St. Lucia’s private sector is being encouraged “to spend private money for the public good”. This from, Rien van Gendt, the former Executive Director of the Bernard Van Leer Foundation (BVLF) based in the Netherlands. Mr van Gendt was speaking on “The Importance of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility in Moving the Development Agenda Forward”, at a luncheon at the Sandals La Toc Golf Resort and Spa in St. Lucia.
The event brought together a wide range of businesses and private individuals in order to introduce the Foundation for the Development of Caribbean Children, the region’s first indigenous Foundation focussed on Early Childhood Development (ECD). The FDCC, which was launched in 2011, represents a transition from the Caribbean Child Support Initiative, which was primarily funded by the BVLF.
Mr. van Gendt explained, his Foundation is committed in the long run to the sustainability of projects. He explains, “Sustainability for the BVLF does not mean that we will stay around with a programme or a region for ever…. Sustainability is achieved when indigenous resources, whether public or private, can be mobilised to further the social and economic development.”
As a result, Mr. Van Gendt used the opportunity to encourage St. Lucia’s corporate sector to partner with and invest in the FDCC and the whole area of Early Childhood Development. He explains, “Longitudinal research all over the world demonstrates how important money spent on the 0-6 year old kids is. It pays off later in their life in terms of less remedial teaching, lower drop-outs, a smoother transition to secondary schools, less teenage pregnancy and lower youth delinquency.”
While commending the governments of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Dominica and Grenada for including the ECD programme in their national policies, Mr. van Gendt challenged the private sector and citizens to play their part via philanthropic activities. He cited that there has been an impressive growth of corporate philanthropy since 1990, not just in Europe and the US, but across many developing nations.
He noted that while fiscal incentives can be put in place to facilitate private giving, it should not be the prime motivation..“ it is motivated by enlightened self interest… I hope that you look upon this as an opportunity to contribute and invest in your community, a community that you also need in order to flourish as a company”.
This event took place on February 21, 2012.