Air Products South Africa, a leader in the industrial gas market, has long understood the role, which businesses can play in helping vulnerable and disadvantaged children through educationally focused support.

The company has therefore prioritised educational initiatives, which are at the top of its corporate social investment (CSI) agenda.

Based on the belief that investing in children today will help ensure a healthy socio-economic environment tomorrow, Air Products has become involved in numerous projects around the country which seek to improve the quality of education and thereby improve the lives of young people.

“As a company we believe that giving back to the communities in which we live and operate is essential in order to ensure that future generations of South Africans flourish socially, economically, financially and in their careers,” says Josua Le Roux, General Manager – Central Services at Air Products.

The company’s latest project, in support of its philosophy around education and training, focuses on the development of pre-school children and toddlers in disadvantaged communities. Initiated by Cotlands, a non-profit children’s organisation, the programme is aimed at providing a solid and nurturing developmental foundation through access to educational toys, materials and play therapy.

“According to Cotlands’ statistics, the area of early childhood development is often sadly neglected, and yet it is this crucial time in a child’s life which learning and play initiatives such as the toy library can so positively impact,” Le Roux observes.

“It is estimated that over 84% of children in South Africa below the age of six do not access any form of structured early childhood learning, and we believe that the establishment of community toy libraries will go a long way towards addressing this alarming statistic.”

Cotlands, which has been serving orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa for 76 years, has joined forces with the Touch Community Network, a non-profit public benefit organisation devoted to helping women and children in crisis.

Both organisations have a shared vision of helping to advance the early development of as many young children as possible, through access to educational toys and games.

The first Touch Toy Library will be opened in Rustenburg on 6 June 2013, proudly supported by Air Products South Africa.

“We are excited to be able to support an impactful, far-reaching initiative such as the toy library. It is widely acknowledged by educationalists that play is crucial to a child’s social, emotional, physical and cognitive growth. Investing in children in their formative years will have a significant impact on their later development,” comments Neale Quilliam, General Manager – Human Resources at Air Products South Africa.

Difference

Quilliam continues, “Early development programmes which focus on play create opportunities for children to learn important social and developmental skills. These are the milestones, which are fundamental to their future success as functioning, contributing individuals.”

Children learn about their world through play, especially in their formative years. By offering vulnerable young children sound educational resources, we can influence their wellbeing and psychosocial development,” he continues.

Air Products is looking forward to exploring ways in which to build on the toy library concept in the future, with the aim of serving the communities in which it operates, according to Le Roux.

“We feel it is important to keep looking ahead for ways in which we can make an impact on future generations. The communities in which we operate are also the future generations from which we will be drawing our workforce. It is through synergistic partnerships with organisations such as Cotlands and Touch that we are able to look forward to creating a brighter future for the next generation,” he concludes.