Liberty Drives Hope - and places the needs of ordinary South Africans at the core
It was a desperate cry for help on Facebook. When Karen Denny, Divisional Executive for Liberty’s Digital Marketing team, first read it, her heart sank. An elderly woman had anonymously poured her heart out, searching for help after she was sexually assaulted by a relative. The woman’s family and friends couldn’t offer her the support she needed, she had lost her job because of the COVID-19 lockdown, and her Unemployment Insurance Fund payments were still outstanding.
Reading the post was an emotional rollercoaster – the sadness surrounding the woman’s situation, the outrage over her suffering and inability to find help, and finally knowing that the Liberty #DriveHope Squad could somehow assist.
“I remember when I first called her, she couldn’t stop crying. I told her – I promised her – that we were going to help,” said Denny. The physical distance created by the national lockdown was a challenge, but she and Liberty's #DriveHopeSquad, a team of internal colleagues - knew that at the very least, they could help the woman get medical attention, both physically and psychologically, and provide her with food to sustain her until she could get back on her feet.
This was just one of the 677 random acts of kindness that the squad has undertaken since the campaign began in January this year. The #DriveHope initiative began at the Liberty offices in Johannesburg, separate from the Financial Services Provider’s other Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects.
The initial intent was for internal colleagues who know too well our ethos; about being centred in humanity.
“At first, we wanted to help our own people internally. We would nominate people at our offices who needed help or ask that they nominate people in their communities who were suffering and had basic needs that just weren’t being met,” said Denny.
The start of the lockdown had been a tough time for many of Liberty’s employees, but the call centre operators, who worked tirelessly to help clients suffering the emotional and economic effects of the pandemic, were taking strain. As a thank you for their dedication, the #DriveHopeSquad, put together care packages for them, just a small gesture they hoped would help the operators know they were valued.
But the initial internal project continued to grow as nominations came from both inside and outside the company, not from a targeted campaign, but just through word-of-mouth. What began as a few posts on social media and a few emails to Liberty’s dedicated email address began to turn into dozens, then hundreds of requests nominating others who needed help. The desire to drive hope was swelling, particularly during the lockdown, where the number of acts of kindness and the related funding tripled. Food vouchers, food parcels, school shoes, baby essentials and funds raised for vital community organisations were all making their way across the country to people in need.
“By July, 4677 people had been directly impacted, with an estimated 3111 others, from relatives of those people to community members, who indirectly benefited,” said Denny.
“#DriveHope was always about the person next door, the friend in need, the colleague who had too much month at the end of the money. We wanted to be able to provide help, to make a real tangible difference in the lives of others who needed immediate help,” she said.
“DriveHope is over and above our CSI initiatives, and we believe these acts of kindness continue to demonstrate that we really are trying our best to be in it with people of South Africa, so we really hope that we will be able to continue our efforts into 2021 and beyond. People have truly been touched by our efforts, and recipients are also trying to pay-it-forward by nominating others,” said Denny.
“Whether it’s the gratitude and hopefulness of the nominees or the altruism of the people making the nominations, we’ve now seen the inherent goodness of South Africans, and we want to keep this going,” she said.
Head of Social Media at Liberty and proud member of the #DriveHopeSquad, Rindy Janse van Rensburg, said that while they may not be able to resolve every request, the team will continue to devote their time, humanity and understanding to as many cases as possible.
For Janse van Rensburg, what has been most heartening has been any time the team has been able to provide hope for children. “So many children in South Africa endure hardship every day. Every child deserves a fair chance,” she said. She recalls providing food and baby clothing to a single mother in Gauteng who had no money to buy formula for her babies, let alone food for herself.
“Being a mother means you need to protect and provide. It means that you are responsible to keep someone else alive. When you cannot do that, you feel that, not only did you fail your child, but mentally you break and fail yourself. We had to help her,” she said.
Both Denny and Janse van Rensburg hope that corporates across South Africa think about expanding their CSI campaigns to include smaller initiatives that can quickly effect change.
“We recognise the incredible charities and NGOs that do amazing work every day, and they also deserve corporate funding. But I believe that being able to receive nominations from people about people in their immediate communities is so important too. #DriveHope is about helping the people who fall through the cracks, whose basic needs can be met quickly but so often aren’t,” said Denny.
To nominate someone in need of hope, keep an eye on our social media channels for when we open nominations.
Liberty Group Ltd is a licensed Insurer and Authorised Financial Services Provider (no 2409).
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