A unique approach
Virgin Atlantic’s active sustainability programme, ‘Change is in the Air’ focuses on both environmental and social justice issues. They are passionate about supporting sustainable community development both in the UK and in some of the destinations they fly to.
In 2010, through their on-board Change for Children appeals, staff fundraising, volunteering and donations of flights, the company contributed £1.5 million to the social sector.
What do they support?
Work with Virgin Unite
Free the Children
In 2010, Virgin Atlantic entered an initial three-year partnership with the inspirational, Free The Children – the first time Virgin Atlantic had chosen to work with a charity partner over a long-term period. Free The Children was founded in Canada in 1995, by 12 year old Craig Kielburger. The organisation has since grown into the world’s largest network of children helping children through education, with over a million young people involved in innovative education and development programmes in 45 countries.
Virgin Unite has supported Virgin Atlantic in their social and community investment work through strategic advice, expertise in the UK not-for-profit sector and with executing grants.
Working closely with Virgin Unite, Virgin Atlantic responds quickly to major humanitarian emergencies with both financial and cargo support. In 2010 and 2011, thanks to the generous support of their customers and employees, they were able to donate over £133,000 to the Red Cross, ShelterBox and Free The Children, and provide cargo space to charities like ShelterBox and UNICEF during the Haiti, Pakistan, Japan and East Africa emergencies.
Virgin Atlantic raises funds, which are used by Free The Children to support projects in some of their destinations, as well as in the UK. This partnership has been successful because of the shared vision and objectives of Virgin Atlantic and Free The Children, and the synergy in their guiding missions. Free The Children has captured the hearts and minds of Virgin Atlantic’s staff, passengers, corporate clients and suppliers alike.
The partnership supports Free The Children’s holistic, sustainable ‘Adopt a Village’ model in Kenya, China and India. This supports community development for marginalised children and their families by working with communities to provide the means, support and skills so that villagers can become self-sustaining in the long term.
Through its ‘four pillars’, the Adopt a Village model provides communities in developing countries with:
Health care programmes and community development
Clean water and sanitation systems
Alternative income generation programmes
Virgin Atlantic has now extended their projects with Free The Children to include alternative income opportunities for mothers, watershed development, an emergency feeding programme and a long term water development programme for East Africa, smokeless chimney projects, and have also now extended the projects into Ghana.
Closer to home, through the support of Virgin Atlantic, Free the Children have established their UK office and launched their UK ‘Be The Change’ school programme, aimed at children in years 3 to 13 (aged 7 -18). This empowers young people in the UK to become active local and global citizens, equipped with the skills, knowledge and leadership training to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. The programme has two parts: a motivational speech delivered in assembly to the entire school followed by a talk to smaller groups of students about important issues facing the world today, encouraging them to get involved and take action at a local or global level.
Since the launch, Free The Children has motivated 12,879 students from 71 schools across the UK to ‘Be The Change’. 89% of students reported being more aware of local and global issues and having stronger leadership skills to create change. 28 young people were awarded a place to visit the Kenyan communities supported by Free The Children, on an 18 day trip (in which they contributed more than 1,550 volunteer hours).
Holly Branson, Patron of Free The Children, said:
“With all our passion I know we will make the next generation stop, think and react.”
UK-based children’s charities:
In 2010, Virgin Atlantic donated over £200,000 worth of flights to unwell young people who needed overseas treatment and to other UK charities.
Here’s what they are saying:
Holly Branson, after visiting the Sikirar village in Kenya with Virgin Atlantic and Free The Children, said:
“To sum up these beautiful, warm, loving people is hard to put into words, but the daily hardships they face are beyond what I could have ever imagined. It’s not about imposing our standards, our cultures, our beliefs and our expectations on a group of people less fortunate than us. Free The Children work alongside villagers, educating them and implementing methods of water conservation, irrigation and farming. All of this often involves adopting local knowledge and wisdom that has been used for generations. It’s amazing to see the impact Free The Children is having on communities.”
Julie Southern, Virgin Atlantic Chief Commercial Officer, after visiting the Udawad village inRajasthan, North West India with Free The Children, said:
“I’ve come back really happy and confident that I can look people in the eye and say I know that this money is truly going to make a difference and is being spent in a very thoughtful and careful way.”
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