Archive for May, 2009

Third Day at the Global Diamond Forum

Thursday, 28 May, 2009

Wednesday was the big Business Session. I posted some Tweets at our Amway50 account throughout the session, so feel free to check them out. But I wanted to give some highlights and post a few pictures here too.

Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos were great on stage. They talked about the history of the business, and focused a lot on the principles of Free Enterprise. They also mentioned citizenship more than once, and thanked the distributors for their accomplishments with One by One.

We did not hold a formal One by One presentation or video, but instead had a children’s choir singing the One by One song, with images of the children helped through the program appearing on an enormous screen behind them. It was very moving.

There were other entertainment groups there, like Blue Man Group and Anti-Gravity. There was a ceremony where the distributors “pinned” each other with a special edition 50th anniversary pin. And there was a big recognition ceremony for the many levels of high achievers in the room. Very inspiring stories.

After a nice tribute video where they used special animation to walk Rich DeVos through the history of Amway, Rich gave a powerful speech about why the company has succeeded over the years despite challenges and setbacks. He focused on the four pillars that represent Amway’s values: Freedom, Family, Reward and Hope.

At the very end was the big surprise. Rich asked Jay Van Andel to close the session out, and they went to a video of Jay superimposed over the 50th anniversary podium that made it seem like he was really there. The clip from Jay’s old speech was inspirational and motivational for today, just as it was years ago. It was a very emotional close.

The business session, and other 50th events, will be posted on You Tube at

Business Session about to start

Doug and Steve's Speech

One by One Children's Choir

One by One children's choir

Rich DeVos's speech

Second Day at Global Diamond Forum

Thursday, 28 May, 2009

Tuesday was a flood of people from all over the world. For some, we were introducing One by One. But most were very familiar with it and recognized the photos from projects they had volunteered for or given to. There was a lot of energy going on.

We are so excited to have One by One elevated among the power brands of Amway. Below are a few pictures of the different areas of the experience. For those of you in the US, you may see some elements of these exhibits at the National Spotlight Tours that start up this summer and will appear in major cities around the country.

Stay tuned and don’t forget to check us out on Twitter at Amway50.

One by One 1
One by One from the outside

One by One 3
One by One artifacts

One by One 4
One by One children’s paintings



Home Care
Home Care

Personal Care
Personal Care

Eddie Funkhouser New York



Founders Wall

Founders Mosaic where distributors can write Rich a message

Historical iWall
Stage Show

Stage show makeover with Michelle D’Alliard, Eddie Funkhouser and John Gillespie

Australia – Adam Gilchrist scores 40 bikes for kids with disabilities

Wednesday, 27 May, 2009

This is a follow up to the One by One partnership in Australia and the blog post on April 23rd. Amway launched an exciting Freedom Wheels initiative with Adam Gilchrist where for every six he hit at the IPL cricket tournament in India, Amway Australia committed to put another child with disabilities onto a technically modified bike. Adam accepted the target to hit 25 sixes. Last year he hit 19.

In the semi-final, Gilchrist blasted five sixes bringing his total to 29 sixes!! He scored 85 – with his 50 coming off just 17 balls (the fastest 50 in IPL history!).

To further the good will, Amway Australia donated an additional 15 bikes for this great cause. So the 40 bikes will soon be on the way to children with disabilities – We can’t think of a better 50th Anniversary present.

Well done Gilly!

You can read more about the program at Amway’s site or see Gilly’s Six-O-Meter here.

First day of the Global Diamond Forum

Tuesday, 26 May, 2009

The first day of the Global Diamond Forum, we saw the crowds trickling in. The Experience Amway was fully up and running, but most of our guests were just stopping by while they waited for their rooms to open up.

The One by One experience is bigger and better than any of us originally envisioned. We displayed some of our paintings from around the world, created by children who have benefited from the One by One programs. We also have artifacts on display, which we have collected from different countries over the years.

The most popular piece of our display is not the objects, but our resident celebrity. Michelle Andonian, our One by One photographer, was there to sign books that were made specially for the IBOs who are taking part in the Diamond Forum this week. Michelle is an award-winning, Pulitzer-nominated photographer who has been around the world photographing One by One programs and producing short videos about them.

Most of the distributors recognized the photos in the book that were from their country. Some had volunteered for the nonprofit partners and some were on hand when we were in their country.

We came across a woman from Romania who was at the hospital for abandoned babies that we visited a couple of years ago. Amway supports a program there where they work with the mothers to prevent child abandonment and give them the support they need to keep and raise their babies. I was not on that trip, but the video and images from it are very compelling.

I also met Rosemarie Steiner-Lang from Switzerland, who we traveled with to Kenya as part of a UNICEF program for immunizations and essential health services in Kenya and other parts of Africa, with funds raised by European distributors. We only spent a few days together, but they were some very moving times in the health clinics and remote villages. It feels like old friends coming together to share experiences again.

I also saw Holly Chen and Barry Chi from Taiwan roaming the halls (they hadn’t visited our exhibit yet). Holly is very involved in programs for children in Taiwan. She appears in one of our most recent videos about a scholarship program in Taitung.

That’s it for now. Below are some pictures. I’ll capture some of the other exhibits and post some tomorrow. We are expecting some big groups today, so time to get ready!

The One by One Team

The One by One Team: Jesse Hertstein, Debb Kalmbach and Jack Kuang

Children's Paintings

Paintings from children around the world who have been helped by One by One programs

One by One Artifacts

One by One artifacts gathered over the years

Distributor Fun

Distributors having fun

Michelle Andonian

Michelle Andonian signing the One by One photo book

Tweeting from Las Vegas @Amway50

Monday, 25 May, 2009

Check out the Amway 50th anniversary Twitter account. I’ll be Tweeting from there all week: @Amway50.

It’s the long-awaited Global Diamond Forum, which is bringing together more than 4,000 of our top achievers from around the world. A lot of them are newly qualified as Diamonds, so this is their first big event.

I arrived Saturday night and spent Sunday helping to assemble the many gifts the distributors will receive over the week. Later in the day, I snuck in to watch a couple rehearsals for performances taking place during meetings and business sessions. All I can say is WOW, they will be blown away.

We also set up some One by One displays as part of an “Experience Amway” immersion into the company, the brand and the products. Everything is on a grand scale for this event. But this is Las Vegas, where everything is just a little bit bigger and just a little bit more sensational.

