Helping poor youngsters 'on the right track'

By helping to establish educational quarters for the João Paulo II home, our colleagues from Pulp & Paper Chemicals (Eka) in Bahia, Brazil were certainly ’on the right track’. This is also the title of a corporate program, directed at preventing the exploitation of poor children between 7 and 17 years old who perform work on the roads, which was co-signed by the AkzoNobel operation in Bahia.

At the occasion of a community meeting, one of the Eka employees got in touch with a representative from the João Paulo II home and heard about the poor conditions of the institution. This institution works with a group of 70 socially vulnerable children, developing activities to reinforce teaching at school during their available time, and also improve their health by providing food. The problems in the neighborhood are numerous: there is no sewer, the streets are unpaved and the families experience issues such as health problems, starvation, unemployment, drug usage and drug dealing. Many families have no fixed income living through informal work or family’s allowance programs. Our colleague recognized that help was urgently needed and asked for support from the Community Program. He convinced 90% of the total workforce as well as some contractors to get involved and a plan of action was made.

One of the first actions was helping with the acquisition and design of the house João Paulo II, located along the BR 367 road. Subsequently computer equipment was purchased and installed by the volunteers. A broadband connection giving access to the internet was provided through one of the contractors. Also furniture, electrical installations as well as a cooling system were purchased and the interior was completely painted by the volunteering colleagues.

The result was a computer center with 9 computers serving about 100 children and adolescents who will be able to obtain better education. All the digital inclusion work was performed by Eka Bahia volunteers as well as volunteers from the city of Eunápolis. They assisted with the instruction and qualification of the teachers, under the expert guidance of Unesulbahia Integrated School IT students who helped download free educational software to equip the teachers. In addition the Eka employees provided environmental education and taught the children how to use an environmental kit.

During an official ceremony the new computer center was officially inaugurated: on a Saturday so that all volunteers were able to attend. As it was Christmas time, a Solidarity Tree was set up and all the children were presented with a gift. They in turn showed their gratitude by performing in a concert. The festivities were closed with a delicious hotdog, prepared and served by the Eka volunteers and the contractors.

Our employees’ engagement does not end here as they will regularly visit the center to assist the children with their education on the computers. An important step was made to help the poor youngsters ‘on the right track’ and give them a better perspective for the future