A year after Air Products South Africa embarked on a journey to make an impact at early childhood development centres (ECDs) in 10 communities where it operates, the vigorous improvement at the centres and the morale of children and teachers is “heart-warming”.
The Tier One company committed to a national three-year project, WitnessHappiness, which launched in July 2016 on Mandela Day.
This project, which forms part of Air Products’ corporate social investment (CSI), aligns to the strategy of making a difference to youth and education. Through this project, Air Products not only made a huge difference to the facilities and educational equipment to the centres, but also provided a platform where employees can engage with the children and teachers at the centres.
According to Market Research and Strategy Manager and member of the CSI committee, Arthi Govender, this project has exceeded all expectations to date.
He explained, “When we conceptualised this project, we did not envisage that it will have the impact that we have experienced at the centres to date. We can see, and are truly humbled by the general impact of the project. The purpose of the project was twofold; firstly to make a difference to the early education and lives of children in South Africa, as well as to provide Air Products employees with a platform to experience the company’s CSI initiatives.”
Air Products said it considers this project a focused extension of the company’s CSI strategy, which focuses on the education of youth in South Africa. Govender further comments, “Following our research into a focus area for a project of this nature, we realised that there are definite educational, social and economic advantages to exposing a young child to quality learning at an early age. A structured programme exposes learners to what they can expect when they enter the formal education system in Grade One.”
“Our aim is to support the centres by equipping them with basic equipment required to facilitate a learner’s progress in such a way that they are fully prepared when they enrol at a primary school. Besides these events we do not generalise in terms of infrastructure requirements at the centres – we evaluate each one individually in conjunction with the relevant ‘WitnessHappiness Champion’ in the area, and where there are additional needs we look at ways to address it.”
To date, Air Products has made significant strides to infrastructural aspects at the centres by repairing leaking roofs, building proper toilet facilities at some centres, providing first aid kits and fire extinguishers, painting or supplying new flooring and improving safety and security where necessary.