Masters in corporate social responsibility, fresh fruit suppliers Cool Fresh, is ramping up its projects in South Africa by partnering with Capespan’s CSR division to kick off a literacy programme in remote regions of the Eastern Cape.
Communities in many rural areas often struggle because of the lack of employment opportunities created by the seasonal nature of the fresh produce industry.
This contributes to a cycle of poverty, according to Cool Fresh International CSR director Nic Jooste.
“Because of the fact that a lot of the work is seasonal you have peak times where people have access to work and a lot of time they don’t and the communities are always struggling especially in times when there is not enough work – and that is when all of the “social ills” starts to happen,” he tells PBUK.
Cool Fresh has been active in the Eastern Cape with its Stars in their Eyes programme before, but the Netherlands-based produce marketing company will take its CSR to another level by teaming up with Capespan’s CSR division and a number of NGOs, including the Tembalethu Trust, in a youth development project to address the social challenges in various disadvantaged communities.
One of the plans is working with Cape Town-based NGO Little Libraries, initially created by Camille Quine in 2013. The organisation provides a “first step” into literacy and reading by giving pre-school children, who are looked after in care centres in disadvantaged communities, access to books.
The education and literacy project operates under the auspices of Cool Fresh International’s Stars in their Eyes Foundation.
“Giving kids access to bookcases filled with a variety of books can make such a huge difference to literacy levels, especially in rural areas,” adds Jooste.
“The whole process with the libraries has been proven in the Western Cape. It really does make a difference to these kids because by the time they get to school they already have a feeling and knowledge about books as well as the alphabet etc.
“These kids aged between one and five years old would otherwise not have access to books.
“It’s one thing running a project like this in the city where everybody can find work wherever they are because the employment opportunities are a lot more diverse, but the Eastern Cape is really a rural area where the whole aspect of literacy is a big problem because of the remoteness of the villages and schools.”
Other social community work will involve the Thembalethu Aids & Edu Trust which focuses on outreach programmes including youth development and training, preschool teacher training, a feeding scheme for preschool children, as well as character transformation and gardening projects.
Cool Fresh’s Stars in their Eyes Foundation has a solid track record of using sport, particularly football, as driving force, to help children in rural communities. The organisation has been involved in the training of around 800 coaches from more than 240 communities all over South Africa.
And as the largest exporter of fresh fruit from South Africa, Capespan established its Foundation more than a decade ago to drive its corporate social investment mandate and has implemented various social, health and educational development programmes, which is referred to as the Capespan Blue Hand Programme at project level.
At the launch of the joint partnership between Capespan and Cool Fresh, Capespan CSR Manager, Ansonette van der Merwe, said that joint ventures can drastically increase the impact and scope of community development and she appealed to local government to partner with the organisations involved to provide resources, such as the use of venues for sport development, and being involved and present at activities which are hosted at grassroots level.
Hugo Vermeulen, managing director of Cool Fresh said South Africa has a special place in the hearts of the people of his company. He praised Capespan for joining the project without hesitation, and said that Cool Fresh’s experience in social projects in South Africa over 15 years has shown that “unselfish” involvement in social projects can create waves of synergy.
In this regard he mentioned how the partnership between Little Libraries and Stars in their Eyes has created support from clients or Cool Fresh in many countries. This has resulted in the concept of “good fruit” taking on a different meaning.
“We’ve been in contact with Capespan on a commercial basis for a couple of years and I approached them last year to do a social project together in South Africa and this initiative is the result of that,” adds Jooste.
“Instead of just doing a one-day event, we said let’s stretch the programme over a period of at least a year and track the progress – I’m sure we will see some great results.”