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16 Thursday 2020 |

Innovation & solidarity in times of corona

Today, we have been in quarantine for five weeks. For five weeks now, our life has revolved around an (improvised) desk, the dining table, the sofa, the bed, the garden and an area of about 2 square kilometres around our house, in which we’ve taken walks in all directions. It’s a simple, yet safe world. So how are we experiencing this ‘new’ life and lifestyle?

From day 1, Upgrade Estate has succeeded in creating a safe environment for all its employees - or medeMerkers as we like to call them in Dutch - by allowing them to work from home straight away. We also ensured the safety of our Upkot students. Many students chose to go home, but some decided to #StayHome at Upkot. They can count on their student coach, who is there to help and to make sure that the social distancing measures are respected at all times. The coach disinfects the common areas, organises online activities and offers psychological support where necessary.

We also create a safe environment on our construction sites: we limit the number of people on site, we make sure there is sufficient protective equipment and the corona measures are strictly complied with. But we realise that not everyone has the space and comfort to continue life in a safe cocoon. Upgrade Estate is committed to make a difference, and through an innovative mindset, we were able to quickly launch a number of high-impact initiatives.

Given the current controversy about rent prices for student rooms, we decided to take action accordingly. In addition to waiving 6 weeks of electricity, gas, water and internet consumption costs for all our Upkot students, we wanted to give our most vulnerable student tenants an extra sign of solidarity. 

Through the "Upgrade Solidarity" aid fund we will help Upkot students who got into financial difficulties as a result of the corona crisis. In this way, students who meet certain conditions can receive a daily financial contribution. This is a long-term solution that will also allow us to help vulnerable students who might need help in the future.

But it didn’t stop here. Upgrade Estate wanted to offer additional help and make an impact on a number of fronts. For example, we considered the challenges of our future tenants, final-year secondary school students. Today, they are faced with the difficult task of choosing the right course for the upcoming academic year now that many Open Days at universities and colleges have been cancelled. Especially for them, Upgrade Estate joined forces with Bothrs to launch StudyBuddy, an interactive website where experienced students can upload a video testimonial with background information about their course. More than 75 different courses have already been covered!

One of our Upgrade Charity projects is TAJO, the Ghent-based talent studio that supports underprivileged young people. They are facing the huge challenge of keeping in touch with each and every one of these young people, who often live in a small space with their large family and have no more than one computer to share. It is often impossible for them to get in contact with their school, friends or TAJO guide. That’s why we were delighted to be able to donate 6 second-hand laptops and 5 computer screens to TAJO.

These past few weeks, there were a number of other initiatives that Upgrade Estate cares about. For example, we donated €5,000 to the Herregodts brothers from Ghent who, in collaboration with UZ Gent, the Ghent University Hospital, are developing a new tool in the fight against corona: an alternative ventilator called the Corona Ventilator. Upgrade Estate also freed up another €5,000 to quickly make face masks available to care staff. 

We try to take good care of each other, of our loved ones, colleagues, tenants and all our stakeholders, especially those who are currently struggling, or for whom a small gesture can make a big difference.

If we all give a little, we can send a big wave of solidarity out into the world.

#StrongTogether #StaySafe #Solidarity