Supporting Through The Pandemic: COINS Foundation
The COINS Foundation has worked hard to support charitable projects across the world throughout the pandemic. We asked Erin Orford to provide an overview of the COINS Foundation's key activities during this difficult period.
The last 18 months have been a challenge for everyone, in one way or another, whether physically, mentally, or financially. As a Foundation we are incredibly fortunate to be funded by COINS, where through a combination of COINS values and commercial stability we were able to continue working with our partner organisations throughout the uncertainty of the pandemic. It was a luxury that many charitable organisations and enterprises didn’t have. In the circumstances help was needed more than ever and we were fully committed to continuing to support our partners.
Habitat for Humanity
Our partner Habitat for Humanity GB were badly affected by the restrictions for volunteers and travelling, having to cancel all their overseas build programmes. As a result, we worked closely with them to look at how our financial support could be utilised in a different way redirected to other projects that were feasible during the pandemic.
The message to ‘stay at home’ was universal but for many the concept of having a safe place to call home was merely a dream. The Urban Slum Upgrade Project in Addis Ababa started 3 years ago (pre-pandemic) but focussed on improving the health and sanitation facilities utilised by the local community as well alleviating the pressure of housing that was both over-crowded and lacked basic facilities (such as toilets, kitchens or running water). This was more relevant than ever during the pandemic when good hygiene and restricting social interaction were key components of managing the spread of the virus, so we were delighted that with our support work could continue to help the community. Having recently completed the project we can confirm that the improvements are already benefitting over 32,000 residents and local families.
Where some projects continued as normal, in other areas funds were redirected as the impact of the pandemic progressed. When the Covid pandemic plunged India’s healthcare system into crisis Habitat responded by launching an appeal to fund Covid Care Centres in partnership with local governments, so we moved our support to provide funding for a Care Centre in Rajasthan.
Finally, it’s sometimes easy to forget that poverty still exists in the UK. As businesses and working practises evolved towards remote working, Habitat identified an increase in unused office buildings, and council owned commercial properties in the UK. From this, they developed the ‘Empty Spaces to Homes Approach’, working with local communities to try to utilise these opportunities by renovating these out-of-use buildings to provide a solution to the current housing and homelessness crisis. This was a key focus for Habitat’s match-funding appeal last Christmas, which the Foundation were delighted to support.
(cover image: Habitat Ethiopia's communal standpipes)
Bethesda House, US
Several changes were made to adapt to the changing landscape of the pandemic that also bought about a spirit of new collaboration and partnerships.
COINS Foundation helped Bethesda House, which supports the homeless, disabled, and economically disadvantaged citizens of Schenectady County, move to virtual fundraising events, providing much needed funds to help keep the programmes running. We also help to support capital improvements, including a new water heater and laundry facilities for emergency shelter guests. COINS staff donated time and talent to help with the fundraising efforts lending design skills, musical talent, and time to help organize a variety of events.
Project Search, UK
In the UK we’ve been working with DFN Project Search students over the past year to provide work experience opportunities for them. Project Search is an international transition to work programme committed to transforming the lives of young people with learning difficulties and autism through providing them with opportunities to undertake work experience in safe environments. In January 2021, when the hotel placement Project Search students were due to attend wasn’t possible due to lockdown, COINS stepped in and offered a virtual work placement for the group.
Following its success, we’ve built on this, and in September a new group started their placement in COINS Slough office and will participate in three role rotations up until July 2022. It has been great to work with the students and see their confidence grow as they take on each new task and we hope that they’ll all leave feeling ready and prepared for the next steps in their careers.
Houston Food Bank, US
The Houston Food Bank celebrated the completion of their renovated Houston Texans Café allowing additional training opportunities for H.E.A.R.T. students and job skills programme participants, a project partially funded by the COINS Foundation and Comfort Systems USA.
Long-term partner PEAS (Promoting Equality in African Schools) also faced huge challenges when due to the pandemic, schools were closed with just 24-hours’ notice. Their biggest concerns were around students’ safety, their ability to continue to deliver education and the risk of students (particularly girls) not returning once schools reopened. With one-third of their students coming from households below the $1.90 a day poverty line, and, therefore not having access to smartphones, internet or TV they had to be creative about how they could support students.
Their low-cost interventions involved delivering messages via the radio and sending Nokia-style text messages with health updates and guidance as part of their telephone tree system. As well as sending messages to those who had access to a phone, students formed learning clusters to help one another with remote learning, with a teacher and community member assigned to support each cluster. Each cluster was provided with a phone for teachers to call in to support the students, communicate radio schedules and check in on student wellbeing. The content was so successful it was endorsed by governments in both Uganda and Zambia, so millions of students relied on this method of education, not just PEAS schools.
The urgency of the response meant COINS Foundation were happy for funds to go towards supporting the health, safety and long-term education of PEAS students. As schools students returned to classroom-based learning, the demand for more schools resumed and we’re delighted to confirm a new partnership to launch the next PEAS school in Zambia, which is currently being built.
Kailash Home, Himalayan Region
The Himalayan Youth Foundation provides support for poor children in the Himalayan Region by providing these children with a home, health care and an education through the Kailash Home. Unlike PEAS, only those students who were able to studied remotely from home, and, as some students reside at Kailash, they faced the challenge of combining remote study with protecting the students who were on site. The Medical Fund enabled staff to purchase additional materials for a comprehensive cleaning programme, as well as training for the students, and vaccination programmes were added alongside their general health checks. The updated IT equipment enabled students to continue to engage with those working remotely as well as benefitting from the online resources from lessons delivered remotely.
During the pandemic the key to success has been to be flexible, and whilst we were unable to support the projects in a physical capacity, financially we were still able to play an important role.
For ourselves and all our partners, one of the biggest areas that has been affected has been the lack of volunteering opportunities, where over the years COINS’ employees have shown their passion and enthusiasm through their direct involvement in many projects and initiatives. From charity bike rides to working on the Cookie Bar Bus and Habitat builds abroad, we’re looking forward to being able to reintroduce these opportunities, to work together as a team, learn new skills and gain new experiences in 2022.
If you are interested in getting involved, please do visit the COINS Foundation website to discover news and opportunities from our partner organisations.
The COINS Foundation is the not for profit organisation of the COINS Group. Our primary aim is to utilise the profits of business to help disadvantaged people throughout the world achieve a better quality of life by providing a hand up rather than a hand out. Our secondary aim is to use our innovative approach to influence other businesses to support causes that they are passionate about. At our core is the belief that with privilege comes responsibility to give something back to those less fortunate than ourselves.