Hotel group aids victims of prejudice

08:44, July 05, 2010      

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Fourteen-year-old Meng Xinyu described her recent trip to the Shanghai Expo Garden as not only an eye-opener, but also something that helped to set her future career goal as well.

"We visited the Expo Axis, and the Life and Sunshine Pavilion (a pavilion specially dedicated to the disabled). I was so touched by the various forms of architecture there that I hope to become an architect when I grow up to design more buildings for the expo," said the excited youngster.

Meng is one of four children from families stricken with HIV/AIDS to be sponsored by French hotel operator Accor for a trip to Shanghai to tour the expo garden.

Accor, Europe's biggest hotel group, is hoping to pay back the local community through a program called "Empowerment Builds the Future," a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative that provides educational assistance to children from HIV/AIDS-hit families in Central Henan province.

The program, launched in November last year in partnership with the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation (CHF), is specifically designed to help people affected by HIV/AIDS. The initiative is aimed at raising awareness of those suffering discrimination because of the illness among guests at Accor hotels in Shanghai during the six-month expo.

In November last year, a small bag-making workshop was established in Henan as an initial part of the sustainable CSR program. Proceeds from the bags, to be sold at all Accor hotels on the mainland and in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, will be used to provide educational opportunities and scholarships to children in the province under the administration of CHF.

Starting last month, these eco-friendly bags, designed by Tony Li, one of China's most renowned stylists, and produced by five women in Henan province whose families have been affected by HIV/AIDS, are available for sale for 20 yuan each at the 10 Accor hotels in Shanghai.

It is estimated that during the first-year of the program 30 children in Henan will receive scholarships to pursue their studies.

"The beauty of this program is that it is more than just donating money. It involves multi-sectors and the community working together to create a sustainable, viable social enterprise," said Robert Murray, senior vice-president for Accor Greater China.

"We are working to give this community a skill that makes them self-sufficient for the future. With our focus on women and children, we hope to amplify what is often silent discrimination and improve the lives for communities in difficulty."

With 25 years of development in China, Accor currently manages 94 hotels in 42 cities across the country, with 25,000 hotel rooms and 19,000 employees.

"All of these elements are building up to create awareness and raise money which goes back into communities to educate children, so it's a wonderful initiative," said Murray.

Accor's strong social outreach has been well-received, with the World Travel Tourism Council offering an award to the company last week to recognize its practices in sustainable tourism around the world.

"Many global companies are focusing more on their environmental ambitions when it comes to sustainability, but Accor has surpassed this with a number of environmental and social sustainability initiatives," said Costas Christ, who chaired the panel of judges for the award.

Source:China Daily


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