children, running, school, backpack

Chicago non-profit breaking cycle of poverty wins 2014 Aetna Voices of Health award

Dec 19 2014

(Editor’s Note: Once a year the Aetna Voices of Health campaign awards top honors to community organizations that share Aetna’s goals of closing racial and ethnic health care inequality gaps and helping people live healthier lives. Community Outreach Volunteers, NFP is the winner of the 2014 Aetna Voices of Health campaign and will receive a $30,000 award for obtaining the most votes among the 31 participating organizations).

Children trapped in a cycle of poverty can benefit enormously from community programs that give them opportunities to exercise, learn and lead. In some of the poorest parts of Chicago, Community Outreach Volunteers, NFP (COV) runs holistic youth programs that promote physical health, life skills, leadership and academic development. COV programs engage parents and emphasize community service – two factors that reinforce the positive changes that lead to better opportunities.

Unfortunately, the kids we serve often have families who do not have the resources to bring their children to special educational and fitness programs, which has limited how much we can help. We plan to use the $30,000 award from the Aetna Voices of Health Campaign to support these programs and buy a van to help transport the children we assist to the various activities we have planned throughout the year. With the van, we can break down geographic limitations, reach more children, and provide them with special events and programs all over the city.

The mission of our organization is to help residents of the South Side of Chicago – particularly children – usher in a new era of self-sufficiency. We strive to give people in our community the tools and resources they need to help themselves.

Our mission is a major reason why we were so excited to participate in the Aetna Voices of Health Campaign this year. The campaign is distinct because the public is invited to vote for the community organization they think most deserves the top honor. The Voices of Health Campaign gave us the same type of opportunity we try to give the people in our community – to earn something valuable through hard work, dedication and creativity.

How We Ran Our Campaign

Once the Aetna Community Relations and Urban Marketing team informed us that we were one of 31 organizations from across the country that were selected to participate in the 2014 campaign, we immediately started working on a one-minute video that would reflect the neighborhoods we serve, our organization and the people we help.

We were very proud of our video, but soon realized the most important part of the campaign was what other people would say about us. We reached out to everybody and anybody we knew. Having grown up in Uganda, I reached out personally to friends and colleagues around the world. We used social media to reach international online communities. Closer to home, we went to highly populated areas like offices and shopping plazas with laptops and tablets, making it as easy as possible for people learn about our work and show their support by casting a vote. We also encouraged our supporters to reach out to their own networks. Before we knew it, we had a wave of support that was very global and very local at the same time.

In just over a month, we received 78,920 votes. We were honored and humbled to see how many people voted for us, and fortunate enough to be named the winner of the 2014 Aetna Voices of Health campaign. We will honor the support we received from friends near and far by maintaining the same level of energy as we continue helping the residents of the South Side of Chicago.

Our organization is all about giving people in our community a better chance to succeed. We are thankful that Aetna and the Aetna Foundation share our commitment to helping the people we serve. The unique opportunity they gave us will give similar opportunities to the people we support and truly have a positive impact on our community.