Moving Communities Forward

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The hardworking Bloemfontein CSI team from Standard Bank. PHOTOS: PULANE CHAONE

Let’s be honest, these days, with corporate social investment being somewhat of a buzzword and opportunities for companies to check off good deeds on their list, Corporate Social Identity (CSI) projects have become more than just another target for companies to meet. Very few companies make a concentrated effort to meet a need in the community and also make a real difference in the lives of those living in the community.
This is fortunately not the case with Standard Bank’s regional office, which is based in Bloemfontein. On Thursday 2 March 2017, the CSI team at Standard Bank set out on a mission that would forever change the lives of two elderly ladies. As the staff at Standard Bank departed from their offices, the air was electric with excitement. They split up into groups of two as they set off to Heidedal and Bochabela to complete the homes of the ladies who desperately needed someone to notice and improve their living conditions.
As the one group arrived in Heidedal at 92-year-old Elizabeth Tiaas’ home in Heidedal, the team set out to plaster and paint the walls of the home Standard Bank had built for the grateful lady. Tiaas, who will be turning 93 on the 12th of March, said she could hardly contain her excitement at the prospect of moving into a home without leaks in the ceiling and cracks in the walls. With tears in her eyes and a genuine smile, the matriarch said that she never thought she’d live to the day when she would have another home. She added that township gossip mongers used to taunt her with the state of her home and now she is looking forward to walking about with pride in her yard and enjoying her new home. As the CSI team worked on gathering the plaster sand and mixing it with water, Tiaas looked on with curious satisfaction. She saw the team labour away to make her lifelong dream come true.
Staying true to their tagline, “Moving Forward”, the Standard Bank team arranged with various of its stakeholders, including small to medium enterprises, to lend a helping hand to make sure that the work of the day is completed that same day. There was ‘teamwork in spades’ and laughter in the air, making the load light for many of those working. A few officials from the Department of Human Settlements in the Free State also joined in to lend a helping hand, ensuring that the business of the day would be completed successfully.
On to the other group in Bochabela location where a sadder, however, equally meaningful tale, unfolded. An elderly lady living at the home in Bochebela only managed to see part of her home being built. She was struck with a short illness and unfortunately died before she could see the complete structure. While the team was visibly saddened by the news, they, in honour of this lady’s memory and the cause that gathered them there, quickly got to work, scrubbing the walls and preparing to paint them so that when the woman’s funeral was to be held at the home, the bulk of the work would have been done.
By the end of the day, two groups of labourers (many of them covered in dirt, sand and cement) were surprisingly energetic. Zainal Samodien, one of the members from the Heidedal group, said they are looking forward to such events where they can make a difference in someone’s life. She added that working for a company that actively seeks to make a difference, is “such a blessing, because you’re always looking forward to your next event and how you can contribute”.
The team aims to build three more houses for three underprivileged families through the guidance and help of the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality in due course. The Bloemfontein Standard Bank CSI team’s prime focus is on providing meaningful solutions to those in need, with a special focus on the elderly, children from underprivileged homes and schools as well as providing support to smaller non-profit organisations. – Pulane Choane