Ms. Andrea Debbane is Executive Director at the Airbus Foundation.
“Youth development is at the heart of the Airbus Foundation’s mission. We strive every day to stimulate and inspire young minds – especially young girls – through the fascinating world of aerospace.”
Next year, Airbus Foundation celebrates its 10th anniversary. What are the results of the work carried out during this decade? What are the main challenges for the coming future?
It has been ten amazing years in which we have achieved a lot. Just to give you some figures: 57 relief and goodwill flights transporting more than 700 tonnes of humanitarian goods to numerous destinations around the world. We have supported over 2,000 students and involved more than 800 Airbus volunteer employees in our youth development programmes like the Flying Challenge. Furthermore, we have organized employee fundraising campaigns to collect donations for people in need, raising almost €800,000 in total. In a nutshell: over the past ten years we have demonstrated that Airbus people and products can make a difference in the world. And that aerospace can be a true force for good.
For the future, we want to grow our visibility within Airbus as well as within the humanitarian community. Our main goal is to grow and foster our cooperation with humanitarian actors and customer airlines, establishing an even closer link between the humanitarian community and our Airbus experts, driving innovation to address societal issues worldwide.
One of the main lines of work is focused on youth development, with a highlight being the Airbus Flying Challenge project. How do we inspire young people through aerospace and motivate them to continue towards higher education, especially young women, to increase their visibility in the aerospace community?
Youth development is at the heart of the Airbus Foundation’s mission. We strive every day to stimulate and inspire young minds – especially young girls – through the fascinating world of aerospace. We strongly believe that instilling a passion for science and technology at an early age will widen the potential for innovation and creativity for a sustainable and empowered future. With the Airbus Flying Challenge we seek to inspire students at this crucial early age to continue their education and to realize their dreams through mentoring with Airbus employee volunteers. Operating out of eight Airbus sites, the Flying Challenge has reached more than 8,000 young people around the world since its launch in 2012, and it is the Foundation’s biggest youth development programme.
Airbus employees are very involved in the Foundation’s work, not only sharing skills and knowledge through educational programmes, but also even giving generous donations. What’s the secret to reaching this high level of engagement?
First and foremost you need visibility! If your employees are not aware of the work you do they will not be able to think about donating or sharing their skills. Secondly, it is important to constantly provide updates on your actions and results so people can see that their engagement makes a difference.
Airbus Foundation has built up a global network of airlines and humanitarian actors to support international humanitarian causes. Are you increasing the number of partners to join this worldwide alliance?
Currently, we have teamed up with 14 airlines and four humanitarian actors to carry out relief flights with our own Airbus test aircraft or goodwill flights with customer aircraft. That is already a great basis to work with, but there are many more airlines and humanitarian actors out there. That is why we are calling upon airlines and humanitarian actors to join us and take advantage of the unique partnerships they have to help carry out vital goodwill flights to reduce human suffering and help people in need globally.
What are the main ongoing projects the Airbus Foundation is working on? And are any of the Foundation’s projects developed in Spain?
Our main project in Spain is the Flying Challenge. It started in 2010 in Getafe and two years later we launched the programme in Puerto Real and El Puerto de Santa María with great success. Now thanks to the experience accumulated through the enthusiasm of Airbus volunteers and managers, we are going to launch the program in Illescas (Toledo) and Seville with the collaboration of the Red Cross and the huge expertise of other partners such as Cadigenia. Each year we plan to set up a mentoring programme for about 500 children with more than 70 Airbus employees to address community issues and develop relevant workplace skills e.g. project design, planning, resource management, public speaking, teamwork and collaboration. By focusing on STEM subjects, social entrepreneurship and of course the areas of innovation and aerospace, we encourage pupils to be more confident about their future and to learn new skills. We believe this is the best way to encourage them to change the world and to initiate success academically and in their professional lives.
Besides the Flying Challenge we want to increase the bases for cooperation not only with the Spanish Red Cross; we also invite local and regional institutions, universities, associations and other companies to fly in the same direction, in order to achieve a great take off for all our youngsters.
Is the Airbus Foundation exploring new projects, in addition to youth development and humanitarian support?
Yes, we are increasing our focus on innovation for the humanitarian community. The Foundation’s vision is to transfer knowledge and expertise to the humanitarian community, and to provide solutions so it can respond more effectively and efficiently to a crisis. Red Cross experts have identified key technical challenges and Airbus experts across the company are working on a range of solutions to address these problems. For example: we are working on technology to provide large-scale disinfection of buildings or the use of drones and other unmanned aerial vehicle technologies in humanitarian crises.