PROJECT AFRICA

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Date: July – October 2013
Location: UK, Kenya
Client: William Hill Plc
Credits: filmed, directed and produced by Claudio von Planta
online edit by Paul Jackson

 

PROJECT AFRICA is a brilliant development initiative where the HR department of William Hill combines the team building of employees with the development of a very poor school in a remote corner of Kenya.

 

Since 2012 William Hill is supporting the ‘Island Primary School’ in the remote rural community of Ol Maisor at the foot of Mount Kenya in Laikipia province. It’s an ingenious combination between corporate social responsibility and executive training.

 

#ProjectAfrica is a long term mission and the William Hill Foundation is aiming to improve the school facilities, raise education standards, provide clean water and a basic medical facility. They will also try to find a way to reach financial sustainability for the Island School. It’s a very ambitious hands-on project. In intervals of 3 months William Hill is sending teams of employees to Ol Maisor with the mission to offer practical help on the ground. This adventurous experience in rural Africa takes everybody out of their comfort zone. The foreign culture and the issues of poverty lead inevitably to soul searching, impressive personal growth and great teamwork. All parties are winning with #ProjectAfrica.

 

Production Notes:

 

I got hired to document this 5 year project with a series of web based videos. It’s primarily for an internal William Hill audience. My videos should prepare future teams for the challenges on the ground. What works? What doesn’t?
 

It’s a great opportunity to cover such a unique development project over a longer period of time because it allows me to capture real changes. My documentary production is like an extended anthropological field study of a community at the brink of nomadic life style and sedentary farming. Regular visits allow me to develop good relationships with some key pupils, teachers and other community members. We build up mutual trust and I hear more and more stories about the real challenges of the local community.
 

During my first visit in July 2013 I saw the facade of smiling children. But now I’m becoming more and more aware that happiness is very superficial. Around 30% of the kids don’t get regular meals at home and are often facing starvation. Up to 20% lost one or two parents and live with grandparents or other relatives, who tend to be old and weak. Diseases like HIV/Aids, tuberculosis, pneumonia, infections etc. are also taking their toll. Another major issue is the lack of jobs in this remote rural community with no access to bigger markets. Up to 80% of the adults are stuck in a poverty trap and end up drowning their sorrows in deadly alcohol. Some of the kids at Island School have parents who are most of the time drunk and often violent. I even heard stories of child abuse.
 

In that context the William Hill’s support of the school is even more important than what I first thought. It’s not just useful for better education but the Island School is a safe haven for many kids. They receive at least one meal a day and they often adopt the teachers as role models, because their own parents are often hopeless.
 

So far I’m very impressed by the hugely positive impact of William Hill’s work at Island School. The built and equipped a library – the best school library in the entire Laikipia province, the built a clean water system for the entire school, built proper houses for 9 teachers, set up a computer room and in 2014 they started building a basic medical facility. The next major challenge will be the creation of a vocational training centre to teach useful crafts to the 90% of the kids who are leaving school but can’t afford secondary school. Combining the vocational training with the creation of local businesses would of course be the ultimate trick to break the vicious circle of the poverty trap. The creation of local jobs is the next major challenge, which needs to be tackled. How far William Hill will succeed on that front remains to be seen.
 

Overall I really like the Win-Win dynamic of #ProjectAfrica. All parties are benefiting. The team building effect is very impressive. I really hope #ProjectAfrica will inspire more major companies to start similar Win-Win CSR/HR ventures. It could only lead to a better world.

 

 

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