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Marriott International has signed a three-year agreement with the Yao Foundation to support educational programmes for children in rural areas of China. The Yao Foundation is a charity organisation established in 2008 by former professional basketball star Yao Ming under the auspices of The China Youth Development Foundation. The charity aims to promote the all-round development of Chinese youth by providing them the opportunities to improve their education, sports skills, health and self-esteem.
When asked why youth is a priority for Marriott's charitable contributions in China, the company stated:
Marriott International has a heritage of putting people first and opening doors to a world of opportunity for its guests, partners and associates. The key to making this happen is education, especially for the younger generations. The youth is the future of China which is playing a more important role in the global arena and Marriott feels it is important to support the youth and therefore the future of the country.
Since its founding, the Yao Foundation has helped more than 9,000 rural Chinese children who have studied at the 15 Hope Primary Schools it has funded. A building block of the Yao Foundation’s activity, Project Hope programme aims to provide education to children aged from 6 to 14.
Under the terms of the three-year agreement, Marriott International will donate $800,000 to the Yao Foundation to establish three Project Hope schools in the Southwestern region of China. This region is regarded as a under developed part of China and the education facilities there have room for improvement. The three new schools will be selected and built by 2015.
The first of the Hope Primary schools that Marriott International will support as part of its relationship with the Yao Foundation will be the Yong Shou Primary School in Shi Dong County, Sichuan Province. The funds will be used to rebuild one of the academic buildings, originally built in 1989, to meet the earthquake resistance criteria. The Yong Shou Primary School covers three villages and one community and has a sustainable student supply with a long-term future.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at the JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai at Tomorrow Square, Simon Cooper, president and managing director of Marriott International Asia, said:
Yao Ming is one of the most popular athletes and role models for youngsters in China. He is renowned for his tremendous support for rural communities in the country and he understands the value his influence can bring to take a leading role in society as a whole. His views and vision resonate with Marriott International’s core values. Yao’s environmental initiatives echo Marriott’s global commitment to supporting the communities we serve through our Spirit to Serve programmes.
Marriott’s growth in China will see it open on average one hotel a month for at least the next five years and so environmental and social responsibility is now more critical than ever. Each Marriott hotel operates a Spirit to Serve programme which supports and benefits underprivileged children in local communities, based on the key pillars of shelter and food, the environment and aiding less-advantaged children. A key part of of Spirit to Serve is that Marriott associates work as volunteers and be engaged in local community support and it is likely that this will feed through to the new schools.
In China - Marriott International’s second biggest market globally – the company also runs a number of corporate programmes to support the communities and environment in the country, including The Nobility of Nature programme. Nobility of Nature launched as a collaboration between Marriott, Conservation International (CI) and local community organisations to protect the headwaters of Asia’s water tower in Sichuan Province, which provides fresh water to more than two billion people and feeds several key Asian rivers, including the Yangtze. The programme also drives sustainable operations and efforts in Marriott’s China and Hong Kong hotels.
Marriott contributed $500,000 to support freshwater conservation by assisting rural communities with building sustainable businesses, such as bee-keeping, that protect the environment while supporting the community’s development. During the past two years, Nobility of Nature has supported two bee-farming cooperatives in Guanba Village and Yingjing County in Sichuan and nearly 6,000 local residents are participating in the project.
Marriott International also supports a number of other educational initiatives in China such as the recently announced Marriott Institute of Hospitality Education in co-operation with Anhui Zhong-Ao Institute of Technology. The institution is aimed at developing the future generation of the hospitality workforce in China.