That’s about all I can say for now without tipping our hat to what’s in store this week. Stay tuned and check us out on Twitter!

Countown to Vegas – Story #6 – Germany

Saturday, 23 May, 2009

This is another writeup from Lindsey Kerstetter about a program that is scaled up in honor of the 50th anniversary of Amway with some additional funds to support volunteering. I wish I could have seen this one in person!

Ronald McDonald Haus – Essen

In a middle of a bustling park is a quiet, but noticeable retreat. Passers-by on the park bridge can’t help but spot the colorful building that pops out between the leaves. The building is actually a house, with 17 special rooms, personally designed by Austrian painter, architect and sculptor, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Each colorful design element of this house has intended meaning too, from the wrap-around structure meant to embrace the temporary guests to the life bearing trees that extend from the inner walls. Hundertwasser describes the house as the third of five skins; epidermis, clothes, house, identity and earth.

This brightly colored house is a temporary home to families who are dealing with struggles much darker. It’s one of 16 Ronald McDonald Houses in Germany providing a home away from home for families of seriously ill children receiving treatment at nearby hospitals. Families are referred to the house if they have a child in ICU, other young children in their care or require specialized services at a distant hospital. The hospital in Essen specializes in cancer and premature births. And there is usually is a long list of families waiting to occupy a room at the Ronald McDonald House. A rate of 20 euros a night is recommended, but if a room is available no family is turned away.

Little Benjamin is three weeks old. Born in Dusseldorf, 21 miles away, Benjamin was immediately sent to Essen due to his weak heart and the insufficient draining of his kidneys. Only days after being born, Benjamin had his first surgery to place an artificial drain in his kidneys. He’ll need a second surgery too. Thankfully there is the Ronald McDonald House where the family waits. Mom is unwilling to leave the hospital, but Dad and brother, Marco, spend their nights and much of their day here. Marco is on summer holiday from school, but instead of missing time with friends back home, he’s making new friends at the house. Plus, he wants to be close to hold his little brother.

For the past three weeks of his life the hospital is all Benjamin has ever known, until today. Today Benjamin, his parents and his big brother are all together at the Ronald McDonald House in Essen and friends from Dusseldorf are there to visit. Out in the courtyard the women dote over the newborn as the other children reunite and play. The family is thankful for the company of familiar faces in a place that is starting to feel like home… temporarily.

Mikayla is the house manager and has the duty, or she would say the privilege, of making this house a supportive place for families. She and two other full time staff members are instrumental in encouraging families to relax and recharge personally in order to be most helpful to their sick child. Staff aims to relieve the stressful situation these families are faced with by facilitating payments to insurance companies or providing a quiet place to rest. There are several serene spaces within the house to promote a healthy balance. An assent up a winding staircase ends at a private reflection room with beams of sunlight that adorn the walls after being filtered through stained glass windows. The room is just large enough to accommodate a single occupant.

Socialization is important too. Guests come to the home from all over Europe experiencing similar feelings of heartache… and hopefulness. The house serves as a network of support for one another. There is only one TV in the house, but it is rarely powered on. Instead children often congregate in the play area, with donated toys and play equipment. It’s not unlikely to see adults in the play area too, like two dads, who despite language barriers unite over a game of Wii tennis. But like most families, the majority of activity takes place in the kitchen, and this house is no different.

Denys is seventeen and has chemotherapy treatments twice a week at the local hospital. His mother Raisa is Ukrainian and currently lives in the house. A few days a week, Denys does too. He feels fortunate to have a room outside of the hospital to go to. And although he prefers to stay in his room he also comes to the kitchen frequently, like most teenage boys.

In the kitchen, families prepare meals as they wish, and clean up after themselves too. Twice a week there is no clean-up required as residents gather around a banquet sized table for a community meal, prepared by volunteers. On this particular day Amway volunteers are here to cook and clean.

Dining with them is twelve year old Steffen. Over a meal of spaghetti and salad, Steffen says he is a whiz at computers. He spends hours on them to pass the time during treatments. Steffen has liver cancer and is receiving treatment to shrink his tumor while he waits for a transplant donor. His father was a potential donor, but during the testing process they found an artery to his heart was clogged. The testing saved his father from a potential heart attack, but it also eliminated him from the list of possible donors for his son. So between computer games, they dine as a family while they wait at the Ronald McDonald House in hopes that a donor will soon be found, and they grab a dish to pass among other families doing the same.

Volunteers are essential here; it’s accurate to say the house wouldn’t function without them. They are an extended family of sorts, like these IBOs originally from Berlin. Mr Klaus- Peter Bollin, Mrs. Bettina Jacobs and Mr. Carsten Schulz were looking for ways to contribute time in their new community of Essen, as a present for Amway’s 50th Anniversary. Through the One by One Campaign for Children, hundreds of employees and IBOs are doing the same thing, giving the best gift of all, their time, more than 5,000 hours to be exact, to the Ronald McDonald Charities all over Germany. And 1700 hours have already been committed for 2008. Day in and day out volunteers are needed and Amway volunteers are there to act as taxi drivers, house cleaners, gardeners, cooks and even lend their professional expertise in areas like massage therapy. They willingly tackle every task, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty in the process.

This grassroots effort from local Amway IBO volunteers is a first step to grow the partnership with Ronald McDonald Charities. Over time Amway’s involvement will blossom to Ronald McDonald Family Rooms, or Oasis, as well. For each hour volunteered to Ronald McDonald homes, Amway gives USD 50 to support the building of Ronald McDonald Family Rooms. A Ronald McDonald Family Room extends the comfort of a Ronald McDonald House into the hospital. Often located steps away from pediatric and intensive care units, the room provides a place to enjoy a warm meal, talk with other parents and relax.

Time is precious. And Amway volunteers are making the most out of the time they have to give to the families of Ronald McDonald Charities. And that effort makes the time families spend away from home, just a little more worthwhile.

Germany Ronald McDonald House

Mother at the Ronald McDonald House in Germany

Amway Distributors at the Ronald McDonald House in Germany

Countown to Vegas – Story #5 – Taiwan

Friday, 22 May, 2009

This story coves a remote region in Taiwan and a new program started up through Amway’s 50th anniversary One by One Fund for Children. It’s part of a weekly series of previewed One by One stories.

