It’s been two years since Air Products South Africa embarked on a journey to make an impact at early childhood development centres (ECDs) in communities where the company operates.

The company originally committed to a national three-year project, WitnessHappiness, which launched in July 2016 on Mandela Day.

But due to evident improved level of education at the majority of the centres, as well as the improved morale of the teachers and learners, and infrastructure improvements, the initiative has been extended.

Over the years, Air Products South Africa’s corporate social investment (CSI) projects have had a significant impact on communities across South Africa and touched the lives of individuals through different projects, initiatives and donations.

This initiative enables a long-term relationship with ECD centres in the communities and focuses on youth and education, which is a strategic CSI focus area.

WitnessHappiness Year End Party AP and kids resized

Source: Air Products SA

“WitnessHappiness was mainly created for two reasons; firstly to make a difference to the education and lives of children in South Africa and to provide Air Products employees with an opportunity to become involved and to truly experience the impact that the company makes with CSI initiatives,” the company explained.

“With the launch of WitnessHappiness, each of the regions were able to identify a centre in their area with the input of employees and there is a set schedule for when the initiatives takes place – all the regions visits their centres on the same day.”

Over the three years, the centres were visited for Mandela Day, World Maths Day and Literacy Day and have received books, educational toys, learning charts, tables and chairs, beanies and scarves and gifts at their annual year-end parties.

Besides these special visits, Air Products has also addressed the infrastructure needs of some of the centres and provided funds for a number of upgrade projects.

In addition to the educational aspects, the learners are treated to an annual year-end party at an external venue where they are treated with entertainment, meals and gifts.

WitnessHappiness Year End Party Resized

Source: Air Products SA

Air Products employees from the respective regions spend time with the learners at the party.

Josua le Roux, Chairman of Air Products’ CSI committee, commented on the initiative, “We embarked on this journey to assist in preparing young children for school and a proper education.”

“By supporting these centres, we noticed that we are in a fortunate position where we are able to visit the centres and speak to the teachers and make informed decisions on how to equip them with what is truly needed.”

“Through the involvement of the Air Products ‘champions’ who manage the initiative from the different facilities, we have experienced definite improvements in the centres as well as improved the morale of the teachers.”

According to le Roux, Air Products believes in the advantages of exposing young children to quality learning at an early age in preparation of entering the formal education system in Grade 1.

“The impact that WitnessHappiness has had on the centres, teachers, learners and the communities has been wonderful and it has further exceeded expectations of involving Air Products employees.”

“The lives of young and old, males and females, and employees from all levels within the company who have visited the centres have been touched by this initiative. When you see the joy on the little faces and the gratitude of the teachers, you experience the heart of the Air Products CSI initiatives.”