Day 9 of South Africa’s lockdown: As we settle into South Africa’s 21-day Coronavirus lockdown, the Old Mutual Covid-19 Response Team has not been idle. Along with all established and resourceful institutions in the private sector, they have responded to the call, and are deeply involved in both immediate and long-term relief efforts. Interestingly to the Old Mutual Foundation, the 21-day lockdown comes in the year the Foundation celebrates its 21st anniversary.
The golden threads running through the Old Mutual Foundation’s relief efforts are Education, Health and Hunger/Nutrition. Just before the start of South Africa’s lockdown, Old Mutual pledged R50 million toward the relief efforts to curb and minimise the negative effects of the epidemic. While response activities are mainly anchored in education, other areas are receiving much-needed attention, too; for example, consumer financial education, business solidarity through the Solidarity Response Fund, a quarantine facility provided at the Old Mutual premises in the Western Cape, and efforts to reduce the blow on small businesses supported by Old Mutual. All our financial education messages now weave in Covid-19 awareness messages.
Old Mutual’s education-specific allocation supports a multi-pronged approach that includes:
- Food security
- Hygiene, health and sanitation support
- Employee volunteerism and
- Safety of children – including cyber safety
For hygiene and health support, Old Mutual has partnered with the Imbumba Foundation and its Soap4HOPE campaign, distributing soap and other hygiene products to vulnerable communities across the country. Along with soaps, sanitisers, toilet paper and anti-bacterial wipes, the programme also disseminates knowledge and hygiene protocols, so that no community is left behind in our collective efforts to ‘flatten the curve’.
For food security, Old Mutual has partnered with the Department of Basic Education and various NGOs to provide nutrition to thousands of children who are not able to access school feeding schemes as a result of the lockdown. Food parcels and food vouchers are collected by one family member only once during the lockdown period to maintain social distancing.
For e-Learning, Old Mutual has partnered with the National Department of Basic Education and the Mpumalanga Department of Education to ensure continuity of learning and teaching. Through delivering high-quality digital e-Learning materials to both learners and teachers, Old Mutual helps both to stay engaged, so that learning during the lockdown period is not hampered. A print version of all materials is available for those who have no access to digital platforms.
Old Mutual’s employee volunteerism is one of the largest payroll giving programmes in South Africa. The Staff Volunteerism Fund Trust has generously contributed R2 million to Food Forward, a service provider tasked with ensuring that our most vulnerable communities are food secure throughout this period. Funds are being directed to homes for the aged, shelters for women and youth, child-headed households, orphans and vulnerable children, and Early Childhood Development Centres.
Old Mutual’s cyber safety security initiative is designed to inform and protect social media users, especially the young, who are vulnerable to the ever-present reality of cyber bullying, misinformation and the predatory behaviour of abusers. In this initiative, Old Mutual relies on a strategic partnership with the Department of Basic Education and UNICEF.
The Old Mutual Foundation Covid-19 team driving the Education response effort is headed by Ms Maserame Mouyeme, Director of Corporate Affairs and Responsible Business, Ms Fikile Kuhlase, Director of the Old Mutual Foundation and Ms Kanyisa Diamond, Senior Project Manager: Education. Together, they are tasked with rolling-out, managing, monitoring and reporting on the comprehensive Education Covid-19 response. Ms Kuhlase and Ms Diamond represent Old Mutual at the Department of Basic Education’s Interim Steering Team for Covid-19 Response Communications already pouring in testify to the effectiveness of Old Mutual’s efforts, in partnership with many others. Ms Kuhlase mentions a WhatsApp shared with the Old Mutual Covid-19 response team on the Soap4HOPE campaign in KZN that simply says:
‘I am just in awe that you left your family to bring us these soaps. I just wanted to thank you again. South Africa needs more people like you. I will ask the social workers to let you know when we need more. God bless you’.
Indeed, there are many working behind the scenes to ensure that all South Africans stand a chance of remaining safe and healthy during this critical time.
Numerous pledges are being made by the private sector and ordinary South African citizens, demonstrating a tremendous sense of ubuntu. What remains is for all people to heed the call and do what may feel counter-intuitive in a time of crisis – to simply stay home and practise scrupulous hygiene before and after any essential trips out. Old Mutual is doing its part. When we all do what is required of us, we create a successful national response – one that will lower the rate of infection and preserve both lives and our economy.
Please visit #OMCOVID-19 on Twitter for the ongoing conversation and to contribute anything you think might aid in the fight against Covid-19. Also visit www.oldmutual.com or email email@example.com to learn more about the Old Mutual Covid-19 Response Team activities.