Many listeners wiped away tears as they watched a video during a breakout session presented by Koleen Roach at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners annual conference in November.
Roach, director, meetings & conference management at Securian Financial Group in St. Paul, rolled the video after having described the multi-layered community service project performed by Securian attendees during an incentive program in Africa earlier this year. Roach had identified the Ebenezer Child Care Trust, an orphanage and school with 320 students (and 400 on a waiting list to get in) in Livingstone, Zambia, as the recipient of the company’s time, energy, and money. Backpacks full of educational supplies were carried by attendees on their flights from Cape Town, South Africa, to Livingstone and given to the children upon arrival; executives and qualifiers spent two days during the conference working at the facility; and Securian invested $25,000 in a trust that will ensure the continued existence and improvement of the school.
The video showed attendees personally handing the backpacks to children, who welcomed them with songs. Seeing the smiles on the children’s faces—and the emotion on the part of attendees—was extremely moving. And the shot of Securian’s CEO sitting on the floor of the orphanage inflating a few dozen soccer balls demonstrated how deep the company’s commitment to community service goes.
“Now that we’ve started down this road, our people crave it,” Roach said. “And there are many ways to do it. It can be simple or it can be big.” Securian, clearly, went big. But Roach has also made smaller gestures during domestic programs that would be easy for other planners to adopt. For example, in lieu of three nights of room gifts at a recent program in Laguna Beach, Calif., she gave cards worth $150 from globalgiving.com to each qualifier. “You can purchase them in any denomination, then the attendees go online and choose the charity to which they will contribute,” she explained. “They loved it.”
As she wrapped up her presentation, there was another surprise to come. Site President Patrick Sullivan stood to tell the group that Roach’s program had earned her, Securian, andDragonfly Africa a Site Crystal Award for “Outstanding Sustainable Motivational Experience.” Roach had been unable to attend the official awards ceremony at the Site Annual Conference in Aruba earlier in the month, so Sullivan had brought the enormous crystal vase with him to present to her at the conference.
“It was an extremely nice gesture on Patrick’s part to present the award to me following my presentation. I hadn't seen the award yet and was very humbled to receive it in front of my peers,” Roach said. “The award means a tremendous amount to me. Working with the orphanage was a labor of love and my mission with Ebenezer will never be over. I hope that my story inspires other planners to look at each program with fresh eyes and determine how they can give back. It doesn't have to happen on the same scale as what we did in Zambia. That's not really possible to do in every destination. But there are wonderful acts of kindness and generosity that can be performed with little effort and still have a great impact. We all need to do what we can to help. There are so many people out there in need!”