129 South African children go to school thanks to Lotus Bakeries’ support
For four years, Lotus Bakeries has supported NGO Cunina, which gives underprivileged children in developing regions access to education. Nearly 130 corporate colleagues have committed to sponsor a child from Underberg, South Africa. Thanks to Lotus Bakeries’ support, the sponsored children receive a high standard of education for twelve years. An interview with three sponsors.
“When the Cunina project was presented to us, the majority of corporate colleagues immediately wanted to be a sponsor”, begins Legal Counsel Ann-Charlotte Langeraet enthusiastically. “And why not? It’s a fantastic project, funded by Lotus Bakeries in which we can be a sponsor as employees. Twice a year, we exchange letters with the children we sponsor in South Africa. It’s amazing to be able to help a child get an education, because that’s the way out of poverty.”
Ann-Charlotte sponsors a ten-year-old boy, who also has a younger brother and sister. “Sponsoring a child isn’t all sunshine and roses”, she says. “Sometimes they lose a parent or encounter other personal dramas. Or they may have to move house, or something happens to them that means they have to leave the project. Then we are assigned a new child to support. As you can’t help forming a bond, this can sometimes be really hard.”
Often, the Lotus employee’s whole family gets involved with the sponsorship. “I have a four-year-old son”, adds Management Assistant Group HR Débora Soenens. “When we had to send a letter around Halloween time, he did a really big drawing and decorated it with hand and footprints. A few weeks back, his class happened to cover the Cunina project. My son was really excited to show the photos and letters to his classmates. This makes the children here aware from a young age that not everyone is born into the same circumstances, and not everyone has the same opportunities or so many toys. In the last letter, for example, we read that our child’s parents are unemployed. They live off Grandma’s pension, and only just get by. That’s awful. It upsets me that I can’t do more.” Her colleague Denis Pieters, Consolidation Manager, is inspired by his own grandchild when he writes to the child he sponsors, an eight-year-old girl. “I used to sponsor a six-year-old lad, who loved to mess around and had bad grades. Now I’ve got a girl who’s a bit older. I can see many similarities with the interests of my grandchild. I take inspiration from this when I write to her, because we can’t just tell her everything: obviously, we don’t want to boast about all that we have here.”
EDUCATION, EQUIPMENT AND UNIFORMS
The funds are also invested in improvements to the school and, thanks to Lotus Bakeries’ support, uniforms are provided for the children. “The child I sponsor wrote to thank me because Lotus Bakeries had paid for her school uniform”, Débora says. “She wrote about how special she felt when she was walking to school. Everyone was looking at her because she was wearing a uniform. That makes you happy.”
As time goes on, Ann-Charlotte, Débora and Denis find that their support has a positive impact on the children’s school results. “First of all, we get to see their reports, so we can congratulate them now and then”, Ann-Charlotte explains. “But we can see that they’re making progress from the letters as well. English isn’t their mother tongue, they learn it in school. At first, the letters are just a couple of lines in block capitals, but as time goes on, we see huge progress there.”
IN LINE WITH THE VALUES OF LOTUS BAKERIES
In view of all this, they consider the Cunina project to be a perfect fit for Lotus as a company. Denis, who has worked for Lotus Bakeries for forty years, puts it like this: “The way that this company treats people is outstanding. They respect their staff, there’s a friendly atmosphere, and always a human approach. Supporting this project is a perfect fit”, he concludes.