By Rusen Kumar
MUMBAI: Here we present the interview of CSR Leader, Jerry Jose, Head – Human Resources, ICICI Lombard General Insurance speaking about Caring Hands, a unique CSR initiative and employee volunteering program run by ICICI Lombard. Excerpts of an interview:
What is Caring Hands activity?
Caring Hands is an employee volunteering program that was launched by ICICI Lombard in the year 2011. As part of the activity, employees conduct eye check-up camps for underprivileged children at schools across the country on a single day. Cross functional teams are formed by employees to handle the entire exercise. As part of the process, employees obtain permission from schools, source the services of ophthalmologists and manage the camp on the day of the activity.
They also take up the responsibility of collating the eye check-up data, coordinating with a central CSR team to obtain centrally sourced spectacles and handing over the same to the children through the school authorities.
This program provides employees an opportunity to hone their leadership skills as they take up the onus of executing the entire project. Given the format, it also ensures camaraderie among employees as they join hands for a noble cause.
Why it has targeted only municipal schools across the country?
We have focused on underprivileged children that study in municipal and other similar type of schools since they have limited access to quality health check-up especially in the area of eye vision. Through this program, we ensure a better vision for children thereby facilitating a brighter future for them. Further, focusing on the age group of 9 – 13 years ensures the sustainability of the initiative as the chosen age band of children is in the formative years of their life.
As mentioned children who have vision impairment are given corrective lenses. How helpful is this to an individual child’s life?
Visual impairment can present a child with many challenges. Reading becomes difficult, which often impacts their ability to study. This can impact their education which in turn keeps them from pursuing their dreams. When they grow up, they may face challenges in getting or keeping a job. As vision impairment can worsen over time, it is imperative to identify these issues early.
Since the last 6 years of this initiative, we have received positive feedback from the children receiving spectacles that they felt lot more confident and could perform better at studies as they regained a clear vision. Even those children who had a normal vision felt happy that their eye sight was good, adding to their confidence.
Which cities do ICICI Lombard’s Caring Hands initiative activity target?
The initiative takes place across India. Our focus has been to reach out to underprivileged children across urban and rural areas. On an average, we are able to reach out to children across more than 100 locations every year.
How successful has the campaign been so far?
The Eye check-up exercise involves sourcing higher-end equipment and specialist doctors i.e. ophthalmologists across all camps organized on a single day. Despite these challenges, employees have been successfully conducting eye check-up camps year on year. In 2016, 33,386 students in 285 schools across 110 locations benefited from the program. In the process, 4,802 children were identified with poor vision and given spectacles free of cost. In 2011, we went further through a tie-up with an eye care institute to fund the treatment of those children who had vision complications.
The initiative has reached out to over 1.4 lakh children with more than 20,000 benefiting from corrective spectacles. It has gained such importance that every year, the day of eye check-up camps is earmarked as Caring Hands day in ICICI Lombard.
What is the vision for your campaign?
We are committed to contribute the community as a part of our corporate vision. Caring Hands is part of this focus towards fulfilling our role as a responsible corporate citizen. We introduced this program much before the mandatory requirement was announced for companies to spend 2% of average profits for CSR activity. Even today, we spend a little over 2% of our average annual profits on initiatives that benefit the society at large.
How is the initiative different from other CSR campaigns?
Caring hands is an employee volunteering program, wherein employees take up the responsibility of organizing the activity end to end. We engage our employees for a noble cause and do not outsource the activity to any outside entity including NGOs. Further the initiative is on a voluntary basis, wherein only those employees who are interested and wanting to contribute, participate in the program. Over the years, we have consistently witnessed over 50% of the company’s talent base participating in the program every year.
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