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By LIM MAY LEE

TEN years ago, CIMB Foundation began with a goal: to empower communities and change the lives of its partners, staff and beneficiaries, regardless of race, creed, age or gender.

As the CSR arm of CIMB Group, the foundation had an advantage in the group’s extensive nationwide network of bank branches, conveniently situated in the very same communities the foundation wanted to reach.

By leveraging on these branches, the foundation’s flagship programme – Community Link – was born.

“Our branches were in touch with what the communities needed,” said CEO of CIMB Foundation, Datuk Hamidah Naziadin.

“We had ready ‘outreach agents’, which fuelled the success of our branch-enabled CSR programmes.”

Community Link projects are initiated by CIMB’s staff and customers through its nationwide branch network, ranging from placing more benches in parks or sponsoring school computers, to supporting braille-reading programmes and empowering single mothers by improving their ability to support themselves.

Thanks to this strategy, the foundation managed to reach those who needed them the most.

“Through Community Link, we managed to reach out to the man on the street in various rural areas, through 733 projects as of end-2016, totalling RM37mil. Over time, this became part of our brand,” said Hamidah.

The foundation’s philosophy is based on two principles: first, to empower communities and change lives – which is, incidentally, its tagline – and second, having an effective governance structure to ensure the impactful execution of its projects.

Ten years later, CIMB Foundation’s philosophy underlying its CSR strategy, which has expanded beyond just Community Link, has shown marked success.

The Malaysian blind football team is just one of the many para athlete teams supported by CIMB Foundation.

The foundation has touched the lives of over 700,000 people by contributing over RM100mil into 962 initiatives linked to the foundation’s three pillars: community development, education and sports.

From helping rural communities earn a steady income by breeding prawns, to grooming the next generation of young ASEAN leaders and supporting para athletes, CIMB Foundation has laid the foundation for a better future.

The keywords for CIMB Foundation’s good works are sustainability and capacity-building, said Hamidah.

“As Confucius said, ‘give a man a fish, he eats for a day, but teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.’ That’s why we always try to equip people with skills instead of just giving them aid.”

Their Be$mart programme, for example, is a two-day workshop that combines lectures, simulations and games to give youths an end-to-end view of financial management supplemented with tips on saving, investing, and financial planning.

The end-goal of this programme is to equip youths with the skills to make effective and informed money management decisions.

To date, there have been 71 sessions nationwide, covering 4,500 students across 57 colleges and universities.

CIMB Foundation has also been a staunch supporter of the Pan-Disability Football Club and the Malaysian national blind football team, which got the bronze medal in the recent Asean Para Games.

As part of that support, the Foundation is partnering with The Star’s award-winning R.AGE team to produce Eye On The Ball, a feature-length documentary film on the blind football team. The film will be directed by R.AGE senior producer and award-winning filmmaker Chen Yih Wen.

But with the foundation’s tenth anniversary around the corner, CIMB Foundation is keen to do more.

“A lot has been achieved, but there’s still so much to do, both locally and regionally,” said Hamidah.

“We have plans to roll out projects on promoting racial unity among Malaysian school children, introduce Be$mart to other countries in the ASEAN region, and increase the number of tertiary scholarship awards, to name a few.”

The future is looking exciting for CIMB Foundation.

While CIMB Foundation has undoubtedly done a great deal of good over the last ten years, they look forward to doing even more over the next decade.

It unveiled a new logo on Oct 30, alongside an important announcement: the implementation of a new programme, Flex4CSR, that allows staff to play an even greater role in CIMB Foundation.

“The staff make up a very strong pillar in the foundation – they are the ones proposing projects that could benefit their surrounding communities.

“To encourage more participation, we created a Community Link challenge among them to encourage them to look for more projects and initiatives. It’s our way of inculcating the culture of giving back among the staff,” said Hamidah.

To further drive this culture, Flex4CSR enables staff members to take up to a month’s paid leave to participate in any CIMB Foundation-supported project, with the guarantee that their jobs and career prospects remain unchanged.

The programme will be piloted among employees in middle management with a minimum two years of working with CIMB.

“By doing this, we hope to develop a strong sense of community engagement in our staff, and we make giving back part of CIMB’s DNA,” said Hamidah.

“Corporations should not be just about profits; they need to also have a heart and soul,” she added.

“Everyone has the right to hope, to have a purpose in life, and to fulfil their potential. When the community thrives, the nation thrives.”

CIMB Foundation is commemorating its 10th anniversary from Nov 10-12 at The Curve in Mutiara Damansara. It will feature fun, exciting activities which the public is invited to participate in, and appearances by top athletes like CIMB brand ambassador Datuk Nicol David. For more information, visit cimbfoundation.com.

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