The challenge Southern African companies face in their corporate social responsibility initiatives is where best to focus their attention. When it comes to upliftment, it is vital to ensure that financial resources are directed to areas where the maximum benefit can be derived in a viable and sustainable manner, for the well-being of the country and its people. Air Products South Africa has identified education as an area with the potential of bringing about the most positive change in Southern Africa.
In fostering education, Air Products specifically focuses its efforts in the geographical regions of the country where the company has a presence. Based on a belief that investing in children today will help ensure a healthy socio-economic environment tomorrow, Air Products has become involved in a number of exciting initiatives. All of these projects share one aim: to improve the quality of life for young people to enable them to become contributing, empowered adults with hope for their future.
In 2010, Air Products decided to support the South African Mzansi Ballet (now known as Joburg Ballet) Development School in Alexandra, a ballet school providing lessons for some eighty disadvantaged children in the area. The programme includes up to four full-length productions annually, where the children can showcase their newfound skills. Air Products’ sponsorship includes assistance with the employment of ballet teachers, venue hire, dancing gear, food, music and transport for the children.
An investment in the learners of today will pay dividends in terms of their contribution to the economy in the future. Unfortunately, many of the learners in the rural areas do not have access to the information that will equip them for either a tertiary education or the job market. One such example where Air Products has ‘delivered the difference’ since 2008, is the Izazi Secondary School, situated in the Osizweni District near Newcastle, Northern Kwazulu-Natal. The initial social investment entailed the building of eight new classrooms. Subsequently, The Content Company, developers of the Streetwise information system, approached Air Products in 2012 with the view to initiating an additional corporate social transformation at Izazi.
The second project entailed the supply of 30 ‘dumb’ information terminals with word processing, email and basic text-based internet access.The Streetwise information systems allow learners to access information for projects, provide news feeds, allow writing of documents, provide an HIV/AIDS information portal and offer study guides and tips.
This is considered a stepping stone technology and can be likened to an online library.By facilitating the access to learning through a system such as Streetwise, we provide learners with a fighting chance to improve their marks and present them with opportunities for further education and training in the future.
One of the company’s latest projects, in support of its philosophy of education and training, focuses on pre-school children and toddlers in disadvantaged communities. In partnership with Cotlands, a national organisation providing support for Southern Africa’s most vulnerable children, Air Products assisted in establishing a Touch Toy Library in Rustenburg. The company is very proud to have helped with this programme, which is aimed at helping to provide a solid and nurturing developmental foundation through access to educational toys and materials.
Recently, Air Products also became involved in a very exciting and innovative project which is helping young students to learn new farming techniques in a bid to address the blight of hunger in poorer communities. In this, Air Products partnered with Inmed, a global organisation which has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of children and their families through focusing on health, developing skills and fostering community collaboration. The Air Products/Inmed initiative involved setting up a new aquaponics unit at the Carel de Wet Technical High School in Vanderbijlpark, near one of the company’s largest facilities. Through aquaponics (a combination of fish farming and soilless crop growing) whole communities can thrive on a nutritional diet of fish and vegetables, especially in areas where space and soil quality are issues.
These are just some of the areas in which Air Products South Africa has helped to make a difference in the lives of young people through education, development and fostering a sense of hope for a sustainable future.