The principal comes to town

When Cho Shih Hung came to the Chu-Lu Junior High School to become its principal, he had high hopes. Originally from Taipei, he was a big-city man with experience as a teacher and a government administrator in Taitung County Government’s Education Bureau.

But Taitung County is not the big city.

While Taitung is a beautiful area in the tropical southeast region of Taiwan, where the lush, green mountains race down to the Pacific beaches, it has some of the poorest families in the country that struggle to provide for their children.

Taitung County has the lowest household income in Taiwan. This results in the lowest tax revenue for the county, which puts a strain on all public services, especially education. Teacher ratios have declined, and existing teachers must take on the additional burden of three to four more subjects, plus administrative work that is outside their areas of specialization. Many leave, and those who stay must struggle with a population of students where 30 to 70 percent need subsidies. In some schools, more than 60 percent of student families could not afford to pay expenses for education.

Taitung has also faced severe population loss, with families migrating to major metropolitan areas like Taipei. Some parents have to leave their children behind with grandparents while they set out to find work. This has caused a wide generation gap and low expectations for education, in a country where education is highly valued.

Yet these challenges are what attracted Principal Cho to Chu-Lu Junior High. And he remembers how instrumental his own Junior High teachers were to his success. “The biggest challenge here is lack of inspiration,” says Principal Cho. “There are not enough opportunities for these students to know what is possible.”

His first order of business as principal was to get kids in the classrooms. Many had dropped out or weren’t attending on a regular basis. So he began to frequent the places where kids hung out, encouraging them to return. He visited the parents, grandparents or guardians who were responsible for the well-being of the students. And he found many didn’t send their kids to school simply because it had a low reputation for success. Principal Cho promised them that things were about to change, and that their children needed to be at school to benefit from the changes.

He asked teachers to make additional sacrifices. They relinquished their school-funded dormitories so students in difficult family situations could stay there. Principal Cho found his own place in the city.

He asked teachers to work harder. To spend more time with the students. To never give up.

In every classroom, there are four maps. One is of Taitung County, another is of Taiwan, another is Greater China, and the other is of the world. Principal Cho says, “We want our students to feel they know their own country. But even more, we want them to know that their dreams are unlimited, and can carry them to different parts of the world.”

He is now seeing to it that his students experience more of the world in their junior high years. He has already taken 80 students to Taipei to visit the Palace Museum, the Taiwan Legislature, and view a National Concert.

“I want these kids to know how other people live and work and study,” says Principal Cho. “After they see these things, they compare it to their own lives and find inspiration.”

He has also begun an aggressive drive to improve the aging school facilities that need multiple upgrades and repairs. The students needed more books and musical instruments too. He is working with the government, corporations, private donors … anyone who will listen to the message of what is happening at Chu-Lu Junior High.

At the end of the day, the entire school gathers on the track field. After a few brief announcements, Principal Cho leads the students – one classroom at a time – on a two-lap run around the track. With the country flag flying over the track, the laps become a symbol of unity, of purpose and of healthy minds and bodies.

Over the past year, the students are trickling back in. The school went from 87 students, to 112 students in the first half of the year. Enrollment is now 122 students, and rising. There has been a notable decrease in both dropouts and juvenile delinquency. And there is a new pride and drive to succeed that is evident in the classrooms and in the students of Chu-Lu Junior High.

An inspired doctor and a handsome CEO

Jia-Nian Xyu is a 15 year-old student at Chu-Lu Junior High. He lives in the school dormitories because in his family’s home, with two sisters and a brother in a crowded house, it is too difficult for him to focus on his studies.

Xyu is one of the top students at the school – officially the head of his class. After the school day ends, he begins studying, usually for around four hours. He knows how important it is to learn, and that he will be competing with others to get into the best senior high school, and to study at the best university. In order to ease the burden on his parents, Xyu has made a deal with other students to share textbooks, so they don’t have to all buy separate copies.

Last year, Xyu and his family were in a severe accident. His little sister died and he was critically injured. While in the hospital, he was inspired by the special effort given by a doctor who slowly and expertly brought him back to health. Now Xyu has dreams of being a doctor, and passing along the skill and nurturing he was given.

While his favorite subjects are science, chemistry and biology – fitting for a future doctor – Xyu still finds time to have fun. He plays the slide trombone in the school marching band. He plays basketball and hangs out with his friends whenever he can.

One of those friends is Wei-Lun Hong, who is 14 and in the same grade. Hong lives in nearby Chulu Village and walks to school every day.

Hong’s passions are just as strong as his friend Xyu’s, but focused on different strengths. Hong is an artist, and creates beautiful drawings and comics. His favorite subjects are Art and Chinese.

And Hong has an inspirational goal for his career. He wants to be “the first handsome CEO.” He sees the business world run by aging, bald men who don’t necessarily represent the youth and vitality of the people who buy products. His goal is to change that business culture in a new and bold way.

To support his family, Hong works part time in a fruit farm after school. In hot seasons, he works late in the farm and stays there over night, and then it’s up again early to make it to school on time.

The work ethic and ideas of Xyu, Hong and the students of Chu-Lu Junior High School foretells a strong future for the next generation in Taitung.

Give them an opportunity to fulfill the future

Amway became involved with the Chu-Lu Junior High School over the past year through its One by One Campaign for Children. This was part of a global effort to deepen involvement with children’s causes around the world in honor of Amway’s 50th anniversary.

In Taiwan, Amway built a successful program in partnership with its distributors called Hope Maker. In this program, distributors sell products like hats, umbrellas and scarves that are assembled by people who have mental or physical disabilities, or burn victims. They partner with local charities like the Sunshine Social Welfare Foundation and Li-Da Training Center for Disability. This “Supportive Employment” concept provides meaningful job skills and employment through sewing and packaging. The products provide a way to raise money for the organizations that run the programs.

Since 1999, Hope Maker has donated NT$ 16 million ($510,000 USD) to non-profit organizations. It has become a well-known cause in Taipei and across the country, with distributors and independent bloggers chatting about the program and its impact. Amway even launched a television commercial this year to raise awareness of the cause and inspire kids to dream big. The slogan for Hope Maker is translated as: Give them an opportunity to fulfill the future.

