SAS employees build SOS Children's Villages
Air Pursers Andreas Bertin Bastesen and Marianne Os Sanden and stewardess Mette Magnussen take care of passengers on SAS flights to ensure they have a safe and pleasant trip. They also do their best to help enable many children to have a roof over their heads and a secure childhood. Every month, the payroll office deducts a fixed amount from their salaries. The money goes directly to SOS Children's Villages. With remarkable results. An amazing five houses have been built in SOS Children's Villages with this money.
“It’s impressive to see how willing employers are to donate at SAS. Thanks to this fantastic support, SAS employees have been able to help orphans and vulnerable children in a number of countries to live a secure and meaningful life,” Bente Lier, Secretary General of SOS Children's Villages Norway, tells Scandinavian Traveler. “Hundreds of thousands of kroner are donated every year.”
Long-term campaign on behalf of SOS Children's Villages
The partnership with SOS Children's Villages was originally started by Braathens airline. When Braathens became part of SAS in 2004, it wasn't difficult to ask SAS employees to donate as well.
“I was asked if I would like to contribute and quickly became involved in the project,” Bastesen says.
The employees have raised almost Nkr 20 million kroner. The money has been used in Kenya, Zambia, Tanzania, Swaziland and Russia.
“Not all the money has gone to building houses. Some of it goes towards operating expenses, salaries, education and healthcare,” Bastesen says.
He has personally visited Siteki in Swaziland where he and some colleagues have helped build homes for orphans. In the fall, SOS Children's Villages opened a new center in Mwanza, the second largest city in Tanzania. The village has twelve houses with room for 120 children and their Children's Village mothers. The first children have already moved in and are getting acclimatized. SOS Children's Villages adviser Elisabeth shows us photographs of the facilities. It's wonderful to see how the money has manifested itself in the shape of solid buildings, and not least, it's wonderful to see that the children seem to be happy there.
Contributions from SAS employees have a ripple effect.
“What's so wonderful about this work, is that it’s not simply a quick fix there and then. It’s something that has beneficial effects over time,” Marianne Os Sanden says.
It's not simply a case of providing a roof over their heads in the new children's village. Many programs are also designed to help the people help themselves in the long-term and to persuade public authorities to take more responsibility for the local population.
“A number of families in the area receive support via our family program,” Lier says. “These programs aim to prevent children missing out on parental care. This is done by supporting families and the local community in a way that enables them to change their own circumstances, either by renovating a rundown house, taking vocational training or starting their own enterprise. Many people also take advantage of our savings and loans groups, that not only help families improve their finances but also provide a network,” Lier says.
Last year, a thousand recipients in 264 families received support in Mwanza. The programs achieved good results.
“Last year, 160 families gained a stable income that enables them to prepare three meals a day. 47 families have renovated their houses and so improved their living conditions. The SOS family programs have supported 643 children in education, including primary and secondary school, vocational training and college courses. One boy is now in his final year at university taking a bachelor's degree in health and nutrition. What's more, 20 carers with 86 children in total were able to complete the program to enable them to now be self-sufficient,” Lier says.
Much of the work is done in cooperation with public authorities.
“We involve public authorities at both local and national level,” Elisabeth Rytterager of SOS Children's Villages says. “The public school that is now going to be upgraded in Mwanza is one example of this. Right now, the school has overcrowded classrooms, one we visited actually had 176 students. We’re now contributing towards the construction of seven new classrooms, which will reduce the size of classes and make a big difference to the quality of teaching. Entering into a dialog with public authorities rather than building our own schools helps ensure education becomes prioritized.
Continuing to help
The three SAS employees want to continue to provide help.
“This work is important,” Mette Magnussen says.
She is keen to recruit more of her colleagues.
“I can't stop now, it would feel as though I had failed the children,” Sanden says.
“We regularly fly to wonderful cities, but we don't want to simply enjoy sun and sand. We want to make a contribution,” Bastesen says.
Text: Inga Ragnhild Holst