“I'd just like to give you a warm welcome on American Airlines Flight 925 with nonstop service to San Salvador,” says veteran flight attendant Nancy Rivard just before takeoff.
It was 10 years ago when Nancy asked a simple question.
“I'm working on these flights every day, and I would see empty space in the overhead bin, empty space underneath in freight, empty seats, and I thought, why can't we use this to help others?” she says.
Initially, the airline answer was no, but Nancy would not give up. Eventually, she convinced executives any additional costs were outweighed by the greater good.
Today, her Airline Ambassadors International, mostly flight attendants from 12 airlines, travel the world with donated supplies and have helped:
- Tsunami victims in Thailand.
- The needy in Africa.
- Transform a junkyard in Central America into a village.
- Connect orphans in El Salvador with Americans.
For orphans like 9-year-old Caitlin Koppenhaver and her classmates, growing up without a family is a horrible pain.
Elaine Osbourne came to comfort hundreds of orphans.
“I used to think maybe I was supposed to take care of many instead of one,” she says.
But one changed her life.
Sometimes, just showing up is what matters, and which is why the Airline Ambassadors now welcome anyone who wants to help.
“They don't have enough human interaction,” says Nancy as she holds an infant orphan in her arms. “We come here every month and just hold these babies.”
What do the ambassadors mean to the people here?
“They're angels,” says San Salvador Orphanage Director Matilde de Quintana, “on this very difficult path we take in life.”
All because one flight attendant saw a need, wanted to help, and wouldn't take no for an answer.