Making a difference today for a brighter tomorrow When you know people’s lives and futures will be better as a direct result of your actions, it is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. That’s certainly how 77 AkzoNobel employees felt as they left the Lang Tre Yeu Thong Charity Center in Cam My district, Dong Nai province in Vietnam, after a cross-SMU project that totaled an amazing 539 volunteer hours. Colleagues from both Wood Coatings in Amata and Powder Coatings at Nhon Trach joined together to improve life at the charity center, which looks after around 174 orphans, neglected children, elderly and disabled people. It was founded in 2006 by the Venerable Thich Chieu Bon, who later built the Lang Tre Arts & Crafts Village and Wooden Furniture Workshop, where 120 people now have the skills to make and sell a range of products. The older children and adults who can work receive vocational training, while the younger children go to school. Project coordinator Susan Vu said: “We learned the wooden furniture workshop uses materials we produce and so we realized we could offer our knowledge and experience to help improve their professional skills. The center also planned to grow a fruit garden which would be a sustainable way to secure and improve living conditions.” The volunteers split into teams to ensure they could work efficiently. Within one hour, those assigned to cleaning had finished five rooms and one lobby – a total of 300 square meters – and were able to help their colleagues. Three people acted as hairdressers, one of whom was a barber before joining Powder Coatings as a production worker, and had a steady stream of ‘customers’. Others painted the buildings with 1,900 liters of paint donated by Decorative Paints, while more volunteers acted as carers. As well as helping with personal care, they learned how much a hug and a kiss can mean to a lonely child and found themselves in tears as they cuddled a sick baby or fed disabled people who spent their lives in bed. There was time to play for some volunteers, who led fun and games with the children, while the cooking group produced lovely food for everyone to eat. One group carried out training with carpenters from the furniture workshop, doing their best to pass on valuable knowledge, and they plan to stay in touch with the center to offer further technical advice and support. “AkzoNobel’s practices help us to save time and materials while still ensuring production quality,” said one of the carpenters afterwards. Arguably the most difficult task went to those involved in planting 100 mango trees as most of the volunteers had no experience of farming. After 90 minutes, just 15 trees were planted in ground that was hard and stony. But they persevered to reach their goal, with help from other team members. After the work was finished, everyone gathered in the dining room to feed the children knowing they had done something truly worthwhile. Jenny Phuong Uyen of Customer Services and Tu Uyen of Finance, who together acted as project leaders, said: “We loved this experience leading such a meaningful project. We were supported to do some great work – it was enjoyable and we were proud to engage in community activities where we could give so much. We felt fulfilled because we planned and accomplished what we wanted to do for the children and unfortunate people at the center – we think what we have done is just what they wanted.” The team hopes to carry out a further cross-SMU project under the Community Program banner, next time also involving Marine & Protective Coatings Vietnam if possible.