After a long-distance flight, we cabin attendants always get at least 24 hours’ rest before our next flight. During these so-called layovers, many of us set off to explore the city together. During my last flight to Sao Paulo, I went on a rather special excursion together with a colleague, visiting two shelters for HIV-infected children and abandoned senior citizens, located just outside this vast Brazilian metropolis.
Wings of Support
A couple of days before the flight, my colleague Leonie sent a message to the entire crew, informing them that she would be visiting these shelters as project coordinator for Wings of Support. This foundation was established by flight crew who support projects in developing countries in various different ways. Leonie had also taken along a suitcase full of clothing to donate to the project.
Because I’ve only been with KLM since 2016, I hadn’t heard much about Wings of support. So I decided to join Leonie, instead of strolling around visiting highlights. We were joined by two other colleagues who are also relatively new to KLM. It was a truly impressive experience. In an earlier blog, my colleague Valerie described her visit to a project in Accra, Ghana, and there are many other similar projects worldwide supported by KLM staff.
After a night in the crew hotel, we headed off to the Sitio Agar shelter in the morning. Founded by Dutch immigrant Antoon de Noije, the shelter has received assistance from Wings of Support for a couple of years. Antoon first travelled to Brazil in 1988, on a mission to help people abandoned by society. After years of hard work, the shelter has become a centre point of the community, which not only welcomes HIV-infected children, but also recently began offering shelter to senior citizens cast out by their families. Antoon’s efforts have even been acknowledged by the Dutch royal family, who have visited the shelter on two occasions.
A Dutchman in Brazil
Antoon talks passionately about his work and the challenges he faces. Despite the problems faced by everyone in the shelter, Antoon shows how children and elderly people can be offered a more humane existence. He has devoted the past 30 years of his life to the people in the shelter, having previously done admirable work in the ghettos of Sao Paulo. On top of everything else, he also looks after his four-year old grandson full-time and has absolutely no intention of retiring anytime soon. Antoon is truly an inspiration and it was fantastic to see the work he has done in Brazil.
Visiting a project like Antoon’s confirms just how important it is to get the support of organisations like Wings of Support, which is funded by thousands of KLM employees and works with more than a hundred volunteers, who offer a helping hand at the foundation’s projects. KLM passengers can also contribute to Wings of Support by donating small change.
My visit to the shelter inspired me to become a regular donor and to join Wings of Support as a volunteer in future. This will make my trips even more dynamic and will allow me to make a small contribution to the good work being done.