Archive for March, 2009

Notes From the Road

Monday, 30 March, 2009

It’s been fascinating to hear the latest research and thinking on corporate citizenship strategy and examples of advanced programs in other companies. I haven’t been to a corporate citizenship conference in a couple of years and much has advanced.

We heard the director of Boston College’s Center for Corporate Citizenship talking about how the Center, in response to a changing environment, has evolved … from an early focus on supporting individual practicitioners of corporate social responsibility … to a focus on developing organizational strategies … to today’s focus on the role of business as an embedded part of the large issues of society … with a call for transparency and accountablity.

This mirrors the Amway evolution from simple philanthropy to strategic systems of leveraging all our resources, including knowledge, networks, employee skills and IBO actions to support the communities around us in big ways.

We heard from Adam Werbach, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchy S and former president of the Sierra Club, who talked about using this time of financial crisis to create a strategy for sustainability.

Adam had a great quote in answer to a question about teaching our children about sustainability and giving back. He said (paraphrase) that you really have to push the concept of sustainability and corporate citizenship, and we are just starting to see some momentum, but (quote) “The only audience that does not take explaining to is our youth.” So right! Kids always seem to get why we are doing things like One by One, but adults like us with experience and knowledge take longer to understand the value.

We also heard Van Jones speak. He is an entrepreneur and environmentalist who just got hired onto President Obama’s administration as a special advisor on green jobs. He talked a lot about the administration’s recovery package and changing the mindset on energy and sustainability, working closely with corporations. He said, “We are the first generation to get to create whole new sectors and industries that we did not inherit.” This speaks not only to environmental issues, but to community engagement and partnerships.

Heard a bit about how The Gap works with high schoolers from underserved areas to teach job skills at the individual store level and provide internships and career tracks. Also heard how IBM and Ernst & Young are sending top performing leaders to work with entrepreneurs and businesses in emerging markets in Africa and South America. The idea is it makes for better workers and helps them to understand markets where they may be operating some day.

That’s enough heady stuff for now. My mind is full!

Hitting the road

Friday, 27 March, 2009

I’ll be off to the International Corporate Citizenship Conference in San Francisco on Sunday. It’s a chance to learn about what other corporations are doing to improve their communities, and how to best use our resources to make positive change.

I hope to post a couple of updates from the road. Stay tuned!

KaBoom!

Friday, 27 March, 2009

KaBoom!

I can’t go much longer without mentioning an amazing partnership we have in the United States.

It’s with an organization called KaBoom! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the official name), which provides resources for volunteers to build a playground in a single day.

Amway partnered with KaBoom! for the first time a couple of years ago in order to provide a volunteer opportunity for our manufacturing employees.

Why manufacturing employees? Well, office workers can leave their desks and their work is waiting for them when they return. But manufacturing employees can’t leave the lines, so they don’t have as many opportunities to participate in volunteer events.

Our leaders recognized that manufacturing employees needed a customized volunteer opportunity, and felt the time off was worth it for a good cause. KaBoom! is a perfect fit.

So here’s how it works. Amway sponsors a playground build through our One by One campaign. But we really don’t know where and when it will be. We offer a few suggestions based on the places we’ve seen that could use some help, but KaBoom! staff takes the lead by doing extensive research to figure out where the need is, how many children a playground will serve, what the zoning requirements are, etc.

Then KaBoom! identifies a community partner that agrees to raise a small portion of the funding, provide volunteers and enter into the planning process with Amway. It is usually a school, a neighborhood association or a local nonprofit.

Once we announce the upcoming build and set a date, we hold a Design Day with children from the neighborhood, where they use crayons and markers to draw their dream playground. We use those drawings to pick out the colors, design and playground components. Some of them want swimming pools or trampolines or working airplanes. So sometimes we just have to use themes.

On build day, about 200 people – employees and community members – show up and are split into teams. Then, under KaBoom! management, we spend the day building. It is an incredible experience. Think teamwork … sweat … laughter … dancing.

By the end of the day, you cut the ribbon on a brand new playspace.

So far, Amway has built 3 playgrounds in Grand Rapids, Michigan near our headquarters and one in Buena Park, California, close to the Nutrilite Center for Optimal Health. We have three more scheduled for this year – two in Grand Rapids and one in Lakeview, California.

