Business as usual for us, but how are you going?

Business as usual - Crisis communications

In these rapidly changing times, we want to let all our clients know it's business as usual for the team at Mara Consulting. We regularly work remotely and have everything they need to meet and exceed your expectations. Our leadership team is working behind the scenes on our business continuity to make sure are as prepared as possible for whatever COVID-19 recommendations are made.

We are committed to the health and well-being of all our people, our clients and our communities. As such we will be making any necessary adjustments to our engagement programs by implementing social distancing measures as recommended by NSW Health.

Our top tips for communicating in a crisis

  1. Talk to your people first - internal communications is often left until last during times of crisis. Your leaders, managers and staff are the most important part of your business so make regular communication with them a priority. There is nothing worse than your staff here critical information second hand via a third party or the local media.
  2. Stay calm – it’s easy to get stressed and feel anxious in a time of crisis. Staying calm is essential so you can think clearly. This can be tough for many decision makers, business owners and those in leadership roles. Find someone you can talk to and get it out of your system because your team need you with a clear head to make decisions. Then get to planning and put in place your communication with stakeholders.
  3. Pick the right spokesperson - whether it is your CEO, your chief communications officer or another member of your leadership team; the key is to pick a trusted spokesperson, make sure they are briefed before stepping in front of a microphone and are a consistent and unwavering source of truth. If there was anything positive to come out of the recent bushfires, it was the phenomenal job by Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. He was a genuine and trusted spokesperson and a respected leader throughout.
  4. Share often - reinforcing known information and acknowledging unknown infomation is better than saying nothing at all. If no information is being shared, people will find sources of information elsewhere. Make sure you are the go to for updates on areas your are responsible for.

Be prepared

When faced with a crisis, there are few options for proactively managing the situation, it’s about being prepared in an environment with little certainty and sometimes without the facts. This probably means you’re under pressure to make decisions on the fly. Stop, stay calm and develop a clear communication framework for dealing with the unfolding crisis is a great place to start.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by COVID-19 and are not sure where to start to get your communications in order, think pink and get in touch.

All the best,

Kelly and the team from Mara.

The gift of education

Giving back to the community is good for Mara’s soul and it was one of the primary goals our MD/founder Kel set out to achieve when she started the company in 2014.

With a special connection to Kenya (4 generations of family from Kenya and the inspiration behind our company name), Mara has been financially supporting some of the most vulnerable in an urban slum area of Mombasa through the Mustard Seed Project. The family-run charity is supporting an entire community by providing essential services, food, education, health care, adult education, skills for women, and community outreach to provide the skills to help community members out of poverty.

It’s a hand up, not a hand out!

Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Our MD Kel learning to count in Swahili while visiting the school in 2012.
Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Tadd (fourth generation Kenyan) visiting the nursery school in 2012.

Helping a community out of poverty

Mustard Seed works in an urban area on the north coast of Mombasa. This area is very poor and overcrowded. Most families live in Swahili houses in a single room and share a toilet with five other families. Almost all of the community are malnourished, eating only maize-meal, but some often go without any food are starving. From the very beginning, the aim of Mustard Seed Project has been to give people education and skills to enable them to escape the poverty.

Growing a better future

In 2008, the Mustard Seed Project rented a small building with two classrooms and two teachers, supporting a deprived community and 17 children. Since then the school has grown, bigger premises were rented but quickly reached capacity.

On Christmas day 2015, stage one of the new Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed, and now provides education for 275 children aged between 3 to 14 years of age across two buildings.

But there is still more to be done!

Since then Mustard Seed with supporters, have been busy raising money to complete the school, giving more room, better facilities and opportunities to take on additional students.

The ground floor of Miche Bora Nursery and Primary School was completed in 2015

What the new school building will look like when completed.

What the new school building will look like when completed.

Our Christmas gift to Mustard Seed

Each year, Mara Consulting chooses not to send gifts and cards to our supporters and clients. Instead, we put the money towards completing the school. Kel and hubby Tadd have been personal supporters too, providing monthly donations for more than 10 years.

This year, our Christmas donation helped to push the fundraising to the target amount, meaning the school will be completed. Construction will soon begin on the upper storey with six more classrooms to bring all 275 children together in one building and room for more. Once complete, the school will have 12 classrooms, offices, a clinic, staff room, toilets, kitchen and a hall.

