Our recently launched Blueprint Travel Grant program supports employees making service-based trips around the world in partnership with charitable organizations. As they return from their journeys, we’re following their stories through an #AECOMBlueprint blog series.

The idea of creating a nonprofit came about in 2008 while I was interning on an archeological dig in Porolissum-Moigrad, Romania. I noticed support coming into the community from international students during the summer months, but once the students left, this support stopped. With my background in architecture, I started Building Humanity as a way to provide longer-term help to the Porolissum-Moigrad community — through community support projects — and the nonprofit’s reach has since expanded.

In 2016, we led our first trip to Romania, and this year, with the help of an AECOM Blueprint Travel Grant, we chose Thailand as our destination. Our goal was to build a bakery for the Felix Family Village — an organization that takes care of abandoned and orphaned children.

Our dedicated team of volunteers from around the world, consisting of 30 employees from 11 offices and four countries, spent more than a week in Surat Thani working on a project that would help bring the orphanage a step closer to financial independence. In addition to teaching vocational skills and producing baked goods for their own use, the new bakery will enable the orphanage to sell goods to local shops and restaurants in the city.

These are some of the reflections from my colleagues who contributed to this amazing experience. You can also watch a video that captures the amazing work we began during our trip.

Kitti Setavoraphan, Growth and Strategy Director, AECOM Bangkok
Kitti Setavoraphan, Growth and Strategy Director, AECOM, Thailand

As the ‘local’ team — Surat Thani is about eight hours south of Bangkok — I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to participate in a project that aligns with our personal commitments to make an impact and AECOM’s mission to deliver a better world.

A few days working with the global team made us realize that although we speak different languages, together we shared a common purpose and belief in what we were doing for this community. AECOM is a big company, but it’s made up of individuals and through our collaboration, we are able to enhance our capabilities and reach another level.

When Erin told me about building a bakery, I thought we could make this facility even more meaningful in terms of quality of life development by setting up a nutrition learning center, as well as enabling the sale of baked goods in market. This self-sufficiency can have exponential benefits.

Christa Rotolo, Project Manager, New York, USA

The Felix Family Village project was a great way to use my engineering and construction experience to help others. With this project, I was able to gain as much as give. The children at the orphanage have faced a lot of challenges, but they showed incredible resilience, and it was wonderful to see them play on the new basketball court we were able to complete.

It was also rewarding to use my “on-the-fly” problem solving skills and knowledge base to contribute to the success of the project. To see our hard work have a positive and immediate impact on the lives of these young children gave me a sense of fulfillment.

Benat Pena Arregui, Graduate Engineer, AECOM Bedford, UK

Benat Pena Arregui, Graduate Engineer, Bedford, UK

Visiting a foreign country is always a great experience and doing so as volunteer even more so. The people from the orphanage made us feel very welcome, sharing their culture, history and traditions. Knowing that our work and donations would create a positive, lasting impact for their community was a great feeling.

I expected to meet an interesting group of people from different backgrounds, including from several AECOM offices, but the atmosphere we experienced in Thailand far exceeded my expectations. We worked well together and were determined to make the most of each day and build as much as we could. Meeting other colleagues has not only helped me expand my network, but also given me a better understanding of what it’s like to work for the company in other parts of the world.

Thailand was an exciting project for both Building Humanity and the Felix Family Village community. Receiving financial support and corporate interest helped us mobilize a coordinated team to complete the project and helped ensure a successful outcome.

It’s great to know that AECOM support’s these kinds of employee-driven nonprofit projects and also that AECOM Bangkok plans to continue its relationship with the orphanage. The Felix Family Village is excited to open up shop and thankful we were able to help bring their dreams to life!

Originally published 10.18.2018

Author: Erin ColShan