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September 02, 2010

Industry with Heart

One Child at a Time—Amway’s One by One Campaign for Children

by Tori Brown

Japan

One by One volunteer helps a child in Japan.

Mexico

One by One’s Little Bits micronutrients help malnourished children in Mexico.

Amway’s Corporate Citizenship Program has been around for a long time, even before it was named. Jesse Hertstein, Amway Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist says, “Before we started calling it Corporate Citizenship, it was just a way we did business—an ethic and value that was baked into the DNA of our company.” Originating as simply helping out in the local community, Corporate Citizenship has now grown into a central, not to mention global, part of the Amway culture that’s been fostered since it was founded by Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel. “When we talk about Amway, we talk about Corporate Citizenship and our charitable initiatives around the world, and it’s just part of the Amway experience, whether you are an employee or a distributor,” Hertstein says.

Encompassing every aspect of Amway, from the way they treat employees to the way they select products to how they take care of the environment and support their local communities, the Corporate Citizenship strategy is a key element to the core of Amway’s business. The numerous Corporate Citizenship initiatives (both global and national) undoubtedly bring value back to the company, in more ways than one. And the most visible, and perhaps most compassionate, component of that value is the One by One Campaign for Children.

One by One

The Amway One by One Campaign officially kicked off in 2003, when Amway decided to focus its diverse sponsorships across the globe into a single topic of need. “We looked at issues that were most important to our company, our distributors and our employees, and we found that children’s issues were what resonated most,” Hertstein says. Rather than building a partnership with a single cause, Amway ambitiously set out to build a wide-sweeping campaign encompassing general children’s issues with an emphasis on helping them achieve, learn and play. Understanding that the needs are different in each region where the company does business, the ways Amway could help are different; therefore, the ways the company would engage distributors and run individual programs would have to be distinctively different. This thoughtful, multifaceted approach was used to construct a unique, global program for children that could be implemented locally.

The global/local program partners with hundreds of nonprofit organizations that provide food, education and shelter to children who are in need. By building local partnerships, Amway and One by One can ensure that they meet the specific needs of local children, both physically and emotionally.

Around the World

“We want Amway to support communities wherever we are,” Hertstein says. And by unleashing the collective generosity and ambition of their distributors, salesforce and employees, the sky is the limit on what can be accomplished.

“There are amazing stories that happen when we connect people with causes,” he says. For example, in Thailand, One by One has supported programs that provide audio books for blind children, who may have never had the opportunity to experience the excitement of listening to an adventure without Amway’s assistance. And in Mexico, Little Bits micronutrients (a vitamin powder sprinkled over food) are provided for undernourished children as part of a much-needed overall health program. Amway is now evaluating other communities that are interested in offering the Little Bits program around the globe.

And don’t forget about the United States. Right here, in our own backyard, Amway is continuing a successful, long-standing partnership with the Easter Seals, raising a breathtaking total of over $30 million for the organization to help individuals with disabilities and their families. And now, Amway’s One by One program is taking on Boys & Girls Clubs of America, combining the fun of gardening with the company’s area of expertise—nutrition. “Community gardening gives kids a hands-on experience with gardening and fresh fruits and vegetables, plus it becomes a fun way to learn about eating healthier,” Hertstein says. Six ‘Positive Sprouts’ community gardens are currently in full bloom in cities around the country, and it’s only the beginning. The community garden model is expected to expand throughout all Boys & Girls Clubs in the United States.

The Snowball Effect

Amway employees are notoriously enthusiastic volunteers. More than half of the employee base participates in the hundreds of volunteer opportunities available each year. From stuffing backpacks with school supplies for local shelters to mentoring children at inner-city schools and raising money for the United Way, there’s always something happening.

“It’s not difficult to get our distributors interested in volunteering,” Hertstein says. “It’s more about finding an outlet and providing the information to them.” He explains that when they have an easy way to participate, they’ll show up and will often surprise you with an overwhelming response. In China, the One by One volunteer network currently has more than 50,000 distributors participating. It is, by far, the largest volunteer group in China. Around the globe, Amway distributors compassionately give blood, work at events (like the Special Olympics), provide disaster relief, teach, mentor and much more.

And employees and distributors do much more that isn’t necessarily organized under the company’s umbrella. Grassroots One by One programs are popping up far and wide, where local volunteers are organizing to help local children on their own time and money. It’s an exciting snowball effect of generosity that can rapidly grow to benefit an entire community, from the volunteers to the children.

Focusing on Children

Amway’s One by One campaign may focus on helping one child at a time, but it all adds up… quickly. By the end of 2009, Amway had helped more than 7 million children around the world. That includes raising more than $112 million and 1.3 million volunteer hours. It may start with one child at a time, one project at a time and one community at a time, but when you step back and look at the global effect, the collective numbers are staggering.

“I’ve had the chance to travel around the world and see some of the programs that are happening,” Hertstein says. “With each program that I visit, there are always kids who just touch my heart.” For example, Hertstein visited a One by One program in Kenya where distributors sponsored immunizations. “This can be the difference between life and death,” he says. “Mothers travel for miles and are so appreciative of the help that they get.”

While visiting schools in China, he observed children who wouldn’t typically have access to high-level education and the arts attending art class taught by one of Amway’s distributors. The distributor drives hours to volunteer at the school. “It’s great to see these kids get access to education and the arts,” Hertstein says. “And it’s all through the help of volunteers.” When asked how recipients show their appreciation, he explained that they are always exceptionally grateful and thankful. “But I think that we get the greater benefit and greater blessing from the work that we do. The thank you isn’t really necessary.”

He explains that it’s always an amazing experience to connect with a child through volunteering, and to connect with employees who you may not have had a chance to interact with. “Employees from different areas, like manufacturing, corporate or research, coming together under the same banner, creates a spirit of camaraderie,” Hertstein says.

Region by Region

How does Amway decide which local programs to support? Simply put, each region decides for itself using four basic criteria—to live, achieve, learn and play. The first criterion, ‘to live,’ refers to the basic needs of life, including food, shelter and medical care. The second criterion, ‘to achieve,’ focuses on special needs, including special arts and events such as the Special Olympics. The third criterion, ‘to learn,’ zeros in on educational programs, while the last—‘to play’—covers recreation and access to the arts and cultural programs as well as building playgrounds.

“We look for programs that are helping underserved children,” Hertstein says. “We know that the needs of children are different everywhere.” Those differences are why each office investigates the local needs as well as the issues that the area’s distributors would like to engage in. They then thoughtfully choose partners and build unique programs. The One by One Campaign for Children is one of the most widespread and successful Amway initiatives. Every region that Amway builds an office builds a One by One program. That’s more than 80 locations and programs!

An Even Brighter Future

Last year was Amway’s 50th anniversary. In celebration of the big 5-0, Amway began ramping up their One by One programs by providing extra funding to offices around the world. With a concentrated effort to create new programs, as well as improve existing ones, more than 25 eager Amway offices around the world are, as we speak, pumping up their charitable campaigns for children. “We’re seeing amazing new programs, generous volunteer engagement and exciting local impact,” Hertstein says. “The stories are just starting to roll in from these new efforts.” By the end of 2010, Amway will see an even greater growth and impact of their One by One programs, as these new efforts take root and build even more momentum. It’s all about making this world a better place, and that starts with our children—one by one.