Almost 20 years after the advent of true democracy, South African society still features a great disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots”. Many companies have stepped in to fill in the gaps where they can, with a multitude of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes, initiatives and sponsorships.
Many of these concentrate on projects that are not necessarily focused on poverty alleviation, but are nonetheless vital to the wellbeing of the communities they operate in.
In addition to providing community upliftment through the development of up-and-coming athletes, one of specialist software development house MIP’s CSR programmes has had a hand in two local volleyball players achieving their dreams of competing for Olympic gold. This is proof that these initiatives pay off on the long term, says Richard Firth, CEO of MIP.
Freedom Chiya and his partner, Grant Goldschmidt, become the first South African athletes to seal their place at the London 2012 Olympic Games through the CAVB Beach Volleyball Continental Cup. The two beat Angola in the final qualifying match in Flic en Flac Beach, Mauritius.
This is not only a matter of national pride, but is significant since the newly-crowned African champions are the inaugural team to qualify through the new Olympic qualification system, which saw 39 countries participate across each continental phase. In addition, the last – and only – time a South African beach volleyball team competed at the Olympics was at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
“It is a great moment for me and my team to be a gold medallist and to represent Africa at the Olympic Games. In the first game we played against them it was very hot and very difficult to play but in the golden set it was much easier and cooler. My team mate and I concentrated on every point,” says Chiya.
This success is the result of hard work and determination, combined with effective coaching and development. MIP’s sponsorship of the CIGMA Volleyball Club between 2003 and 2007 helped propel the club’s development efforts, particularly in Tshwane informal settlements such as Shoshanguve, Mamelodi, Hammanskraal and Tembisa.
The goal of the sponsorship was to enable the volleyball club to meet a variety of essential needs in order to perform at the highest level. Besides a substantial monthly financial contribution which covered the basic needs such as food and accommodation for the players, MIP also covered the cost of national tournaments.
Both Chiya and Goldshmidt are alumni of the club, with Chiya playing a role in the club’s journey to winning the national title in MIP’s second year of sponsorship and Goldschmidt participating in the African Club championship in 2005. These successes would not have been possible without MIP’s support.
“We are proud that we had a small part to play in helping both players to achieve their Olympic dreams.
“It is critical for all good corporate citizens in South Africa to engage with the community at levels that support sustainable development of the company, groups and individuals, and the individual success evidenced in this qualification for the Olympic games proves that our contribution had the desired effect in helping support and motivate athletes from poorer communities,” says Firth.
“We have continued this support with our current sponsorship of the Amathuba volleyball club.”