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In the fast-paced marketing communications business, there can be days when we feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face on a tough project. At times like these, I’ve heard folks who are trying to put things into perspective say, “Hey, we’re not saving lives here.” Well, the truth is, our Westamerica Communications family recently had an opportunity to actually save a few lives. We did it by getting a little more active. And we had a blast doing it together.

On World Food Day, October 16, we began a challenge that, when completed, would help save the lives of young children who live halfway around the world and also benefit members of our staff. We partnered with Active for Good and took part in a 30-day activity challenge.

Active For Good provides companies and groups with activity challenges that utilize purpose as a motivator. These challenges connect physical activity with a great cause. In this case, the goal is to double the global budget for Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF), the main line of defense against Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).

Without intervention, a child who suffers from SAM, and survives, will suffer from other disorders later in life including the loss of motor skills and stunted growth. With just a six-week treatment of three RUTF packets a day, more than 90% of children recover. These 500-calorie packets contain peanut paste, milk, and a unique mix of vitamins and minerals designed to treat children, six

months to six years of age, who have been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition. These easy-to-open food-grade packets do not require added water, cooking or refrigeration, and have a two-year shelf life.

Now imagine a group of individuals who, by participating in an activity challenge, can provide these life-saving nutritional food packets to malnourished children in developing countries. The more active the participants, the more points they earn. The points convert into money to buy the RUTF packets.

There’s something to be said for, “Purpose as a motivator.” The idea of doing something for someone else, participating in an activity to provide life-saving food for children, has an impact on people’s lives. We all know we should eat right and exercise, but many times we don’t act on that knowledge. Doing something for someone else gives us a reason to set a goal. Requiring an action, not just writing a check, engages the participants on both a physical and deeper emotional level.

The Challenge Begins

To begin the challenge, we divided into three teams. Our Team Captains were super pumped for the challenge. Whether participants walked, ran, rode a bike or swam – whatever they enjoyed doing to get active – that activity would convert into points to help their team, the company, and the children.

Active for Good does a great job at keeping the emotional level high. Each participant can download the Active for Good app that tracks their activity and notifies them as they reach new levels. Individuals earn points for steps (walking around) and for minutes of activity. The app displays one leaderboard for individuals and another for teams. This creates a little competition, both between and within teams. People can also connect the app to their Apple Health or Google Fit systems that come with their mobile phone or connect the app to their Garmin or Fitbit. The app’s real-time display was a motivator for those who were close to an activity milestone.

Participants also received individual emails as they went through the challenge. Once they gathered 500 points, they were notified that “You’ve just provided your first meal for a child.” The email also contained a link to a video that showed how the packets are made.

Super active participants could earn a couple packets a day. When participants reached 150 packets, one treatment for a child, an email went out saying, “You just saved a life.”

As the challenge progressed, participants were also notified by email of the Most Improved Team and Most Improved Person.

Westamerica’s Active for Good Challenge

Our employees truly embraced this 30-day challenge. Many averaged over 500 points a day, while more active employees averaged over 700 points a day. Among the 72 participates, I heard words like, “crushing it,” “neck and neck,” “taking it to the next level,” and “untouchable.” The competition was fierce but friendly.

We wrapped up our Active for Good challenge on November 16th. I’m proud to say that our teams earned 1,706 ready-to-use therapeutic food packets thus saving 11 young children suffering from the effects of severe acute malnutrition. These packets will be distributed in Somalia, South Sudan, and other countries by aid organizations like UNICEF, Feed the Children, and World Vision.

This attempt at recycling calories proved to be beneficial both for the employees who took part in the challenge and the children who benefited from their actions.

As a way of recognizing the efforts of our teams, we presented trophies to individuals who reached specific milestones. Congratulations to all of the employees who participated.

If you’re curious about the positive impact you or your company can have on children in developing countries, click here.