“Amway is a company that offers opportunity,” says Martin Liou, Amway Taiwan’s Managing Director. “Some people do not need the business opportunity now, but they do need hope. We want to offer hope to people others might consider hopeless, with the ultimate goal of making them independent. It’s the same concept that we offer to our distributors. Hope Maker has been a great success. But we knew we could do more.”

After researching children’s causes in Taiwan, Amway staff learned of the plight of junior high schools in Taitung. They quickly decided to use this opportunity to expand the Hope Maker program to include support of high needs junior high schools in Taiwan. “The gap between the rich and poor families has become more and more serious in Taiwan,” says Mr. Liou. “We believe Hope Maker will help children from poor families change their future through education.”

Working with the Taitung County Government and Bureau of Education, Amway established a program that will provide subsidies for the students and for the schools. Amway will give approximately NT$4,000,000 ($125,000 USD) each year to provide partial tuition to disadvantaged students in 20 junior high schools that serve around 1,000 students. Another NT$3,200,000 ($100,000 USD) will be given each year to provide subsidies for 8 remote high schools in Taitung County. Amway committed to make this partnership succeed by guaranteeing funding for three years.

“Even students in poorer communities can achieve great success if they can focus on their studies,” says Mr. Liou. “Junior High Schools in these areas have been largely overlooked by other programs. We want these students to be able to learn, free from interruption due to economics.”

Distributors get on board

Amway distributors in Taiwan have been critical to the success of the Hope Maker program so far. They have brought the enthusiasm and support that has enabled more than 500 disabled people to benefit from the sale of Hope Maker products.

It should be no surprise that distributors would want to fully engage with this new project. But nobody realized just how popular it would become and how much distributors would investment.

Holly Chen is one of the highest-achieving distributors around the world, holding the level of Founders Crown Ambassador. Ms. Chen is a Taiwan native, but has built her business in many countries around the world. She has become very successful helping others find success in the Amway business.

When Ms. Chen heard about the new program serving schools in Taitung County, she got involved personally. Earlier this year, she visited the Chu-Lu Junior High School, visiting with the principal and teachers, spending time listening to students, and delivering a powerful speech on the importance of dreaming big. Ms. Chen was a former teacher herself before entering the Amway business full time, and understands the challenges that the students face.

Holly Chen developed a third facet to the program, a scholarship for junior high students to attend senior high school. She gave $4,000,000 TWD ($125,000 USD) of her own money to fund the program for the first year, which will help approximately 100 students.

In addition to Ms. Chen’s involvement, distributors in Taiwan will have the opportunity to get personally involved by mentoring students with the exchange of letters. They will also host groups of students on “summer camp” visits to Taipei, beginning in 2010. Amway expects this program to generate more than 80,000 volunteer hours over the three-year program.

Taiwan - Taitung County School

Taitung County School - A Future CEO

Student at Taitung County School, Taiwan

Countown to Vegas – Story #4 – Russia

Thursday, 21 May, 2009

This story was written by Lindsey Kerstetter from Marketing Communications. Lindsey went along on the European leg of our trip around the world to capture stories of One by One projects that were funded in honor of the Amway 50th anniversary year.

Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital – ‘Child’s Smile’ playroom

The large gray hospital building stands tall with six floors of symmetrical windows climbing up it. It looks drab and unimportant from the exterior, but for the 500 child patients inside from birth to 18 years old, it is a glimmer of hope for a healthy future. The Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital is rated the top children’s hospital in Russia and one of the many reasons why can be found on the third floor, in the pediatric hematology unit.

The monotony of white walls is broken up with orange door frames down the long corridor. In each of the 20 rooms there are two children, once strangers that now lay side by side on their twin cots treated for various forms of cancer. Keeping a watchful eye on each room is the chief Doctor of the hematology unit, Dr. Karapet Aslanyan, but to the children he is “Karapet”, a name that is used for close friends.

Half way down the hallway, in a room on the left side sits 5 year old Yulia. She’s coloring quietly as the DVD she was watching comes to an end. Yulia’s mother is always looking for distracting activities while her daughter receives 24 hours of treatment to fight the leukemia cells that attack her little body. Only months ago, Yulia was attending preschool and learning English, but after her diagnosis she spends a month at the hospital with only a week or two to enjoy the comfort of home before returning for treatment again.

Yulia is not the only child that spends her days in solitude. Many of the children here are bound to their colorless rooms by the tubes and medicine that treat them. Yet, for these children there is a chance to be free from the worries of the hospital. In honor of Amway’s 50th Anniversary through the One by One Campaign for Children, these little patients can forget about their disease and just be a child in the Amway/UNICEF Child’s Smile playroom. This playroom is one of over 60 that will be designed in children’s institutions and hospitals all over Russia. Full of color, life and of course, toys, the playroom at this hospital is always buzzing with activity, especially after treatments are over. Little David, a three year old leukemia patient, can’t get to the room fast enough. “He feels at home in this room,” says David’s mother Lydia. “It is heart warming for us as parents to watch our children play. Thank you for giving them, and us, that enjoyment.”

The hospital serves children from many countries including Russia, Turkey and Armenia and regardless of the region the universal sound of “choo-choo” is understood among all the children. Donated by Amway, the train in the room is among the children’s favorites. And IBOs and employees are quick to be sure new toys are always available.

No matter what tickles their fancy, the sterile masks that cover the children’s smiles can’t disguise the enjoyment in their eyes. For little Yulia, it’s the play kitchen that makes her eyes dance. Traditional Russian cuisine of Borsht is her specialty and whoever happens to be in the playroom is welcome to dine with her. She’ll even do the dishes.

“This playroom has positively impacted the environment of our hospital,” says Doctor Aslanyan. “Anything that helps the psychological rehabilitation of our children is invaluable.”

The playroom is not the only gift from Amway at this hospital. Just a few doors down from the playroom is another important gift, state of the art, highly technical anesthetic equipment donated by six Diamond-level Amway IBOs. The relationship between the hospital and Amway started with IBO Vladimir Moon, whose son was treated at this hospital. The new equipment allows vital procedures to be done in the same department where children are treated. “Before children had to be transported to another area of the hospital for these procedures, which put them at risk with their poor immune systems. It is now easier and more convenient to give these children the procedures they need,” says Doctor Aslanyan.

The Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital has plans to construct a new building for the hematology unit in the future and acquire more state of the art equipment. But for now the third floor with a very special playroom is home away from home to 40 small patients.

