WestJet Live Different Builds: WestJet & Live Different
In 2012, in partnership with Live Different, the WestJet Live Different Builds program was born. A 10 day humanitarian trip to Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, the WestJet Live Different Builds program is a life-changing initiative where each year 50 WestJetters immerse themselves in the local community of Puerto Plata, Nuevo Renacer to build new homes for families living in extreme poverty.
WestJet uses an open application process to recruit the 50 WestJetter Builds participants – 45 participants and 5 Team Leads. All active duty WestJetters who have not previously taken part in a WestJet Builds are eligible to apply for the 45 participant spots provided they are in good standing, have manager approval, are physically up for the challenge, fulfill the fundraising goal and have a valid passport.
WestJetters who have taken part in a previous WestJet Builds/Hero Holiday are eligible to apply for the five team lead positions. Effectively any and all WestJetters can apply to take part in the initiative.
The 45 participants are selected through a random draw. In consultation with Live Different, the five Team Leads are hand selected from previous year participants based on their application essay, manager approval/support, and consideration of their participation and interactions during their previous Builds/Hero Holiday trip. Due to demand, previous team lead participants are not eligible to reapply.
To support WestJetters with their participation in a Build, WestJet provides each employee with three paid eight hour days during the trip and Boeing contributes $1,000 toward each participant’s fundraising goal, which is close to half of their overall goal. WestJet also provides pre-trip and on-the-ground support and leadership, branded swag and free confirmed return flights from the participant’s home base to Puerto Plata.
In addition to building much-needed homes, in the spirit of contributing to the community in a healthy and sustainable manner, WestJetter participants are asked not to bring donated goods with them to the Dominican Republic, rather to over fundraise for a community project in advance.
Typically the total amount needed for the project is $10,000 and WestJet matches up to $5,000 of the total amount raised. This has proven to be a very successful strategy with WestJetters enthusiastically responding to the challenge, raising excess funds that have made significant enhancements to the local community including: purchasing land for a new club for boys and girls; building a recycling centre; equipment for a local medical clinic; underwriting the salary of a doctor to be at the clinic three days a week for a year; building an ocean breaker wall to assist during hurricane and rainy seasons; refurbishing basketball courts for local youth; and contributing to an emergency relief fund for the community.
In addition to achieving the key goals of meaningfully contributing to one of WestJet’s tropical destinations, the WestJet Live Different Builds program also engages WestJetters in an experience that fosters teamwork and inspires personal growth. A key objective of the volunteer experience is for each participant to come home with an enlightened perspective and sense of capability, potential, and responsibility to continue to live differently and to contribute to change both locally and globally.
To engage all WestJetters in the Builds program, throughout the trip employees are asked to use a specially designed internal tool to send Builds participants notes of encouragement and support. These notes are shared daily with everyone in the DR. During the trip Team Leads write at least one blog each that is shared company-wide. Daily photos and videos from the trip are also posted on internal platforms.
Post-trip survey results reveal that WestJetter Builds participants gain confidence and new perspectives that impact their professional and personal lives. Not only do participants come home with new construction skills, they also learn that when they put themselves outside their comfort zones they can achieve more than they thought was possible. This experience helps participants to open their minds and to remain open to new opportunities and experiences, bringing new insights to their daily work. Many return to work and look for opportunities to lead others, even if they aren’t currently in a leadership role.
Through the program, WestJet’s has built 38 homes impacting 340 residents.