March 2021: Winter is on the way, and a significant number of South African children go to school without uniforms and school shoes. 320 vulnerable children at Klipheuwel Primary school in Durbanville are going to get a fairer shot at school life in 2021 with the recent donation of new school shirts, jackets, shoes and socks that come through a collaboration with Marriott International and the non-profit organisation, Royal Kidz. They have worked together over the past 18 months, handing over a total of 3000 similar donations to date to schools in underserved SA communities. The project began when Marriott was looking for local solutions to repurpose the large volume of bed sheets that are replaced frequently, before any wear and tear, by its hotels.
The Sheets for Shirts initiative got off the ground when founder of Royal Kidz, Danolene Johanessen realised she could create a ‘circular economy’ by fashioning kids school shirts from the white sheets. To date, approximately 700 sheets have been repurposed into 3000 school shirts. This innovation led to R1.2 million being funded by the Marriott International Cape Town office that enabled Johanessen to start Restore SA, a social enterprise employing local seamstresses and dedicating 40% of its profits to fund the Royal Kidz uniform project. Restore SA makes the school shirts for the programme, as well as other products for sale.
The latest donation to Klipheuwel Primary School also includes 320 pairs of brand-new school shoes, made possible through the ongoing Shoes for the Future project run by the Marriott Business Council for South Africa. Hotel guests have been part of this drive by making donations. 1000€ raised by the Sheraton Frankfurt Airport Hotel also boosted the Shoes for the Future funds.
Johanessen says, “Since 2013, it’s been the Royal Kidz mission to restore dignity to our South African children who have had to present themselves at their schools without uniforms, and with broken, ill-fitting, and often no shoes. Sheets for Shirts has boosted our organisation’s sustainability, because we now benefit also from having a social enterprise on board.”
In these COVID times, Restore SA has also been producing masks from Marriott International hotel sheets, and distributing them in disadvantaged communities were adhering to safety protocols has been most difficult, and sometimes impossible. This transformation of waste from the tourism and travel industry into tangible social benefits has opened doors for Johanessen who has since secured funding from the IDC (Industrial Development Corporation) to further develop her business and programmes.
Volker Heiden, Marriott International’s Area Vice President for Sub Saharan Africa says, “It’s great to have a sustainable solution for our hotels’ bed sheets that also enables these children to feel self-confident in their school community. This donation to Klipheuwel Primary school children has been made possible due to the collection of bed sheets from Marriott International properties across South Africa, as well as additional support from Marriott International’s Sustainability and Social Impact Platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction.”