media release

Charity Wheels in Motion

A look at how a charity campaign involving Akzo Nobelemployees in the Netherlands is helping to fund AIDS projects in South Africa.

A look at how a charity campaign involving Akzo Nobelemployees in the Netherlands is helping to fund AIDS projects in South Africa. 

Almost five million people in South Africa are HIV positive. It’s estimated that around 600 people die there from AIDS-related diseases every day.

In an effort to offer some much-needed financial support, Akzo Nobel has donated the proceeds from its Cycling for Fun(d) initiative—which was launched last year in the Netherlands—to community AIDS projects located near the company’s Powder Coatings site in Alberton, Johannesburg.

The money—EUR 26,000—was raised by rewarding people for cycling to work. Akzo Nobel Nederland sponsored employees two euro cents for every kilometer they covered traveling from their homes to work and back.

In total, an average of 450 employees cycled a total of almost one million kilometers, the idea being that they would make a difference to their own health, as well as the well-being of people in a deprived part of the world.

The campaign—which was launched with the help of the ICCO (Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation)—ran for 12 months and it was decided early on that the proceeds would be used to support a health promotion project in South Africa close to an Akzo Nobel site (which would assume “ownership” of the project).

“We spent a lot of time visiting different NGOs in our area and found many small organizations doing invaluable work in their communities,” explains Vivian Grenfell, who is financial manager for International Paint (Pty) Ltd in South Africa (Akzo Nobel’s legal entity in the country). “But we felt that most of these organizations were informal, and that monitoring and sustainability would be a problem.

“So we held a number of internal discussions within our organization and most people felt that helping HIV infected babies and small children, as well as educating teenagers about HIV/AIDS, was what they would like to do.”

Two projects were chosen as a result. The Lambano Sanctuary—which helps HIV infected babies and children—and the Sabelani organization, which addresses the issue of educating teenagers. In a country which expects to have more than three million AIDS orphans by 2010, their work is invaluable.

“In South Africa we are faced with HIV/AIDS on a daily basis,” adds Grenfell, who has coordinated the distribution of the fund. “With infection rates being as high as they are, we all come into contact with somebody who is infected with HIV and as a result this affects us all.

“The effect of HIV/AIDS on all South Africans is going to increase dramatically over the next few years and if we can make an impact on even one person’s life, then it will have been worth the effort.”

money raised through the Cycling for Fun(d) initiative will be utilized in a number of ways. At Lambano, it will pay for education materials, a laptop computer and screen, which will be used to help train and educate families of HIV positive babies and children on how to administer proper care. Lambano will also supply these families with food and medicine parcels.

Over at Sabelani, the Akzo Nobel donation will pay for 45 teenagers and facilitators to attend an HIV/AIDS awareness weekend. There are also plans to purchase reading material, posters and promotional items, as well as setting up a media centre with computers, printers, internet access and a small library.

“The benefit of all this is that at Lambano, HIV infected children can be looked after by their own families in their own homes, rather than being sent to a shelter—where spaces are limited anyway—or even worse, being left to care for themselves,” continues Grenfell.

“In the case of Sabelani, hopefully we can help teenagers to become more aware of their actions and how they could affect the rest of their lives. Those teenagers who are already infected or affected have access to a support system in their schools to help them cope with their day-to-day lives.”

Meetings are still taking place to finalize details about exactly how and when the money will be spent, but it’s clear that the donations will make a huge difference to a country which is in desperate need of help—4.7 million South Africans have been infected by HIV/AIDS, more than any other country in the world.

“The need here is huge,” says Grenfell. “We’re just trying to help as many people as we can.”

(Published: November 1, 2004)