And after a full hour of playing, it is now 2pm and time for many of the children to head back to their rooms for a nap. They do so obediently, including three year old David, who has a train car clenched in hand.

Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital – Camp “Raduga Druzhby” or “Rainbow of Friendship”

On the outskirts of Rostov, past groves of bright yellow sunflowers and down a two track dirt road is a special camp nestled among trees, called Rainbow of Friendship. The serene setting is an extension of the Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital and 20 of the campers there are the very same children that received treatment not long ago on the third floor Hematology unit. After years of medical treatment, these children have dealt with struggles far beyond their actual 9-15 years of age. This camp is just the place to reclaim their childhood.

“These children have had short but hard lives,” says Vera Surkova, “and an important part of this camp is to instill pride for all they’ve accomplished.” Vera is a psychologist for the Rostov Regional Children’s hospital and the visionary for the three week camp. She’s also deeply involved in these children’s lives and recovery process. Like creating team building games that help children socialize again and bond with their peers. Many of the campers have spent the past three years or more isolated and restricted to life at the hospital or in their homes. One of their favorite games is with brightly colored balloons that are sandwiched between the children as they twist and turn to keep them from floating to the ground. Shouts of encouragement echo among them as they inch their way down the path toward the finish line. The team building activity is definitely a confidence booster and the sense of accomplishment is felt from the first in line to the last. In victory, they shout a chant, their group motto composed by fellow camper, 9 year old Dasha. “Risk is good, risk is brave, risk this is us and our dreams!”

Over the years dealing with their child’s illness, many parents have grown cautious and are often reluctant to give their child over to someone else’s care. However, they have no reason for concern here. Roman Bugayevsky and Tatiana Reshetnyak are the house father and mother at the camp and also volunteers from the Children and Youth of Don organization. They’re excellent role models and a great help to Vera, who considers herself the grandmother over all 20 children in her care.

Like Aganez, who is a first time camper. At 14 years old, time away from home and the protective watch of his parents is a rare experience – but he’s finding the newfound freedom to be exhilarating. Although timid at first, and a bit weak from his disease, Aganez now craves the interaction and companionship of his new friends. He’s a frequenter of the campground disco and is often seen on the dance floor much more than standing on the sidelines.

Aganez’s experience at camp mirrors many others. “During treatment these children fall behind their peers in communication and practical skills,” says Vera. “Camp allows them to ‘catch up’ and research shows they often emerge as leaders among their peers.” The serious nature of the struggles these young children have endured gives them an inner strength and outer maturity that great leaders possess.

This is the second year Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital has ventured out into the woods with patients. But the first year they received a grant to send children to camp, this year they did not. Fortunately, in honor of Amway’s 50th Anniversary through the One by One Campaign for Children, Amway made the camp experience a reality for eight new campers… or eight new future leaders… whose camp experience was not paid for by the state. Not only was their room and board covered, but extravagant excursions like horseback riding too. Amway also provides supplies for the campers, which are put to good use painting faces, drawing pictures and making childhood memories for years to come.

The hospital children are not the only campers creating memories. The camp is owned by the Russian government and rented by various organizations. The groups of campers from Rostov Regional Children’s Hospital are housed next to a group of orphans who have come to play for the week. And when the energetic children are lined up in rows racing one another, pumping their legs to go higher on the swings and showing their dance moves at the disco, it’s hard to tell just what group they’re associated with. And it really doesn’t matter. Along with Dasha’s motto, they have their dreams, they have their life and they will be successful.

Children's Hospital Playroom

Russia Children's Hospital Playroom

Russia Children's Hospital Patient

Russia Children's Hospital Camp

Countown to Vegas – Story #3 – China

Wednesday, 20 May, 2009

Here’s our third story of One by One projects created in honor of 50 years of Amway. Some of the images at the bottom of the stories will be shown at the Global Diamond Forum in Las Vegas next week.

Painting windmills

In a corner classroom on the third floor of the Jianshan School, the delicate sound of tiny brushstrokes fill the air like a dozen butterfly wings. Rows of shelves stocked with crisp new books help muffle the sound through the freshly whitewashed walls. For a short time, the traffic and bustle of the city become faint and muted.

Eleven year-old Liu Ling fills in the tracings of her windmills with splashes of yellow. Slowly her creation comes to life. She swishes her brush in the wooden water bowl and mixes a sky blue. Her painting is not intended to symbolize blind courage or sustainable power. But in some ways she represents both of those themes.

Liu’s school is in the city of Tianjin, a coastal town in the east-central area of China, not far from Beijing. Her family is originally from Hebei Province, where they were agricultural workers. Now her parents work as marble stone masons in Tianjin. Like many families in China, Liu’s family came to the big city to find work.

For migrant families moving to the city, good schooling can be difficult to come by. School fees are costly for outsiders, and many cannot afford the basics like books and tuition. As a result, most schools for migrant children teach only basic subjects in ill-equipped facilities.

But the Jianshan School is getting extra help from the people of Amway.

Ms. Yao Juan used to be a full-time art teacher, before getting involved selling Amway products. As her Amway business became successful, she left her teaching job for this new career that she loves.

Yet, Ms. Juan missed interacting with young, creative minds. When she learned that Amway was offering an opportunity for its Sales Representatives to teach classes to migrant children, she jumped at the opportunity to connect to one of her passions.

“It feels different than before,” says Ms. Juan. “Teaching art used to be just a profession. Now it feels extraordinary because I am doing something for society.”

She patiently walks around the room, offering suggestions and teaching the children techniques for mixing paint and using the different brushes. She demonstrates brush strokes on the chalkboard and the effect that subtle movements of the wrist can have on the outcome.

“Every child is different,” she says. “Some paint broadly, some use fine detail. But all are talented.”

Digesting science

Across the hall, the science class is not so quiet. Learning is taking place, but through interactive games and funny examples, not quiet meditation.

Mr. Jin Aiqiang quizzes his class on the parts of the digestive system. He asks for volunteers and hands shoot up. The lucky students line up at the front of the class. Each is given a white cardboard square containing a color drawing of a part of the digestive system – the esophagus, the stomach, the intestines, etc.

The pictures have strings that they hang around their necks. Then they take drawings of different foods and pass them from person to person, describing the process that takes place in each body part, where food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed and waste is eliminated.

