You may not know this, but every October Microsoft holds a Giving campaign which turns into a huge event designed to encourage employees to donate time and/or money to their favorite non-profits. When all is said and done, Microsoft will match dollar for dollar (and dollars for time) the donations employees made. It's pretty remarkable. Millions of dollars are raised across the country through this event. And what's more is that Microsoft's matching program isn't limited to one month: we can have our donations matched any time of year. This is just one of the many reasons I am so proud to work for this company. (You can learn more about Microsoft's Corporate Citizenship - including the Give campaign - at their website.)

Over the next few weeks we'll be showcasing this spirit by retelling some stories from the Give campaign which just finished up. Today we bring you a story about how employees helped make a different to fight the AIDS epidemic:

Microsoft employees put a face to the AIDS epidemic

By LINDSAY LARIN

Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer

Nov 03 2009, 12:59 PM

http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/east_king/bel/community/68924092.html

Microsoft employees stepped away from their computers this past week and into the AIDS-affected communities of Africa through the Interactive AIDS Exhibit created by World Vision.

Employees had the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of a child affected by the AIDS crisis by listening and experiencing the true stories of young children suffering from disease, malnutrition, violence, abandonment, and childhooded households.

World Vision created the Interactive AIDS Exhibit to help put a face to the 15 million children orphaned by AIDS.

Employees on the Redmond campus helped pack 200 Caregiver Kits for family members and local volunteers in Africa, Asia and Latin America who are caring for those living with AIDS. The kits supply the materials needed to safely and effectively prolong lives and relieve suffering. The Caregiver Kits also include a personalized note from the person who individually packed the kit to the Caregiver who will receive it half way across the globe.

To date, there are 77,000 World Vision Caregivers in the field. A single kit provides enough supplies for one caregiver to give medical aid for an entire year.

For International Facilitator, Princess Kasune Zulu, who attended the Microsoft Giving Campaign through World Vision, the Caregiver Kits mean the difference between life and death. When her mother was dying of AIDS in their in Zimbabwe, Zulu traveled five hours one way to find a fungal cream that is provided in the Caregiver Kits. By the time she returned with the cream, her mother had passed.

Zulu lost both her parents to AIDS in 1997 and became the head of her household, caring for her siblings who later passed away due to the AIDS virus. After finding out she tested positive for AIDS, she decided to break the silence and pursue social justice issues surrounding AIDS and HIV.

"I have dedicated my life to speaking at different venues because statistics can be overwhelming," she explained. "There is a face and a life behind every one of those 15 million. I am humbled by the opportunity to visit Microsoft and share my story with the people who work here."

For nearly three decades, Microsoft has encouraged its employees to recognize the importance of community outreach and participation in nonprofit organizations, helping both local and world-wide causes. Each October, Microsoft launches a company-wide Giving Campaign, opening its Redmond campus to nonprofit organizations to help educate employees on the many different charitable opportunities available.

"Microsoft has always been committed to giving back as a company," explained Akhtar Badshah, the senior director of community affairs for Microsoft. "There is a tremendous amount of need in the community and it's our job to get employees excited about giving time and finances to make a difference."

Organizations such as United Way, Make-a-Wish, Friends of Orphans, and the LittleDrops Orphanage Fund were represented during the non-profit agency fair. Throughout the month of October, employees also participate in friendly competition, fundraising challenges and a silent auction- all to help raise awareness and support for national nonprofits.

For every hour of time spent volunteering, U.S.-based Microsoft employees are matched at $17 per hour through the Volunteer Time Matching program and donations made by employees to eligible nonprofits are matched dollar for dollar by the company, up to $12,000 each year.

Through its matching contributions program, Microsoft allows its employees to direct corporate contributions to thousands of nonprofit organizations working to improve lives in the United States and around the world.

"Employees here feel like they're making a difference and it motivates them," Zulu said. "The DNA of Microsoft sets the right example for other companies to imitate."