Archive for September, 2009

Amway builds its 7th playground with community members

Monday, 28 September, 2009

We had a great time building a playground with a couple hundred volunteers from Amway and the Grand Rapids community at Sweet Street Park on Friday.

This is the fifth playground Amway volunteers have built with nonprofit partner KaBoom! in Grand Rapids, as well as two others near our California offices. Below are a few pictures from the day, and here is a link to a local news article.

Thanks to all who participated in the planning and construction of this playground. We’ve had our eyes on this site for a long time now, and appreciate the support of the City of Grand Rapids, the Parks Department, the Creston Neighborhood Association, the Grand Rapids Public Schools and countless other community partners who made it happen.

We hope you enjoy your new playground!

Photos were taken by Chad Ritsema, Art Director at Amway

Amway Relief Team in Action

Thursday, 24 September, 2009

Each year employees from Amway forgo a leisurely Labor Day weekend and instead roll up their sleeves to help those suffering after a natural disaster. Their most recent trip was to Winamac, IN after floods damaged the area. Joyce Grilley, the Amway Disaster Relief Team Coordinator, said this about their experience:

We had such a wonderful time in Northern Indiana over Labor Day weekend. We worked each day helping two special families put their lives back together.

The first was the Richardson family. Rob and Tami, grandparents raising two very young grandchildren, had to relocate Plymouth, IN while their home is being rebuilt. They have had a long, hard journey towards their recovery after the flood, and they were so appreciative of our help.

We had a team of approximately 25 employees and their family members working to bring them back to their home. The entire time we were working on their house, they were right along side us giving encouragement and thanks. After we left, they even shared with Disaster Assistance for Northwest Indiana (DANI) how much they appreciated the help and their amazement with the work that was done on their home. Finally, they are able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The second home we helped to restore belonged to Tom Ayers. Tom is living in DeLong, IN while his home is being renovated. He is in his 80’s and lives alone, so you can imagine the relief he felt knowing others were there to help. And that’s just what a team of 10 of us did. Tom was continually telling the team what saints they were for helping an old man out.

What these families didn’t realize is that we get so much more out of it than we put into it. Granted we worked hard and gave with all our hearts and strength, but the blessings and satisfaction we received by giving cannot be measured. We truly enjoyed our time volunteering; we worked, laughed, played, worked some more, laughed some more and played some more. And when it was finally time to head home, we compared notes along the way with laughter and tears and expressed thanks that we are able to help those that need us.


Micro-Volunteering: The Next Big Thing?

Tuesday, 22 September, 2009

I’m intrigued by a new concept in community service called “Micro-Volunteering.” It gives people a chance to provide consulting, type information, interpret text and images, and other volunteer work for charitable causes through their mobile devices.
In my experience, most people are more than willing to give of their time to a charitable cause. The challenge is that the increasing number of things we have to do each day leaves us with less and less room to do the things we want to do.

That’s why texting, Twitter and instant messaging are gaining in popularity – they are tools to squeeze more productivity out of the brief periods of down time in between business meetings and soccer games.

National Public Radio had a recent segment on Micro-Volunteering, which is where I first heard that it is actually catching on. The Wall Street Journal also covered the topic in its blog this week, and mentioned a new iPhone application for Micro-Volunteering.

An organization called The Extraordinaries seems to be leading the movement, based on Jeff Howe’s theories of Crowdsourcing, defined as “the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

We’ve taken lots of approaches to providing volunteer opportunities for Amway employees and distributors under the Amway banner. Everything from board leadership (US) … to fundraising (Europe) … to volunteer clubs (China) … to local competitions (India) … to mentoring (South Africa).

Amway people are known for rolling up their sleeves and doing the hard, but rewarding, work of improving their communities. But it’s often a question of finding the right fit.

So is Micro-Volunteering the next big thing?

While, it’s certainly one more tool in the toolbox. And in an increasingly complicated world, it just might make a big difference.

Reaching the remote corners of Indonesia

Friday, 18 September, 2009

We’ve been talking to our affiliate office in Indonesia about helping out after a 7.0 earthquake shook the town of Tasikmalaya, near Jakarta two weeks ago. Indonesia has been slammed with earthquakes, mudslides, flooding, and of course the tsunami that struck a few years ago.

Our Amway Indonesia office has grown adept at responding to disasters, and helping out where they can. After the earthquake, a team of employees drove six hours over the weekend to visit Tasikmalaya and provide supplies for victims’ basic needs. They also spent time assessing how we can further help.

Since this area was not covered extensively in the media, there have not been widespread efforts to help. So anything that we brought in was deeply appreciated.

After trekking out to the remote district, our team found that one person was killed, eight sustained injuries and 2,124 houses were damaged, 283 of which collapsed entirely. Approximately 13 of those houses belonged to Amway distributors. A lot of people are living in tents or temporary structures – some because they have no houses left, and some because they are afraid of aftershocks.

