The Trip to Panama! The small country in Central America is well known from the children’s book by Janosch. As for most Germans that was my first association and indeed, little bear and little tiger were right: Panama is a beautiful country. There is so much to explore and to see in Panama, for instance the famous Panama Canal. Yet, with no more than 4 million inhabitants, Panama is only as big as the German state Bavaria.
However, the most fascinating part for me was the help alliance project which I got the chance to coordinate. Together with 50 Lufthansa employees we built a house for a local family in need – and that in only 2 days! The project was possible thanks to a cooperation with the organization “Youth with a mission” and their program “Homes of Hope”. With this program more than 5000 houses have been built over the last 25 years, predominantly in Latin American countries.
Due to the first flight to the newly introduced destination Panama and a leadership conference, Lufthansa managers from the US, Columbia, Panama, Brasil, Mexiko and Germany were meeting in Panama City. For two days, they were able to actively support the help alliance project. After months of preparation I was very excited when the bus picked us up to take us to a rural area, about 1 hour away from the capital city. How would everything go? What would the employees think of the project? As I had already had the chance to experience Homes of Hope at work in Mexico I was highly convinced of the project.
On-site, parents and five children were already awaiting us. After a brief introduction we were assigned to different teams. Let the painting, hammering and sawing begin! It was absolutely great to see how everyone quickly found their place and cheerfully got to work. The crew of Homes of Hope had everything under control :)
But it was not all about craftmanship. Social skills, playing with the kids, getting to know the family and their neighbours – incredible how quickly we got along despite not speaking the same language!
During the lunch break, LSG Sky Chefs took care of food and drinks for everyone. With 33°C it was absolutely essential to drink sufficiently and to protect us from the sun. After the first day on the building site, I could see many happy, but also exhausted faces. Having lost their initial impeccably white colour, the help alliance t-shirts were proof of our hard work!
Normally, a team manages to complete the house within two days. Here, due to the conference, the challenge was to continue working on the house with a completely new team on the second day. During the bus ride Sean and Richard, heads of Homes of Hope, did a great job in introducing the new team to what lay ahead, just as they had done for the former crew. It was important to understand the background and what significant positive impacts the building of a new house would have for both the family and the community.
The outer walls had already been erected, but the roof was still missing and the inner decorations still had to be completed. It was great to see how the new arrivals integrated quickly and were just as enthusiastic about the project as their predecessors. Unfortunately, some Lufthansa employees already had to leave the site at 2 p.m. as they had to catch their flight in the evening. Everyone else was there when the family was given the key to their new home! This was the highlight of the project and was supposed to be the end of the building process.
However, the house had not been completely finished at this point. But it did not keep all those involved from sharing this special moment with the family and to experience their incredible gratitude for which they struggled to find words. Afterwards, we returned to the hotel and were all convinced that there should be a sequel to this cooperation between help alliance and Homes of Hope – to allow many more families in need and Lufthansa employees to share such an experience. The house was of course completed by Homes of Hope and the family the next day.