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Every mile matters: How NMG & boobook are raising social awareness and helping children in need through Charity Challenge

min. read
Thanda’s Learning at Home Programme in Mtwalume: Families receives activity packs delivered to their home with a new book to keep forever each month.

Nelson Mandela, a beloved South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist, once said: "A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of."

Today, caring for others isn't a matter of choice; it is mandatory. As individuals, we can do as much as possible through volunteering, sharing, and donating, but a much greater impact happens when a group of people joins forces for a bigger impact. Many companies and companies organise charity challenges and fundraisers to support NGOs that help people in need. 

Every year since 2018, boobook joins the NMG Consulting Charity Challenge, organised during summer, from June to August. NMG Group is a well-established global financial services firm with approximately 800 employees across the Asia Pacific, Europe, North America, and South Africa. They collaborate with financial institutions (insurers, reinsurers, fund managers and pension funds, banks, and brokers) to shape strategy, implement change and manage performance. In 2017, NMG acquired a strategic minority stake in boobook and became a shareholder, connecting boobook with NMG’s global network and providing infrastructure to support our growth.

To get more details about the Charity Challenge initiative, we caught up with Geoff Baars, co-founder of NMG, Karin Barry, Chief Operating Officer of NMG Consulting, and Nicole Huyghe, CEO at boobook. "NMG was founded about 30 years ago by four individuals, actuaries from South Africa. The founders are very active and sporty people so this idea of combining sport with a charitable project was a very natural evolution," starts off Geoff.

Thanda’s Mobile Library: Librarians visit Thanda’s After-school programmes for children to borrow and exchange books.  

Making a difference for those who need help the most

The NMG Charity Challenge unifies philanthropy, enthusiasm for sports, and team spirit. “Fifteen years ago, our Head of UK Consulting, Johnathan Gunby, envisioned this global corporate challenge with the objective of encouraging greater fitness among employees and partners by incentivizing them to move, run, or ride a bike to earn miles that are converted into charitable contributions,” explains Karin. 

The idea behind the initiative is simple: helping less fortunate people, and particularly because the founding members have South African roots, it was vital for them to contribute and help South African communities. NMG also has a large office in South Africa with over 400 employees, building their business presence.

We are doing it for the children who can't help themselves. It's simple, the money goes to the most vulnerable population who don't have any other advocate. Charity Challenge is about making sure these children have a fighting chance. Our charities support the most vulnerable in society - orphans, physically or mentally disabled, abandoned children,” explains Geoff.

The NGOs are chosen based on the personal connection that the founders have with the communities and their background stories. The funds raised through NMG’s Charity Challenge go to four main charities: Elundini Educare (Cape Town), Tembisa Child Welfare (Johannesburg), Uviwe (Port Elizabeth) and Thanda (Mtwalume).

"NMG is deeply involved in the organizations and we know the leaders personally. There were also interesting overlaps, as some charities follow the children throughout education onto the job training and all through the university. Some of them have even worked as “Learners and Interns” at NMG,” describes Geoff.

A shared vision and sportsmanship for a positive impact

Initially, the challenge covered only running, for example, you run a mile, and we contribute five South African rands to charity. Over time, the challenge has expanded to include other activities; for example, we also include things like community service. Before COVID lockdown, we organised many events, such as a big golf day for clients and partners in South Africa accompanied by a fundraiser,” continues Karin.

NMG is a resourceful and innovative organisation – when confronted with a situation we don't like, or that doesn't make sense to us, it's in our DNA to find a better way. This was amply demonstrated last year in all the fund-raising initiatives that emerged, like Healthy@Home, Tik Tok Challenge, Virtual Races, Mandela Day activities, Chop it Off initiative, Game Night, Calligraphy & Origami challenges, the customised e-signatures with Go Fund Me links, and so on. We also built an app and boobook helped us with its design,” adds Geoff.

Considering NMG has offices around the world, they all have different preferences when it comes to activities. As mentioned, in South Africa, they raise money through a golf tournament. In the Malaysia office, they organise yoga classes every Friday. The Toronto team had a penalty jar for swearing or showing up late. Other offices require teams to make a donation if they want a biscuit or soda from the pantry. “The charity challenge is meant to be a fun experience, so it's great to see people doing something extraordinary to raise money. There have been a couple of cases where employees would shave their head, moustache or beard as a dare and collect the money that way,” reveals Karin with a smile.

Here, at boobook, our team gathers the most miles by biking to work. One year we organised a mini flea market to gather extra money. Charity Challenge is a great way to bond with the team and get to know others differently, aside from the work environment,” adds Nicole.

The NMG Charity Challenge is about participation, but not without challenges, as there's always a healthy amount of competition. Every year a trophy goes to the winning team that has the highest number of miles per person. “It's great to see teams competing for first place because in the end, the more money we raise, the more we can help. Typically, in the pre-COVID times, at the end of the charity challenge, we have a check handover in different charities followed by a party, with popcorn, clowns, and balloons. It's like a big festival where everyone has a great time!" explains Karin. 

In 2019, boobook won the contest and got the opportunity to visit one of the NGOs and be a part of a celebration. “It was an incredible experience to visit the NGOs. Through this initiative, we are reminded we can positively impact the lives of others. Sometimes it’s necessary to step out of our work “uniform” and explore the human side which is vulnerable and emotional, but very much dependent on mutual support and respect,” says Nicole.

The future of the Charity Challenge

We are halfway through this year’s challenge and the number of miles keeps growing every day. When talking about the future plans, Karin and Geoff hope to see active participants in all the offices. “Our people are proud to be associated with the Charity Challenge and are very happy that NMG runs this initiative. In the following years, we would love to see greater participation and expand to even more activities. The aim is, of course, to grow the number of miles every year. We are trying to be more inclusive because we'd like to get greater participation and continue to support the community in South Africa,” explains Geoff. 

Another goal is to get involved in local projects. "It's essential to do something globally, but we understand the importance of the local projects. So we want to encourage our partners to give back to their local community in any way we can, through various activities like reading to school children. Of course, these activities have been heavily impacted by COVID, so let's hope things start moving again,” concludes Geoff. 

Curious to see how many miles and money we’ll raise this year? Stay tuned, we’ll share the 2021 numbers in September!

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