Two locals join Delta’s Global Force for Good
December 4, 2007
It’s never an easy thing to cash in one’s well-earned Sky Miles to work and sweat in a Third World country for 10 days. But, it’s also not easy to stand by while others sleep on hard dirt floors, without roofs over their heads while they live in a country offering ease and luxury.
Parkites and Delta flight attendants Tina Willmore and Tracy Hammack Budge said they experienced something 10 times more rewarding than any cruise in the Caribbean or Hawaii could offer.
"There definitely needs to be more work like this," Willmore said of her recent Habitat for Humanity service trip to Mumbai, India. "It’s such an overwhelming thing. It takes time. I’m very thankful to live in such a beautiful place and have all the things that we have. We have a lot in this country."
Willmore and Budge recently returned from a 10-day service trip to Mumbai, India, where they helped build eight homes with Habitat for Humanity in the village of Nagewadi, Karjat with 50 other Delta employees and customers. It was part of a new partnership Delta Airlines recently created with Habitat for Humanity.
This was Willmore’s second trip with Delta’s Force for Global Good. She volunteered for the trip to Ghana and was selected to be a team leader for the trip to India. She said her experiences in both countries have given her a new perspective of what she has in her own country and the rest of the world’s struggle.
"The houses were made of branches and straw," Willmore said of the village she built houses in. "In fact, I was overwhelmed. I thought, ‘When it rains, what do these people do?’ There’s no electricity. When the sun goes down, that’s it. Some people don’t even have kitchen areas in Mumbai."
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The flight attendants said, while the group they traveled with wanted to do as much as they could in the village they were assigned to, building eight houses for eight families was not easy. But it was a great accomplishment.
"People are there to do whatever they can," Willmore said. "We had fun [but] it is a lot of work. It’s physical work, but it can be emotionally draining, too, because you’re in a Third World country. By the fourth day, everyone’s ready to be done. You’re exhausted."
Budge said being able to help families with small children made it worth it.
"These people didn’t have a house and to be able to support them to have a house for their family. You just can’t put a price tag on that," she said. "It was awesome. I’d never done anything like this, but had always wanted to, so I was just really honored to be selected to go."
Willmore and Budge described the homes in the village as being very unstable. During monsoon season, many of these homes are destroyed.
"Being able to see this family who basically didn’t have a home because it had been leveled [was difficult]," Budge said. "Their basic structure of a home is these reeds for the siding and for the roof, they use cow dung for building During monsoon [season], they’re constantly having to rebuild."
Budge said Habitat for Humanity built the new homes out of brick and mortar to make them more stable. In order to inspire and encourage these families to thrive on their own, Habitat requires the people to purchase their own land and help with the construction process. Budge and Willmore said they enjoyed working side-by-side with these families.
"Fifty of us of divided into 14 [teams] and each team worked on two houses," Budge said. "We had nine people on our team. Tina was our team leader Some of those houses housed up to nine people. The whole extended family lives in one home, but ours was a mother and father and four children."
Budge said the mortar the group used to build the walls of the homes was a mixture of dirt, cow dung and water.
"There was kind of a mud pool adjacent to the house," Budge said. "You go and get the bowls full of mud and basically use bricks and mortar It’s amazing when you’re all working together how fast those walls go up."
She and Willmore said the Indian people, while they are typically quiet and keep to themselves, were wonderful to interact with.
"By the second day, when these people saw that we were human and we’re here to help, they started interacting with us more," Willmore said. "One family [that] we completed one of the houses for the wife was just so shy, which is their culture. The women don’t always look you in the eyes. But, by the end, she was really great and more interactive with us. The homeowners got really comfortable with us."
Willmore said the trip also made the Sky Miles customers and employees who participated feel more bonded to each other.
"These were businessmen and people who are successful and fly with us all the time and they just see us as agents. At first, Dale, one of our passengers [who volunteered] was really cold and anxious and didn’t know what to expect," Willmore said. "At the end of the trip, he invited me to his Christmas party. That was great to see him really transform because we was really apprehensive when we left New York City."
