over food during World Food Day in Indonesia

 

Food in Singapore

 

Employee during World Food Day
Baker Hughes employees celebrating World Food Day in Singapore

 

Employees were also encouraged to research and support organizations such as World Food Programme, the UN Agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, and the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Through the YourCause platform, Baker Hughes enables employees to double the impact of their donations, with the Baker Hughes Foundation matching gifts over $50 to eligible charitable organizations.

Employees in Vietnam
Baker Hughes employees in Vietnam celebrating World Food Day
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Baker Hughes employees celebrate World Food Day in Malaysia

 

Other annual efforts coordinated by Nada and McManus include mustering employees to donate blood at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood centers; and to volunteer with Bicycles for Humanity (B4H). Nada explains, “B4H gets discarded bicycles and dismantles them into parts, which they use to build functional bicycles that are shipped to Africa. These bicycles can help improve the quality of life for people who would otherwise have to walk to get drinking water, take goods to market, get to school and other things.”

Employees in Korea
Employees celebrate Wolrd Food Day in Seoul, South Korea
Baker Hughes employees celebrate World Food Day in South Korea
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Baker Hughes employees celebrate World Food Day in Brunei

 

After many years of community service, Nada says he believes that volunteering with colleagues “provides a non-work environment for employees to bond together through doing good”. And that, “You often get to see a different side of people you may only know through the work context.”

In Mexico, Bracho says his first volunteer event at Baker Hughes was such a positive experience for everyone involved he will definitely expand the program for university students in the Latin American region, tailoring it to meet the needs of people in different countries.

“Retake believes that by fostering a culture of subsidiarity, we can collectively enhance the well-being of our communities,” says Milone. “This is a fantastic principle for me because it means everyday citizens are not alone in their mission.” At Baker Hughes, the company is certainly behind their efforts.

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