The SM group is more popularly known for its stores and malls. With its footprint, a lot may be wondering how it contributes to the country’s pursuit for sustainable development. I give tribute to SM Foundation, not because I am one of many who are “happy to serve” at SM but because I would like to share its programs that bring about critical positive impact towards our shared goal to overcome poverty in our country. Many may not know how deep and wide SM Foundation’s impact has been in its communities. This is because the company pursues its social development programs as a normal part of being a responsible corporate citizen and simply going about their social good philosophy of people helping people.
As we faced the Covid19 global pandemic, SM Foundation launched a comprehensive Covid19 Response delivering medical supplies, masks and ventilators to hospitals nationwide, spiking its donations to Php270M from its initial commitment of Php100M. It also assured its thousands of employees job security while we navigate through the crisis. While addressing the Covid19 health crisis is currently the most immediate need, it also brought to surface some systemic the cracks in our social safety nets and how crisis can even widen the gaps in social development.
This crisis opened our to issues on hunger, food supply, health care, adequate shelter, education and gaps in access to technology and sufficient critical infrastructure at a granular level. Its catastrophic impacts will surface once we reach the GCQ and have a sense of normalcy back. We would be needing these basic services now more than ever, if we were to bounce back stronger, better and more sustainable, from the Covid19 socio-economic disruption.
In our pursuit for sustainable development, corporate foundations are expected to do so much more than traditional CSR. SM Foundation, serving as the heart of the largest conglomerate in the Philippines, has been touching the lives of millions of Filipinos in its dedication to serve, while creating systemic and long-term positive impact to our country more than people may know.
Having access to basic social services is the foundation for achieving sustainable growth. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals highlights these to be the top 4 of the 17 global goals, namely : (1) No Poverty, (2) Zero Hunger, (3) Health and Wellbeing and (4) Education for all. These first 4 goals serve as pillars for a people group’s development and resilience.
SM Foundation has been working on these social development focus-areas long before they became global priorities.
Bringing Back the Love for Farming – The country is facing an imminent problem on two major areas: (1) food sufficiency for families and (2) food security for the whole country. Farming remains to be one of the lowest earning groups in the Philippines, with an aging farming population of an average age of 57 years old. The issue on food security and the security of the farmers’ livelihood were heightened during the Covid19 pandemic.
Many years back, the late Henry Sy, Sr. saw that our farmers remained to be one of the most vulnerable sectors in the country. He then focused his attention on providing them with upgraded and modern farming techniques. Today, SM Foundation conducts free rural and urban farmer’s trainings to help families grow their own food – hopefully to provide more nutritious food options for their families and to help address undernourishment in our communities, which is still very rampant. Meanwhile, families or communities with farming heritage are organized to cooperatives and are givne opportunities to supply to local markets, and if possible, even through the SM value chain.
Making Universal Health Care more Accessible to all Communities – Another challenge Filipinos face is the gap in universal health care. This was highlighted as we faced the Covid19 pandemic. Even without the crisis, many Filipinos are left without recourse when faced with an illness in the family, having to sell whatever little they have or forced to borrow money, oftentimes with high interest. This deepened the cycle of poverty among vulnerable members of the community.
The good news is that Republic 10645 was enacted which provides eligibility for senior citizens to be PhilHealth members while indigent citizens were also given access through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). However, for this to be optimized, the public health centers must pass the standards of PhilHealth accreditation and this is where the gap lies.
SM Foundation renovates public health and medical facilities to meet the requirements of PhilHealth accreditation. More so, it also provides facilities to meet the unique medical care needs of nursing mothers, senior citizens and young children. It also incorporates the Felicidad T. Sy Wellness Centers for Children and the Felicidad T. Sy Wellness Centers fo Senior Citizens which both help promote a therapeutic ambiance for the patients.
Through this program, public health centers nationwide are now not only PhilHealth and TB-DOTS accredited but better equipped to serve patients. This resulted to an increase use of PhilHealth benefits in the local communities, which in turn indirectly helped decongest the hospitals in city centers. Moreover, it provides convenience to so many Filipinos, especially the senior citizens who cannot physically do long travels and have also reduced mortality risks as emergencies were addressed locally and in a timely manner.
Equitable Access to Quality Education for All – The most sustainable transformation from poverty to productivity is education. There are four challenge areas that our country faces in education: (1) the gap in quality school buildings and facilities between public and private education, (2) access to college education for all; (3) access and recognition of technical-vocational educational education, and (4) sufficient ratio of quality teachers to students.
The SM Foundation Education Program tackles three of the four major education issues head on. It helps close the gap of public school classroom requirements by building and donating fully-furnished and well-designed public school buildings. Once students have completed high school education, they can apply to two scholarship grants offered by SM Foundation – a college scholarship grant or a technical-vocational scholarship grant.
“Henry Sy always said that if we could help one child finish college, he or she can then help uplift their family out of poverty.”Linda Atayde, Executive Director for Education Programs – SM Foundation
SM Foundation college scholars enjoy full tuition fee coverage, allowances throughout their college course, values formation and co-curricular activities, summer jobs, graduation event with gift packs and job offer from the SM group with no obligation to work for SM. Meanwhile, technical-vocational scholars enjoy on-the-job trainings and job placement through school partners.
SM Foundation has been and continues to be the partner of Filipino people in building more sustainable communities, where everyone can enjoy equitable access to basic social services. The catch with these kinds of programs is its lingering nature. But these are the long-term, steady solutions we need to focus on if we were to end extreme poverty in our country. And this is where we can rely on SM Foundation’s commitment wherever they are present – because for SM Foundation, it is simply about people helping people.
We can only say that we have achieved true social sustainability for all when every Filipino child has nutritious food to eat, can be cared for during times of sickness, can go to school to reach his or her full potential and can sleep in a decent, safe and secure home. It may still be a long way for us, but with the help given by organizations like SM Foundation, we can achieve sustainable development, one community at a time.Sustainable PH
Photo credits to SM Foundation Website and Facebook Page: @smfoundationinc