The smallest things really can make the biggest difference.

“Doing good is not just about big budgets or huge change, it’s about finding the time in your day to do small, good things,” says Karen Alexander, Content Excellence Manager for Coca-Cola Southern and East Africa. “

In between working out at her morning Bootcamp class, holding down a full time marketing position at Coca-Cola in Johannesburg and studying part-time for her MBA, Karen (32) volunteers at a local children’s home - something she’s done for the past 13 years. It’s here that she met Alice, a child in care, at age two.

“I didn’t set out thinking I would volunteer for so long, but rather that I just wanted to make a difference in some small way,” she says. “But Alice has become part of my life and my family’s life for all this time, I couldn’t imagine it without her.”

Having joined Coca-Cola in South Africa three years ago, Karen previously worked in industries including telecoms, energy and property and is now responsible for content strategy in the marketing department for the company’s Southern and East Africa’s advertising campaigns. Her job provides the perfect platform for her to express both her personal and professional values.

“I think most people have a positive memory where a Coca-Cola, Fanta or a Sprite featured in their lives in some way,” she says. “For me, Coca-Cola as a brand is very optimistic, with an ambition to change people’s lives positively. I guess I try to do that in my personal life too.”

Karen spends time with Alice on a regular basis, providing experiences for her that many people take for granted as a normal part of family life – such as learning to socialising with people of different ages around the braai – the typical South African barbeque. Karen also takes her shopping to teach her how to manage her money and to make choices about what to buy. She has also taken Alice on a seaside holiday and to Sun City, one of South Africa’s most loved holiday resorts.

“If they’re lucky, children in homes may get to do something funoccasionally, when people feel like giving back, so they rely on registered volunteers to give them these types of experiences more regularly,” says Karen. “I hope to give Alice a more rounded view of the world and an ability to cope in the real world later on,” she says.

Alice is now 15 years old and Karen continues to mentor her on a regular basis.

“I think it’s really important for kids who have grown up in children’s homes, to know that they have someone they can rely on and turn to for guidance through some of life’s ups and downs,” she says. “It’s like having a big sister on the other end of the line.”

She hopes Alice will complete her high school education and continue to further her studies.

At work, Karen also makes the time to do good. She is a member of the Women’s Linc Committee, an internal initiative to empower and support women into leadership levels as well as to showcase the company’s involvement in external women empowerment initiatives, such as the Riversands Upcycling Programme. Riversands provides a platform for seamstresses in nearby townships to develop their technical skills, build their business acumen and access new markets. The committee helped the women display and sell their products to Coca-Cola staff, such as hand sewn laptop bags, pencil cases and yoga mat bags.

“To me, giving back means spreading some kindness each day - whether it’s helping to collect blankets, or buying something to eat for someone who’s hungry on your way to work,” she adds. “Doing good makes you feel good.”