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Hippo Toy Brings Winter Smiles to Vulnerable Kids

Comparison platform Hippo.co.za has delivered handmade Hippo Toys to nearly 300 children in local homes and projects, continuing the positive message of the brand’s popular CSR initiative.Hippo.co.za’s #MyHippo Toy community initiative continues to bring comfort during South Africa’s extended Covid-19 lockdown, with vulnerable children at four local homes receiving the plush toy mascots as a special winter gift.

The handmade plush toys were donated to the Lighthouse Baby Shelter & Children’s Home and the Ethembeni Children’s Home in Johannesburg; and Marsh Memorial Homes and the Yabonga Children’s Project in Cape Town.

Each of these homes provide vital care for South Africa’s children. The Lighthouse takes in unwanted babies through a door in its garden wall called The Moses Basket; while Ethembeni cares for up to 60 abandoned or abused children, aged up to three years. Marsh Memorial Homes provides short-term care for children who have experienced abuse, neglect or abandonment; and Yabonga empowers families who have been infected and affected by HIV/Aids.

This toy project has been a welcome source of good news throughout the pandemic. In mid-2020, when South Africa’s national lockdown was at its hardest, Hippo.co.za reached out to Francois De Flamingh, founder of local design studio Creatarium and designer of Hippo’s famous puppet mascot. Together they contracted a team of out-of-work seamstresses, all from Mitchells Plain in Cape Town, to create a limited run of handcrafted toys based on the brand mascot.

The seamstresses, whose work is linked to the local film industry, had unfortunately lost their income due to the Covid-19 lockdown. While Hippo.co.za could have outsourced the manufacturing of the toys to a factory overseas, it chose instead to make it a truly South African community project. The materials used to make the toys are locally sourced, in line with the brand’s choice to support local business.

When the toys were then featured in an influencer marketing campaign, the project exploded, with the #MyHippo campaign generating over 1 million impressions. The public response to the toy was so overwhelmingly positive that Hippo.co.za ordered a second run of another 1 000 toys from the team of seamstresses.

The #MyHippo campaign was followed by a Little Hippo Heroes competition, which ran on national radio in March 2021. Knowing that South Africa’s kids were struggling through the pandemic, the brand called on parents, siblings and guardians to share how brave their little heroes had been during the Covid-19 lockdown. Again, the response was enormous, with 50 winners – many of whom were battling with illness or loneliness – chosen from hundreds of entries. Best of all, the campaign helped to share some good news during a very difficult time for our country.

From the start, the Hippo Toy has been a way to spread positivity and promote good decisions.

“This project is part of a much bigger brand purpose for Hippo.co.za,” says Hippo.co.za CEO Bradley Du Chenne. “We want to encourage good decision-making, and ultimately this translates to empowering people to take charge of their lives, improving not only their financial standing but also themselves. The project allows us to do that, not only for consumers, but also for small businesses and the seamstresses who have been impacted by Covid-19. This is not just a passion project for us. Empowering others is part of our brand ethos.”

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