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CSR initiatives adapt to COVID-19

Pandemic prompts PH firms to continue reaching out despite constraints

How kindness and generosity have survived even with the COVID-19 pandemic was discussed at the recent World Vision CSR Summit in Cebu.The summit showcased how groups and individuals determined to help those in greater need could modify their charitable work despite facing serious challenges themselves.

During the summit, World Vision Foundation partners discussed how they managed to sustain and/or adapt their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs and projects despite constraints, including reduced material, financial and human resources.By highlighting best practices from businesses and civic groups, the CSR summit, the second to be organized by World Vision, hoped to inspire others to find innovative ways to respond to and address the disruptions caused by the global pandemic.

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World Vision chose Cebu as venue for the second summit as the island province had its second highest number of corporate and institutional partners, after Metro Manila.

And Metropolitan Cebu, like the National Capital Region, faced a serious COVID-19 situation, which has fortunately improved from May last year, when Cebu City recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country.

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Increased poverty

Faith Richelle Sy, World Vision program manager in Cebu, said they wanted the summit to “provide information on what is being done on the ground and what more can be done.” They also wanted to inspire others to pursue more CSR initiatives.

Walter Cang, secretary of the Rotary Club of Cebu and one of the summit speakers, admitted, “COVID-19 increased poverty and hunger and strained people’s ability to do something.” But despite the dire situation, “there are still many things people can do [to help others].” Indeed, there were many opportunities to harness CSR to help communities. One common realization was that it was better to combine resources than go about CSR work as individual companies. The Ramon Aboitiz Foundation Inc. (Rafi), said chief operating officer Riella Guioguio, another speaker, “focused on providing relevant solutions” and indeed stressed the pandemic could not be addressed by just one organization. “Rafi worked with LGUs (local government units), private companies, NGOs (nongovernment organizations) and made significant organizational changes to make sure [assistance] reached target beneficiaries.”

The Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc., also worked with other similarly-minded groups to alleviate the adverse impact of COVID-19 on Cebuanos, president Felix Taguiam told participants. He said, as the chamber pursued its CSR initiatives, it was gratified that the traditional bayanihan (community cooperation and collaboration) spirit was alive and well.

Rommel Fuerte, World Vision national director, said the speakers proved that, despite the challenges, people could still do a lot and individuals and groups could “learn from each other” on what could be done.

Best practices

The pandemic, said Jun Godornes, World Vision resource development director, underscored the need to work together and how many groups were already doing things to help those in need, as the summit highlighted best practices in Cebu in dealing with the crisis.

Cang said the Rotary Club, an international service organization that aims to bring together business and professional leaders to provide humanitarian service, among others, had already started preparing for the time after COVID-19.

While many businesses also faced disruptions during the pandemic, Taguiam and Guioguio said they came up with innovative ways to help those most in need despite the difficulties. Rafi and its partners, Guioguio said, found ways to help other than giving cash. Guioguio said “the needs were greater than the fear” of the disease so they came up with new ways to deal with the problem.

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Richard Hendin, World Vision Foundation member, stressed that “a lot can be done together [by different groups] rather than by going it alone.”

“We want to build stronger communities to support those facing challenges,” Godones said. The different groups trying to alleviate the adverse effects of COVID-19 should not be competing, but complementing each other’s work.

Other speakers at the summit were Cecilia Alcantara of the Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines, Aaron Que of Golden Prince Hotel & Suites and Trixie Suarez, president of the Singapore School Cebu. —CONTRIBUTED INQ

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