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Internal auditors help plant the seeds for more social interaction

The ’lasting legacy’ effect the community effort had made on the participants of the first International Internal Audit Conference held in France two years ago, made it practically imperative to include another community event in the second Conference in 2014. This year the conference took place in Amsterdam at the end of March and in order to make the necessary preparations for the 40 participants from all parts of the world, meticulous preparations were started well in advance.

In close consultation with the Community Program Staff, orientations took place on several potential projects. Mark Obst, who coordinated the activities, explained that it was not easy to find suitable projects: ‘they were either too small to accommodate the entire group or the timing was not right.’ Eventually two organizations specialized in matching businesses with charitable institutions were approached with the end result of three projects in Geuzenveld, a district in the western suburbs of Amsterdam. The area is known for its higher than average crime rate as well as high levels of unemployment. Three projects were chosen: the children’s farm ‘De Strohalm’ (The Straw), OntKIEM  (Germinate) West and the residents of a supported house for adults with severe mental disabilities.

Since the opening of the children’s farm in 2000, the wooden exteriors of the buildings were covered with green algae. Through fundraising the organization had managed to renovate and paint some of the smaller premises housing the animals. The main large barn and the office buildings, however, were still badly in need of a renovation: a perfect job for part of our auditing team. OntKIEM West is a community group that turns redelict land (caused by the demolition of old apartment buildings) around into places where the residents can interact by staging performances and plays or by planting vegetables, fruits and other food. Five sub-projects were chosen, namely the creation of a main sign at the entrance, the preparation of a stage area for a community play, painting and planting of flower boxes, the construction of an outside community kitchen and the creation of a vegetable garden.

Last but certainly not least our volunteering colleagues planned to prepare a lunch for and together with the mentally disabled residents of a nearby home where they can live independently with the required support to live safely in a secure environment. The aim of this set up is to enhance the residents’ quality of life and help them, where possible, to integrate into society.
A detailed plan of action was prepared and the required materials to perform the jobs purchased with support from the Community Program. The participants of the International Internal Audit Conference were split into 6 teams and briefed about the tasks they were expected to perform. With great enthusiasm our volunteers cleaned and painted the large barn and the office buildings of the children’s farm in one day, transforming it into a much more attractive place for the visitors. Another team painted the sign for OntKIEM West according to the outline designed by a local artist while their colleagues helped with the coating of three large boxes for an open air play stage. Mark explained the importance of these activities in the community: ‘by facilitating creativity in a community, people are offered the ability to develop skills that they were not aware of, boosting their self-esteem and confidence. Local people from different backgrounds and cultures can meet and interact much easier.’

The ‘green teams’ concentrated on the painting and planting of flower boxes with flowers that were grown from seedlings by community members indoors during winter time. With the help of some local youngsters an outside community kitchen space was constructed from reclaimed wood and a vegetable garden was cultivated and prepared for planting. The ‘cooking team’ helped prepare lunch for the mentally disabled people at the supporting home and interacted with the residents during the rest of the afternoon. All in all the additional day of the bi-annual International Internal Audit Conference was hard work but very worthwhile to all participants, making clear what a pair of extra hands can do for those less fortunate in society. Corporate Director Internal Audit, Marjo van Ool, plans to include a community activity into the bi-annual training program as a fixed part of the conference. A new tradition is born: a great example to be followed by others!
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