Call me, Lucky!
Last December 7 to 9, BZFLAG Travel asked me to fill in their spot for Coca-Cola’s 2016 Vietnam EKOCENTER Blogger Visit. Who am I to decline, right? First, working with Coca-Cola is an opportunity I am in no place to refuse, and second, my passport is longing for some brand new ‘tattoos’!
I flew to Vietnam via Philippine Airlines, and it was one of the best short – haul flights I had. I was privileged to be seated in the business class, so I took advantage of the amazing services! It was indeed a smooth ride and off I checked – in at Park Hyatt Saigon, which also has a superb service. I kid you not! In fact, the delegates talked about it over dinner.
When I finally got a hold of what the trip is all about, I can’t help but felt all sorts of excitement. Apart from its project, EKOCENTER, I was more interested in how this initiative allows women to regain their self – worth using empowering. Just so you know, I am an advocate of female – empowerment, and as a mom of 2 young kids, I also want to know how the ladies involved in the project were able to stand their ground and ‘bettered’ their lives through Coca – Cola.
Coca – Cola’s Strong COMMITMENT to the community
If you ask anyone to name the top 10 brands they know, I believe most of them would include Coca – Cola. Without a doubt, they are the giant in their industry. They are well – known for their products, and of course, they are known to be one of the most profitable brands. However, Coca – Cola is more than your ‘plain’ business that is always profit – oriented. They know how to pay it forward, and they promote better communities through their amazing and timely projects. One of these is the EKOCENTER.
What is EKOCENTER?
This is a modular community market wherein female local entrepreneurs are given a chance to operate and run such. It is also a great innovation from Coca – Cola as it provides safe drinking water, internet access, and a whole lot more. To date, there are over 100 EKOCENTERs around the globe that promote Well – being, Women empowerment, and Water. Simply put those as 3Ws which I will expound later in this post.
EKOCENTERs in Vietnam
In 2015, the first EKOCENTER in Vietnam was born. But in just a year, they now have 6 EKOCENTERs all over the country, 2 of which were visited during the blogger’s event. Aside from its main function to provide free water and internet connection, there are additional services which the local communities can enjoy. They offer free health – check-ups and at times, there are other self – development training.
2016 Highlights of EKOCENTER in Vietnam
- 500+ events/ festivals organized
- 25k+ visits per month to get clean drinking water
- 2k empowered women
Can you just imagine what this project can do in the upcoming years? Speaking of EKOCENTERs’ future in Vietnam, Coca – Cola is planning to add five more in 2017, particularly in the Central and Mekong Delta. These areas were greatly affected by the climate change.
Water, Women Empowerment, and Well – Being
I mentioned about the 3Ws which the EKOCENTER magnifies. We have the Water, Women Empowerment, and Well – Being. I arranged it as such because that’s how I can easily interrelate each W from one another.
Let’s start with WATER.
Coca – Cola works with World Wildlife Fund, the United Nations Human Settlements Programme and the Clean Research Center for Family Health & Community Development in organizing “Clean Water for Communities” in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City.
I don’t even have to emphasize how important water is. Unfortunately, for developing countries, the supply of clean water is not as rampant compared to that of the already developed ones. I am from the Philippines, so I am pretty much aware of this challenge. Without clean water, we easily get sick, we lose money for medications, our mental – health is greatly affected as well, and the chain goes on and on. Good thing that the Coca – Cola’s EKOCENTERs can now provide drinking water to its nearby communities. The company is also proactive in giving hygiene education and raising awareness on water conservation.
Not only that the locals are now healthier, but you can also now say that save more money. Why, you may ask? It’s because they don’t have to buy bottled ones, or they don’t need to boil water which is also equally costly. The long queues for drinking water in EKOCENTERs each day is a clear proof that the local communities are benefiting from the project.
And with healthier life, the EKOCENTER will be able to strengthen its another objective which is to empower WOMEN. As I have said, the centers are manned by women. Before they do so, they are given ample training and proper education to run the business. And with such responsibility, these female operators feel empowered. Thus, valuing themselves even higher.
Mekong Vitality Project
Coca – Cola and USAID worked together with Women’s Unions and PACT in creating the Mekong Vitality Project. This project helped 4,900 Vietnamese women by providing education on how to increase income and financial literacy.
After three years, here are some of the project’s milestones:
- 245 groups banking meetings
- 4,900 women saving money
- 40% members started their own businesses
- 50% women increased their role in family – decision
- 20% women took on leadership roles within the communities
We were even fortunate enough to hear stories from different ladies who benefited from the EKOCENTER’s training and projects targeting women – empowerment. Most of them spoke a language different from ours. But seeing the sparkle in their eyes and the huge smiles on their faces, I can honestly say how grateful they are that they were given such opportunities. Few of them are now living an above – average lifestyle!
And of course, we have the WELL – BEING.
The EKOCENTER’s fusion of clean water coupled with training that raised the value of women is undeniably the perfect formula for well – being. It’s not just the women who are happy with it. It’s actually the whole community. Soon enough there will be a balanced – leadership role between men and women, hence hearing and representing all voices of the locals.
Coca – Cola is NOT alone in this journey
What’s really good about this amazing initiative is that Coca – Cola is not alone in making it successful. There are different organizations that contribute their expertise and resource in making the project’s objective come to life!
They have this “Golden Triangle’ wherein Coca – Cola has partnered with civil groups, businesses and government institutions that have the same level of commitment to helping the local communities in Vietnam.
- Vietnam Women’s Union
- Red Cross Vietnam
- Local NGOs
- Green Power
- Simple Solutions
- Ministry of Industry and Trade
- People’s Committee
How does the Golden Triangle work?
Here’s an example. Coca – Cola works hand in hand with Women’s Union and Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council when it comes to training female operators. This includes sharing the best business practices and models that can help them earn the maximum potential. Dell and Microsoft are also generous enough to provide few software and hardware that makes the local community be at par with the current trends of technology. And then, there are other government institutions like USAID that backs up the project in ensuring that the environment is protected by using sustainable resources.
Coca – Cola’s Impressive Values are Genuine!
And you know what’s even more impressive? It’s the fact that the Coca – Cola family embraces these great values and commitment we have seen in the EKOCENTER project. They even have female leadership roles in the company which is a testament that they are consistent in empowering women. Also, they maintain a happy atmosphere in their plant and offices by addressing even the simplest needs of their employees. No wonder why their projects are always a big success. They work with passion and pride, and that’s contagious in all the communities where the EKOCENTERs were built.
After seeing few EKOCENTERs in my short stay in Vietnam, I can’t help but imagine to have few in the Philippines. It would be such a great initiative, and yes, it’s a project I would promote and help.
We were invited as press in the 2016 Vietnam EKOCENTER Blogger Visit. All opinions are based on my experience and thoughts on the project.
About the Writer
BA Isla is a mom of 2 beautiful kids. She’s free-spirited and loves to work on different tasks. Currently, she’s a Real Estate Broker and a Corporate Trainer. When she’s not busy running after her kids, she updates her with life dramas.
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