Written by Alexandra Gartrell

It has been ten days since the PureService4Good team returned from Vietnam. Ten days since our emotional “It’s not ‘goodbye,’ it’s ‘see you later’” farewells to the Orphan Impact team. Ten days since we came face-to-face with the realization that “reverse culture shock” and “reintegration,” while seemingly cliche, are mighty hurdles that cannot be overcome alone. Ten days to absorb, reflect and share the gratitude we feel for this life-changing journey. Ten days to recognize that our partnership with Orphan Impact and friendships with one another will both be life-long commitments.

The following blog post is authored by Alexandra Gartrell. It beautifully encapsulates the scope and depth of the profound impact the PureService4Good immersion trip imparted on our hearts, minds, perceptions, interactions and growth.

– Kelly Esrey Howell


Giving back is part of our culture.  There are many ways to be benevolent, but how can that be combined with a totally cross-functional leadership program?  Pure Storage has found a way!

From the moment Nicole Johnson’s email with details on the project in Vietnam hit my inbox, I knew it was my time.  I sat my teenage daughter down and asked if I could go.  She said “If it’s what you really want to do mum, then you must go”.  The fastest approval I’ve ever sought.  With my permission slip firmly in hand, I fired off my application.

The next stage was an interview with Team4Tech followed by an interview with Pure Good. Such elation when I got the “yes” message!  I simply cannot remember the last time I was this excited.  For the next eight weeks, I had weekly calls and assignments with the team from around the globe, and before I knew it I was on a plane to Vietnam.


A wall of heat hit me upon leaving the air conditioned airport.  The noise of people and beeping horns that honk their way through the moped swarm overwhelmed me.  So this was Ho Chi Minh City.  A country jettisoned forward by technology and media yet steeped in a long and chequered history and a barrowload of tradition.  Rice sold in every colour imaginable by street vendors.  A bread roll or ‘Banh mi’ stuffed full of any kind of food you could want.  People with a ready smile and a fascination for what’s new and different.  The energy and excitement in Vietnam is infectious.

The Team

The complementary mix of people could not have been planned better yet you can’t plan for this.  The common heartfelt goal of making a difference united us overnight.  Our team cared deeply and were going to do everything humanly possible to ensure the learning experience and impact made during our trip was maximized.


No time to adjust, we had a full schedule and needed to get on board the bus fast. We traveled to Can tho and Long Xuyen. Our days were filled with lesson planning, collaborative working, rehearsal lessons and delivering our curricula to 100 children – children so hungry for knowledge and education they were literally buzzing.  A stark contrast to the stereotypical “bored classroom”.  These children have so little that any opportunity is grasped with both hands and yanked from you.  Lessons you planned were devoured.  I had a lightbulb moment- so this is why people love to teach!

A Sense of Purpose

Employees who have a sense of purpose are higher performers, more productive and more likely to stay with their employer.  A program like this makes employees feel valued and their purpose is linked not only to the work they do but to the most precious gift that can be given – education – giving children a chance.

Each contribution, no matter how small, combined together stands a chance of making bigger things happen.  Charities like Orphan Impact need funding.  Tell everyone you know.  Talk to friends and colleagues.  If you get the chance to go on a trip like this, then don’t hesitate, go for it!

So if you wake up one morning and feel the urge to do something similar, then now is the time to flip the switch.  I’m so grateful that Pure Storage, Team4Tech and Orphan Impact made it possible for me.

For a complete day-by-day recap of the PureService4Good trip visit: https://team4tech.org/blog

To learn more about Orphan Impact visit: https://orphanimpact.org/