RetailROI Helps ‘More Than Me’ Combat Ebola in Liberia
The spread of the deadly Ebola virus has been all over the news lately. Protecting underprivileged children in West Africa from Ebola is one more important effort supported by RetailROI. Katie Meyler, founder of More Than Me, a non-profit dedicated to assisting at-risk youth in Liberia, recently discussed how More Than Me and RetailROI are helping to combat Ebola there.
1. How are children in West Africa put at risk by Ebola?
Everyone is at risk by Ebola, but children specifically in a lot more ways due to lack of understanding how the disease is transmitted. Children by nature are clingy and want to be hugged and touched. Yet if someone is infected and showing symptoms, this is extremely dangerous. The impact on the number of children who are now orphaned is devastating. So far, more than 3,400 children have been orphaned in the last three months due to the disease. We are building a new orphan home/residence hall/school for a number of these children.
2. What is More Than Me doing to provide care and prevention?
Many things. First we started with education and prevention activities. Along with this, we opened our guest house up for children under watch/quarantine and our school as a staging compound for supplies and a place for kids to be safe. Then we purchased our own ambulance and paid for our own team to go into West Point, the worst slum and largest concentrated living quarters in Liberia. There were only five ambulances in the entire country. This alone meant we were able to get new cases to treatment facilities within 30 minutes of the discovery. Before, it took three to four days for an ambulance to arrive. All of these efforts, along with those of many other charity/government groups, have helped reduce the new cases of Ebola in West Point from 40 to 50 per day to one to two because people who are contagious do not infect as many people.
3. How do the efforts of RetailROI assist More Than Me in its Ebola prevention efforts?
RetailROI was one of the first partners to get behind us in the education, prevention and Ebola efforts. They are working now to help provide funds and materials for ongoing efforts as we buy a new property to house orphaned children from the Monrovia area. For more information, visit retailroi.org and morethanme.org.
Live from New York: SuperSaturday showcases RetailROI, top retail trends
Anyone planning to attend the NRF Convention Jan. 11-14, 2015, should consider arriving one day early to attend another event that is chock-full of information and industry expertise: SuperSaturday. Each year, RetailROI independently offers SuperSaturday, a one-day event held the Saturday before the official Sunday kickoff to the NRF Convention.
This year, SuperSaturday falls on Jan. 10. Held at the PwC Auditorium in Manhattan from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., the event brings together top retail analysts and C-level executives to converge on retail trends in marketing, technology, mobile and social media, with all proceeds from vendor sponsorships donated directly to RetailROI.
SuperSaturday is the conference before the conference, and in addition to providing valuable data in a forum you won’t find anywhere else, it also provides even more return on hope for some of the world’s most deserving and least advantaged inhabitants. What could be a more profitable way to spend the day?
Learn more about attending and getting involved with SuperSaturday at retailroi.org/supersaturday.
RetailROI Offers At-Risk Kids Necessities and Hope
Modern retail is a global effort to provide consumers with the goods and services they need. Thanks to the charitable initiatives of RetailROI, that effort now includes such goods and services as clean water, schools and computers for children at risk around the world.
“The goal is literally to make a difference in the lives of 400 million kids by leveraging the strengths and reach of our industry,” said Greg Buzek, president of IHL Group and donor trustee of RetailROI, a charitable foundation that seeks to help children in need around the world. Buzek co-founded RetailROI in 2008 after a discussion with the now deceased Paul Singer, who was then CIO of Supervalu, at Oracle OpenWorld.
“I was involved in orphan care and Paul was involved in adoption,” said Buzek. “We said, ‘Wouldn’t it great to do something to help kids?’ ”
The conversation soon expanded to include veteran industry journalist/analyst Marc Millstein, among others, and RetailROI was officially launched as a charitable endeavor with Buzek, Singer and Millstein as donor trustees. When Singer tragically passed away in 2010, Vicki Cantrell, senior VP of the National Retail Foundation, stepped in.
Spreading the Word
“We’re raising awareness of the need,” Buzek said. “There are 400 million kids who are orphaned and at risk, and people don’t know about it. We have the retail industry do the things we do every day to make a difference.”
For example, NetSuite is providing software to help orphans in Zambia run a business where they grow and sell strawberries to local supermarkets. And food and agricultural giant Cargill donated a year’s supply of corn to a project RetailROI is running in Honduras. Donations of services are also made at the individual level.
“People teach marketing classes,” Buzek said. “Managers conduct mock interviews.”
Meeting the Need
Monetary donations from corporations and individuals are used to fund schools, clean water and provide computers with Internet access for disadvantaged children in developing areas.
“Once we have clean water and schools, the next step is to build computer labs with Internet access,” Buzek explained.
So far, RetailROI has run 75 successful projects in 17 countries that have helped the health, education, security and financial stability of 145,000 at-risk children. This month, RetailROI is making its third trip to the Dominican Republic to build its seventh computer lab there, which will be its 18th to date globally.
“It’s a large school with more than 300 underprivileged children,” Buzek explained. “We have a collaborative event with a team going down. Computers are being donated by Starmount and Techway Services, with other equipment donated by ScanSource. Executive computers that were getting replaced are wiped clean and used in the lab. We only have to pay to get the software license for the operating system, so for $2,500 we got a computer lab for 300 kids.”
The Industry Speaks
Mark Haney, senior developer of Tulsa Cash Register, is a veteran of several RetailROI projects who will be making the trip to the Dominican Republic. He discussed the importance of the Dominican effort.
“Having witnessed the change these computer labs bring to these children, I know we can make this wish we have for them come true,” Haney said. “We must [make it come true].”
Recent projects undertaken by RetailROI include building a computer lab in Zambia; providing relief, prevention and education for 700 children at risk of contracting Ebola in Liberia; and ongoing efforts to build and maintain a school in Plan Escalon, Honduras.
Kathryn Murphy, senior VP apps and platform solutions at Tomax Corp., described a volunteer trip she and her husband took to Honduras in March.
“My husband and I were able to go to Plan Escalon, Honduras, in March, and it was an amazing experience for our whole family,” Murphy said. “Like many others who have gone, this was so transformative for us that we plan to go again and again. We have two children, ages 4 and 9. Our 4-year-old son donated 100 Matchbox cars. Our daughter donated stuffed animals and backpacks. We took pictures of these children receiving the donations so that our children could make that connection with the things they had donated. For both of my children, it was the first time that they realized that there are other children out there who don’t have the same things and opportunities they have.”
Murphy added that the mantra of the school she and her family volunteered at Honduras is ‘See the need. Meet the need. Change the nation.’
As soon as orphans and kids from broken homes join the school and have their basic needs met, they start to participate in serving others and giving back to the surrounding mountain villages,” she said. “The whole experience and project is so humbling. The people and children have so little, yet their work ethic is amazing and they are happy and grateful. And it’s remarkable to see how a little bit of effort from each of us can go such a long way. I have had many people tell me they would also like to go on a trip — I hope they do!”