Flight director and volunteer with ASF (Aviation Without Borders) “When you travel with these children you realize how grateful, intelligent and happy they are with the little they have”
TEXT: CRISTINA BISBAL IMAGES: BEGOÑA ONTIVEROS
She is passionate about her work and interacting with people, traveling and getting to know other cultures, other ways of understanding the world: “it should be compulsory; a core subject,” she laughs. She has been working in Iberia since 1986, firstly as a Cabin Crew Member (flight attendant) and, since 2000, as a Flight Director. This has enabled her to do volunteering work with Aviation Without Borders, an association of French origin (ASF) operating in Spain for over 20 years, thanks to the personal endeavor of another company employee, Lourdes Ros.
Tell us about the work ASF undertakes
It has four wonderful projects. In Wings of Hope, supervised by the Terre des Hommes Foundation, we accompany sick children from their countries of origin to Spain or other European countries to be operated on; and then we take them back home as healthy kids…
It’s incredible. With Wings of Smile, we bring the aviation world closer to people with ‘other abilities’. We organize excursions to air museums, air festivals, aerodromes, exhibitions… everything we can related to flying… ha, ha, ha.
Thanks to Alfabetización Burkina, 2,200 children receive literacy training each year. This is not face-to-face, because of the country’s socio-political situation, but all the aid material was sent out. We also have a sponsorship system so that they can continue their studies. I sponsor a girl, Agustine, who is already in high school.
A real triumph being a woman! With Mensajería Solidaria [Solidarity Courier], we accompany cargo entrusted to us by Spanish NGOs to deliver to other NGOs around the world. We also offer this service to individuals. One example: if we are given a wheelchair or essential items and they travel as cargo, airlines let us ship them as our own property.llevamos de vuelta a casa ya sanos…. ¡Es increíble!
What does your volunteering entail?
I volunteer for missions in any of our projects: accompanying children, organizing exhibitions or galas, moving house… But, above all, I focus on two of the projects: Wings of Smile, along with my colleagues Elena Soria and Carlos de Sandoval; and Mensajería Solidaria which, after two years of crisis, is now doing great. We perform miracles in which so many people are involved, and there’s so much positive energy that, when they end, I think: “that can’t have actually happened.”
You have also accompanied sick children with the Wings of Hope project. What was that experience like?
The merit for this project all goes to the ‘Terre des Hommes Foundation’, the ones who organize the trips. With our accompaniment, the foundation saves on the tickets. We bring them and hand them over to their host families; and when they are cured, we return them to their families. Accompaniment is a volunteering job that’s in great demand. I’ve done two and I gained so much from them; you realize how grateful, intelligent and happy they are with the little they have. It’s funny to see the evolution: they arrive without a word of Spanish and without luggage… and they return cured, with four suitcases and speaking Galician, for example. You feel an immense love when you leave them with their host family, and then again on returning them back home.
When you say the foundation saves on the tickets, what are you referring to?
As aviation personnel, we can use our ‘free’ flights, which is a payment in kind we employees receive from the company. The cost is very low and either ASF pays us back or we donate it. Thanks to an idea I had, which IBERIA chose from its laboratory of ideas, ‘AVIOS SOLIDARIOS’ can also be used. This is a donation program for Avios (Iberia’s frequent flyer points), from which eight NGOs benefit.