Our customers are the most generous people on earth. It’s thanks to your daily donations that we’ve been able to do incredible work, both at home, and in countries we fly to. So in this season of giving we thought you’d like to see some of the remarkable things that happen because you drop your spare currency in those little envelopes we give out onboard.
Most of these initiatives are run through our long-time charity partner, WE (formerly Free The Children).
WE’s sustainable development programme makes a whole lot of sense to us. Their model is based on the fact that there’s not one root cause of poverty – it’s a collection of interlinking factors. After all, we can build as many schools as we like, but if children are falling sick because they’re drinking dirty water, those schools will stay empty. And if parents can’t afford to buy or grow good, nutritious food, their children will keep falling ill.
WE believes that if everyone has access to these five fundamental pillars, we can break down the barriers to poverty:
- Income-generating opportunity
They call it WE Villages. At Virgin Atlantic, thanks to your spare change, we’ve brought the WE Villages model to partner communities in Kenya, India and China. And from now to 2020, we’re using our classic Virgin Atlantic flair to add a little something extra to each pillar – clean energy. That’s schools, clinics, water pumps and greenhouses powered by solar panels, putting an end to expensive and dirty fuel use.
2. Be The Change school programme
We believe that change starts at home. So we’ve teamed up with WE to show young people in schools throughout the UK that anyone can make a difference in the world, no matter your age or background.
It works like this: one of WE’s incredible speakers gives an inspirational speech to a primary or secondary school assembly. They’ll share personal stories that highlight the importance of active citizenship, and the power one person has to change the world.
Following the assembly, the WE speaker facilitates a workshop with a smaller group of up to 20 students. The workshops help students focus in on issues they’re passionate about, and develop action plans to address these issues.
It’s been a massive success here in the UK and we want to make it global! We’ve already brought Be The Change to schools in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, and we aim to deliver the program to destinations we fly to across the world by 2020.
3. WE Day
What do Nobel Peace Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai, Prince Harry, Rita Ora, Richard Branson and Ellie Goulding have in common? They’ve all been on the WE Day stage, celebrating the impacts of young people across the UK.
I could write a lengthy piece on the inspirational event that is WE Day UK. I could tell you how it brings together tens of thousands of young people who have all earnt their tickets by taking action for local and global change. I could say that the day is filled with amazing performances and inspirational real-life stories.
Or you could just watch this short video, which perfectly captures the spirit of WE Day and what it’s all about:
And thanks to your Change for Children donations, we’re bringing WE Day to New York, too!
4. Scholarship trip
Your Change for Children donations also fund our annual Virgin Atlantic scholarship trip. Each year, we receive hundreds of applications from UK secondary school students to win this trip of a lifetime: 18 days in a WE Villages community we support.
In order to win one of the 30 spots on the trip, applicants have to show a commitment to social justice. They’re all burning with a desire to make the world a better place. When the winning trip participants come together, it’s awe-inspiring to see the passion they have to make positive change in the world. Read what this experience is like from a student’s perspective here.
5. Change is in the Air award
This September, we launched the Change is in the Air award to foster creativity and innovation in UK primary and secondary schools, from an environmental perspective. We’re inviting young people to share their solutions for a better, more sustainable world. Ideas could be anything from a tool that helps save water, or a drive to promote sustainable fashion. Award-winners will receive a grant of up to £1200 to bring their sustainability ideas to life. And we can’t wait to see what ideas are brought forward!
6. Emergency relief funds
We also have a long-time partnership with Save the Children to manage our coordinated response to humanitarian disasters, wherever they happen in the world. We support the emergency appeals by diverting our Change for Children funds to them for a 10 day period. For example, in November we collected donations for Save The Children’s Yemen appeal to support the country’s 21 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid.
We’re so proud of our charity partnerships. And it’s thanks to our customers’ deep generosity that we’re able to accomplish so much, together. All of your spare change, large or small, is what propels all of the incredible projects above, empowering people at home and overseas to act as agents of change in the world. So from all of us at Virgin Atlantic, a huge and sincere thank you. Because small change really does add up to great things.