Staff use their hearts and hands to make blankets and toys, and plant eco-tower vegetable gardens for underprivileged 

Sun International has reaffirmed its commitment to socio-economic upliftment with the launch of the hospitality group’s Festival of Giving, where staff are encouraged to use their hearts and hands in a meaningful way.

In 2023, the company is targeting actions to fight climate change and poverty alleviation. “Sun International does many incredible works, but we have now created an employee volunteer programme which enables staff to spread love and hope to the less fortunate all year round,” said Sun International SED Specialist Heidi Edson.

Studies have revealed benefits associated with volunteerism, from mental and physical health improvement to social perks and even career advancement.

The volunteerism pilot kicked off in July with 150 enthusiastic staff members at Central Office in Sandton, who volunteered their time to make blankets, toys and eco-tower vegetable gardens for those in need. Their efforts yielded some 80 blankets – beating a target of 50 – that were donated to the Johannesburg Dream Centre. More than 100 toys – double the target of  50 – were made from recycled and pre-owned items, including skipping ropes, toy monsters, and party packs were donated to the Toys For Good initiative for nursery schools and early-childhood development centres.

In a partnership with Rise Against Hunger (RAH), staff planted spinach, lettuce and other vegetables in vertical gardening eco-towers. “The anticipated yield will be enough to supplement RAH’s meal packs wth fresh produce for approximately 60 children in Diepsloot, Tembisa and Cosmo City over a two-month period,” said Edson. RAH will work alongside Sun International staff to encourage hands-on involvement of the towers as well as the distribution of the vegetables. “We have vertical gardening eco-towers on each floor of the Sun International Central Office and each tower has a Hunger Champion in charge of the produce care,” Edson said.

The Festival was held in association with forgood, a platform that connects corporates with causes to service the needs of NPOs in real time, which Sun International has an existing relationship with. Social impact events are a key forgood offering as it seeks to leverage corporate skills to aid the non-profit sector.

“We’ve had a tremendous response since partnering with Sun International in 2022, making more than 50 connections to causes on our platform. We’ve seen the social impact that can be achieved when two corporates come together and we look forward to staff interest increasing even further with the next Festival of Giving,” said forgood Co-ordinator Bokang Mokoena.

“The volunteering sessions were therapeutic and fun. There’s no better feeling than making a difference in someone else’s life, and by participating, I could make a real impact. It’s great that we employees enjoy these opportunities as it is so good for mental well-being and comes with a deep sense of satisfaction,” said Sun International HR Consultant Lethabo Khoza, while packing blankets made by her team.

Last year, over 600 Sun International employees participated in self-defence workshops open to the public as part of the company’s anti-gender-based violence campaign.

There is more to come in 2023 as Sun International’s employee volunteer programme continues to gain momentum, said Edson.

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