Homes At Last

British pharmaceutical firm Norgine celebrated its 100th anniversary by helping some of the poorest people in the world. For its “Century of Excellence: Making a Difference” conference, the company built housing in Mabele-A-Podi, a township outside of Sun City, South Africa, where many children have lost both parents to AIDS.

Months ahead of the four-day conference, Norgine employees began fundraising to cover the cost of materials. Once in Mabele-A-Podi, 350 employees worked for two days at such demanding tasks as digging trenches and mixing cement. Attendees were so enthusiastic that they broke ground on five housing sites instead of the intended two.

As well as being socially conscious, the event, which was organized by World Events of Leeds, England, was environmentally conscious. Paper use was kept to a minimum thanks to online registration and downsizing of agendas and information booklets. Because the Sun City resort, where the group stayed, offers a range of venues within walking distance for conference activities and meals, transfers were limited. The company used only local food and beverage, as well as audiovisual support, reducing the need for shipping.

As a grand finale for the teambuilding event, attendees painted canvasses that were used as backdrops on the conference set, underscoring the theme of their accomplishments through teamwork.

Norgine employees are already planning to build even more housing at the next global conference, in 2010.

Social Studies

Houston-based cement giant CEMEX created a teambuilding event during a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, that took 300 executives miles away from the fabled resort to rebuild another sort of playground — at a school for poor children.

CEMEX has committed to giving back to communities in which it operates, and the company runs a plant in Monterrey, Mexico. It hired Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Extraordinary Events to organize the effort rebuild a dilapidated school in a Mayan community outside Cancun.

The event team invested three months preparing the school site: restructuring plumbing, installing electricity, and laying the foundation for a library — a first for the school.

On event day, the executives watched a video showing the dreadful conditions at the school before the project started, followed by the changes taking hold over the 90-day preparation period. The executives were divided into teams — electrical, landscaping, plumbing — based on their own skills, then boarded busses for the hour-long drive to the site. Once there, they were joined by local students and parents to lay sod, paint, finish the electrical work, and apply stucco.

Of course, the project used CEMEX building products. “The sight of so many active CEMEX cement trucks was awesome to many of the executives who rarely have the opportunity to see their products in action, much less personally put to use in the field,” says Extraordinary Events founder Andrea Michaels.

In a touching display, all the CEMEX attendees brought books cherished in their own childhoods to supply the new library. “At the end of the day, the executives had figuratively and literally influenced, if not entirely changed, the lives and education of more than 600 children and their families as they experienced first-hand the core business of CEMEX,” Michaels says.

“It was a lesson in how important their product is. Not only that, but they learned a valuable teambuilding lesson and helped change the lives of an entire community.”

Sidebar #1: Resources

World Events

Extraordinary Events