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Making changes where it matters
KLM’s Wings of Support contributes to projects focused on education and childcare in underdeveloped areas. As a project duo, KLM’s René Dijs and Marlies van Waveren work closely together.
What does Wings of Support do?
Dijs: “Since its establishment in 1998, Wings of Support (WoS) has supported over 800 projects around the world. From offering psychological support to traumatised children to organising sports events or supplying computers to schools; it all depends on the needs of the specific organisation. As long as it helps the kids, because in the end we all do it for them. Nowadays, Wings of Support has over 90 volunteers and receives monthly donations from more than 3,200 supporters, mainly consisting of KLM employees.”
What was your own motivation to join Wings of Support?
Van Waveren: “I’ve been working for KLM for 30 years, of which the last 20 years as senior purser. Just like our founder Marius den Dulk (see text box), I was confronted with a lot of poverty around the world during my travels. I felt the urge to contribute in some way to create a better future for the children in the areas I visited. I first became a Wings of Support donator and when my own children were a bit older, I decided to become a project coordinator.”
Dijs: “Despite having a technical background, I started out working for KLM’s Inflight Sales in 1990. Soon after that, I got involved in a project in Pakistan, collecting second-hand goods for a shelter in Karachi, ran by a Dutch nurse, giving refuge to children with disabilities. When a position as project coordinator came up, I immediately applied.”
What does your role entail?
Van Waveren: “As a project coordinator, I’ve already visited and followed 12 projects over the last four years. Each project has been special in its own way, but I particularly enjoyed the school projects we did in a few Colombian slums, where education was extremely poor and many children were involved in gang activities. These projects were initiated by the parents and included after-school programmes. At one school, we were able to offer music classes to the kids, which gave them a wonderful alternative to hanging around in the streets. It’s so amazing to see how making music can empower children.”
How do you work together?
Dijs: “We’ve been a duo for a few years and as such have worked on many projects together. While Marlies is ‘out in the field’, I’m responsible for the administrative side of a project. I visit the projects myself during my holidays, and we try to combine visits sometimes as well. We work with a Customer Relations management platform online, or ‘Salesforce’, on which we process requests for new projects. Local projects have to fill in their application online and show what they need and what they will do with the funding. After their application is approved, we will stay in touch with them to see if the money is well spent on materials, and to monitor if goals are reached.”
Can you describe one of your projects?
Dijs: “We recently finished a project in the poor northern part of Bali, Indonesia. A Dutch couple opened a school there 28 years ago, aiming to offer education to underprivileged children there, but also to give training to young teachers. We supported this project financially and with new supplies, and it was incredibly inspiring to see the joy expressed by the children and local classes, the school also provides singing and dancing classes. And they actively involve parents in the school, which isn’t common in the Indonesian school system.”
What sets Wings of Support apart from other good causes?
Van Waveren: “The fact that we, as volunteers, are actively involved in every project and that we can invest 97% of the donations directly into the local projects. Donators are also free to visit projects, which makes it more tangible to see how their money is spent. And since we visit and evaluate the projects on our trips, there aren’t any extra logistic costs.”
How to contribute to WoS
Van Waveren: “By becoming a donor, making a one-time donation through inflight sales on board of KLM flights or by donating Flying Blue Miles. These donations help us to reach our goals and support the children, which in the end is what it’s all about. Children are our future, so let’s try to make it a brighter one.” wingsofsupport.org
20 years of Wings of Support- how it started
During his career, KLM captain Marius den Dulk noticed a lot of his colleagues were helping out at local children’s homes and schools in the underprivileged regions they were flying to. Many of KLM’s crew members shared the frustration of spending only a short time at a destination, which meant there was little they could do for these children. Feeling moved and motivated by his colleagues’ efforts, Den Dulk decided to publish an article in KLM’s in-house magazine, requesting staff to join forces and take action. He got an overwhelming number of enthusiastic responses from colleagues, and within three months Wings of Support was established, on 6 November 1998.
This year, the organisation proudly celebrates its 20-year anniversary.