Two global financial conglomerates have donated millions to relief efforts in regions of China and Myanmar stricken by natural disasters, as UBS Australia begins to build a philanthropic services division, CATHERINE JAMES and SIMON MUMME write.

Two global financial services institutions have contributed more than $3.5 million to humanitarian relief operations in areas devastated by the recent earthquake in the Chinese province of Sichuan and Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.

State Street made a US$550,000 grant to the American Red Cross (ARC) International Relief Fund – $400,000 for China and $150,000 for Myanmar – from the State Street Foundation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Assistance Fund. The donations would fund the provision of shelter and clean food and water – including insecticide-treated mosquito nets for malaria prevention, tarps for shelter, kitchen sets, water containers and hygiene kits – to victims.

State Street will also match employee contributions of up to $100,000 towards either of the two disasters. The efforts have been made in addition to a pledge, made in 2006, to provide US$1.5 million over three years to ARC International. Meanwhile, Credit Suisse has raised more than $3 million across its offices in 12 Asia-Pacific countries when its staff paid to wear jeans for a day in support of the fundraising cause. Staff contributions topped $489,000, which the Credit Suisse Foundation then increased by contributing $2 dollars for every $1 dollar given by staff. Further contributions came in from staff around the world.

The Foundation has also made a $1 million contribution for long-term disaster relief in Sichuan and Myanmar to assist school re-building projects in China and international relief programmes in Myanmar led by the United Nations World Food Programme, Medecins Sans Frontieres Switzerland and CARE USA. In a statement, Credit Suisse says its Foundation is focused on educational projects and has a long-standing commitment to school projects in Asia. The foundation had helped build more than two dozen schools since 2000 and improved or refurbished many more, according to a Credit Suisse spokesperson.

In Australia, the State Street Foundation has made grants to organisations such as Barnardos Australia, Glebe Centipede Child Care Center, Hope Street, and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

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