A helping hand on a rainy day
“These are hard times for many of us and we are barely pulling through,” a 63-year-old woman Almaz Tadesse said in a sobering voice echoed by many of her neighbors as she joined a line of people to collect perishable food inside the factory of Heineken in Kilinto.
Located a 45 minutes’ drive from the capital, many people, usually who travel to Addis Ababa for employment in the capital has seen their life interrupted as many businesses have suffered with a dwindling sector, a sudden stop to tourism and with few resources to pay their workers, giving a glimpse of the impact of the virus on the ground.
“It has been hard to be laid off and having your financial means suspended, but all support is welcome and valued by us,” she added as her name was called to receive hers, including a bag of rice, flour and a bottle of oil.
Her friend also came hoping to receive support from the company.
“The pandemic has impacted our lives greatly and our employment income was stopped suddenly and abruptly. Sadly, what has not stopped is the need and the responsibility we have to feed our families who depend on us at home,” she said, taking part in Heineken’s drive to help the vulnerable people in the midst of COVID-19 in an initiative it has named – ‘Bekefu Ken Zemed Teyeka’.
Heineken entered the Ethiopian market in 2012 and has since made major investment in all its facilities and had led efforts to contribute to endless charitable gestures, including donating five million birr to a drought relief in 2017. The money was presented to the Ethiopian Red Cross, via its African Foundation.
In Kilinto, a suburb of the capital with noted landmarks such as the factory and an IT center that is yet to be operational and dotted mud huts and underutilized farming space, the company has helped and provided 500 such households with such timely donation, most working people who worked hard most of their lives but with no social safety nets.
“I have always worked hard. I was a man of means and many responsibilities. But the new reality has made our lives miserable and while it’s a bit hard for me to rely on charity, I see it as a hand up-not a handout and I hope we learn from this moment on how to save, how to manage such an experience in the future,” a 29-year-old said as his wife lined up to receive the support, as he took charge of his toddlers who came along.
“One thing I have learned is, this epidemic is affecting many of us and it takes all of us to support each other and I look at it positively, which taught us, we are on this together and has forced us to be more kind, compassionate and neighbourly,” he shrugged.
This comes as Heineken spent five million birr to provide masks, sanitizers and build washing stations in several parts of Addis Ababa and others for Ethiopia’s national resource mobilization effort.
One of Ethiopia’s biggest breweries of beer, the company has also extended its generosity in other cities where it operates, including in Bedele and Harar, to help such people meet their daily needs and intends to reach 1,400 households at the end of its mandate worth 1.5 million birr.
"For us, this is not just a corporate giveaway but is how we operate within Ethiopia or elsewhere. We want to be a partner and assist whenever we see a role and where we can make the greatest impact," Samuel Murumu, the Brewery Manger of Kilinto told The Reporter.
For instance, at one of the washing stations found in Akaki where Heineken started on March 24th, there were many people gathered around it, with proper distance observed to wash their hands as recommended by the World Health Organization to help curb the fact impact and moving virus pandemic.
With ample soap provided, Aida Admassu, 24, stood in line to take advantage of the offering.
“Here, we hardly have enough water to drink. Much of our water supply is rationed. I am heartened to at least be given a station where any of us can come and wash our hands with no fee attached to the service,” she told The Reporter as a minibus pulled nearby and brought more traffic to the washing station.
Another woman who refused to give her name came straight to the station, poured soap; part of the 50,000 donated by the company and washed her hands telling The Reporter how much the effort is appreciated.
“In our neighbourhood, water is a luxury and it comes once in a while. We have barely enough to drink and wash our hands, especially in such a time when washing and keeping clean is advised, I see this initiative as something that is worthwhile and I am heartened, there is no fee for it and I can use it whenever I want,” she said.
In addition, the company had donated 60,000 surgical masks, 9,000 bottles of sanitizers was donated among others to the residents of Lideta Sub-City in the capital, as well as in Jimma, Gambella, Arba Minch, Jinka and Kombolcha.
Heineken is also noted for its partnership with farmers to help produce its quality raw materials instead of having to import from abroad. The partnership had yielded much success, giving thousands of Ethiopian farmers a chance to be trained and be given seeds, in return has given them ample resources to produce quality and quantity products and earn a good and sustainable living.