More hands shoot up from the desks for a chance to ask questions, or answer them. It is a fun atmosphere. Most students are having too much fun to even realize they are learning.

“I think it is important for kids to learn beyond the textbook, especially migrant children who often don’t get the opportunity,” says Mr. Aiqiang with a smile. “I also learn a lot from them, and use it to teach my child.”

Mr. Aiqiang has been an Amway Sales Representative for eleven years, and used to be an engineer. He has spent the last four years volunteering.

“Volunteer work at Amway is not just a formality,” he says. “We focus on the needy and most vulnerable. I didn’t have this opportunity at my former job, and that’s what made me interested in getting involved with Amway.”

Barnyard races

In another classroom two floors down, a kind of Olympics games is taking place. Only this one involves small children and animal costumes. And in the heart of China, these games take place almost entirely in English.

Mr. Xujie, a longtime Amway Sales Representative, has organized a set of games for the students, each one with a homemade animal costume. A bunny and a horse hop and gallop in a relay race. As they move along, the bunny shouts, “I am a bunny. Watch me hop!” while the horse shouts, “I am a horse. Watch me gallop!”

There are a lot of giggles as the elementary students practice the words they have learned in many previous sessions. Mr. Xu advocates the need for additional classes like this one. He says that parents are busy just surviving, and don’t always have time to spend working on their children’s education. At the same time, schools like Jianshan have meager resources and can only focus on the basics.

However, Mr. Xu sees these as challenges that everyone can address. “We have a great responsibility, not only at the individual or company level, but as a society. Great love can overcome. There are no limitations, so why not contribute more?”

After the class, they ask for Mr. Xu’s autograph and phone number. He obviously has a profound impact on their enthusiasm for learning.

“We must share our abilities with the community, as individuals and as a company, says Mr. Xu. “This is part of Amway’s culture, and part of our initial orientation. We tell people right away that this is the kind of company you are joining.”

Project Sunshine

Migrant families are facing increasing struggles in China and need classes like these for their children. The country’s urbanization strategy aimed to reduce the size of rural population, reduce poverty, and elevate the national living standard. Through these national efforts, around 20 million children and their families have moved to urban areas.

According to Mr. Jack Kuang, Associate Director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Amway, “This movement has provided more jobs for people coming from agricultural regions. However, it also meant that most do not receive proper education and healthcare, and are often marginalized by society.”

Amway identified the needs of migrant children as a primary focus for its charitable efforts over the next three years. Working with the China Children and Youth Foundation, it established “Project Sunshine,” an effort to provide support to migrant children and families.

In the first year, Amway will identify 15 cities with strong migrant children presence and work with local schools to provide libraries, teachers and programs to increase learning opportunities.

“Amway Sales Representatives are passionate about helping others,” says Mr. Kuang. “By partnering with the China Children and Youth Foundation, and contributing time and money of Amway and its Sales Representatives, we believe we can make a significant impact and raise the awareness of this social issue.”

Sympathy for our brothers and sisters

About 70 miles (100 km) away on the outskirts of Beijing, Zhiquan School students prepare for their day. Outside the school walls is a local garbage dump and small dwellings of the city’s working poor. But within the walls are neat and orderly grounds, with rows of one-story classroom buildings. Students are dressed in blue and white uniforms. Large banners hang in the courtyard that read, “Young seedlings need sunshine and fertile soil,” and “Join hand-in-hand for the children.”

Across the courtyard, near the administrative offices, students and teachers spill out from the school’s library, stocked by Amway with a new computer and 10,000 new books. Three girls, top students and representatives of the Zhiquan School, are in the library, waiting for a ceremony to begin.

Fourteen year-old Chen Yu is a second-year junior high student who wants to be a teacher. Her friend, Gao Meng Xing, is also 14 and hopes to be a clothing designer one day. Eight year-old Yu Qi is also from the Sichuan region. She wants to be a doctor. All have high hopes and aspirations. And all have found the library to be a valuable key to their education.

But today, the girls are not checking out books. They are using this space to orchestrate a friendship ceremony for two of their fellow classmates. They are honoring two of their fellow students from the Sichuan region, a region that was recently rocked by earthquakes that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The students exchange letters and pictures, and express their feelings about the earthquake, and the support they receive.

Teaching the kids, and the parents

As in Tianjin, Amway Sales Representatives teach classes at the Zhiquan School. Many students and their families move around, as do the teachers. It is difficult to offer subjects like music, art and language classes because of budgetary constraints.

Ms. Meng Peng is a Sales Representative who has been coming to this school since 2006. She organizes activities and teaches courses on basic life skills like manners and customs. Ms. Peng comes once each month, joining 20 other Sales Representatives and driving for three hours to get here.

“It is gratifying to bring happiness and love to the kids here,” she says. “I’ve always wanted to teach, and this is my opportunity, a chance to contribute.”

Classes are also offered to parents. As the welcome ceremony takes place in the library, Sales Representatives meet with parents in the next room. They teach basic parenting, including how to educate their children to support what they learn at school.

Later, all 400 students carry their chairs to the courtyard and set up in neat rows by classroom and age. Today is a special day with a special guest. Amway has invited Ms. Zhou Meiyan, a national celebrity, to speak to the children. Ms. Meiyan has been writing a children’s column in the newspaper for over 30 years, and is very well known for her thoughts and tips for kids.

She leads the students through exercises in etiquette and reinforces messages of self esteem. The children laugh and respond to the small lady with a big personality.

This assembly is another facet of Project Sunshine. It is about making education come to life and providing opportunities to children that face extra hardship, but deserve every chance to succeed.

A nationwide effort

This is not Amway’s first project helping children. In fact, Sales Representatives across the country have formed a volunteer network, backed by the company and populated by 45,000 volunteers.

Amway works with reputable partners that ensure the greatest impact in their local communities. For Project Sunshine, they turned to trusted partner China Children and Youth Foundation, one of the first charities focused on children in China.

“We have partnered with Amway since 2001, beginning in the western provinces,” says Mr. Guo Xiao, Assistant General Secretary of the Foundation. “So Amway is an old friend. We found we have a common vision and now consider Amway a long-term partner.”

According to Mr. Xiao, there are 20 million migrant children living in cities in China that are at a disadvantage in getting a good education and healthcare. Since families in China are registered in the region where they were born, there are no publicly funded schools or social services for migrant families. Students have to go back to their hometowns for examinations and to attend senior high schools. This makes it especially difficult for struggling families to provide good education for their children.

