Making a difference with Accenture
November 11, 2021
Sigrun Kaempfer is the kind of person who spends her day forging connections between people and making things happen. Each day she has the opportunity to work to her strengths – working with empathy and positivity to maximise the impact she’s making. Hear how a recent secondment to the Business Council of Australia, as well as volunteering to help Afghan refugees, has helped make a difference to thousands of lives.
One of the benefits of working for a large organisation like Accenture is that it opens doors to opportunities, and there’s support to get involved in projects that give back to the community. Earlier this year, I was given the opportunity to go on secondment to the Business Council of Australia for a six-month project.
Rebuilding lives for bushfire and flood victims
The project I have been part of with the Business Council of Australia (BCA) is the BizRebuild scheme. It’s a business-led initiative to raise funds and in-kind assistance for small and local businesses left devasted by the bushfires and floods that the country experienced across 2019, 2020 and 2021.
I’ve been responsible for managing the voucher program that distributes money to these small business owners to buy replacement equipment and access advisory services. I’ve been helping business owners navigate the application process, screening applications, making due-diligence checks, and managing the payment of invoices for goods and services.
But more than ensuring the administrative processes are robust, the most rewarding part has been hearing people’s stories. I’ve been honoured to provide a listening ear for people who have lost everything.
The stories of what people have been through sticks with you. I spoke to one business owner in the Coffs Harbour area. He’d been through bushfires then the COVID-19 pandemic. He decided to move across the river to be further away from the bush to reduce his fire risk. Then the region flooded and he lost everything, which was followed by the mice plague. We ended up laughing about the utter absurdity of the situation. Being able to provide some level of human connection to these people has been incredibly fulfilling.
To date, the BizRebuild program has issued over $750,000 in vouchers to over 350 NSW business owners who suffered flood damage, as well as more than 130 WA business owners who were impacted by bushfires and cyclones. There’s a waitlist of people who have applied, so the BCA is seeking more corporate donations to help business owners who are still in need of support.
Connecting with others to help Afghan refugees
Accenture is a workplace that actively encourages us to do one day a year volunteering. As well as Accenture-supported volunteering, there are other opportunities through our Social Impact Marketplace. And that’s how I ended up volunteering to help Afghan refugees. I saw a post about the need for volunteers for the Truman Center Afghanistan Operations Center (TCAOC) and immediately registered. I had no idea what kind of huge, emotional impact this split-second decision would have on me.
So why did I get involved? I grew up in Germany, and I remember listening to stories about war and political struggles in places like Kabul, Beirut, Tehran and Damascus. I’ve always been interested in politics and international relationships, and have felt particularly drawn to Afghanistan as somewhere I’d like to learn more about.
The Truman Project raised donations for charter flights to get as many Afghans as possible into safety. I worked with a team of volunteers, mostly in the United States, to achieve this common goal. The window of time to get people out of Afghanistan was incredibly small – I hardly slept an hour from Friday evening to Sunday night as the situation in Kabul worsened.
Once again, it was hearing people’s stories that has hit me deeply with this project. I’ve had people tell me about how they tried for days to get to (and inside) the airport; stories of the LGBTIQ+ community who fear for their lives and of families that were separated. The human tragedy drove me to spend hours juggling spreadsheets, creating ever-changing flight manifests, speaking to people via the phone and WhatsApp to try and help them get out.
In the aftermath, after gates closed, and last flight of the US military took off; I kept on working with a small team in the US in order to consolidate our intensive data of thousands of Afghans in need who were left behind. Hopefully our work will help to locate those families sheltering and hiding once there are new initiatives for rescue set up by governments and private organisations.
It’s heartbreaking to know that some people did not get out. The hardship for millions continues – those who got out and are fearing for their family members still in Afghanistan, and those left behind fearing for their lives in a crumbling country. But getting messages from people on WhatsApp who did make it out of Afghanistan, and knowing I helped to save a few lives, helps somewhat.
Learn more about Accenture’s disaster response which was selected as a finalist in the BCA Biggie Awards.
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