Y’ello really Cares: empowering dreams, building communities

05 July 2024

In 2005, a heartwarming story unfolded in the heart of Uganda. Alice, a 70-year-old widow and the sole caregiver for seven orphans, lived in a humble mud-and-reed shack in the village of Naama in the Mukono district outside Kampala.

One day, her life took an unexpected and joyful turn. A busload of MTN employees, their faces beaming with warmth, arrived in her village, not as telecom professionals but as compassionate builders. Their mission: working with Habitat for Humanity to construct a sturdy, four-room brick house with a well-ventilated pit latrine for Alice and the children – they were going to do the same for her neighbours, Namisango and Harriet, who were also widows.

The houses that MTN built

With infectious enthusiasm, the MTN team, sporting bright yellow T-shirts and bandanas, got to work. Under the watchful eyes of skilled masons, the MTN staff split into three groups, each allocated to a different site. Together, they tossed bricks, mixed mortar, and built walls for the new homes that would soon become safe havens for Alice, Namisango and Harriet.

The laughter and camaraderie filled the air, a testament to the power of community and shared purpose. As the walls rose, so did the hopes and dreams of those who would soon call these places home.  After six hours of dedicated labour, the walls had reached window level, and the MTN team could take a break. They chatted with the villagers, including the astonished but delighted Alice, Namisango and Harriet, and shared in the joy they were creating.  As the sun began to set, they headed home, leaving the finishing work to the professional builders, but with hearts full of accomplishment and a renewed sense of purpose.

By 2005, MTNers in Uganda, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, had constructed over 200 low-cost houses for underprivileged rural communities. This act of kindness, while significant, was just the beginning of MTN’s commitment to community development. These MTNers were practising something that would only be formalised two years later, in 2007, with the launch of 21 Days of Y’ello Care, a group-wide initiative that has touched countless lives across Africa. This initiative marked a significant step in MTN’s journey, showing MTNers’ commitment to making a lasting impact.

Labours of love

Since its inception in 2007, 21 Days of Y’ello Care has become an annual tradition, happening every June (except for 2020 when COVID-19 intervened). MTNers from across the continent eagerly roll up their sleeves to participate, dedicating their time and skills to directly improve the lives of people in the communities they serve.

Over the years, Y’ello Care has evolved into a powerful force for good. As many as 13,000 staff a year have participated, leaving an indelible mark on countless lives. They have constructed not only homes but also schools where children’s laughter fills the air, hospitals where healing takes place, and computer labs where dreams are ignited. They have painted and rehabilitated schools and hospitals, organised blood donation drives to save lives, refurbished streets and orphanages, and empowered communities with the tools and knowledge they need to thrive.  From remote villages to bustling cities, the impact of Y’ello Care has been felt far and wide, leaving behind a trail of gratitude and renewed hope.

To encourage and recognise their efforts, volunteer staff, with the support of their suppliers, compete for trophies and an annual top prize of US$100,000 awarded by the Group President and CEO for the best Y’ello Care campaign – with funds promptly reinvested in ongoing CSI projects in the winning countries.

A lasting World Cup legacy

In 2010, MTN partnered with United Against Malaria (UAM) as part of the Group’s “We can’t wait. Let’s go 2010” campaign during the FIFA World Cup. This project, aimed at combating malaria, involved educating communities and distributing over 28,000 mosquito nets to at-risk individuals. MTN also committed to being malaria-safe in all 16 of its African markets and donated R275,000 raised from World Cup fan parks to UAM.

In 2012, as part of Y’ello Care, MTN ran its first group-wide Y’ello Global Career Day, aimed at preparing close to 7,500 young people for jobs in the digital economy. In the same year, also focusing on education, MTN Cameroon refurbished several public libraries in five municipalities, including the establishment of an e-library. A nationwide publicity drive collected more than 100,000 books for these libraries, most of which were in rural and underprivileged parts of the country.

In 2018, Sudan won the Group President and CEO’s Y’ello Care award after running three business clinics hosted by MTN employees, two of which were aimed at young people who wanted to start their businesses or youths with solid entrepreneurial ideas but who needed support in business-related subjects. A third clinic targeted people with disabilities with practical help in converting recycled materials into commercial products. Drawing in a number of business partners to support those attending the various clinics ensured the continuing sustainability of the project – beyond the 21 days of Y’ello Care.

Y’ello Care: A legacy of empowerment

The 2024 Y’ello Care initiative, themed “Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow,” and extended to 30 days in celebration of MTN’s 30th anniversary, recently concluded with unprecedented staff mobilization across the continent. The initiative focused on bridging the educational divide in the digital age, with employees engaging in impactful activities such as school refurbishments, establishing digital libraries, providing access to online educational resources, and conducting digital literacy training programs for students and teachers.

From Alice’s new home in Uganda to countless other lives transformed across the continent, Y’ello Care stands as a shining example of MTN’s enduring legacy of making a difference. It is a testament to the power of collective action, reminding us that even small acts of kindness can create a ripple effect of positive change that echoes through generations. As MTN continues its journey, Y’ello Care will remain a cornerstone of its mission, ensuring that MTN’s impact extends far beyond telecommunications, enriching the lives of communities throughout Africa and creating a brighter future for all.