Awards 2000 The Rio Tinto Award for Long-term Commitment

The Rio Tinto Award for Long-term Commitment

Short-listed: British Airways

Pat Kerr, a British Airways stewardess, decided to help local children during her stopovers in Bangladesh rather than swim in the hotel pool. In 1987 the home where they lived faced closure. With assistance from British Airways and colleagues, she raised the money to build the still flourishing Sreepur village for 600 children, 40 miles from Dhaka.

Other staff have followed her lead. A stewardess, Theresa Strain set up Children of Mukuru to feed, clothe and educate 6,000 streetchildren in Nairobi, where other BA staff are involved in a home for 70 children infected with HIV. Britt Angel set up British Airways Runners, which collects clothes, toys and other gifts and takes them to street children. David Mustill, a flight despatcher at Heathrow, launched a scheme, now nearly complete, to build a new school for Nyanyano near Accra. Children are one focus of the varied schemes through which BA and its staff help developing countries. BA's Sustainable Business Unit promotes these schemes.

Under the heading Change for Good, BA cabin staff collect foreign coins and currency which passengers can no longer use. They have raised over 10 million in all and as much as 250,000 in a single month. The money goes to the UN Children's Fund which is using it to help and train street children in Rio de Janeiro and Mexico City, support an after-school programme for primary pupils near Johannesburg and provide water and schools for families in the slums of Lagos. There are other projects in India, Tanzania and elsewhere.

Another British Airways focus is on conservation. British Airways Assisting Conservation, whose assistance includes free air tickets to help people from developing countries learn more about conservation issues, began back in 1983. It similarly helps the collection of seeds for the Millennium Seed Bank set up by Kew. It meets what for conservationists is a major cost, that of getting to and from places such as Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Antigua, Sri Lanka and Vietnam where rhinos, gorillas, painted dogs, racer snakes, turtles and seahorses need to be saved.

Rosemary Kinyanjui, who travels from the United States to Kenya to work part-time for Friends of Conservation, has just been setting up a rhino survey and arranging for schools to plant trees. A Sri Lankan voluntary body, the Turtle Conservation Project, sponsors a community-run protection and education scheme at Rekawa, an impoverished community which used to collect turtle eggs from the most important breeding beach on the south coast. Egg collectors turned nest protectors have enabled over 200,000 hatchlings to make it to the sea. The project has helped Rekawa by setting up a medical clinic, running English classes to improve job prospects and seeking tourist income from watching turtles and from handicrafts.

British Airways runs the Tourism for Tomorrow awards which give recognition to projects helpful to local people and their environment. One winner was a village in Jordan that was losing young people to the cities. It revived its crafts and culture and reinvented itself as a tourist resort.

British Airways Holidays audits its hotels to see their effect on their environment. The audit of a hotel on St. Lucia has just been completed. British Airways is committed by its code of business conduct and adherence to the Global Sullivan Principles to seek opportunities to improve the environment and to work with communities to improve their wellbeing