Toyota employees offer a helping hand in Belgium
Piotr Sandomierski

They all work at Toyota Motor Europe (TME), have good ideas & a common goal – helping people in need. Who are they? They are the volunteers engaged in TOYOTA’s annual employee led corporate social responsibility activity – “Project Noel”.

Over the last four years TOYOTA has worked hand in hand with the Belgium-based non-governmental organisation “Serve the City”.  They provide assistance to a wide range of people in need throughout the country including the displaced, the homeless, the elderly and also vulnerable families living on the breadline.

They have achieved quite a lot over the last four years:

In 2013, they filled three Toyota Proace vans with food and clothing for the homeless and deprived in Belgium.

In 2014, they filled & delivered 250 boxes of toys, sweets, healthcare products, books & electrical equipment for children living in hostels in Brussels.

In 2015, they raised over 26,000€ by conducting various activities such as baking & selling cakes and even organising a giant Halloween party. Additionally, TME donated a fully equipped brand new Toyota Proace van to Serve the City.

In 2016, Toyota got festive once again and initiated various lunchtime and weekend fun activities that included cake sales, raffles, yoga lessons and Christmas parties. In total they collected over 16 000€ in just 4 weeks. This money will enable Serve the City to purchase a mobile kitchen & serve more meals on the streets of Brussels. On top of that, Toyota members filled 2 vans full of food and hygiene products that Serve the City have been using to care for homeless people throughout the harsh winter period.

Here are some of the unsung heroes and their stories …..

Kathryn Burgess – Parts Product Management, After Sales 

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“For the 2015 Serve the City event, I had decided to run a cake sale. However, looking around me, I realised that if I wanted to make at least 500€ I should sell cakes not just in my office but to the entire After Sales building. In need of manpower, I engaged some of my work pals, including people who were already known for their kitchen skills with delights such as “Death by chocolate” and Tiramisu. In the end I found myself with a group of 22 bakers.

Together, we shaped a simple idea into something more. We all turned into artistic bakers, marketers and treasurers. The whole event snowballed into a 1,800€ cake selling bonanza for Serve the City as well as a team boosting event for all in our After Sales team.”

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“A week later, I was in action again at a Saturday morning family photo shoot in our head office with the Toyota photography club “T-Click”. Our colleagues enjoyed receiving their professional family and pet portraits. People’s generosity overflowed, not just with their cash but also with their time and goodwill. I was deeply touched and thought that this was a one-off; genuinely believing that I would never do this sort of thing again.

That was until December 2016, when I was encouraged to put the show back on the road. To cut a long story short, the 2015 bakers plus a few newcomers, re-assembled and added a new twist by adding an After Sales raffle. By selling raffle tickets at our head office, our logistics centre in Diest and technical centre in Zaventem as well as selling cakes in our After Sales building, we raised just under 5000€ for Serve the City.”

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“Have I learnt anything? Probably that alone you can accomplish many things but together you can accomplish more and make many friends along the way. Helping people less fortunate than we are is something I believe we should just do.”

Elena Kim – Body Group, Research & Development Division

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“I joined Toyota in 2014 and in the same year got involved TME’s charity project. As much as I am proud to work for Toyota, I am deeply proud of my colleague’s activities to help the local community.

In 2014 we prepared nearly 300 parcels of Christmas gifts for children in need. Each parcel was personalised and addressed to a certain young person who had been identified by Serve the City; they contained toys, sweets, games and hygienic products. I was surprised to see the high response from TME employees towards the activity – people were bringing gifts every day, donating money and helping us to wrap the presents during their lunch times.”

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“In 2015, I organised many small activities at our Technical Centre and as a result, the biggest attendance was during a home-made cake sale…. after all everybody likes cakes!

This year (2016) I hosted yoga classes at lunchtime as well as collecting cash donations for Project Noel. I was so happy to see that new people are participating in the project and hosting several events. Working as one team towards a common cause really strengthened our team spirit.”

Paulina Januszewska – Quality Division

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“When we found out about Project Noel, as a photo club we wanted to contribute by offering our time and photography skills in exchange for a financial donation to Serve the City. Therefore within “T-Click”, the Toyota Motor Europe photography club we decided to organise a family photo-shoot at our reception, perfect to be used for Christmas cards etc. We allocated 15 minutes per family and the last shoot even involved getting a 95kg Saint Bernard dog to pose. This involved my colleague Dirk becoming a dog whisperer 😉

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Due to its huge success and popularity we took up the same challenge this year and even extended our activities. There have been three projects organised by T-Click: a family photo-shoot, a business profile picture, which resulted in more than 150 members passing by to have their picture taken and a “Golden Ticket” raffle – the winning person will have a private photo-shoot with me in Leuven. This project connected us with less fortunate people, to whom we could contribute, but also with our colleagues – we met their partners, kids and even their pets! This was also a great opportunity for us as photographers to gain a wide variety of experience.”

Dirk Christiaens – IT Division

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“The business profile picture sessions received so many positive comments from all TME employees that we are considering making this into a regular service. We appreciated the direct contact with Serve the City members and also the opportunity to understand their organisation. This will drive our continued engagement over the coming years. And of course, I personally enjoyed playing DJ again for the second year at the Lexus charity party also organised to raise funds for the project.”

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 Navid Shahangian – Powertrain Research, Powertrain Division

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“I remember it was during November when I was thinking about how I can reach out to people in need and do something for them. So when I saw the Project Noel article on our Intranet portal I said to myself “that’s what I am looking for”.

Initially I was thinking of baking cakes but soon realised that many people were already doing that and were probably far superior bakers compared to me! Therefore I had the idea to host a piano concert in my apartment.

I shared the idea with my friends & family and everyone became really excited and fully supportive of the idea. The next step was planning, practising and preparing my apartment for the concert – including warning my neighbours! The concerts were planned for two evenings in December. I had less than 2 weeks to practice twelve pieces before the first concert which was pretty tight considering the level of difficulty of the chosen music and my busy working schedule. I even involved my local church who were so kind as to provide me with chairs for my guests.

I was touched by so many people’s generosity and willingness to help others that they do not even know or would probably never meet. I am now encouraging my friends and family members to get involved in the local community in which they live to make this world an even better place for us all.”

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