Add This to the Portfolio of Things Viacom Helps Create: Families

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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​It was St. Patrick’s Day 2010, and Susan Gould was in China for the first time in her life, sitting in an austere administrative office outside of Guangzhou. Beside her sat Patrick, her partner since the mid-1990s. International travel was nothing new to the couple, veterans of far-flung excursions to Africa, Asia, Europe and South America. But this was their biggest adventure of all: they were about to meet their child for the first time.​

The couple had been waiting for this moment ever since they had placed their names on a list of interested adoptive parents in 2006. After a couple wearying years spent mucking through the ever-changing and byzantine rules of the international adoption complex, they had changed tactics, offering themselves as candidates for a special needs child. In late 2009, notice came that a little Chinese girl born the year before would be available in six months. The couple immediately began preparations to travel overseas.

As they got organized, Gould, an account executive in Ad Sales, received a surprise: Viacom offered an adoption assistance program, offering up to $10,000 to offset the gigantic cost of bringing a non-biological child into their family.

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Opening Their World to Open Adoption – With an Assist from Viacom

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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​​Nine years ago, George Pantelidis and his wife Larissa decided to restart their life. The native New Yorkers packed it in and headed west, landing in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, where the weather was nice and they could have a little more space. George had been stationed in the area when he served in the Marine Corp, and the couple thought it may be a great place to start a family.

Family is what they really hoped for. Part of what had driven them west was a string of unsuccessful attempts to create just that. Natural conception had not worked. IVF had failed. There had been miscarriages. It was time for a change.

They settled in. Larissa went to work for Wells Fargo. George wound up at Viacom, ingesting transcode for the digital media department.

In 2009, having exhausted all options to conceive a child, the couple drove south to Long Beach to attend an adoption symposium. It was there that they learned about something called open adoption, in which a pregnant mother selects the couple who will adopt their child at birth. At the adoptive parents’ discretion, the child could maintain contact with their biological mother. The moment they learned of it, the couple determined that open adoption suited their sensibilities perfectly.

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Digging Toilets in the Tropics: One Viacom Employee’s Adventure in Giving

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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​At first glance, Chuacruz, Guatemala, is an idyllic place. Green and gorgeous, it is tucked into low tropical hills strung with neat rows of crops. Children freely roam the streets, with little to fear from strangers (there aren’t any) or cars (there aren’t any of those either). Cattle and pigs wander among people. It is so quiet you can hear chickens clucking from neighboring yards.

But not all is perfect. There are no indoor toilets, and in some cases, no outdoor ones either. Water is drunk unfiltered from wells. Cooking is done on wood-fired stoves that fill homes with heavy clouds of black smoke.

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The team and a local family after completing a stove together. 
In July 2014, Akiko Ikegami, a senior manager at Viacom Media Networks, traveled from New York to Chuacruz to help change that. Working as part of Viacom’s Give and Take program done in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity, she spent five days installing water filtration systems and building outdoor toilets and safer stoves for eight families.

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A Viacom Employee Perk that Benefits Others

Stuart Winchester by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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Growing up in Pennsylvania coal country, Viacom’s Joe Gushen worked a lot with his hands. His father was a property developer, and Gushen’s childhood memories include painting “Tonka” on the back of his dad’s dump truck. As a teenager, he ripped wiring out of old apartments and helped build new ones.

When Gushen launched his career at Viacom out of Kutztown University eight years ago, he largely left this sort of manual labor behind, though he missed it as he moved from MTV.com to Comedy Central to his current role as director of multiplatform programming at Nick.

A couple of springs ago, Gushen briefly relived this sweating, physical past when he road-tripped from New York to Swannanoa, a small town outside of Asheville, N.C. to join a Habitat for Humanity build through Viacom’s Give and Take, which refunds five vacation days for a week spent volunteering through the program.

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Viacommunity Day 2016: Check out Our Employees in Action

​​Viacom offices are usually clamoring with activity, but not on May 20, 2016. Instead, our employees across the country and around the globe left their desks, shut down their computers, and set off to put our corporate values into action. Here’s a loo​k at how they turned up for good on the 20th anniversary of Viacommunity Day.

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