By Lukmon Oloyede
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one of the stems of sound corporate governance, is increasingly attaining wider global and local adoption as its impacts in achieving the United Nations sustainable development goals become more perceptible. Today, top executives across different industry want to demonstrate their corporate citizenship through altruistic, ethical and legitimate initiatives that present their organizations as socially responsible.
However, the big challenge for executives is how to develop an approach that can truly deliver on these lofty ambitions—and, as of yet, few have found the way. Some innovative companies have managed to overcome this hurdle, with smart partnering emerging as one way to create value for both the business and society simultaneously. Some others have also been able to create a sustainable CSR Strategy tailored towards their values.
A prime example of such organization is Airtel Nigeria. The telco through its flagship CSR intervention dubbed Airtel Touching Lives has impacted thousands of lives since inception in 2014.
Airtel Touching Lives is an inspiring CSR initiative that offers practical relief, succour, hope, opportunities and credible platforms to liberate and empower the underprivileged, disadvantaged and hard to reach persons in the society. The activities of Airtel Touching Lives are recorded and produced for national television with a view to promoting the spirit of giving, self-sacrifice and love among Nigerians.
“We are looking for impact; we want to touch many lives. We can’t do it alone, but I believe with the triangle of government, NGOs, and companies we can create the kind of impact to lift people out of poverty. There is nothing more fulfilling than giving to someone who can never give you anything in return.
“Since we launched the Airtel Touching Lives initiative three years ago, we have achieved remarkable successes, having restored hope of despaired individuals and families, saved many from the throes of death and empowered many underprivileged Nigerians,” Segun Ogunsanya, Chief Executive Officer & Managing Director, Airtel Nigeria, said recently at the launch of the fourth season of Touching Lives.
Ogunsanya also noted that Airtel believes that “together, we all can make our society a better place if we join hands and collaborate to uplift the downtrodden around us.”
Indeed, Airtel Nigeria through the Touching Lives platform has demonstrated its commitment and passion to creating a better society for Nigerians. Here are some highlights of lives touched in the past three seasons of the programme:
The Aina family lost three children to an inferno. They also lost their home and everything they had. However, Airtel intervened and, earlier this year, Airtel handed the family with an ultramodern two-bedroom apartment. Airtel also took responsibility for payment of all their outstanding bills in the hospital. A touching story, but the Aina needed to start from somewhere again. Airtel provided the much needed help and said it will continue to be on standby for the Ainas. Interestingly, the Aina’s was recently blessed with a set of twin.
Ophans in Nigeria
Imagine you had to sleep under a bridge or find shelter at night in a bus stop? This is the life that many street children in Lagos experience every day. For Azeez Rotimi his life was this reality. At 14 years of age his world was very different to what it is now. Through rehabilitation and loving care, he has been given a second chance with a scholarship for secondary school and University to the tune of N1, 000,000.00 through the Airtel Touching Lives initiative.
During the Airtel Touching Lives Season 2, there were several emotional stories of courage and hope. However, the story of a young girl, Hannah Enakerakpor, who suffered from a life-threatening disease, stands out. She had hole-in-the-heart from a tender age and this malediction threatened her life. Hannah was intelligent, charming, and beautiful and like other kids wanted to go to school and actualize her dreams. Through the Touching Lives programme, Airtel ensured that Hannah lived. Airtel Nigeria bankrolled her surgery in India and thankfully the surgery was very successful. Today she is living a healthy and happy life.
Blind Gbenga Adesida
Also in Season 2 of the initiative, Airtel fulfilled its promise to many Nigerians including Adesida Gbenga, a blind man who lost custody of his children because he was homeless. A new apartment was built for him by Airtel so he could reunite with his family. With Airtel’s intervention, Adesida returned to the warm embrace of his family and continued his life as every other normal person.
During the first season of Touching Lives, Airtel empowered several individuals and communities. However, some stories stood out. For example, Essienkan Ebong, a former police officer lost his eyes to an armed robbery attack in 2013. All efforts to restore his sight proved abortive. Ebong, a graduate of computer science, with a PGD in Mathematics and MSc in Computer Science, didn’t give up hope and neither did Airtel give up on him. Through the Touching Lives programme, Airtel came to his aid, providing him with a Braille Object Identification Scanner, a Braille Machine, Speech Software, an America skim guide and a brand new sophisticated, special laptop to help him actualise his dream despite his disability. Today, Ebong is empowered and he is helping to empower other people in his immediate community.
Mbashie community in Makurdi, Benue State, is majorly made up of subsistence farmers and it had no source of water- inhabitants usually had to travel more than 30km on foot every day. There are many single mothers in the community and water is fetched daily by women and children. The children are unable to go to school to get an education while the women are unable to farm or bring in any income to help support their families. Airtel came to the aid of this community by providing a permanent solution to the water problem. Today, the women of Mbashie are more productive and children spend more time reading their books instead of going to look for where to fetch clean water.
Because of its commitment and resolve to bring about positive change and development in the various communities where it operates, Airtel has received many accolades and awards from reputable platforms and institutions.
Recently, Airtel was awarded the Best Company in Stakeholder Engagement at the Sustainability, Enterprise and Responsibility Awards (SERAS) 2017 for its flagship Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative dubbed Airtel Touching Lives.
The award just days after the telco bagged the CSR of the Year Award at the maiden edition of the Nigeria Technology Innovation & Telecom Awards (NTITA).
While receiving the award, Director: Corporate Communications & CSR, Airtel Nigeria, Emeka Oparah said the award is a testament of Airtel’s efforts at connecting with stakeholders in the various communities where it operates, noting that the telco was committed to earning its social license through its corporate philanthropy and sustainability initiatives.
Through the Airtel Touching Lives case study, it is imperative that as businesses act responsively and boost their performance, devoting part of their income to giving back to the society by engaging in various life-changing activities, is no longer an option but a necessity to helping build better communities.