The tourist industry was severely affected during Covid-19. Just before lockdowns we had committed funds to our group project, Adopt-a-School, and it was heartbreaking to inform our beneficiaries, 18 schools at the time, that we had to temporarily suspend some elements of the programme until Sun International was able to operate again.
However, we were able to make a difference in our surrounding communities through donations. One of the biggest needs during the pandemic was ensuring enough food and necessities for vulnerable communities who were unable to support themselves.
One way we could make a difference was by donating perishables and non-perishables that were in our kitchens and warehouses. We donated these essentials including food and bed linen to especially vulnerable children and the elderly. It was also a good way to ensure that these items didn’t go to waste when our hotels and casinos were closed.
From our Sun City unit in the North-West province, we donated goods to the value of R45 000 to nine charities in the area. Morape Polokwane donated goods to the value of R12 000, while our Carnival City unit donated to the value of R20 000. This included for example juices, meat, cheese, yoghurt, and other essentials. We continued to donate goods throughout the pandemic from March 2020 to July 2021 and in total, we have donated R230 000 worth of perishable food.
This is something that we want to continue to do in future: supporting communities in times of crisis. Recently we supported the KZN flood victims. Our entire national office worked together to rally to transport perishables and non-perishables and linen from our warehouses and kitchens to the areas in need.
Another way to support and relieve hunger during lockdowns was by opening our kitchens to start soup kitchens. Our chefs were unable to work during this time, so they started cooking soup for local communities. We were also able to continue with some of our Adopt-A-School projects. This project partners with schools on several levels: Firstly, we sponsor extra Maths and Science classes. We also upgrade Consumer Studies classrooms, and in some cases other facilities that need upgrading. We also focus on health and safety, and the environment at our schools.
During lockdowns, we developed a digital learning platform with the Department of Basic Education. During our impact assessment on the two-year progress of the programme, we could see the impact on the pass rates. Our matriculants went from 68% to an 87 % pass rate in 2020, and learners in Grade 11 from 56% to 77%.
During the last two years, we have managed to revamp 15 Consumer Studies classrooms in various schools. This included providing stoves, microwaves, fridges, stainless steel worktops, and taps. The Adopt-A-School project helps schools in maintaining their infrastructure and we upgrade dilapidated ablutions at schools in the West Coast areas and we revamped sports fields, like the netball court most recently.
We also have a Chefs that Care initiative where we allow learners to spend some time with our chefs in the kitchen to experience what it is like to be a chef. Of course, we would also like to offer these learners, who are interested in the gaming and hospitality industry, employment eventually.
With things back to normal, we are now also able to offer bursaries to top-performing students who want to further their studies. The most important factor in a CSI strategy is the ability to adapt. Although our response during Covid-19 was somewhat reactive, we were able to immediately support our communities through donations. Sometimes making the most of what you can offer, even though it’s not cash, is the best way to respond to a crisis.