When the school started, we didn't have a clear plan of what to do. We saw children needing help, we had skills to offer but no knowledge of Africa or its culture."

Rita Fowler, Mustard Seed founder.

Quality education outcomes

The standard of education in Kenya for poor children is very low. Only 30% of 14-year old's have reached the level expected of an 8-year-old (UWEZO 2017). According to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, quality education is the foundation to creating sustainable development, improve quality of life and equip them with skills to solve problems.

In impoverished areas like Mgongeni, without access to education, skilled teachers and resources, these children will be forced into inter-generational poverty and suffering.

For Mustard Seed, this was a challenge and the first goal of the school – to provide a quality education to all that come. In 2019, the oldest students at the school sat their KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) exam. The results = AMAZING with the mean score B-.

Children at the school are selected according to poverty. All children got the grade necessary to go to secondary school and several achieved results necessary to go to the very best selective schools in Kenya. Better still, two of the girls have sponsors which have allowed them to go to one of these schools.

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.
Computers are now being used in class for teaching purposes.

Find out more about Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed was set up by Rita and Geoff Fowler, a retired couple who set out to help improve the education, health and lifestyles of the Mgongeni community.

Head to the project’s website to learn more about their work and how they are growing a better future for the local community.

Christmas is a time for giving

Together we can achieve great things!

Each year, instead of sending Christmas cards and gifts to our clients and supporters, we support several charities. These include Mustard Seed Project (Kenya), the Samaritans Giving Trees in Newcastle and Singleton and Soul Café food appeal.

Since 2014 we have been giving back to amazing projects and charities doing awesome work in our community. We are all about supporting vibrant communities, social change and well, just being good humans! #TeamMara

Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café
Not a bad effort by #TeamMara! Our Christmas gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café

Messages from the team adorned our pink Christmas tree (of course!).

What's Christmas without a bit of pink!?

This year we’ve decorated and donated a very Mara pink Christmas tree for the Samaritans Christmas lunch in Singleton. We're very proud of our very own Kim-Cherie (pictured below) who organises the charity lunch.

The lunch, which is also hosted in Newcastle and Wyong, provides a wonderful opportunity for the disadvantaged and those without family to come together and celebrate. As well as the great food, there is entertainment, activities and, we hear, a visit from Santa!

Great work Kim-Cherie!

Fingers crossed, Singleton likes pink!

The Mara pink tree will be part of the 12 Trees of Christmas competition to help raise funds and awareness for the lunch. The community gets to vote for their favourite.

 

Christmas is all about sharing

We’re grateful to be able to help make a difference. We’re especially appreciative of the wonderful staff and volunteers at the Mustard Seed Project, the Samaritans and Soul Café who give so much of themselves to help others.

The whole Mara team has donated gifts, food and essential items to the Samaritans and Soul Café. These will be distributed to those doing it tough at this time of year.  YAY #TeamMara

In addition to the employee contributions, the company provided $3000 in cash, food and gifts to support our three corporate charities.

Kim-Cherie with our Mara Christmas tree for the Samaritans’ Singleton lunch

Our Christmas tree for the Samaritans' Singleton lunch and gift haul for the Samaritans and Soul Café. 

Miche Bora’s students celebrate the news that their school has raised enough money to build six classrooms on the upper storey.

Some of the students at Miche Bora nursery and primary school

Our charity partners

The Mustard Seed Project (Kenya) is a family-run charity, building a school in an urban slum area of Mombasa, Kenya. The project provides education and a feeding program for poor children in the Mgongeni community. Read Mustard Seed’s Christmas milestone on our blog.

The Samaritans are providing Christmas lunches in Newcastle, Central Coast and Singleton this year, providing guests will a free lunch, entertainment and friendship. The Samaritans Giving Trees provide an opportunity for businesses and their staff and clients to donate Christmas gifts for local families and individuals who are experiencing hardship.

 

Soul Café is a Newcastle-based charity that provides hundreds of free meals each week to highly disadvantaged members of our community, many of whom are homeless, have a mental illness, substance abuse issue or live in poverty. Soul Café’s meals are a medium to be able to work with people in a greater way.

If you’re keen to get involved, click on the links above to find out how you can help.

Mara MD, Kel delivering the goodies to Soul Cafe