Our distributor leaders delivered the first round of supplies and gave a donation of IDR 43 million ($4,450), which they raised immediately following the earthquake.

The local team in Indonesia is working on continued support of vitamins and the long-term rebuilding of a school in the area. Our hearts and thoughts go out to distributors and families impacted by the earthquake, and we appreciate all of the support being directly given by Amway Indonesia.

India’s Project Sunrise – 50th Anniversary One by One programs in more than 50 locations!

Thursday, 17 September, 2009

The 50th Anniversary Amway One by One program for India “Project Sunrise” is focused on installing water purifiers at specialized schools, orphanages and institutions across more than 50 cities throughout India where Amway has a strong corporate presence. Additionally, volunteers assist in teaching English language and public speaking skills.

The approach is holistic. While Project Sunrise is providing access to safe drinking water, they are meeting the needs of individual children across the country through very diverse needs of their NGO partners. Funding and volunteerism is supporting annual educational and health sponsorships, Braille textbooks, physiotherapists and providing for basic needs like food, shelter and clothing. And it is just the beginning.

While you could find any number of media placements lauding the success of Project Sunrise through India’s Amway Opportunity Foundation, what I feel is truly remarkable and noteworthy is the impact to date. Nearly 3,350 children have been reached since the launch of Project Sunrise in January 2009, through 2,602 employee volunteer hours and 1,774 distributor volunteer hours contributed. To all Amway India employees and ABOs…thanks for caring!

I love IBO energy!

Tuesday, 15 September, 2009

Last week I attended my first National Spotlight Tour event in the Chicago area. Jennie Wu, Nick Katsarelas (see Nick’s blog post) and I were there to talk to people about the One by One Campaign for Children, as well as Amway Global national sponsorships.

These were long days on our feet with a script and key messages. But somehow the script turned into a multitude of personal conversations. They wanted to know more about what they could do, and to hear some of the individual stories of children who have been helped through the program.

Many of the attendees were first or second generation immigrants who still have ties to their birth countries. Their eyes lit up when they learned that Amway was doing projects in their home countries too. Whether it’s providing books in Southeast Asia, delivering micronutrients in Latin America, feeding students in Africa or building preschools in Eastern Europe, Amway improves the lives of children in just about every part of the world.

The veteran IBOs were very familiar with the Easter Seals partnership. Most had participated in the Walk With Me events or raised money for children with disabilities over the years.

We met one couple registered as IBO# 150 (yes, they are in sequential order) that had been in the business for 52 years. They were selling Nutrilite initially. When Amway bought the company, they became Amway distributors. Their view of One by One was an affirmation of the strong values Amway and its founding families had demonstrated for decades. The Amway “spirit” still motivated them to drive all the way from Iowa just to attend this event.

For those new to the business, One by One was a new component. To them, it deepened their appreciation for what Amway stands for, and gave them something else to talk about to their customers.

One couple from Chicago wanted to know right away where they could sign up, where they could give, where they could volunteer. These young IBOs have a sense of urgency and motivation that this company has thrived on. Whether they grow to high pin levels, or sell Amway as a side business, it’s obvious that they will have a rich experience in business, sales and even nutrition and health that will serve them well throughout their careers and throughout their lives.

The people we talked to saw the One by One activities as part of the Amway narrative – stories that add credibility to a company that has more than just great products and the chance to become an entrepreneur. They were proud of what “their” company stands for, something they all wanted to be a part of.

The One by One exhibit

National Spotlight in full swing

Photo opp with One by One

Jesse telling One by One stories

Jennie signing people up for our drawing

Nick collecting stories

9/11 is a good day to volunteer

Friday, 11 September, 2009

Amway employees will be at several locations throughout West Michigan today as part of a community-wide “Day of Caring” organized each year by our local United Way.

There has been a big increase in participation this year – from 175 last year to around 240 this year. Everything from cleaning up camps to one-on-one mentoring will take place throughout the day.

We were speculating about the swell in interest this year. It certainly isn’t because there is less work to do. Employees are working harder than ever to execute Amway growth initiatives and support continuous improvement and innovation.

Of course, we want to attribute it to our communications plan or recruiting efforts. But it seems to me that people are just more attuned this year to what is happening in our communities. There’s higher unemployment, more foreclosures, more families drawing from food banks and other basic need programs.

United Way is in a unique position to scan the need at the community and systems level, and focus efforts in that area, whether through giving or volunteering. So when they make a call to go out and volunteer – on September 11 of all days – people respond.

Amway employees continue to be the largest corporate givers to United Way in West Michigan, and we hope to continue again this year. Just as important is that we aren’t afraid to step out of the office or the factory, roll up our sleeves, and lend a hand to our neighbors.

