Listen Up Español (LUE) has long supported buildOn in engaging high-school youths at Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago. But since giving back is such a strong aspect of the company’s values, LUE (now ListenTrust) offers employees at its call centers in Portland, Maine, and Mexico a chance to help, too. Once a year, they hit the road to construct schools in underserved rural areas around the world with the international nonprofit. “The goal for us is to build a school every year,” says Tony Ricciardi, company president and co-founder.
Employees interested in participating submit a one-minute video telling why they should help build a school. Then, ListenTrust sponsors up to $50,000 in construction costs, as well as travel and expenses for 15 employees picked to work on-site. Staffers sleep in host families’ homes and work with locals to make cinder blocks, pour concrete, and install rebar, usually completing a school’s foundation during the weeklong stay. Sometimes, conditions are tougher: On a Nicaraguan build last year, for example, Ricciardi and his crew had to crack rocks to start the foundation, as well as meet with the approval of a 300-pound sow to access the outhouse. “It’s a lot of work,” he says. “We had to build a road just to get the supplies in. You are literally in the middle of nowhere.”
ListenTrust returned to Haiti last month for another school build. “It is really an amazing experience,” Ricciardi says. “Even though they don’t have much, the locals are incredibly grateful for the little things in life. The bonds we were able to build with them over a week were amazing. It’s something I wish more people could experience. And when our employees get back, you can really see the impact—not just on the locals’ lives, but also their own.
“I can only keep our clients as happy as my employees,” he adds. “That’s why we spend so much time giving back. When you give back, you also receive. We get up in the morning to serve clients, but we also get up in the morning to serve a greater purpose.”