The Danish Hempel Foundation supports 65 schools in the municipalities of Jesus and San Andres de Machaqa near Lake Titicaca. As part of the collaboration between IBIS and Hempel Foundation the CSR-Director Bente Mølgaard and employees from four different continents visited pupils and families on the windswept Bolivian Altiplano in October.
By Kathrine Dalsgaard
"If it takes three days to fly from China to Bolivia, how many days would it take in helicopter or by foot?," a girl eagerly asks. Her and her classmates are crowded near the blackboard to get a glimpse of the visitor. So crowded that it is impossible to distinguish one shoe from the other. It is not every day the little school in Jesús de Machaqa has a Chinese visitor.
Zhang Chen is the name of the exotic guest and he works for Hempel in China. Hempel is a paint company for the shipbuilding industry which operates in more than 80 countries and with nearly 5,000 employees. Hempel Foundation has existed since 1949 and is currently supporting 18 social and sustainable projects throughout the world as part of its CSR strategy. Together with Bente Mølgaard and colleagues from Argentina, England, Malaysia, Poland, Spain and the United States, Zhang is visiting IBIS´ and Hempel Foundation´s intercultural education project, initiated in 2012.
Machaqa is one of Bolivia's poorest provinces and the majority of the population speaks Aymara. Traditionally, students have found it difficult to follow teaching performed only in Spanish and based in an urban reality, far from the world they daily inhabit. The aim of the project is therefore on the one hand to train 212 teachers to teach 1.200 students in both Aymara and Spanish and on the other to produce teaching materials in Aymara that focus on the daily life in Machaqa.
"I think that part of the profits from companies should be directed at social and sustainable purposes and I hope that my experiences here will raise awareness of CSR amongst Hempel employees " says Zhang, while the students are grinning loudly while playing a Chinese tag game in the background. He has given presentations for the curious students about his culture and his society, has visited families, played, danced and taught a few Chinese characters in exchange for some glosses in aymara. When Zhang comes back to China, he will communicate his experiences and impressions at the workplace, through articles in local media and to his network through social media such as Twitter.
The visit is important for employees' CSR support
It is the second time that Hempel employees visit an IBIS project. The first time was in October 2011 when a group of volunteers visited two schools in the East African country Mozambique. For Bente Mølgaard the volunteers´ visit is a unique opportunity to anchor and communicate the foundation´s social work. "Hempel has 5000 employees around the world, and I cannot reach all of them. It is much better that the staff visits the projects and then communicates their visit. With the visit, I also wish that the employees will be proud of the fact that a large part of Hempel's profits go to the world´s poor."
The visit has impressed Zhang and the other volunteers. ”I have seen that education is something everyone wants in order to be able to improve their standard of living. It's an investment in life," says Zhang.
"Meeting the children and their families is incredibly moving. I am proud to be a part of the project and work for a company like Hempel, "says Erika Solis, from the USA, who can easily relate to the bilingual students as her parents are immigrants from Mexico. "It is about not forgetting your language, who you are and where you come from," she says thoughtfully.
Local support for CSR cooperation
Isaac Ticona, Director of IBIS´ partner Fundación Machaqa Amawt’a, is excited about the cooperation with Hempel and the exchange and dialogue, which the visit has generated. "I think it is very positive that companies support social and environmental projects. We need everyone's involvement if we are to solve our contemporary challenges."
For Bente Mølgaard who visited Machaqa in May, the second visit has been a positive reunion. "I have come closer to the community and seen how much people here care about the project. I think it is a good and well planed project, and I am excited to see even more progress in three years, "she concludes, smiling.
- IBIS seeks to work with private companies with a social commitment. Current CSR corporations in Bolivia are between IBIS and the Melting Pot Foundation with the project of the Food School and between IBIS and Hempel Foundation.
- Hempel Foundation supports the educational project in Machaqa with duration of three years with one million Danish crowns. Besides the project in Machaqa, Hempel Foundation supports IBIS projects in Ghana, Mozambique and Nicaragua.