Laurence Verriest, Community Affairs Lead, Microsoft Belgium.
Child Focus is a Belgian NGO that has been working tirelessly to protect children online for many years. Microsoft has collaborated with Child Focus for the last four years and has been training children and teachers in schools around Belgium on internet safety. As one of the volunteers at Microsoft I am particularly proud that this long term partnership and the valuable work of Child Focus undertakes.
Microsoft has a long standing commitment to keeping the internet safe for children. In Belgium, as part of this commitment, we decided to devote our Employee Volunteering Program, which offers three volunteering days per year to employees, to child online safety. We noticed, during discussions with our NGO partner, Child Focus, and other stakeholders (NGO’s, FCCU, government agencies and universities), that teachers still don’t feel confident bringing the subject of Internet Safety in class. So in 2009, we decided to provide Microsoft employees with the opportunity to volunteer to provide Safer Internet Training in primary and secondary schools for children between the ages of 8-13. Microsoft worked with Child Focus to develop a specific training pack explaining why the Internet is fun and useful, but also covering the potential dangers such as privacy, spam, cyber bullying etc.
Microsoft trains employee volunteers and matches them with schools where they give e-safety lesson in class. The program has proved incredibly popular, and we have seen a strong growth in demand from schools. To meet this demand we’ve extended the program to include our partner, Getronics, in the initiative, which is helping us to reach an even greater number of children.
In our last fiscal year - July 2009 to June 2010 65 Getronics employees and 101 Microsoft employees – a full third of our employees - trained over 10,000 children in schools all over the country.
But more important than the numbers, the training has been very effective, in the words of a teacher from Cardinal Mercier in Braine L’alleud: “We would like to thank Microsoft Belux and everyone concerned in this project, for the training you provided to our pupils on the dangers of the Internet. We would like to thank Mister Van Mollekot and Cremers who brought 7 sessions with professionalism and passion for 12 classes. The pupils and the teachers learned a lot! Could you come back in June to train the other classes?”
In the words of one colleague “I was delighted to have participated in the volunteering day. It was enriching from both a human and professional point of view. It was a real moment of realization in understanding the daily challenges for our users! It was surprising, uplifting and what a pleasure to hear their perspective”
In December 2010 Microsoft Belux was honored to have the incredible work of Child Focus and the Internet Safety program recognized with the “European Union Employee Volunteering Award for Belgium”. This competition recognizes companies for their employee engagement initiatives and is organized by the European Commission and coordinated by Business & Society for Belgium. Microsoft was selected by an independent jury that included representatives from the University of Antwerp, the Flemish employment agency, Network for Training and Entrepreneurship and HR Tribune magazine. The award ceremony was attended by 100 people from both public and private sector, NGOs and academia. John Macdonald, head of task force for the European Year at the European Commission delivered the opening address while a panel discussion on the role of employee volunteering included the CEO of Deloitte Belgium, ING Belgium, PWC and Freshfields, and Xavier Lamote from Microsoft.
Pictured at the presentation of the European Union Employee Volunteering Award for Belgium are Ellen Stassart, Child Focus; Mieke Kennof, Business Manager Microsoft Belux; Laurence Verriest, Community Affairs Manager Microsoft Belux; Xavier Lamote, BMO Director Microsoft Belux and Rudi Thomas, Chief Executive Officer of VBO/FEB the federation of business in Belgium
Microsoft will now participate in the European finalist contest in March 2011.
The Employee Volunteering Program is an excellent opportunity for our employees to develop their personal skills and be ambassadors of our Citizenship programs. As one of the volunteers at Microsoft I am particularly proud that this long term partnership and the valuable work of Child Focus has been recognized in this way.
Laurence Verriest manages Microsoft’s community affairs programs in Belgium.