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Philanthropy: Baillie Gifford’s international offices

Key Points

  • Staff at Baillie Gifford’s offices outside the UK independently organise their own charitable activities
  • This includes providing financial donations as well as hands-on support
  • The beneficiaries address educational, medical, social inclusion and hunger relief needs among other efforts

Frankfurt

By David Gaschik, Head of Germany and Austria

Child poverty is an increasing issue in society, restricting educational opportunities and prospects. In cities across Germany, Die Arche – which translates as The Ark – intervenes to help thousands of disadvantaged youngsters aged between six and eighteen gain self-confidence and break the cycle of poverty. Daniel Schröder and his team at the charity let me see what this involves at their operation in Frankfurt.

Each day begins with Die Arche’s staff preparing hot meals and snacks for hundreds of children. After school hours, they offer help with homework or provide a quiet spot for the children to do their studies, which the pupils may lack at home.

Covid prevented the charity from being able to offer face-to-face supervision at times. But it organised laptops to help the children participate in homeschooling and access additional support from its staff, including one-to-one Zoom sessions to prepare the kids for exams.

And with the restrictions now having been eased, Die Arche is organising in-person activities again. These include sports, music and a Kids Cafe – a safe meeting place where the children can develop friendships in a neighbourhood short of other alternatives.

For many children, Die Arche’s holiday camps are a highlight of the year. They provide an opportunity to travel abroad and participate in a wide range of activities, including rafting, horse riding and cycling. And at Christmas time, it organises further events, including carol singing and ice skating, as well as a gift on St Nicholas Day – 6 December – for each child.

While Die Arche focuses on youngsters, it also offers help to parents when requested. This includes advice on how best to support their children’s education as well as running a weekly social event for the adults to exchange ideas among themselves.

Baillie Gifford supports the organisation with financial donations. Some of our staff are also more directly involved. In my case, my children recently sorted through some of their old Playmobil toys and, rather than selling them on eBay, gave them to the charity so they could be enjoyed by the children it supports.

Find out more about Die Arche at kinderprojekt-arche.de


Hong Kong

By Katherine Lau – Hong Kong office manager

When Covid-19 hit Hong Kong in the spring of 2020, blind and visually impaired masseurs were among those who lost their jobs.

The Hong Kong Blind Union (HKBU) stepped in to help affected members by selling massage vouchers. Each was priced HK$200 (£26) and covered a one-hour head, shoulder, and neck session.

The union immediately split and shared half the takings between the masseurs to support them through the pandemic. And after customers used the vouchers for bookings, the workers redeemed them for half their face value to make up the difference.

The scheme exceeded expectations. The union sold more than 1,000 vouchers, and more than 20 masseurs benefitted. After the initiative ended, HKBU opened the Yau Cafe in July 2021. It offers coffee and massages at a single location provided by visually impaired baristas and masseurs.

These projects are just the latest in the union’s efforts to help its members overcome obstacles, gain confidence and integrate into the wider community. It has been operating on their behalf since 1964.

Baillie Gifford began supporting HKBU two years ago. In addition to donating money, one member of our Hong Kong office volunteers with the organisation.

Find out more about the Hong Kong Blind Union at https://www.hkbu.org.hk/en


New York

By Meredith Doherty, compliance counsel, North America

Hunger relief efforts in the US often involve ‘food pantries’ that distribute long-life packaged and sealed goods to people experiencing food insecurity. These pantries rely on donated items, offering whatever is available to the communities they serve. They typically are not equipped to store or refrigerate fresh food.

Under the current model, there’s a disconnect between what people want, their nutritional needs and what’s available. But 13 miles from Baillie Gifford’s New York office, a local charity – or as it’s known in the US, a non-profit – has developed an innovative way to provide healthier choices.

Meeting Essential Needs with Dignity (MEND) has established a central hub to distribute food to more than 20 pantries across Essex County, New Jersey. Its storage and refrigeration facilities minimise waste and allow pantries to offer fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and dairy, among other items.

Mindful of cultural differences, MEND provides appropriate ingredients that enable individuals to prepare traditional meals. It also serves as a gateway to other services, including nutrition education, immigration assistance and mental health resources.

During Covid, demand soared. MEND provided eight times more food in 2020 than in 2019. I began volunteering with the organisation in 2020, transporting items from its hub to the pantries a few times a month.

When Baillie Gifford’s North American office established a sponsorship committee, we wanted to support a charity that didn’t already have a large corporate partner. Picking a charity focused on helping families and children was also a priority. Ultimately, the organisation I was already involved with was just what we were looking for.

Our donation will support the MEND on the Move initiative. It organises mobile markets and home deliveries of fresh and healthy food to people who cannot easily visit the pantries. Beneficiaries include housebound individuals, health clinic patients, affordable housing residents and families with young children.

Find out more about MEND at www.mendnj.org


Shanghai

By Sherry Xu, Human Resources, Shanghai

More than 150,000 children are born with congenital heart disease in China each year. Many of their families have neither health insurance nor enough savings to pay for the life-saving surgery required.

Established in 2003, Heart to Heart is a charity run by the Shanghai-based Rende Foundation. It funds corrective heart surgery for children across the country whose parents would otherwise be unable to afford it. This sometimes involves multiple interventions over time.

The medical operations each typically cost about £3,000. By contrast, the combined income of families helped by the programme usually ranges from £300 to £2,000 a year.

Heart to Heart is run by volunteers and has no employees of its own. Because it has no running costs, it can direct every penny raised to pay for medical care. By the end of 2021, it had funded surgery for 2,179 children. And by saving many of their lives, it also transformed the fate of their close relations.

Baillie Gifford supports Heart of Heart with financial donations. Some colleagues from our Shanghai office have also visited the children it sponsors in hospital to bring them gifts. We have also donated artwork to the charity’s annual fundraising sale to provide further support.

Find out more about Heart to Heart at https://www.h2hsh.com/


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