Our Volunteers’ Big Heart

As war in Ukraine keeps on raging, a number of amazing humans are continuing to provide aid and shelter in Poland and Czech Republic, making us so proud to be their colleagues.

Jun 2022

As Eastern Europe is still facing the heartbreaking humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine, some countries in particular, Poland first, are much involved and bringing great help to refugees. In recent months, when millions of war refugees - mostly mothers with children - fled to Poland, the mobilization was outstanding. From the arrival of doctors and paramedics on the borders, to coordinators giving warm food and clothing, or people of good will offering their time, money and also opening their own homes to host victims.

Avio Aero Bielsko Biala (Poland), is joining the mobilization and willingness to help the victims. Members of the Avio Aero and GE Volunteering groups are responding to refugees' needs, by organizing collections, delivering items to aid agencies, and participating in the distribution of  meals and other necessities on the Polish-Ukrainian border.

These amazing people are also dedicating their personal time, energy and resources to renovating homes for refugees. Many are  welcoming refugees into their own homes, providing them with a roof over their heads, hot meals and a safe shelter to recover.

To make these efforts run smoothly, the local leaders of the employee Volunteering group - Bogdan Kłapyta and Bartosz Hoder – are coordinating the  efforts, assigning different roles and functions to the employees who want to help.

“Our primary goal has been to coordinate various activities with  our employees as well as other external organizations, including direct support for the specific refuges,” says Bartosz, GE Volunteers group co-leader. “Of course, as leaders we are not just coordinating but providing direct rescue. As an example, I host a family from Ukraine in my house, together with other volunteers we are buying goods the refugees need and renovating apartments for Ukrainian families. Involvement of our employees is tremendous and we’re thankful, we receive almost immediate answer to such needs”.

On the left Bartosz Hoder, on the right Łukasz Pękala.

Bogdan, the co-leader of the volunteers’ group, also adds that “before Russia started an attack on Ukraine, it’s been difficult to engage people in volunteers’ activities, but seeing real needs first-hand and a disaster affecting millions of people triggered the full dedication of people. We are sure that this energy will stay with us after the war’s end and we would be able to use it in more and diverse volunteering activities, finally in a peaceful environment.”

It is awe-inspiring to see people’s engagement in helping, how they strive to support other sorrowful people. Amidst the Avio Aero teams in Europe, there are really unique examples of individuals who have been giving their life to volunteering, long before the war in Ukraine.  One of them is Łukasz Pękala, Shift Supervisor at Bielsko Biala, who reports his own experiences.

“The action to help Ukraine was born spontaneously. Based on several years of experience working as a volunteer in a local aid association, organizing charity picnics, charity performances and various aid campaigns, organizing a children's day of joy and much more, my friend and I decided to create a help-point for Ukrainians” Lukasz says. “It was supposed to be symbolic and has been going on for almost two months… As time went by, the action developed on a larger scale. A colleague who owns a transport company started to drive his buses to the border, day after day, transporting people to safety in Poland”.

Lukasz and his friends worked in cooperation with local authorities and organizations: Municipal Police, several units of the Volunteer Fire Department, the city of Bielsko-Biała, village councils, housewives' clubs, primary schools. Then they also started to transport food, medicines, blankets directly to the border, and for some time inland to military units.

Michał Wajdzik – Radziejowski, a Metrology leader at Avio Aero Bielsko Biala.

"I have been a volunteer since high school. When the war broke out, I didn't think if I should help in any way, but rather, how and where I could do it. Volunteering is a very wide field, everyone can find a way to help"

“We’ve been even looking for flats, houses, accommodation for our guests and, over time, people came to us offering their apartments, houses, guesthouses, etc… for an undetermined period!” adds Lukasz. “We helped the refuges in finding a job, prepare layettes for children for school, furnished apartments and houses. We’ve been also approached by some foundations, one from the USA, that wanted to donate. We are currently helping over 450 people: above all, it gives us satisfaction because we do what we love to do, without expecting anything in return. All we need is a smile on their faces, especially from children. Such situation shouldn’t have happened in these times. We were astounded by stories of families who lost everything, women who gave birth to children in bunkers and many other moving facts”.

Another colleague, Michał Wajdzik – Radziejowski, a Metrology leader in Bielsko, is also very engaged in volunteer activities, even outside the company. “I have been a volunteer (mainly environmental organizations) since high school. When the war broke out, I didn't think if I should help in any way, but rather, how and where I could do it. Volunteering is a very wide field, everyone can find a way to help. For example, I used to collect signatures for petitions, operate a solar charging station for mobile phones, and now I provide food and other necessities. I am thinking of such activities more in the category of building a responsible society in which we can count on each other. I also met many wonderful and inspiring people in this way. I am always surprised how quickly grassroots initiatives are created and how people can join forces to help other people”.

A wave of solidarity also came from the Avio Aero plants in Italy (like, through a donation during last Engineering Recognition Day) as well as from the Turboprop Headquarters, in Prague, Czech Republic: volunteers like Kanika Kamal, Advanced Lead Engineer – Fleet Management, put even her family at the service of the refugees as she saw many of those people entering the country to ask for help.

Kanika Kamal, Advanced Lead Engineer – Fleet Management at GE Aviation Turboprop, Prague.

"The weekend when the war started, my husband and I were in Germany to visit a friend, and I saw a post with a form connected to a website. I registered to host Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war"

“The weekend when the war started, my husband and I were in Germany to visit a friend, and I saw a post with a form connected to a website. I registered to host Ukrainian citizens fleeing the war” remembered Kanika. “The main reason I did that was due to the memory I have from France, when Syrians were fleeing the war in their country and how they were struggling to find shelter, I saw a family sleeping under the tree with many blankets … I wanted to help, but at that time I didn’t feel I was in a position to help, especially in financial terms. Looking back, maybe I could have done better and provided a roof. Anyway, this time was my turn to help”.

Kanika could finally recover on her desire, and she was finally able to host a couple of Ukrainian girls who arrived on February 28th. “We supported them to get their visas and medical insurance and they stayed with us for a couple of weeks. Then other two ladies arrived and stayed for several weeks: Irina, 63 years old, and Nadia, her mother 85years old. Honestly, it’s been difficult even if I am more than glad to help them, the emotional stress was very high. Listening to their stories, seeing their pain and feel their loneliness was really heartbreaking.”

One of the numerous collection of food, goods and even toys for refugees in Poland.

A wider and strong support for this crisis, was also provided by GE Aviation itself: the company launched a support program to help all the volunteering employees, offering them free time for their activities. Those who were directly involved in aid actions were also granted additional paid days off. In addition, the company also provides employees with an assistance program, which gives the chance to get free support from psychologists or psychotherapists.

These are just few outstanding examples that show the effort of our people and their lovely, altruism is the true expression of our very culture, namely a culture that values diversity and social inclusion.