Marriott shares news about the Sheets for Shirts project that it supports through its Sustainability and Social Impact Platform.

Just over 280 king-size sheets are all it takes to change the lives of learners at Eastville Primary School in Mitchell’s Plain. With the support, and a steady supply of sheets, from 10 Marriott International properties in Cape Town, the Sheets for Shirts project not only provides school clothing for children but is also empowering women.

The Sheets for Shirts project kicked off during back-to-school season in January, with a donation of almost 300 school shirts to Grade R and 1 learners at Eastville Primary. For Mandela Day, the project supplied more than 1000 school shirts – made from sheets donated by hotels such as Marriott Hotels Crystal Towers, Protea Hotels by Marriott, 15 on Orange, The Westin Cape Town Hotel and AC Hotels Waterfront Cape Town – along with 1000 winter jackets and pairs of shoes.

The Sheets for Shirts project is run by Royal Kidz, a non-profit organisation founded by Kensington resident Danolene Johanessen in 2013. The NPO seeks to restore dignity to children from impoverished communities by providing school uniforms and shoes.

Marriott International’s involvement started when they offered support to Royal Kidz three years ago, as a CSI project. The Sheets for Shirts campaign was conceptualised last year when the hotel group realised the old bed linen could be repurposed to make school shirts.

“Five school shirts can be made from one king size bed sheet. The cotton is high-quality, and we have 10 hotels in Cape Town alone which provides a steady supply,” explains Josie Lyon, Vice President and Assistant Regional Counsel, Law Department, Marriott International, Middle East and Africa, who manages Marriott International’s involvement in the project.

“We fell in love with this school and its amazing headmaster and committed to supplying each child with a school shirt this year.”

But it was not just the lives of local learners which have been changed through Marriott International’s commitment. Johanessen had always dreamed of setting up a workshop to employ local seamstresses, and a R1.2 million investment by Marriott International has enabled her to start Restore SA Pty Ltd.

The social enterprise company is 100% owned by Johanessen and dedicates 40% of its profits to fund the Royal Kidz uniform project.  Restore SA also employs 10 people and has a permanent workshop in Parow and an online retail store.

“I’ve always wanted to have my own studio, but I didn’t think I could. Sometimes you just see the challenges standing in the way of your dream. But working with Marriott International changed my perspective. It showed me all things are possible, and you really can make something out of nothing,” says Johanessen.

“The workshop has changed these ladies’ lives. They now have an income and a sense of purpose. We’re making sure children from poor communities stay in school by clothing them.”

Marriott International is helping Restore SA to grow by, for instance, purchasing bags for each delegate at the general managers’ conference and the group’s laundry bag project, says Lyon.

The Laundry Bag Project is being piloted at Protea Hotel Victoria Junction from July and aims to roll out linen laundry bags, instead of the single-use plastic alternatives previously used.

“At the core of this is a commitment to having a positive and a sustainable impact in whatever part of the world Marriott International operates in,” explains Volker Heiden, Area Vice President, Protea Hotels by Marriott, Marriott International, Middle East and Africa.

The Sheets for Shirts initiative falls under Marriott International’s Sustainability and Social Impact Platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction, which guides how the company makes a positive and sustainable impact wherever it does business. From empowerment opportunities to sustainable hotel development, the platform is designed to foster business growth while balancing the needs of associates, customers, owners, the environment and communities.

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