There is a great story behind our Grand Rapids build coming up in June. It involves Girl Scouts raising money for much-needed updates for a city playground, and Amway and Kaboom! stepping in to help. Click here to see an article in our local paper.

We’ll share some photos of design day and build day once they get closer. And if you are in Grand Rapids on June 19, stop by and check it out!

Reality Check

Wednesday, 25 March, 2009

It’s not all hearts and roses in the world of Amway corporate citizenship. Every year, we have to face down a difficult report that puts into perspective how much need there is among children and how much we have yet to do.

I’m talking about the UNICEF State of the World’s Children Report. The primary charitable cause for Amway is helping children in need and this is perhaps the best barometer of the well-being of children globally.

Here are some highlights from this year’s report, which focused on maternal and newborn health:

  • There are 2.2 billion children in the world under age 18, or 629 million under 5. That’s our audience.
  • Around 7% of kids don’t live to see their 5th birthday, and that percentage is twice as high in some parts of the world. The number actually improved this year.
  • More than 15 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and 2 million have HIV/AIDS themselves.

When we visit Amway markets and discuss areas of focus within One by One, we frequently reference this report to determine what the greatest needs actually are. Maybe it’s self esteem in Malaysia. Or therapy for abused children in Japan. Or education in the U.S.

That’s why the One by One program works so well. It’s a global program that pools all of our resources so we can have a bigger impact on a single issue. But it is still flexible to the needs of each country where we do business.

Despite the millions of dollars raised and the millions of hours given, there is so much more we can do. And our conversations have started to go beyond dollars and general volunteer projects. We need those too, but there is so much more we can do.

We have been talking more about lending our expertise to the mix. Using our knowledge and research on nutrition and vitamins to develop a product for undernourished children … establishing networks of Amway distributors who can mobilize their volunteer networks around a cause … experimenting with social marketing to provide an outlet for our people to share experiences and ideas … offering community partners our expertise and leadership in areas like efficiency training for food distribution and disaster relief … tying causes to our brands to integrate giving with sales … and always watching what others are doing, where the needs are, and what makes the most sense for Amway to get involved in.

These ideas and creative seeds are what energize me after I am oppressed by the numbers. I have to remember that the numbers are made up of lots of different faces, many of which have been helped by One by One programs. At the end of the day, that’s what the Amway business knows best. Helping one person at a time.

So what are you doing within your IBO networks? Do you have organized activities or focus areas around volunteering or giving? I would love to share your stories and ideas.

Reading and turnips

Friday, 20 March, 2009

We spent yesterday evening reading to kids at Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities on the Southwest side of Grand Rapids. Amway is a longtime sponsor and contributed towards a new library, where we participated in “Tolly Time.”

Debb Kalmbach, our Corporate Citizenship Manager, serves on the board of directors and did the reading. I had the distinguished job of holding the prop – a turnip – and got the kids to participate. The kids made a birthday card for Amway (the big 50!). One boy guessed my exact age too (can you guess?). They all get a free book after participating, and of course a snack.

Here’s the link to Grandville’s blog and some pictures. Check out their website too!

Amway Global Kicks for Kids – Major League Soccer Makes a Difference

Thursday, 19 March, 2009

If you haven't already heard, Amway Global has recently signed on as a major sponsor for an MLS team, the San Jose Earthquakes. I wrote this blog post while sitting in the airport on my way to California for the official season opener taking place this Saturday!

Even though the game won't kick-off for a few more days, the Quakes are already shaking up huge impressions in the San Jose community. As part of the Amway Global sponsorship, a program was developed called Amway Global Kicks for Kids which gives underprivileged children in the area the opportunity to not only spend time with a professional soccer team, but also attend a game, live and in person!

Today marks the very first visit as star player, Nick Garcia, spends time at Walter L. Bachrodt Elelmentary School where he will talk about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. At the end of his visit, Garcia will distribute 150 tickets to the opening match for this weekend and 150 Amway Global and Earthquakes branded t-shirts!

And it doesn't stop there! Throughout the 2009 soccer season, Amway Global will donate over 2,000 tickets in support of the Kicks for Kids program while also offering kids the chance to participate in the first kick of the game and half-time activities.

Ill be sure to keep you updated on all the fun and festivities from this weekend. In the meantime, "Go Earthquakes!"

