Jan 24, 2014 • By

Häagen-Dazs employees help schoolchildren in Madagascar

From the northern part of France to an island nation in the Indian Ocean, nearly 2,000 books collected on one continent made their way onto another and into the hands of schoolchildren in a Madagascar village.

It was all possible because of General Mills and Häagen-Dazs.

When a group from General Mills traveled in October to the African nation of Madagascar, its main mission was to follow up on its vanilla sourcing program that assists smallholder farmers who produce the crop for Häagen-Dazs and its ice cream.

But during the trip, the General Mills group made a side trip to the Madagascar village of Belambo to deliver the books and school kits – collected at our Arras plant in France – to 1,000 schoolchildren, says Bruno Dejonghe, purchasing and logistics manager at the Arras plant.

Photo-Kit-Scool

“When we launched our vanilla sustainability project, it became evident that any such plan must include some type of school support. That’s how employees at the Arras plant – where Häagen-Dazs ice cream is made – got involved,” Bruno says, who made the trip to Madagascar in October.

Dejonghe and Steve Peterson, sourcing director from our General Mills Supply Chain, visited the school on Oct. 18.

Most of the 1.2 tons of books and school kits were held up in customs, and not delivered until Nov. 8. On that day, 74 boxes made it to the school – Ecole Primaire Public de Belambo – where several teachers and local officials accepted them. (Isabelle Singer, personal assistant to our Arras plant director, helped coordinate the book drive.)

Madagascar-Books-1

Collection bins in cafeteria

In August and September, employees at the Arras plant set up collection bins in its cafeteria, seeking French-language books. They got hundreds of children’s story books. (A former French colony, Madagascar is a poor country, where half of its 22.6 million citizens live in poverty.)

Plant employees also contacted area schools, seeking books they no longer needed. Fifteen schools responded, providing textbooks in mathematics, history, grammar, geography and science as well as dictionaries. These, too, would be shipped to Madagascar.

“One of our committees sent a letter to a number of primary schools, seeking any unused books, explaining that they would help Belambo pupils start the new school year on a good note,” Bruno says.

The giving did not end there.

The plant’s social club contacted an office supplier and purchased 1,000 discount-priced school kits that included a notebook, pen, pencil, eraser, sharpener, glue tape and ruler. These, too, would travel to Madagascar.

Arras committed to helping Africa

Bruno says Häagen-Dazs focused on the village of Belambo on the recommendation of New York-based Virginia Dare, a vanilla extract company and our partner in the vanilla sourcing program in Madagascar. Virginia Dare processes the vanilla beans into extract, which is used in our ice cream.

Häagen-Dazs then turned to Fanamby, a non-governmental organization that concentrates on conservation and local development in Madagascar. Fanamby provided guidance on the needs of Belambo, so that’s how Häagen-Dazs learned about the 1,000 children, ages 5-12, who attended the village’s primary school.

The book donations represent the latest example of the Arras plant’s devotion to humanitarian causes. For the past two years, our 280 Häagen-Dazs employees have collected summer clothing, which gets sent to a village in Burkina Faso in West Africa.

Arras plant employees also delivered garden tools, grains, and a water pump to help irrigate a garden at a college in Burkina Faso.​