Unilever’s Heroes for Change on track for making a difference in the lives of 10 million Kenyans by 2020

Unilever today celebrated outstanding programme results and acknowledged the efforts of student volunteers for their participation in Heroes for Change, a social mobilisation volunteer programme to teach and empower college students to contribute to society and create a better future for all Kenyans.

Through the six-month programme, student volunteers across five universities in Kenya – Strathmore University, University of Nairobi (Main and Lower Kabete campuses), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and Kenyatta University – visited communities to improve health and well-being of community members.

The heroes taught school children and their parents the importance of hand and face washing with soap to prevent trachoma and diarrhoeal disease, seeking maternal and new-born healthcare during pregnancy, brushing of teeth in the morning and at night to improve oral health and eating a nutritious breakfast to start the day.

“As Kenyans face multiple social issues impacting their health and well-being, Unilever and its partners have provided young people with a platform to engage directly with their communities and play an active role in the country’s future. Our Heroes for Change programme was built with young people in mind, offering online training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to go make an impact,” said Justin Apsey, CEO, Unilever East Africa. “The programme’s exceptional results highlight the huge social change we can make when we partner with youth, tapping into their passion to make a difference and empowering them to improve their society. This positive impact puts us on track for making a difference in the lives of 10 million Kenyans by 2020.”

The initiative was conducted through the five Unilever social mission programmes – Lifebuoy School of 5, Super School of 5, and New Mothers’ Programme; Blue Band Good Breakfast Programme; and Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme. The programmes are anchored on the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan (USLP), which enables Unilever to create new sustainable inclusive business models that make meaningful and incremental contributions to tackle some of the world’s biggest development challenges.

The Heroes for Change programme is based on a unique social impact model which allows socially conscious youth to take control of how they want to contribute to the world. It leverages young people as an untapped force for good and harnesses their collective energy to create the change they want to make through their individual contributions, within their own communities. It has proven to be highly successful, yielding outstanding results and exceeding Year 1 targets. Within the six-month period, volunteers reached 180,660 children and individuals, surpassing the target of 100,000 people by 81%. The best performing programme, Pepsodent Brush Day & Night, impacted more than 47,508 people.

More than 130 invitees including the heroes and programme partners UNFPA, Amref Health Africa, and Sightsavers attended the Heroes for Change awards ceremony. The ceremony kicked off with Pawan-Kumar Marella, Personal Care Director at Unilever East Africa,providing attendees with an overview of Unilever’s USLP. “Unilever’s USLP enables us to create new sustainable inclusive business models that make meaningful and incremental contributions to tackle some of the world’s biggest development challenges.

The programme’s impact on these social issues was further addressed during a roundtable discussion with three heroes –Elizabeth Onyango (Lifebuoy Neonatal Mothers’ Programme), Ally Gakweli (Blue Band Good Breakfast Challenge) and Linda Chepkwony (Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme) – and partners UNFPA, Amref, and Sightsavers. The ceremony culminated in all volunteers being awarded Certificates of Acknowledgement by Justin Apsey and the programme partners, while 10 outstanding heroes also receiving internship opportunities with Unilever and partners.

“Youth are an engine of growth for any nation, and programmes such as Heroes for Change help address Kenya’s unemployment challenge and harness the potential of our generation. I’m grateful for the opportunities this programme has provided – from impacting my community by teaching schoolchildren the importance of brushing their teeth twice a day, to improving employability by providing me with a chance to gain hands-on learning experience,” said Linda Chepkwony (Pepsodent Brush Day & Night School Programme).

Heroes for Change – 2018

As Heroes for Change celebrates the graduation of its pioneer batch of heroes, plans are underway to make it bigger and more impactful in Year 2 by recruiting 500 heroes in 2018. A large-scale roll out across all Kenyan universities is in the works, with plans to make the programme fully digital and double its reach.

“While Unilever is making great progress through our social mission programmes, we cannot do it alone. To meet our targets and create a lasting social impact, we need to harness the energy and commitment of young people. With both partners and student volunteers on board, Unilever can increasingly achieve shared expertise, resources, costs and greater scale to deliver effective behaviour change programmes. Partners also benefit from the wider pool of volunteers on-ground and can therefore create positive change more effectively,” said Justin Apsey.

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