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What can CSR achieve? (Lessons from Connecting HR Africa)

In September 2016, I’ll be heading to Kampala (Uganda) with a team of HR/L&D professionals for ‘Connecting HR Africa’ where we will be putting our skills to very good use. We’ll be dividing our time between working with the staff at Retrak (a charity working to transform the lives of vulnerable children) and with the children Retrak are there to help. I’ve been on similar trips to both Uganda and Ethiopia so I have a reasonable idea of what to expect. I might be biased, but I think it is a great example of very practical CSR, which will have a sustainable positive impact on all involved and I want to explore some of the benefits.

Retrak works with street children on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos March 2011
Retrak works with street children across Africa and Latin America. Photo Robin Hammond/Panos March 2011

Firstly – and most importantly – the children will get the opportunity to be children again. Prior to this, they’ll be living rough on the streets and will have been fighting for their survival. We’ll be playing games, teaching them crafts, getting them involved in sports, doing some face-painting and a lot of group dances. On a practical level, the team are taking tons of things for the children (clothes, shoes, games etc.) and in the longer-term, the team will have played a part in the journey of transforming these children’s lives. The impact extends beyond the trip; thanks to the fundraising that the team are doing, many more children will be helped off the streets and back into a safe, loving family environment.

The charity Retrak benefits from having a team of experienced HR/L&D professionals working with them. When we’re not working with the children, we’ll be working with the Retrak staff and using, for example, our coaching and mentoring skills to help the staff. The team have already become wonderful ambassadors for Retrak and I’m sure that will continue to grow as people get to see the work for themselves. The funds raised by the team will help Retrak make even more of a difference.

And what about the benefits for us participants? Speaking from experience, this will be life-changing. My own experience is that it is heart-wrenching and inspiring in equal measure. It breaks my heart to see what many children suffer, but I’m also inspired by their resilience, their resourcefulness, their hope for the future, and their care for each other. And I’m constantly amazed by what can happen when you help people to help themselves. Each time I do something like this, I come back a slightly better person… a bit less materialistic, with a better perspective on what matters and what doesn’t, and inspired to help even more children.

CSR, done well, can have a huge sustainable positive impact. I’m hugely excited to be heading to Uganda as I know how much difference it will make for the children, for Retrak, and for the team. And it is a difference worth having.

You can find more details of the 2016 Connecting HR Africa team in this Linkedin post, along with information about how you can help us make a difference.

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