David Wolseley has flown for 33 years and joined Lufthansa as a flight attendant in 1982. "The opportunities this job offers were and are unique," says the 61-year-old. "You can get to know the world and get in touch with local people if you want. One experiences a lot that way – including extremes.
From the crew bus, countless people – including children – could often be seen working under terrible conditions on construction sites, balancing water canisters on their heads or camping on the roadside. "And from the hotel where we were housed as a crew, you looked down only to see suffering." He had become aware of how privileged we are.
But he also experienced something else: how determined many of his colleagues were to help. For example, crew colleagues who took medicine and relief supplies to Ethiopia. "In the past, things were even easier. There weren't as many hurdles and safety regulations as there are today. Just the possibility of taking ointments and liquid medicines with you for aid projects! Many colleagues helped very actively," says Wolseley.
I quickly understood how much poverty there is in the world, how much suffering
Founding member help alliance
The problem with that: Most dedicated Lufthansa nationals were lone fighters; they organized their help privately. They founded or supported local aid projects on a small scale, often on their own. "In ‘Lufthanseat’ there were always smaller and larger reports about colleagues and their projects or appeals for donations," says Wolseley. "That's why my colleague Bernadett Scholand and I asked ourselves at some point: ‘Why don't we bring them all together?’”
In the autumn of 1998, they wrote an appeal in the employee newspaper "Lufthanseat" and proposed a meeting of all interested colleagues. Around 30 responded to the call and met. "That was the unofficial beginning of the help alliance," says Wolseley. The colleagues got together, organized themselves – and finally approached Jürgen Weber, then Chairman of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG.
It was really a stroke of luck that we immediately came across open ears with Jürgen Weber," Wolseley remembers. In September 1999, the help alliance began operating as an association that all Lufthansa employees could engage in, with twelve supported projects at the time.
The first funds were collected by the help alliance through the Onboard Collection – the money for the production of the donation bags came from Lufthansa. "Especially during the Euro changeover, a lot of money came in through these collections," says Wolseley. This enabled the employees to finance their first projects.
"We were all very motivated at the time, but had little experience in law, bookkeeping, etcetera," says Wolseley. What united the colleagues, however, was the feeling of doing something useful, being able to create something together – and getting others enthusiastic about the projects of the help alliance. "You can make a lot happen with very little," says Wolseley. "That's what I learned back then."
We also set up donation pillars at airports, for example in the Senator Lounge of JFK in New York," Wolseley recalls. "Once I took a flight there just to empty the pillars – I had to go through customs with 35 kilograms of change! Afterwards we counted the coins by hand."
But not only money was donated to the help alliance: Over the years, faulty passenger blankets or discarded computers also found their way to emergency areas or to equip schools in the projects instead of being destroyed.
And the name help alliance, where did that come from? "That came to mind in one of our sessions." Lufthansa had just co-founded the global Star Alliance. What could be more obvious than help alliance?
The aid organization, which emerged from the commitment of many individual Lufthansa employees, still bears this name. Since then, however, it has become a non-profit limited liability company. It has moved closer to the Group and is the umbrella for the Group's entire social commitment. But one thing has remained the same: the passion of the colleagues who are involved in the help alliance. Wolseley is also sometimes still involved, even though he no longer actively flies. Above all, he takes care of his aid project, a school in Ethiopia with 750 children – he finds sponsors for teachers' salaries and tries to inspire German students to get involved as well.
He wishes the help alliance many more successful years – and since the foundation of the aid organization he still has this one dream: "That the logo of the help alliance can be seen on the aircraft of Lufthansa Group Airlines – just like on other airlines that are committed to the big aid organizations such as UNICEF or WWF.
They're orphans or half-orphans. They have been abused, neglected or abandoned. Their lives were on the brink. But they have found a new home – in the Safe House in Johannesburg.
Michaela “Mickey” Lederer is a purser on long distance routes, stationed in Munich. She is 52 years old and has been flying for 29 years. And leads, as she herself says, a very privileged life. By chance, this privileged life brought her to the Safe House in Johannesburg in South Africa in 2003, a city where violence reigns in poor townships. Where alcoholism and abuse are the order of the day, where often even the youngest have no chance.
“Many mothers abandon their children here,” says Lederer. “Not because they want to – God forbid. But because they hope that their children will have a better chance of a better life with someone else.” Mickey Lederer takes in some of these children – and tries to give them a better start in life. Together with Martina Reiser, she is project manager of the Safe House, a home for half-orphans and orphans that has existed since 2001 and has been supported by the help alliance since 2010.
