BlackRock employees volunteered virtually through our annual Global Mapathon project to help healthcare professionals deliver critical care in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recently, BlackRock colleagues from around the globe joined together to volunteer virtually in this year’s Global Mapathon project in partnership with Missing Maps and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Together, they identified homes, villages and roads in the Central African Republic using satellite images which helps Doctors without Borders and other NGOs better prepare for and respond to natural disasters and pandemics in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.
Efforts from this year’s event will give humanitarian and healthcare workers on the ground a better chance to respond to affected individuals in the region of Mbomou where critical roads and infrastructure are not fully documented. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s Mapathon took place virtually and participants were asked to dedicate at least 2 hours towards volunteering from home on this project.
In total over 55,000 buildings and 320 miles of roads were identified as part of this year’s Mapathon effort. In addition, the event engaged 425 BlackRock employees across 30 offices around the world – including our colleagues from the BlackRock Belgrade office who participated for the first time and identified over 7,600 buildings, the single biggest office contribution!
Photo credit: Alex Jaheir (Analyst, Social Impact, New York City)
One of those volunteers was Alex Jahier, an Analyst on the Social Impact team in our New York City office who studied environmental science in college and is passionate about sustainability. This was his first time getting involved in the Mapathon project since he joined BlackRock in the fall of 2019. Alex’s personal mission is to leave the planet in a better place than when we found it so even though he spends his day job working on employee engagement and community giving programs, he’s always looking for ways to personally get involved in the work his team is leading at the firm.
Alex believes giving back to our community is an important part of our culture at BlackRock, and said, “we’re always being encouraged to get outside of our comfort zones – and the ‘office’ (even now in this virtual setting) – to work together with other colleagues to make a difference.”
In looking at the ‘before and after’ photos below, the need and impact of volunteer efforts like the Global Mapathon are apparently clear. “Right now, due to the pandemic, it isn’t safe for a lot of us to volunteer in person, but we can still make a significant impact from our homes,” said Alex.
Source: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, 2020.
But Alex did more than volunteer, he was actually responsible for organizing this year’s Global Mapathon! As the project lead, he managed the relationships with our nonprofit partners, Doctors Without Borders and Missing Maps, recruited over 25 “Office Champions” to help drive participation in our offices around the globe, and partnered with teams across BlackRock like our Corporate Communications team, to spread the word leading up to the event through our internal communications channels.
Anna Verhaegen was one of those Office Champions Alex recruited this year, and after volunteering for last year’s Mapathon, she jumped at the chance to help encourage colleagues in her office to join this time around. Anna is based out of our Princeton office and joined BlackRock in 2017 through the Analyst Program. Anna is currently an Investment Management Associate in US Wealth Advisory (USWA) where she’s responsible for driving sales and client service for BlackRock mutual funds, iShares ETFs and separately managed accounts for retail clients on the East Coast.
Photo credit: Anna Verhaegen (Associate, US Wealth Advisory, Princeton)
Anna shared, “I’ve always enjoyed getting involved in philanthropic efforts and wanted to find more ways to give back, but I didn’t really know how to get started until I began working at BlackRock. Here it’s not only apparent how integral volunteering is to our company culture but it’s amazing how everyone is encouraged to take time away from their desk or normal duties to volunteer towards causes they care about. I’m proud that at BlackRock we are a group of people who want to do good for our communities and for the world. Volunteer events like this, give employees a chance to take on local leadership roles and give back all while showing them just how easy and fun volunteering can be!”
Participants were encouraged to take selfies of their Mapathon efforts, below are some of our amazing employee volunteers from around the globe.