You can see how Amway and other companies are volunteering for today’s National Day of Service and Remembrance at the Business Civic Leadership Center’s website by clicking here.

2008 Day of Caring - YMCA Camp 2008 Day of Caring - Mentoring at the Children's Museum

Bridging the gap between education and business

Wednesday, 9 September, 2009

We all understand that education plays an important role for our children to grow healthy and confident. But do our schools always impart knowledge and experience that prepare our young people for their first job?

This has been the topic of a dialog that has been evolving over the past two years through our local Chamber of Commerce. A steering committee issued a set of consensus principles for addressing workforce readiness, and has begun to turn thought into action.

As a result, Amway was among several companies to participate in an Educator in the Workplace program last month, which is in its second year and just starting to grow.

Aiming to bridge the gap between education and business, Educator in the Workplace is a collaboration of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, the Kent Intermediate School District and Grand Valley State University. Sixteen teachers from local schools applied to this program, double the number of last year. The teachers receive credit that can be used toward their credential requirements.

After being divided into cohort groups, each group was given orientation, and then spent an afternoon at one company and a full day at another. They came back together on the last day to present what they learned through interaction with the companies and how they would incorporate the business experience into lesson plans.

One fourth-grade teacher from the Detroit area spent a full day at Amway. She told us that the program provided her with a clear insight of what skills are most needed by employers, which was critical for her to make her curriculum more applicable. It also gave her an idea of the types of careers there are these days, and how specialized each position is in a large company.

Another junior high teacher from Grand Rapids Public Schools visited Amway R&D facilities and talked with our scientists. He said walking into the company gave him a better idea of how to get a job and maintain a job for the fresh graduates. He also got a good sense of the leadership and teamwork skills needed to succeed in a corporate environment.

We often see our school outreach as a purely philanthropic program to help those in need. But today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce. It’s such a simple concept – bring the teachers in to show them what the business world is like and how it is changing. But times like these provide breakthroughs in understanding for teachers, and give us the chance to understand how our future workforce is taking shape.

That’s a worthwhile investment!

From guest blogger Robin Luo, Amway Corporate Citizenship Department.

Come see us at Spotlight

Thursday, 3 September, 2009

One by One will be at the National Spotlight tour in New York City the next few days  – starting tonight!

IBOs in attendance can stop by our exhibit and win prizes, so please check it out. Here’s more information on Beth’s blog:

Bringing our skills into the community

Wednesday, 2 September, 2009

Amway employees are like no others.

I joke with our volunteer coordinator about how people here can be very picky about what they want to get involved in and under what circumstances. But we both agree that when they commit, they are fully engaged and put their hearts into it, whether it’s building a playground in a single day, or mentoring a student every week during a school year, or serving in a leadership role on a nonprofit board.

And sometimes they take the initiative and really surprise you. Here’s an example.

We have a team of efficiency experts who practice lean, six sigma techniques. They work across the company, particularly in our manufacturing areas, to make our operations streamlined and efficient.

They also have big hearts.

The leader of the division personally serves on a committee for Make-A-Wish, one of our One by One partners in West Michigan. Another person from this group leads Disaster Relief Teams, made up of employees and spouses that give up their holiday weekends to travel to places in the U.S. that have been hit by disasters. There, they help tear down damaged structures and build up new ones. The department also consistently participates in volunteer events.

We heard that employees from this department had been talking to a local One by One partner, Kids Food Basket, which is a nonprofit organization located on the southwest side of Grand Rapids whose mission is to assemble and provide meals for poverty-level or below elementary school children throughout Kent County.

Around 75 volunteers show up to pack these meals every day, and only 4.5 paid staff manage this huge operation. As you might imagine, while they are able to assemble and deliver about 1,700 take home sack suppers per day, they have quite an extensive waiting list of kids who need assistance.

On May 14 and 15 this team of “Lean Thinkers” had the privilege of working with Kid’s Food Basket, forming a “kaizen team” whose mission was to work toward creating additional capacity without any increase in resources (capital, space, equipment, etc.) They defined the best possible work process that addressed identified issues, and designed a One Piece Flow Meal Assembly.

The results were remarkable. They went from taking 41 seconds to make one meal, which is 88 meals per hour, to 4.5 seconds to make one meal, or 800 meals per hour!

Kid’s Food Basket is currently working with the One Piece Flow Process in preparing 105 of their daily meals. Once KFB has consistently sustained the process, they will be able to increase their capacity to begin serving more children.

We always love it when departments initiate projects with community partners, especially when they leverage the skills that they use at work. And that’s what this team did.

I’ll let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Suffice to say that we are very proud of the expertise on hand at Amway and the spirit of giving that defines our company.