Giving Back by ‘Sleeping Out’
by Jamal Haughton, Sr. Vice President and General Counsel at Samsung Electronics America
When I joined Samsung 4 years ago, I was immediately impressed with how dedicated Samsung is to giving back. In fact, one of our core values is co-prosperity—the importance of enabling people to achieve their full potential is truly engrained in our culture.
For an organization that thrives off speed and innovation, we pause operations each year for our Day of Service. In addition, we offer employee giving programs where we encourage our people to take Volunteer Time Off, support donations through our Matching Gift program or award charities nominated by our employees through the Community Impact Grant program.
But here at Samsung these programs are more than just options for employees, the importance of giving back is modeled by our senior leaders who dedicate their time and energy to contribute to non-profit boards and passion projects that benefit our local communities.
Last year, when a small group of leaders participated in Covenant House New Jersey’s Executive Sleep Out, I was happy to be part of the team—until of course, the unexpected winter storm brought brutally cold temperatures and bone chilling wind to the area. But as we heard the reports of traffic jams all across the area, Covenant House decided the event would go on as planned because homeless youth face all types of weather, from the icy snow of winter to the humid summer heat waves. That message stuck with me as I rallied the team to head to Newark. And with nothing but a cardboard box and a sleeping bag, I slept out to raise awareness for this worthy cause.
Our experience quickly became infamous throughout the organization. Everyone in the tristate area remembers where they were stuck that night and while most would think that our experience would scare away potential participants, I am so proud to say that Team Samsung was back and bigger this year!
The reality is our one night of sleeping outside in the freezing cold is what more than 4 million young people in the U.S. struggle with every single day. That’s why I committed to sleeping out again this year, to raise much needed awareness and funding that will help combat youth homelessness. And I was honored to share this experience with a larger group of Samsung Executives, including our CEO, our CFO and senior leaders from all across the organization—Corporate Affairs to Compliance, Marketing to Human Resources.
For 30 years, Covenant House New Jersey has been serving homeless youth between the ages of 18 to 21, operating in 7 cities across New Jersey. Covenant House has taken in homeless, runaway and trafficked youth, and provided them with food, shelter, immediate crisis care and other services. They also run programs to teach life skills and coping mechanisms to confront the past and move forward in their lives.
Collectively, I’m proud to say our nearly $40,000 contribution helped raise over $1.1 million in two cities for continuing Covenant House’s critical services for at-risk youth.
The energy in the room at Covenant House as we celebrated our common goal to support homeless youth was certainly palpable. I was both humbled and inspired by the dedication to the cause of Covenant House New Jersey staff – they clearly have endured the hardship and emotional toll that comes with witnessing young adults struggling to break free of a life on the streets.
We also had the privilege of meeting some of the Covenant House youth as well, which brought their stories of sacrifice and overcoming unthinkable challenges to life for all of us — stories so far removed from our own life experiences that spending one night on the street in solidarity and support of their rehabilitation is a small price to pay. I greatly admire their courage to seek help and their fortitude to create a better life for themselves.
Since 2015, Samsung has participated in the Sleep Out and I am humbled to play a part in continuing this important tradition. Helping get young people off the streets and into safety has been a challenging, rewarding experience that I will not forget. But sharing this night with colleagues I admire is an added bonus that comes with working for Samsung, an organization that rises to the challenge of enabling people and helping others.