At this year’s NRF Big Show, dozens of vendors were promoting the Retail Orphan Initiative (www.retailroi.org) right alongside their latest technologies. VSR Magazine interviewed Greg Buzek, co-founder of ROI and president of IHL Consulting Group, to find out how solution providers can get more involved with the Channel-supported charity.
VSR: How did the Retail Orphan Initiative come to be?
I started an orphan care ministry in our church in 2008 after going to a conference and finding out about the overwhelming [challenges orphans face]. There are over 143 million orphans and kids are dying every 5.2 seconds—I just couldn’t get that out of my head and had to do something. A few months later, I met up with Paul Singer, who was the chief information officer for SuperValu, and decided that we should do something together. So we teamed up with a [group of interested retail leaders] and started a donor-advised fund under the Giving Back Fund.
VSR: What are the goals of ROI?
There are three goals. One is to raise awareness that there’s a need. Most people don’t know that today, five times as many kids are going die as people died on 9/11. Number two, we can make a huge difference in the industry through voluntary donations and [retailers] leveraging internal strengths. For example, if a retailer has a problem with overstock, they can donate the extra clothes to foster kids. They need all kinds of things. We created a database with 300 charities that allows donors to donate materials. Finally, we are trying to raise funds for charities that have done terrific work with very little overhead so that we can double or triple what’s being done. We’ve built schools in Liberia, we’ve built computer labs in Honduras for a school with 600 kids, and we’ve teamed with RSPA for three labs and two trips to the Dominican Republic. We are sending donations from companies like Epson, and we have an install group going down in April to install the systems and come face-to-face with the kids.
VSR: How can resellers get more involved with the programs?
There are several ways, particularly with the computer labs. We have several labs being established in the coming year that we don’t have the donations for right now. Resellers can send money or donate equipment, but they can also lend their expertise. They can literally go out to one of these locations, look at what kind of network or hardware they have, do a site prep, and then come back and load the servers, install the software, and get everything shipped over and hooked up. They can teach the kids and teachers how to use the systems properly, and remote into those systems to provide support. It involves the same skills these VARs use every day for an install, but they would take a weekend to go to another country and do this for a group of kids. It’s extremely powerful—it’s life changing.
There are people that want to go but don’t have the funds, and there are resellers that have the funds but don’t have the time. Being able to marry those things is important. So a reseller could be willing to pay the cost and airfare for one of his employees to go down there with other people from the industry. That’s a business expense, because they are building relationships on a whole different level, and it becomes very valuable for the business. The easiest way to get involved is to e-mail retailROI@ihlservices.com.