Ideas that Matter: Empowering Today’s Dreams to be Tomorrow’s Reality

Ideas that Matter: Empowering Today’s Dreams to be Tomorrow’s Reality

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Let’s change lives! See an article highlighting @SappiNA’s #IdeasThatMatter competition and past winner @NotreDame:

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Thursday, June 30, 2016 - 8:00am

CAMPAIGN: Ideas that Matter

CONTENT: Article

Have you heard of Sappi’s Ideas that Matter competition? More than a decade ago, Sappi established the grant program to recognize and support designers who use their skills and expertise to solve communications problems for a wide range of charitable activities. Since 1999, Sappi has funded over 500 nonprofit projects, contributing over US$12million worldwide to causes that enhance our lives and our planet.

Four years ago we helped a group of professors and students at the University of Notre Dame transform their idea for a storybook that educates South African children into a reality. In 2011, the Kgosi Neighborhood Foundation, which aims to empower children and parents in South Africa through education and job creation, approached Notre Dame’s Robert Sedlack and alumna Andréa Pellegrino, now of Pellegrino Collaborative. The communities the foundation serves were experiencing xenophobic unrest, so Paul Horn, Kgosi’s director and a dual graduate of Notre Dame, turned to the university as a natural partner to help combat the problem at its most basic level using design. Sedlack and Pellegrino welcomed the challenge and immediately involved students in the university’s Design for Social Change course to help deliver a solution.

The result of their efforts was a children’s book titled Blooming Together. It tells the story of four distinct flower seeds that all end up in the same garden, and as the flowers begin to bloom, they realize that it’s their differences that make the garden more beautiful. The story was there, but to make the intended impact, the books would need to be produced—and that’s where Sappi came in. Notre Dame applied for 2012’s Ideas that Matter grant and walked away with a win. “Blooming Together and its accompanying educational materials would never have been published without outside funding,” said Pellegrino. “Receiving that initial $50,000 was the catalyst for the publication and distribution.”

But Sappi’s relationship with Notre Dame didn’t end with the 2012 win. The success of the first children’s book prompted the creation of a second, this one tackling another of South Africa’s hard-hitting issues: HIV. “This story is about a little caterpillar named Khulani who has HIV,” said Brandon Keelean, Notre Dame alumnus and co-author of the second book, Growing Together. “He starts at a new school and the other students have misconceptions about what the disease is. In South Africa, oftentimes the stigma brings awful distress, so we wanted to provide an entrance point to talk about the disease and potentially reduce the stigma.” Keelean, Sedlack and others at the university submitted the concept for the Ideas that Matter program in 2013 hoping for a second win, and they were rewarded with a grant to help get their design off the ground.

In 2015, another group at Notre Dame—led once again by Sedlack—applied for the grant, this time with a fresh focus: help mothers in South Africa provide for their families. The initiative, titled ENZA, aims to lift women out of poverty by equipping them with instructional booklets and kits that will enhance job opportunities through the development of marketable skills such as sewing and ceramics. Sadly, Sedlack passed away from ALS before Sappi had the pleasure of announcing his third win in four years, but the grant is now helping to ensure that his vision for the project comes to fruition.

The 2016 Call for Entries for Ideas that Matter close on July 15, 2016. See more in the 2015 Sappi North America Sustainability Report: