Dave Botterill is proof that one person can make a difference in many ways in many places. Each year Botterill, a sales account manager for NetApp Canada, travels to Haiti, Mexico and Peru to do humanitarian work, and he’s also actively involved in numerous local charities in his home town of Calgary, Alberta.
So when NetApp’s Global Giving team decided to create a video campaign to promote NetApp’s VTO programs, Botterill was an obvious contender. And when the team found out that he would be traveling to Haiti for his annual trip around the time they wanted the video to go into production, they knew they needed to send a video crew with Dave to Haiti to learn more about his work there.
Botterill first got involved in doing humanitarian work in Haiti through a church group that he had traveled to Tijuana, Mexico with to build houses. Because he had brought some refurbished laptops that he’d gathered from customers and partners with him to Mexico, Botterill was asked whether he might also be able to provide laptops for a trip the group was making to Haiti later that spring. Botterill, who says he’s “not shy to ask people for help,” was more than happy to see if he could get additional laptops to send to Haiti. And then he was asked to join the group on their trip.
A few months later, Botterill and his father-in-law, who refurbishes decommissioned computer equipment, traveled from Calgary to Haiti with a bunch of laptops and various other gifts in tow.
“We loved it,” Botterill says.
Since that first trip five years ago, Haiti has become near and dear to the Botterill family’s hearts. The following year, Botterill brought his wife, Caroline, on the trip and she also fell in love with the Haitian people. Now, each year Botterill uses his five days of Volunteer Time Off (VTO) from NetApp for his annual Haiti trip, and the group has expanded to include other family members, as well as friends from Vancouver. Each February, they travel to the island country as part of Friends of Haiti Canada, a non-profit organization that Botterill and his family helped found in 2015.
Friends of Haiti Canada focuses on providing a variety of humanitarian aid to the Haitian people, including supporting and funding education for local children, sponsoring a nutrition program that feeds children during the school day, giving uniforms to local soccer teams and providing technology for use in rural classrooms. Maxeau Pierre, a law student living in Jacmel, Haiti, helps the organization coordinate its efforts on the ground in Haiti, including supporting programs in the local community, such as sponsoring reading programs for school children and providing parenting classes for young parents.
Each year Friends of Haiti brings used laptops, Blackberrys and iPhones to Haiti, as well as solar lighting units, education materials and soccer kits (including cleats and balls) on their trip. Donations in the form of monetary and materials support comes from NetApp employees, customers and partners among others. One of NetApp’s top sales people in his region, Botterill says whenever there’s a need for something, he’s working his network to get help, whether it’s buying a goat or providing a roof for a family or collecting network routers to help build a computer training school.
“I’m just the middleman for stuff. I ask people for stuff, and my friends give me money and laptops and soccer equipment and it’s kind of funny, I sit in the middle. If someone says, ‘Hey, we need eyeglasses for this family,’ and I’m like, ‘I know an eye doctor,’ and the next thing we know we get free eyeglasses. The old ‘Ask and ye shall get’ works pretty darned good,” Botterill says.
According to Botterill, Haiti continues to suffer from the effects of the earthquake that struck the island in 2010. The poorest country in the Western hemisphere, most Haitians live in extreme poverty. Videographer Jeff Eagle, who produced the VTO video for NetApp and accompanied the Botterills on the trip this year, says the trip was a real eye-opener for him.
“It’s very poor, it’s very dirty. None of the systems work in Haiti as far as I can tell, none of the institutions—sanitation, garbage disposal—all that stuff seems to not work. People are living in a lot of filth piled up—layers and layers of it.”
However, Eagle says, he came away from the trip—and from working with Botterill—a changed person.
“It made me see that there’s more to life than just doing your job. There are people out there really suffering and any little thing you can do is a big deal. It doesn’t take much to help people and do good. It’s just the doing of the thing—you just gotta do it and try to help.
Dave and his family are unbelievable—they’re doing things that most of us should be doing. Dave’s a busy professional, a successful salesperson, but he finds the time to assist in Haiti and Mexico and Peru and in between that time he’s running marathons and doing ultra-marathons with his wife. This guy and his family are something to look up to. I was totally impressed meeting them and just being part of the gig,” Eagle says.
Friends of Haiti has also extended their material gifts to begin a nutrition program at a school in Maribel, Haiti. Most of the children attending school only receive one meal a day, which is provided at school. The children at the school can be fed for only $0.36 a day each, Botterill says.
In addition, through Maxaeu Jacmel, Friends of Haiti has also been able to help a local school, the Shakespeare School, get on its feet. The group has provided a generator, laptops and routers and switches provided by NetApp partner Cisco, for the school. A scholarship program has also been established for local kids who can’t afford to go to school. In fact, Botterill says, during one trip he was talking to a local bartender at his hotel who mentioned that he’d like to go to school himself. Within a day, Botterill’s network had gotten a scholarship for the bartender so he could attend school.
Botterill and Eagle say there were many highlights from their trip, particularly a soccer tournament held by Botterill family friend and soccer program sponsor Berthony Jean. Friends of Haiti brought medals with them, which were handed out at the end of the tournament. “It was like they’d won the World Cup!” Botterill says.
Eagle was also impressed with just how generous of spirit the people are in Haiti, despite having so little. “We were invited into people’s homes–it was a very personal experience. They’re lovely, humble generous people,” he says. In fact, Eagle says he’s still in touch with many of the people he met there.
“We just have the best time,” Botterill says. “It’s way, way better than a vacation.”
Eagle says having the chance to do a video that was more like a documentary about helping people than a standard corporate video was something “I could use a little more of in my life.” Being involved in a trip like this was something that not only felt good, but, he says, it changes your perspective. “You think about it when you buy your $4 latte at Starbucks—it makes you really think.”
Eagle says it was also great to see someone like Botterill being given the time to do work like this by his company. “Dave is an unbelievable guy, and he really feels good about working at NetApp. He loves the time off and the way that you guys are able to allow him to do this and contribute. It’s a great story.”
As for Botterill, he’s just content to help in whatever way he possibly can.
“My job is to infect people so they understand that they have it good but that they can help others,” he says. “We’re just trying to change our little corner of Haiti.”