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CSR During a Pandemic

CSR During a Pandemic

Katerina Biloruska, Chairwoman of the non-profit Parimatch Foundation, explains how it has helped in the fight against COVID-19, whilst staying true to its original mission.

For those of us working in CSR, 2020 hasn’t quite turned out to be what we were expecting! At the beginning of the year, we were firmly focused on delivering on our mission to promote the health and well-being of the community through education and engaging children with sport, while providing equal opportunities for everyone. But once we realised how serious COVID-19 was becoming, we re-focused our attention on helping those who were being impacted by the virus.

At the beginning of the outbreak, we assessed how we could best support hospitals and frontline workers – the paramedics, doctors and nurses working under extreme pressure and in difficult circumstances in the fight against COVID-19. In Cyprus, they required equipment to manage the many phone calls from people in need of medical attention.

Parimatch Foundation therefore donated two interactive switchboards, which helped with optimizing call centre coordination and enabled ambulance crews to respond quickly. These high-tech switchboards are vital for ambulance service operations, since they digitize information for call handlers and give them real-time information, enabling them to know where each ambulance is at any time. In Cyprus, this meant that ambulances could be directed to a precise location in the fastest and most efficient way. It reduced waiting time, increased efficiency and made sure that people obtained the medical attention they needed as soon as possible, potentially saving lives. 

Parimatch Foundation also quickly implemented a support programme for local hospitals in Ukraine to help tackle the pandemic. It became clear very quickly that there was a great need for medical equipment to cope with the high volume of patients being admitted to hospital. Beyond the urgent need for ventilators and PPE, including respirators, safety glasses, protective overalls, gloves and non-contact thermometers, more specialist items of equipment were also required. For example, a children’s hospital needed a thermocycler – a piece of apparatus which can test for infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Parimatch Foundation managed to source this piece of equipment and deliver it to the hospital.

And it wasn’t just about funding medical supplies. Support was also required to source the equipment, as well as with the logistics of getting it to the hospitals. The Parimatch Foundation team had to find creative solutions to this challenge. For example, the team made an arrangement with a contractor who produces corporate clothing for Parimatch to make medical-grade protective suits and shoe covers in line with a model developed by the doctors who needed them. Parimatch Foundation then co-ordinated a group of volunteers alongside staff to transport these items to hospitals and distributed them to doctors’ cars, in order to maintain social distancing.

In total, Parimatch Foundation has provided essential medical equipment to 13 hospitals in Kiev and other regions in Ukraine.

Whilst all this was happening, we still had to consider how we could continue to deliver on our mission of promoting the health and well-being of communities through educating and engaging children in sport, while providing equal opportunities for everyone.

Typically, Parimatch Foundation outreach and events are held in person and we had planned to host sports activities for children and parents at festivals over the summer. With these festivals postponed, the Foundation has shifted its focus to online initiatives. For example, we have hosted free, weekly online exercise videos on Instagram. The videos were led by a Ukrainian athlete, who recorded his exercise routine with his own children. Subscribers who posted their exercise videos with their children at least three times were eligible to win a prize from Parimatch Foundation. 

Whilst it may seem that it has been easy for charitable foundations to shift their focus to COVID-19 related initiatives, it has actually been a complex operation that required a careful assessment of what was needed and how funds and time could be resourced effectively. All this, whilst also staying true to their mission and values.  However, Parimatch Foundation quickly identified the most useful ways to help its communities, whether that meant providing frontline healthcare workers with the provision of much-needed and potentially lifesaving equipment, or using online platforms to ensure that adults and children had the opportunity to improve their health and wellbeing through sport.

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