Fifteen children and adolescents currently live there and have found a safe home, far away from violence, alcohol and drugs. They go to school or study, are prepared for life and become self-confident adults who carry their experiences of a loving home with them into their lives.
I give a lot – but I get even more
And Lederer? She flies part-time, takes turns with her colleague and is in the safe house every two months. Lives with the children. Suffers with them. Laughs with them.
"We are companions for the children and teenagers," she says. "We do homework with them and deal with the authorities. We are not their mothers, but we are a constant in their lives. We give them support."
Of course, sometimes it can be difficult to take care of the project and the young people. And yet every single day is worth it. "Maybe I give a lot – but I get even more," says Lederer. "I have seen the children grow up; I have accompanied them in their lives. And now I see how they have become self-confident, determined adults. How they take care of each other, stand up for each other and for themselves. All of it fills me with great joy."
And indeed, it is psychologically proven that helping is beneficial. The body releases happiness hormones when we do something good for another person. Mickey Lederer puts it this way: "It's great luck that I was in the right place at the right time and could get to know the Safe House. The relationship I was able to build with the children is irreplaceable."
Refugees and local residents who cook, eat, talk, exchange ideas. Getting in touch as equals. People who support the refugees in their search for a job, help them with applications and accompany them through the process. This is “Über dem Tellerrand” (which translates to “See the Bigger Picture”) in Frankfurt, a project the help alliance began supporting this year. Lufthansa purser Sonja Steinheuser has been the project manager ever since. However, she has been involved in the project for much longer.
“I've been volunteering for Über dem Tellerrand since 2016,” she says. “I was something of a jack of-all-trades there, setting up, cooking, supporting social media activities.” What was her motivation? Quite simply: “When people cook and eat together, they get closer, language barriers fall. The exchange is very authentic. I liked that right away.”
It’s definitely not rocket science.
Steinheuser’s commitment to the project became more involved over time. At the end of 2018, the project was looking to broaden its scope and secure financing. That's when Steinheuser thought of the aid organization of the Lufthansa Group. I asked myself, “Why don't I just ask the help alliance?”
Said, done. The first contact was quickly made via e-mail. Über dem Tellerrand was met with great interest, and a visit to the project followed quickly. “It’s definitely not rocket science,” says Steinheuser. “It’s really easy for anyone to download the project request from the Lufthansa intranet.”
In principle, almost any project can be supported by the help alliance. Project requests may be submitted before two deadlines each year. Either by May 31st or by November 30th. However, there are a few requirements. For example, the applicant and future project manager must be an employee of the Lufthansa Group. In addition, the project should give priority to giving young people in particular access to education and enabling them to lead a self-determined life. In addition to the focus on education, the help alliance also promotes training and measures in the areas of work and income.
When filling out the project application, Steinheuser was able to count on the support and expertise of the full-time staff of Über dem Tellerrand. “So I didn't have to acquire any explicit financial knowledge or the like,” she says.
It worked: Steinheuser has been project manager since 2019. She is the link between “Over the edge” and help alliance, accompanies events with flight attendants, and takes care of e-mail traffic. “Of course I have a bit more to do than before,” she says, “but I like doing it. After all, I want to support this project – and I'm glad the help alliance made it so easy for me.”
The help alliance thrives on the commitment of Lufthansa Group employees. However, that does not mean that everyone has to manage their own project in order to support the help alliance. Quite the opposite. We need the many people who believe in our idea and our work – and who support us financially.
The help alliance raised a total of 2,722,654 Euros in donations in 2018. Many thanks to all those who contributed! Are you interested in taking part? Gladly! It's really easy.
Here is an overview of ways to donate to the help alliance:
You can support the help alliance with regular contributions either by direct debit or with automated wire transfers. Both the amount and the frequency of the donation sent to the help alliance are freely selectable. Permanent donor contributions are very important for the help alliance because they form a good basis for planning and considerably simplify project.
You were traveling and have money leftover in a foreign currency? You have a little extra money left in your pocket? We would gladly accept it! You can insert coins and notes of any currency in our donation columns at airport lounges in Germany, Europe and North America and public areas at German airports.
The Onboard Collection is our most important donation program. You can help us easily on board of Lufthansa longhaul flights, Austrian Airlines, Edelweiss Air or Condor. On board you will find donation bags, just place the desired amount in it and hand it to a flight attendant at the end of your trip.
A milestone birthday, the birth of a child – there are many reasons to think of other people and share one's happiness. With occasional donations or online collection campaigns, you have the opportunity to do so.
Does that seem like there are a lot of ways to donate? You're right! But there are still many more. You can find other options and all the information you need here on the help alliance pages.