Through Amway and its Sales Representatives, Project Sunshine is positioned to help these children and families. “Project Sunshine will create an opportunity for migrant children to share the same education, health and cultural provisions of city children,” says Mr. Kuang of Amway. “Working together, we hope to impact 30,000 children each year over the next three years.”

The primary focus of Project Sunshine is books and education, just like the Jianshan School in Tianjin and the Zhiquan School in Beijing receive. Each school will be equipped with libraries of 5,000 to 10,000 books and one or two computer sets.

Other components of the program will include celebrity visits and talks from role models like Ms. Meiyan. Amway will hold writing contests and prizes to build excitement around literacy and learning. And local Amway branches will work with local branches of the China Women’s Federation to organize activities that bring together migrant children and urban children who attend regular schools.

Amway leaders decided to help address the migrant children issue as part of the company’s global effort to scale up its One by One Campaign for Children in honor of its 50th anniversary in 2009. It is one of many programs around the world that identify local needs of children, and find ways to meet them by leveraging the resources of the company, its employees, and its Sales Representatives.

“Migrant children have the same great potential as other children in China. But they face additional barriers to achieving this potential,” says Mr. Kuang. “Currently, no other national programs are addressing these challenges with innovation and impact. We want to be the first to offer these children the hope and opportunity they deserve.”

Project Sunshine Beijing

Project Sunshine, Amway Distributor, Tianjin

Project Sunshine, Tianjin

Countown to Vegas – Story #2 – South Africa

Tuesday, 19 May, 2009

Here’s the next sneak preview story of a program scaled up in honor of Amway’s 50th anniversary. It covers two projects in Cape Town, South Africa. One is led by the company and the other is lead by local distributors.

Chapel Street School Nutrition Program

The sun begins to rise in earnest as students form lines in anticipation of the beginning of school. It is June and winter is approaching. The 570 children, ranging from ages 6 to 15, wear vests and sweaters with their blue and yellow uniforms, and striped ties. A banner bears the school motto: “To learn is to serve.”

They are soon warmed by singing songs and then praying, first Christian prayers, then Muslim prayers, and then native chants that most are still learning. It is Friday, a half-day of school, and there is an air of excitement because there are guests from Amway, some who have come all the way from the United States to visit the school.

Representatives from Amway headquarters in the United States, along with other Amway helpers, hand out Amway hats – beanies – to each of the students, who welcome them against the chilled air that the sun has not yet chased away. Principal Jamiel Alexander stands up to welcome the students and declare these beanies “official” dress for Chapel Street School. The students cheer. He explains that it is Amway that provides support for the breakfast and lunch served every day at the school.

Despite the fanfare of the day, Amway has been a very quiet supporter of Chapel Street School since 2003. That year, an executive at the company read a newspaper article about a child who lived with her family in a public restroom because they could not afford a proper home. Amway employees inquired about the needs of the school and found that this was not the only challenge.

Chapel Street School can be found in a working class neighborhood outside Cape Town. It is located in District 6, an area known for being bulldozed down during the height of South Africa’s Apartheid years, with non-white residents forced from their homes and lands. It was a failed experiment, and soon turned into a diverse area once again. Today the government continues to work towards restoring land to the many that were displaced. Chapel Street School escaped the destruction of the bulldozers and has been a cornerstone of District 6 for nearly 100 years.

Today, the demographics of District 6 show an economic level at the middle class, with families able to afford school fees and care for their children. Yet many Chapel Street students come from broken families, and many parents transport their children from poor outlying areas to give their children access to the quality instruction and individual attention that the school is known for. As a result, public funding is grossly inadequate for the acute needs of most students.

The story of the homeless family is not unique. Many of the students’ families struggle to make ends meet. When Amway began talking to the school administration, they learned of students who were not getting enough to eat.

They saw high absenteeism and poor concentration levels. Students would faint or get sick at school. They were unable to participate in athletics or extramural activities. This deeply affected academic performance and adverse behavior. And the slice of bread provided by the government feeding program was not adequate to compensate for this lack of nutrition.

“Our learners were falling asleep in class, they were ill” says Mr. Sulaiman Jacobs, Senior Teacher at Chapel Street School. “It was difficult to maintain performance excellence.”

Amway began funding a feeding program that had just been launched to provide meals for students. They first focused on breakfast, then added lunch. The kitchen facilities were upgraded. Each year Amway continues to invest in new or expanded equipment.

According to Principal Alexander, “We the educators can not only see the benefits of the nutrition program, but also how Amway has enhanced the lives of our children. They have improved concentration levels in class, their overall health has improved, and our academic results show a steady improvement. Our attendance levels have drastically improved.”

Ms. Shahieda Abrams is the school cook. She began helping out when her child was a student at Chapel Street. The child has since graduated, but she continues her work for just a small stipend. Every morning, she begins preparing more than 1,000 meals – enough for a small army. Walking through the hallways, you can smell what is for lunch that day. Curry chicken with vegetables and sauce, poured over steamed rice. The plates are all lined up on a gleaming, stainless steel counter.

At lunch time, the students file in one class at a time. There is no pushing and shoving, just smiling faces and chatter. And when the plates are returned, they are empty. No food has been wasted.

If you stand in the back of the classrooms and watch, you can catch some of the students sneaking some of their lunch into plastic bags and tucking them away into their backpacks. Upon asking the principal, he smiles sadly and tells us that these children are bringing some home to share with their siblings, or to have for the weekend. For some, this Friday meal will be all that they have to eat until they return to school on Monday.

Attendance increased at Chapel Street School once the meal program was established. But the teachers say that student performance all around is clearly better. Chapel Street is now a contender among other schools in sports competition.

“Word has spread that we give a hot meal,” says Principal Alexander. “Now more and more children are coming to our school.”

Principal Alexander already talks of plans to expand the nutrition program. He would like to offer small meals to athletes who participate in after-school programs. The administration is looking into the installation of an awning over two of the patios, so they can use it as an eating and assembly area. They plan to monitor the students and make provisions for those who do not have food over the weekends and holidays. And they hope to develop programs to teach good nutrition. They are even discussing a program to make hot soup to send to homeless shelters in the area.