Willmore and Budge said it was also great to be able to interact with employees from different departments of Delta Airlines.
"They want to get as many employees involved and active in these kinds of projects. It’s just such a great employee booster. It’s very team-building to be a part of that with your company," Willmore said.
Spokesperson Andy McDill said Delta’s Force for Global Good is a great organization for bringing of Delta’s employees together to get to know each other better and to make a difference in the world.
"Because we were going through some financial challenges [last year] and were trying to restructure our airline, people just felt compelled to donate their time to this,"
McDill said. "Delta employees love their company. This is an outward expression of that."
Delta Airlines partnered with Habitat for Humanity last year and, so far, has hosted three Habitat for Humanity trips for their employees to Johannesburg, South Africa, Ghana and the recent trip to Mumbai.
Delta started its Force for Global Good in 2006. In addition to its partnership with Habitat for Humanity, the airline also supports the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and recently developed the Conservation Fund, where employees and Delta customers can support breast cancer research and donate money to purchase trees to plant on the Gulf Coast.
While Delta primarily asks their employees to sign up for these trips, for the trip to Mumbai, the company also sent out a mass e-mail to its sky miles members and offered them the chance to cash in their miles to volunteer for the Mumbai Habitat for Humanity trip.
McDill said Delta frequently holds online auctions where sky miles members can bid on certain items or packages in lieu of their earned sky miles. Delta featured three packages this trip with two passenger tickets to Mumbai.
A couple from Kaysville Tara and Cameron Dryg were selected to go on the trip to Mumbai.
Budge and Willmore have both worked for Delta for more than a decade and said it was nice to branch out and meet other people.
"There’s about 800 people based in Salt Lake City, but you’re pretty much in your flight attendant bank," she said of her job. "But there were all sorts of Delta employees from maintenance, to reservations, to the insurance department. Delta did a really good job of its selection of employees. It was a well-rounded group from all over the system."
Willmore and Budge said that this experience is one they will never forget.
"A little while after I got back from the trip, a friend called me and said he wanted to buy this Rolex watch for his wife. I said, ‘Morgan, I just got back from India where people have nothing,’" Willmore said. "It definitely gives you a little bit more perspective. I have a lot less compassion for people who complain about trivial things. At least now I have more perspective when I’m complaining or not happy about something. I can say, ‘Don’t be so selfish.’"
Budge said her group was warned not to waste water while in the village because drinking water was so scarce and it was an insult to waste it.
"I’m never conscientious about the water and paper we use. We just take it for granted," she said. "Water was very important for them."
Budge said the Indian people are very traditional and grateful.
"For the [home] dedications on the last day, they do their own kind of ritual with incense and coconuts to bless the house The children take colored sand and make beautiful decorations, and we decorated the house," she said. "It gives you chills. They got the children all dressed up. The husband and wife got all dressed up for the ceremony They are so beautiful."
Budge and Willmore both live in Park City where they said they enjoy skiing and the great outdoors. Budge lives with her husband, Kent Budge, who she met in a singles’ ski line at Snowbird while on a ski trip to Salt Lake. Willmore, a Utah native, met her Parkite boyfriend while climbing the Himilayas traveling in South America. Budge is stationed in Atlanta for her job and Willmore is stationed in New York. The two women have been flight attendants for Delta for more than a decade and say they enjoy traveling.
But Willmore said she hopes more Americans will not only travel, but take more opportunities to embark on service trips similar to the ones she has been on.
"The more people in the U.S. that can go and do this kind of work, it might change our culture a little bit," Willmore said.
For more information about Delta’s Force for Global Good, visit http://www.delta.com. For more information about Habitat for Humanity, visit http://www.habitatforhumanity.com. Delta customers can also donate money to the Conservation Fund when they purchase their tickets online.