Africa | Congo | 2010
A major shift has been observed, perhaps even on a worldwide scale, regarding the perspective of many large corporations and their role in public welfare: thus, creating a new concept in the business sector, that of: Corporate Social Responsibility. This important new domain has become a dynamic and demanding activity for all corporate entities which are noble enough to acknowledge and accept their social obligations, and to contribute. This very need goes far-beyond the strict objectives of achieving financial growth, and is not limited only to the well-being of their employees. It is this very sense of responsibility that teaches and enables people-through their very own deeds- to clearly see the wider picture, to see horizons beyond their microcosm that ends at their very doorstep. Besides, it is in this world that all of our children will grow up. It is this world that we must make a better place for them!
ELPEN has embraced the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility for several years now, discreetly, nobly, contributing to many philanthropic projects. Even during the current troubled times which are ailing our country, there is always the need for allowances to be made, for the sake of humanity. ELPEN's social contribution is not limited to Greece. It would not be the first time ELPEN's contribution would reach faraway places, well-beyond the Greek borders and specifically in Africa: there where needs are enormous, there where human destitution far exceeds any terrifying experience we have ever lived through in Western society.
The Holy Monastery of Saint Gregorios in Kolwezi, Congo, the headquarters of the mission which we were honoured to visit, proved to be a warm, welcoming, and hospitable guesthouse. It opened its doors to welcome the ELPEN delegation, and introduced the group, in all humility and dignity, to the monastery's important 30-year activity. The tireless clergymen and volunteers of this mission, provide not only material goods, but most importantly they offer priceless spiritual and social support, through major religious, charitable, and educational undertakings.
To support the noble work of this mission, and of his Holiness Bishop Meletios of Katanga, ELPEN initiated a social project of financial aid and the dispatch of medical and pharmaceutical goods. Eventually this endeavour led to an official expedition of a group of ELPEN employees who boldly travelled to Kolwezi, in order to ascertain, first-hand, the mission's principal needs, and to act upon this information.
The trip to Congo proved to be, by no means, a leisurely pursuit nor a fun adventure! It was a perilous journey for the expedition, one which upended and nullified the glorification of the 'Western lifestyle'. It was a journey that forced the reassessment of one's values and morals, and the overall concept of what defines a 'standard of living'. The people of Africa live without running water, without a home, without the basic use of electricity, without basic nutrition and hydration, without basic medicines, they live in areas without roads, without any form of transport....without anything! Yet, no matter their abject poverty, these wonderful, courageous, dignified people of Congo, do not demand, nor do they implore.
The African people proved to be warm and generous people, living under conditions of absolute poverty, while never complaining, never showing their exhaustion even after an arduous 6-hour walk under the unforgiving African sun. There were many small children who were subjected to daily 3-hour walks just to go to school, while others work for 8 hours down the mines without a single break! Women were seen carrying heavy bundles on their heads, walking gracefully like gazelles. Men would drag their overloaded bicycles through sand and mud, with impressive, supernatural force. This is Africa!
The ELPEN delegation returned home with a bounty of unforgettable experiences. Above all else, they were blessed with the feeling of hope and optimism, two great gifts which were obtained through the observation of the daily lives of the people in the Congo, who are able to meet the daily challenges of their lives with a warm, brave smile.
During these extremely trying times in Greece, where smiles have all but disappeared, the experience of Africa comes to mark a new beginning with the aim to challenge and reassess a number of personal and corporate preconceptions! At ELPEN we truly believe that any act of good faith towards our fellow-man does not end with the handing out of a cheque, of any monetary gift, large or small. That is where it should begin!
Social contribution is not just an obligation; it is an indication of respect for people.
It is our contribution towards a better world.
It is CARING FOR PEOPLE.