Film festival voting extended

Wednesday, 18 March, 2009

I received a note from Peggy Connelly at Boston College today saying that the voting deadline for the film festival has been extended until March 25 at 11:59 p.m.

Please check out the One by One video …. and don’t forget to vote!

Here’s the link.

Do you speak Korean?

Friday, 13 March, 2009

My colleagues in Korea forwarded me a great article from the Hankook Iibo, major newspaper in Seoul. It’s about a shelter for abused children that opened in 2003 with support from Amway. This is one of the first programs Amway Korea funded through the One by One Campaign.

Here is the link to the article. For those of you who don’t speak Korean (like me), a translation is at the bottom of this post.

I visited our Korea office a couple of years ago and toured a “social welfare center” that Amway supports. In addition to donations, employees and distributors volunteer their time mentoring students and teaching after-school classes.

They all wear brightly colored vests with the One by One logo. We brought one home and put it on display here as a symbol of the exciting things they are doing for children in Korea.

Amway volunteers in Korea

It’s interesting how things translate. If you read the article below, there are some expressions that just come across more straightforward than our nuanced English language. Like “happy” … they use that word a lot in titles and program descriptions.

In Amway offices in Korea, there is a “Happy Apple Tree” used by employees to raise funds for children’s programs. They can deduct from their paychecks or just give to the cause. Once they raise enough money to help a child with a surgery or a scholarship or some other need, they add an apple to the tree. There were 8 when we visited. I wonder how they are doing now. Either way, they are happy I’m sure.

From Hankook Iibo, Feb 6, 2009

“Cooking and drumming… wipe away the pain in a child’s heart”

‘Amway Shelter’ embracing abused children

Hope beside you

Two story multiplex house in Suwon, Kyunggi-do. Chattering and laughing sounds of children are coming from the front door. It seems to stop for awhile. Before long, heavy noises of jumping down the stairs. About four of five children run to the empty lot with soccer ball. This is the shelter provided by Amway Korea and Non-Government Organization, Good Neighbors, where children damaged mentally and physically from abusive parents can heal and be cared for. It looks like an ordinary two story multiplex house as seen from without. However, each story is named ‘Good Neighbors’ or ‘Good Friends’ so you would know it’s a refuge for children.

The first floor is for girls and the second one is for boys. The basement is used for a group session or music class. As cases of abused children are increasing, the center’s numbers have increased to 6 boys and 11 girls protected at the shelter.

The shelter opened in 2003 with the support from Amway Korea. Since then, approximately 900 abused children have been helped to make a new life through mental and physical therapy.

In the case of Suwon shelter, four social workers are each working two shifts to take care of children and operate rehabilitation programs. More children have been abused physically and sexually, and neglected by their parents for a long time. Many have xenophobia and social maladjustment. Because of this concern, the rehabilitation programs are designed to heal these aftershocks.

Cooking and picnics with social workers are the favorite programs of the children. When the reporter starts talking about the cooking program, Min-Jung (12, an alias), who is usually expressionless, suddenly breaks into conversation. “I love to cook a delicious meal with the teachers. I’m really good at making fried rice so I want to be a really famous chief.”

While we talk about Min-Jung’s dream, one boy comes in with a sweaty face. She says, “This boy, named Young-Ho, is entering the high school this year. He is the oldest in the shelter,” Hye-Sun Kim, from the Amway Korea Corporate Social Responsibility team, prompts me to ask Young-Ho about his dream. “Since elementary school, I have wanted to be a doctor. How grateful I would be to help and treat people who are sick and tired. I’ll study hard to make this dream come true,” he said. Maybe because I am a stranger, he tries to read my face for awhile.

Soon Young-Ho, carefully but with a clear voice, starts telling me about his dream. He was badly damaged by mental and physical abuse from his stepmother and he came to the shelter a few years ago with the help of his neighbors. Because he got did not have a normal life, he has been avoiding people for a while but now he is well behaved enough to take care of younger boys and to make new friends by virtue of constant rehabilitation programs.

Suddenly we hear the sound of drumming. Eun-Joo Choi, a social worker, says that Min-Jung is playing a drum. We follow the sound to the basement, where there are electric guitars, drum and keyboard. The band is comprised of volunteers and children from the shelter. Min-Jung gets into the rhythm, playing a drum in an excess of mirth. According to Eun-Joo Choi, Min-Jung is not only good at cooking, but also she is talented at drumming.

