Don't Wait, Just Act. How the ING for Children Foundation is helping kids during the pandemic.
Setting up a grant programme for schools and organisations, supporting 20 hospitals, e-volunteering – these are some of the things we've been doing in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is an overview of the last few months at the ING for Children Foundation.
Since mid-March, schools and NGOs have had to redesign their operations in the face of unprecedented challenges. The ING for Children Foundation, which had relied principally on direct contact with beneficiaries, was also forced to adapt its projects to the new circumstances. We were able to do so thanks to our quick response and effective action that delivered real help to children and young people at this difficult time.
PANDEMIC GRANT PROGRAMME
We started out with a needs assessment…
In late March and early April, we conducted a survey asking our partners over the last three years what their most urgent needs were. The greatest challenges turned out to be providing distance learning, therapy and care for children with disabilities, and looking after children attending special education centres. Foundation staff then made dozens of phone calls to identify key issues and needs and come up with a quick response. This resulted in the launch of a special grant programme: Supporting Organisations During the Epidemic.
…and provided assistance to 36 organisations
This grant programme, addressed to schools and organisations offering educational and therapeutic services for children and young people, was already up and running by April 15. Thirty-six applying organisations were selected and received a total of 333,000 zlotys.
“The number of grant applications sent in confirmed the findings of our survey. Each application represented specific needs, often involving specialised care. We also saw encouraging examples of how a crisis can bring together many different individuals and organisations. Primary School No. 12 in Jastrzębie-Zdrój loaned tablets and computers to its students and teachers, while the Municipal Social Services Centre in Zbrosławice, Silesia, partnered with the Police and the Volunteer Fire Brigade to deliver groceries to individuals undergoing quarantine.” Justyna Pocztowska, ING Volunteer Programme Coordinator.
By making funds available right away we made it possible for grantees to purchase computers and hygienic supplies, and helped pay for counselling by therapists and psychologists. Schools and NGOs were also given 21 fully-functional used laptops and 11 printers.
“The need to organise distance learning on such a scale was an unexpected challenge for our students, teachers, and parents. Apart from having to help some children deal with emotional issues we also faced technical problems. There are many large families in our community, as well as single-parent households and foster families. The grant from the ING for Children Foundation to help buy computers was an invaluable help. While it didn't solve all our problems, we welcomed the generous support and were happy to see students able to resume normal learning.” Piotr Buczyński, Headmaster of the Primary School in Makowiska.
The ING Community supports hospitals…
Seeing how much hospitals needed our support during this critical period, we held a collection for the health service from April through June together with ING Bank Śląski. The cause was generously taken up by ING clients and staff. With a donation from the ING Group, which is helping fight the pandemic in many countries, and with assistance from ING Tech Poland, we collected 2,052,846 zlotys in total. The entire sum was distributed among 20 hospitals throughout Poland.
“Funds from the ING for Children Foundation were used to buy a specially-equipped C-type ambulance for patients of the Municipal Hospital diagnosed with COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Such individuals require immediate isolation and transport to specialised units offering treatment in isolation wards.” Arkadiusz Jakubczyk, Deputy Administrative Director, Combined Municipal Hospital, Chorzów.
…and sews masks
Employees of the ING for Children Foundation Centre in Wisła also joined in the effort. When the Smile Camps held at the Centre had to be suspended in mid-March, its cleaning and kitchen staff began sewing face-masks. They ended up making 1090 masks which were donated to 13 special education facilities, community centres, and children's hospices throughout Poland.
Like many other organisations, the ING for Children Foundation had to take some of its activities online. This was the case with the Olympic edition of the Orange Power programme for children with motor disabilities, and visual or hearing impairments. We had scheduled five months of sports activities supervised by our Ambassadors, Alicja Jeromin, Marcin Ryszka and Michał Pol, but the epidemic forced us to suspend all events until autumn. But we still wanted children in lockdown to stay fit and get regular exercise. As part of our #zostańwdomu [stay at home] campaign, our three Ambassadors demonstrated three sports challenges on the Foundation's Facebook page which they then asked children to perform. The most creative participants won one-on-one online training sessions with an Orange Power Ambassador and sports equipment to exercise with at home.
One of the foundation's major programmes, the ING Volunteer Programme, also went partly online. For the past 14 years, the Foundation has been encouraging ING employees to volunteer their time and skills for the benefit of children. The foundation and the bank provide know-how and financial support for volunteers to work on projects with a social partner of their choice. We had 71 local projects lined up and ready to launch in 2020.
The ING Volunteer Programme is about engaging directly with children and young people. Not wanting to abandon this flagship programme altogether when direct contact became impossible in mid-March, 2020, we opted for E-volunteering. Some of our volunteers taught classes and spoke about their work or hobby online. Jarek told second-graders at the Primary School in Halinów about volunteering and how it can help people. Teresa spoke about her work at ING Bank Śląski's Talent & Employer Branding team, while Grażyna took her environmental protection project online to teach children about recycling and how to segregate waste. From his home in Szczecin, Adam spoke to children with disabilities from Bytom and Gliwice about his love of kayaking down the rivers of Zachodniopomorskie voivodship.
For the first time ever, the ING for Children Foundation organised an online event for children. In June, together with their parents and guardians, they could watch a Facebook lecture by Witold Szwedkowski, the co-founder of Urban Guerrilla Gardening. Witold taught us how to grow decorative house plants from fruit seeds or pits, and how to root a papaya and mango. The event encouraged children and their parents and guardians to take a fresh look at what we have on our plate to see whether it can be given a new lease on life.
The KORONTANNA [Corona Quarantine] art competition
We wanted to find out how children saw this period of isolation. We were curious what they have learned, what they missed, what they were looking forward to, and whether they liked anything at all about their new circumstances. In June, together withthe ING Polish Art Foundation, we launched the KORONTANNA art competition. We asked children to tell us about their everyday life at home during the last few months and about their dreams for the future. Entrants sent in 207 art works in various media. The winning entries can be viewed here. Winners received art supplies.
LESSONS LEARNED DURING LOCKDOWN?
The global pandemic meant redesigning not just the projects run by the ING for Children Foundation but our entire mode of operation. Effective, flexible and appropriate measures allowed the foundation to continue carrying out its mission of supporting children and young people.
“Putting safety first, the ING for Children Foundation suspended its Smile Camps in Wisła programme, the ING Volunteer programmes, and Orange Power sports activities. We then got in touch with schools and organisations who work with children to ask how they were coping with the situation and how we could support our partners at this difficult time when they have taken on so many new obligations. Thanks to flexibility, openness and trust, together with our social partners we were able to weather this crisis and reach out to the kids that need our help.” Foundation President Agata Tomaszewska.