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A decade of collaboration to improve children’s lives

2021 October 1

The original article from UNICEF Finland is found here:

The Eva Ahlström Foundation is one of UNICEF Finland’s most significant partners. The Foundation has supported UNICEF’s work for 10 years. Partnering with UNICEF has had a unifying effect on the extended Ahlström family, both in Finland and abroad, and has created an innovative approach to the Ahlström network’s corporate social responsibility. For the Foundation, the decision to partner with UNICEF was an “easy one”.

“No other organization working on behalf of children has the UN mandate! The UN mandate gives UNICEF access to governments and local officials making global as well as local decisions affecting children,” says Maria Ahlström-Bondestam, chair of the board of the Eva Ahlström Foundation, and newly appointed chair of the UNICEF International Council*.

“UNICEF’s impact is felt on every level, from the individual child to national governments. Commitment to change by all actors produces lasting results,” says Foundation board member Helena Nahi.

Seed funding
The Foundation’s first project with UNICEF was a WASH-programme (water, sanitation and hygiene) in schools in the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. This pilot project was a great success: the local authorities applied the lessons learned from the project widely across the state.
“ The goal was to improve water and sanitation conditions for 40,000 children.In the end 10 million children benefitted when the local government decided to make a significant financial investment to implement the results of the project throughout the state . We like to work as a ‘seed funder’ where we pilot models that governments can scale up and roll out,” says Ahlström-Bondestam.

Pandemic increases need for help
The Foundation is currently supporting UNICEF’s child protection work in India and Zambia. The Covid-19 pandemic last year made the need for help even more acute.
“For example, the phone help line services provided under the programme in Zambia saw a marked uptick in calls,” says Manager of Corporate Partnerships at UNICEF Finland Nina Vähäpassi, who has worked with the Foundation for over a decade. In spite of the difficult circumstances, the Zambian child protection programme achieved admirable results. Vähäpassi mentions a few examples: “135,000 children and adults got access to support services. During the year, we dealt with 28,000 child protection cases, prevented dozens of child marriages, and took care of the birth registrations for tens of thousands of new-borns.”
Eva Ahlström Foundation board member Laura Meyer is convinced by the work she has seen: “It has been great to see how effectively UNICEF works and how immense the impact is for children around the world. The areas UNICEF works in may be extremely unstable, with complex situations, but for UNICEF the children always come first.”

Family at home and abroad united by working with UNICEF
The members of the Eva Ahlström family outside Finland decided to contribute to the UNICEF child protection programme in India in early 2020. “Working with UNICEF unites our family at home and abroad. It gives us the chance to be socially involved and to continue the significant work for social good which our great great grandmother Eva Ahlström began in the late nineteenth century,” Ahlström-Bondestam says.

The UNICEF programme in the state of West Bengal is aimed at thousands of institutionalized children and further benefits tens of thousands. “I was shocked to learn that of the 20 million orphans in India just under one per cent has actually lost both parents. They’ve been put in child care institutions instead of living with their surviving parents or relations,” Anne Canepa, Chair of Eva Ahlström Foundation International says. “The consequences are highly detrimental for children, and in the end many children from institutions run into trouble with the law. The UNICEF project gives these children a fresh start by reuniting them with their parents, supporting those families and following up on their well-being. In Eva Ahlström Foundation International, we strongly believe in this project and are delighted and proud to be able to support it.”

Companies get on board
The Foundation has initiated several projects in children’s interests. For example, between 2016 and 2018 the August Ludvig Hartwall Foundation, the Eva Ahlström Foundation and the Paulig family jointly backed a project which supported inclusive education for handicapped children in Vietnam. The Foundation also instigated a collaboration with several external actors in 2017, donating funds for children effected by the Syrian crisis. Furthermore, the Foundation has been part of the BF&HAPPY project to reduce maternal and child mortality in Rwanda.

The Foundation’s newest and perhaps most ambitious project is Ahlström Collective Impact. This unique social responsibility initiative brings together companies, foundations and stakeholders within the Ahlström network together with UNICEF to create a better world for children. It springs from a strong vision of the commercial benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility, and of the belief that an investment in children is an investment in the future.

“A basic human need to give back”
What does collaboration with UNICEF mean to the Foundation? “Our work with UNICEF has affected everything the Foundation does. Our work is firmly rooted in expertise, humanity, reliability and warmth. We’re very proud of this,” says Foundation board member Joanna Danielsson. Ahlström-Bondestam continues: “I strongly believe that there is a basic human need to contribute and to “give back”. Collaborating with UNICEF gives our family that opportunity.”

“It has been an honour to be able to work with the Eva Ahlström Foundation. The Foundation’s members have invested in the collaboration not just financially, but also with their time. An active investment in UNICEF’s work and the search for new opportunities have made amazing outcomes for children worldwide possible. At the same time, the Eva Ahlström Foundation’s role as an influencer has grown internationally,” says Vähäpassi.

* The members of the UNICEF International Council are some of UNICEF’s most significant private donors and collaborative partners. The International Council meets regularly to exchange ideas and experience regarding social responsibility and UNICEF’s work, and how to actively support that work.

The Eva Ahlström Foundation:
The Eva Ahlström Foundation is a non-profit, humanitarian foundation focused on helping women, children and young people in distress. It does this by supporting organizations, associations and individuals with a good reputation and proven experience of providing financial assistance in Finland and abroad. The Foundation was established by descendants of Eva Ahlström.

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