In a country where the cost-of-living is increasing and job losses are continuing, now more than ever is the time to recommit to the joys of giving. South Africans are inherently generous, but research has shown that the global pandemic has heightened this sense of altruism. Earlier this year, the World Giving Index revealed that SA had moved up to 21 out of 114 countries ranked in terms of generosity, with South Africans becoming more charitable in the face of a worldwide health crisis. Psychological studies for the past few decades have shown that giving is good for mental health, with one formative 2013 study linking the relationship between happiness and generosity.
“At Liberty, sharing the gift of knowledge – particularly education and literacy – has always been one of the central pillars of our business. But in 2020, we decided to expand the ways in which we gave back, which is why we decided to launch the #DriveHope initiative,” says Liberty’s Divisional Executive for Digital Marketing, Karen Denny.
The charitable platform was first intended for employees to nominate their colleagues and communities who were struggling, to receive a small boost to keep going. However, as the pandemic escalated, the need for support to South Africans became more apparent as Liberty worked more closely with communities near and dear to their staff. #DriveHope’s expansion started with the understanding that passionate and caring individuals who are generously helping others, need support to make a meaningful impact on their communities. Liberty understood its role in enabling these extraordinary South Africans, placing #DriveHope at the forefront of its Corporate Citizenship efforts.
The platform was opened to the public to nominate anyone who needed help in the midst of the global health crisis. The media and communities got involved to ensure solutions were making their way to well-deserving South Africans. Since it began in early 2020, #DriveHope has paid out over R1.6 million in charitable ‘random acts of kindness’ across the country. The platform functions on a nomination system, where anyone can contact Liberty to nominate friends, family, or members of their community in need. Earlier this year, Liberty reported that it had already assisted more than 5000 nominees, through financial assistance, care-packages, food parcels, school supplies and other essentials.
“The reaction from our employees has been phenomenal, and we’ve seen them all pitch in with their time and energy to make #DriveHope happen,” she says.
Recently, in an effort to help raise more than 30 000 meals in aid of food security in partnership with SA Harvest, Liberty and its financial adviser force came together to pledge R272,000 towards Meals for Deals and raised an additional R150,000 with the help of consumers through policy commitments. Though the aim was to raise enough funding for 30 000 meals, Liberty and SA Harvest exceeded this ambition more than threefold, raising 136 000 meals.
“We’ve been able to help people maintain their financial futures and directly support the people of South Africa struggling without food during the pandemic. It’s an initiative we can all be proud of. The meals were handed over on 10 December and these have been scheduled for distribution in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.” says Johan Minnie, Group Executive for Sales at Liberty.
Meanwhile, Liberty’s annual Winter Shoe Drive was able to provide footwear to 23 000 pupils at over 100 South African schools. In partnership with Bata shoes, concerned Liberty employees pledged their own money to secure thousands of shoes for Grade 1 and 2 pupils who needed them.
“At Liberty, we have a culture of rolling up our sleeves and being in it with our communities. Doing things like this is our way of helping to build the positive society we would all like to be a part of. All children deserve to be able to focus on their education, not on whether they’ll have shoes this year,” adds Nomaxabiso Matjila, lead specialist for Corporate Social Initiatives.
Yet Liberty has not forgotten its commitment to building literacy among South African children. This year, the Liberty Community Trust distributed 68 500 books to Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across the Eastern Cape, bringing the fun of reading to the province that was identified as needing it most.
In partnership with NGOs Nalibali and Book Dash, the Yizani Sifunde campaign was born from recognising the struggle at many ECD centres during the pandemic. The distribution of books had slowed to a crawl at these centres due to the ongoing lockdowns, so the campaign gathered editors, writers and illustrators from 8 countries to put together original books that would then be published by the thousand and distributed across the Eastern Cape. The success of the project has already resulted in Liberty choosing to extend it until 2025 – with an even wider scope.
“But the momentum of giving hasn’t stopped with the end-of-year rush towards to the festive season. We want to keep going, push for change and show our communities that we will always be in it with them,” she says.
Liberty is already planning its 2022 #DriveHope agenda, in which it hopes to reach further, give more, and continue to change lives for the better.