Volkswagen Community Trust
Working together for the community
For the Volkswagen Group it is a fundamental conviction that everything we do should also create value for society as a whole. This belief drives us, together with our employees, to initiate and support social projects across all the continents of the world. The work of the Volkswagen Community Trust in South Africa shows how both sides benefit.
High unemployment, extreme poverty, the constant threat of violence: for many in Kabah, a majority-black township in the KwaLanga district of Uitenhage, South Africa, life is all about doing without. For young people growing up here the concept of a carefree childhood is a distant dream. And with a lack of suitable teaching resources and qualified staff, state schools cannot create a stimulating learning environment either.
So for this neighborhood the Ikhwezi Lomso Early Childhood Center is much more than a little “morning star” – which is what “Ikhwezi Lomso” means. This center, built in 2011 with funding from the Volkswagen Community Trust and donations from the Volkswagen workforce in South Africa, is making good education possible, opening up prospects for a brighter future ahead.
Around 100 five- and six-year-old children are prepared for starting school here by qualified teachers. Age-appropriate learning materials are used to develop memory and cognition skills. A soup kitchen provides for their physical welfare, and specialists are regularly on hand to provide psychological and medical support. The center also stays open after school hours for younger children from the district to attend the regular reading club. “Our goal is to stimulate the children’s curiosity and develop their sensory perception skills”, explains Vernon Naidoo, Manager of the Volkswagen Community Trust in Uitenhage, adding that: “We want to boost their emotional intelligence and their self-belief, so that they’re really well prepared for starting school.”
Education is the solution for many of South Africa’s social problems and the key to building the country’s economic prosperity. The earlier this education starts the more lasting its effect. Which is why supporting education – especially for preschoolers – is a priority for the Volkswagen Community Trust (VWCT). This charitable foundation spent around 80% of its total funding budget of ZAR 5 million (around €360,000) on education in 2012. Just keeping the Ikhwezi Lomso center running for a year accounted for nearly ZAR 1 million. Yet simply providing the building was not enough to guarantee a positive impact on the development of the wider community. “We want to establish proper management structures to safeguard the future of our center”, explains Naidoo. He is working closely with the local authorities to achieve this end.
The Volkswagen Community Trust – which was also founded back in the apartheid era, in the face of significant opposition – has initiated and carried out more than 300 projects to date. The guiding principle in all cases is helping people to help themselves. The workforce and management of the Volkswagen plant in Uitenhage, along with representatives of the unions and the authorities in nearby communities, work together to decide which projects will be supported. The key factor here is whether the proposed project will help the community as a whole. This process leads to cooperation with different types of organization – authorities, schools, churches and NGOs.
Working together for the community is an integral component of the Volkswagen culture – in South Africa as in other locations worldwide. The desire to give something back to society has been taken on board by employees across the Group – as is clearly evidenced by the enduring success of international workforce-led initiatives. One example is “A Chance to Play”, the campaign launched in 2008 in the run-up to the football World Cup in South Africa. Sports facilities and regular training sessions were provided in conjunction with the charity “terre des hommes”– reaching out to more than 50,000 children. Now this campaign, renamed “A Chance to Play – O direito de brincar”, has been carried over to the next World Cup in Brazil. A total of 14 projects have been launched – among them a crèche and anti-violence training in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
80 % of the Volkswagen Community Trust’s funding budget is invested in educational projects for children and adolescents.
Yet this social commitment also takes the form of active participation in social and ecological projects – volunteering is a core element of the Volkswagen Group ethos. A survey conducted in 2010 in the provinces of Eastern Cape and Gauteng showed that 83% of Volkswagen South Africa employees were “not afraid to get their hands dirty” in community service work. This strong desire to get involved led to the creation of the employee volunteering program “Great Show of Hands”. Founded in 2011, this initiative is today an established long-term volunteer program. To date over 1,000 employees have been involved in the redecoration, maintenance or renovation of primary schools, a children’s hospital, a home for the disabled and many other facilities belonging to non-profit organizations.
A prime example here is the work undertaken by Volkswagen employees in South Africa on behalf of Nonkqubela Pre-Primary School in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage. As part of “Great Show of Hands”, this team of volunteers laid 1,000 m2 of lawn, planted 70 trees, created a playground and installed water tanks – all in the space of a few hours. All the necessary materials were provided by the Community Trust. “Many of our employees are also keen to get involved as trainers for sports activities”, says trust manager Naidoo. No doubt their enthusiasm is further boosted by the public recognition accorded to the engagement of Volkswagen employees. In its 2013 “Drivers of Change” competition, the Southern Africa Trust named “Great Show of Hands” among the finalists in the Corporate Volunteering category.
1 – The Ikhwezi Lomso Early Childhood Center gives many children the chance of an education.
2 – The earlier education at the Center starts, the more lasting its effect.
3 – Vernon Naidoo, Manager of the Volkswagen Community Trust in Uitenhage.