“We truly appreciate the Amway partnership,” says Principal Alexander. “It is unique because unlike other sponsors, Amway asks for nothing in return. In terms of humility, that says a lot about the company.”

Cape Town SOS Children’s Village

On the other side of Cape Town, a different Amway partnership has taken place. This one is not driven by Amway’s employees, but by its Distributors.

Nestled in the Thornton suburb is a children’s community, a special haven from the world framed by the nearby mountains that drop into the ocean. The place is called SOS Children’s Village, and our host is Imraan Choonara, who has been a Distributor for ten years and now is recognized at the “Ruby” achievement level. He began working full-time for his Amway business four years ago, leaving behind a career in real estate to own his own business with his wife, Shahana. Even with a full schedule and a successful business, they frequently find time to spend at the Village.

SOS Children’s Village could be called an orphanage, or a foster care home. But it is much more than either. It is made up of 15 houses, a dental clinic, kindergarten classrooms, playgrounds and plenty of open space. In each of the houses is a “mother” who raises 6 to 8 children as her own. They range from age 2 to age 18, and those with special needs may stay longer. The children in the home become brothers and sisters, and they soon call their home mother “Mom.”

As we walk through the Village in search of home of Gadiga, Imraan and Shahana greet some of the 141 children from the village they see walking in groups or playing in the playground. They are called “Uncle” and “Aunt.” Neither one seem to be unfamiliar faces to the children.

The SOS Children’s Village is bright and cheerful, and the eyes of the children express the love that they experience there. Yet none take it for granted. Most come from broken homes, and many have stories of alcoholic and abusive families. Many lost one or both of their parents to HIV/AIDS. What the Village provides is a family structure, which is the primary focus of its mission.

According to Paul Senosi, who works for the Cape Town Village, each house might look the same from the outside, but inside each one, the feeling is very unique.

“It’s a real family environment,” says Paul. That’s what makes SOS so special. The model works because it touches on the roots of what we need as a society: families. Children need to be loved. They need to have a safe environment, and that is what SOS Children’s Village provides – a place where they can grow up with love, respect, dignity and security, that warmth that every child needs and deserves.”

There are warm greetings when we visit the house of Gadiga, the home mother. Imraan talks with a teenage boy named Shiraj, who is excited about an upcoming trip to Singapore, which he will take with the local rugby team for a multinational tournament. The children of the Village have the same opportunities as children in traditional families. And the same challenges. Shiraj comes up against constant pressure to join gangs. The mentoring Imraan gives is very important in instilling confidence – and accountability – in the young man.

Along with the Choonaras, other Distributor families have “adopted” SOS Children’s Village houses. They visit regularly, discuss needs, celebrate birthdays and holidays, and become an extended part of the family.

These Distributors in South Africa were introduced to the SOS Children’s Village, a multinational organization working in 132 countries, by Beverly Salee, a Crown Ambassador-level Distributor from the United States who has been involved in relief work in South Africa for many years.

“I was never inclined this way before I joined Amway,” says Imraan. “But you can see the growth. You can see the difference you make.”

In addition to the one-on-one relationships, the Distributors provide monetary and in-kind support to the larger Village. They donate Glister toothpaste and toothbrushes to the local dental clinic that Beverly started with a local dentist and a member of the German Consulate. They have also begun to install eSpring water filters in each of the homes. And they help to raise funds for operational support. Later this month, Distributors will volunteer for a village program that will assemble and deliver 100 wheelchairs to disabled people in the local community. For most, it will be a new freedom and mobility that they lacked since birth.

“Children say ‘Where’s Uncle Imraan? We haven’t seen him for awhile,’” says Paul. Once you have started to build your relationship to that point, then you are making an impact on the lives of children. And that is ultimately what we want. We cannot do this alone. Yes, we have expertise. We have social workers. We have psychologists coming in from time to time, but it’s that relationship with the children. This person from Amway is a father figure, that person is an auntie … this is what they have missed out on.”
“They say it takes a village to raise a child. And we would like others to be a part of this village in helping us to raise these children. It’s about a lot more than the money. It’s about the personal involvement. It’s about taking part and taking action for the children.”

An SOS Children’s Village Success Story: Elaine Johnson

At the center of the Village, in a quiet landscaped garden where the children’s laughing voices are muted shadows, we meet 20-year-old Elaine Johnson, a “graduate” of the program who now lives in one of the Village’s special youth houses for those who have transitioned out of their home mother’s house and are setting off on their own.

Elaine came to the Village when she was only 7. She remembers only bits and pieces of her childhood before that time. Her mother was poor and could no longer care for her. The Village welcomed her and soon melted the fear she felt from moving in with a strange family and new siblings.

“I was scared, shy, didn’t want to eat. But eventually I started feeling comfortable, settling in. My home mother used to talk to me a lot, stayed close and spent a lot of time with me. She accepted me from the beginning,” says Elaine.

Within a few days, she began opening up to her home mother. And in a few weeks, she felt right at home. Her home mother has now moved on from the Village, but Elaine still sees her every weekend and talks during the week, like a good daughter should.

Elaine recalls, “Some of my greatest memories are on Saturdays, when everybody would come out from their houses and we would all play together. I am close to my brothers and sisters. We have had our fights, but we stood up for each other like real brothers and sisters. Some are still here.”

Elaine is now a student at Varsity College in Cape Town, studying marketing and brand management. She performed very well on her college entrance exams, and gets good grades on her course work. She clearly has a sharp mind and a focus on her future. Perhaps one day she will run the marketing division for Amway, or become a Distributor herself.

She takes us back to her dorm room, and shows us pictures from an old photo album. There are many happy times in the photos, with her sisters and her mother. There are pictures of sporting events, academic teams and vacations. It is clear that her life she was given support and encouragement at the SOS Children’s Village. And that support is paying off through her success.

Out by the playground, the other children stop her to ask questions. How old are you? Do you go to university? Which house did you live in? Where do you live now? She smiles and answers each question patiently. She was one of these children once.

“SOS is a great organization that really helps, especially when you come from a broken home and you feel empty and lost. It builds children up to become confident, go into the world and do their best. I can honestly say that the person I am today is because of my mother, and because of this place.”

Chapel Street School Boys

Chapel Street School Meal Program

Chapel Street School Students

SOS Children's Village

Elaine from SOS Children's Village