Impacting Key Issues
Photo: Brian Abeel/Boeing
Building stronger communities in Ethiopia
Boeing helps bring fresh water, improved sanitation and independence to community
Last winter, Boeing manager Brian Abeel's trip to Ethiopia brought together his professional, personal and philanthropic interests with Boeing's business and humanitarian interests — to the benefit of all and especially to the families whose lives have been impacted by the long-term work of area nonprofits.
Photo: Brian Abeel/Boeing
Abeel, director of Financial Accounting in Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle, and his wife, Leticia Lopez, are in the process of adopting three teenagers from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. So when Abeel had an opportunity to participate in a delivery flight for Ethiopian Airlines' new Boeing 777-200LR, he jumped at the chance. He contacted Boeing Global Corporate Citizenship (GCC) to find out whether there were any Boeing-funded nonprofit projects he could visit. Paulina Bendaña, the Boeing International liaison for GCC who manages the international grant-making, was happy to respond.
"I was excited to know that Brian was going because we like to have an on-site connection with the projects we fund," Bendaña said. "It was great to be able to reach out to a Boeing colleague and have him visit the site where the work is being undertaken and establish that human connection with the nonprofits."
With Bendaña's assistance, Abeel was able to visit two programs in Addis Ababa that are supported by Boeing. In the Kechene neighborhood, AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation) is building water and sanitation kiosks that provide clean water storage for the community as well as shower and toilet facilities. To date, 19 kiosks have been built; a $60,000 grant from Boeing will enable the construction of seven more kiosks this year and the implementation of clean water and sanitation training programs in the community.
"Water may be shut off at any time in Addis Ababa," Abeel said. "The tanks on the kiosks fill up while there is a water supply; then, when the water stops flowing, they can still get fresh water from the tank, which contains a two- or three-day supply."
Besides providing clean water and sanitation facilities, the kiosk program is self-supporting, offering residents independence and an income.
"The women run a community association that manages the kiosks, collecting small fees for use of the water and using the money to pay for water and maintenance," Abeel said. "Before the kiosks, typically it was women who were responsible for collecting water; they would have to travel long distances on poor roads, risking injury and assault. Now they don't have to make that trip."
"I heard firsthand from the people living in that area how life-transforming this project is…. It was a remarkable thing to see, and it made me proud to be part of the company that chose to fund these projects."
—Brian Abeel, Boeing manager
Abeel also visited CURE Ethiopian Children's Hospital in Addis Ababa. At CURE, a $22,500 grant from Boeing supports a program called "Good Health, Safe Water" that provides mothers of children receiving care at the hospital with the knowledge, skills and tools to foster good hygiene in their families. Mothers typically stay with their children at the hospital, giving staff the opportunity to provide training on the importance of clean water, basic sanitation, hand-washing and nutrition. Mothers who "graduate" from the program receive a well-baby kit to take home that includes a plastic wash basin, nutritional supplements, soap and, if needed, breastfeeding tools and a simple water filtration system. Some women are selected for training as peer educators, helping to spread the word back to their communities.
According to Bendaña, the AMREF and CURE projects reflect GCC's focus on supporting programs that can make a significant difference to people in countries where Boeing operates and/or has major stakeholders. Access to clean water is critically important in poor urban and farming communities — for drinking, sanitation and crop irrigation. Education about hygiene and sanitation is also key to preventing diseases that contribute to high child mortality rates. Both the programs in Ethiopia address these concerns in a way that will have long-term, sustainable results.
"Throughout Addis Ababa, there's tremendous pride in Ethiopian Airlines," Abeel said. "They operate an all-Boeing fleet, and everyone, including the kids at the children's home, knows who Boeing is. My kids were impressed with the good work their new dad's company is doing in their community."
Bendaña noted that when Boeing employees like Abeel visit GCC projects around the world, "It's another piece of tangible evidence of what our grant money is doing and the actual people it's helping. They're able to see the faces of the men, women and children who are benefiting."
"Brian's visit really made the linkage a lot stronger and more visible to the people," Bendaña said. "Before he went, there was some awareness about the grants we made, but his visit provided that face of Boeing. His taking time to go and visit the nonprofits benefited us in many ways."
"I heard firsthand from the people living in that area how life-transforming this project is," Abeel said. "People are healthier, kids are cleaner and they have uninterrupted access to clean water. It was a remarkable thing to see, and it made me proud to be part of the company that chose to fund these projects."