Though the shelter is operated by Amway’s financial support and government aid from Suwon City, if we consider the circumstance of increasing child abused, it is still not enough to operate the shelter. “Suwon City provides 260 thousand Won for each story, a total of 520 thousands Won per month. However, it is still a not enough to treat and take care of 17 abused children,” says Hye-Sun Kim from Amway. She also says that she wishes more companies would participate in helping abused children.

“Normally it takes at least three to six months to treat one child and send him or her back home. Sometimes there are cases that require long-term treatment,” says Yoon-Mo Yang, a social worker from Good Neighbors. “I wish there will be more shelters to accommodate increasing abused children,” she adds.

“My heart always bleeds when I have to reject abused children because of the limited space and manpower,” says Chang-Pyo Hong, a manager of the counseling treatment team in Good Neighbors’ Kyunggi district office, which manages Suwon Shelter. “But I find my work worth doing when I see children healed of the wounds they carry when they first come to the shelter.”

One by One is a film festival finalist!

Friday, 13 March, 2009

Okay, so it’s just for a conference of our corporate citizenship peers. But we are proud that our One by One video, and the program itself, stands shoulder to shoulder with some of the largest multinational companies in the world.

I’m talking about the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship Film Festival, which will be shown at their International Conference at the end of this month. The Amway One by One video is posted on the Boston College site with several others. Members of the Center can vote for their favorite, and see the winners at the conference.

The Amway One by One video was created when the program was launched in 2003. The children in the video have all been helped through One by One programs – there are no stock images here.

What’s interesting is that so many great children’s programs existed before One by One was launched. That’s before we started tracking our impact and encouraging employees and distributors to get involved.

Five years later, with $70 million in funds and 1 million in volunteer hours given, we can look back and say that we were serious about impacting children. Now we can confidently say that Amway and its employees and distributors have improved the lives of more than 6 million children!

For more up to date videos of programs in the individual Amway markets, click here to go to the country pages on our One by One website.

An award to be proud of

Friday, 13 March, 2009

Last night started as an obligation, and ended up as an amazing validation of why we do this stuff.

I attended a fundraising event for the Specialized Language Development Center (SLD) with Dawnlynn Suttorp, our volunteer coordinator. We were there to accept an award on behalf of Amway for supporting the organization for the last twelve years.

Since 1997, Amway has given a modest grant to SLD for tuition assistance, which provides tutors for children who have dyslexia. The organization has steadily increased its programming over the years, as well as its rigorous approach to children and adults with “unique learning styles.”

But those are just words.

What really got me was hearing a story from Cindy, a mother of a child with dyslexia. Her son started having trouble with school around first and second grade, and was considered a behavioral issue. After struggling with the school district, checking his hearing and eyesight and testing with a neurologist, they didn’t find anything wrong with him, physically, mentally or emotionally. Yet their son was clearly not learning how to read. In the third grade, he was still reading at the first grade level. They came across SLD by talking to friends and family, and finally landed on the issue of dyslexia, a learning disability.

I guess I never realized how tough dyslexia is to cope with and what you have to overcome to learn to read, write and spell. Cindy held up a plastic box with index cards that held all of the techniques her son had to learn. Tapping his arm while he said different words. Writing letters in sand or on the carpet to open up brain pathways. Understanding the structure of the English language so he could understand the rules to help piece together the meaning of words.

It took four years and 250 tutoring sessions, but Cindy’s son learned to read, write and spell. His “behavioral issues” went away. He was commended for some outstanding projects by his teachers. He graduated, and entered college. He sent a note to his mom the first week and told her that he had a ton of reading to do for his classes … and he was keeping up! She still has the note.

SLD has been one of those programs that we think we know about when we review their application for an Amway One by One grant. We evaluate them based on how well they manage their money, how efficiently they run their operations, and the impact they have on the people they serve.

But sometimes you need to hear the stories to learn just how deep the impact really goes, and what investment is being made in a child’s life.

I met Cindy’s son at the event. He is about ten years younger than me. He graduated from a local university. He works in sales for a West Michigan business that sells products to the manufacturing and warehousing division of Amway.

It all comes full circle. And suddenly I am very proud of our award.

SLD Award for Amway