Back in October, about 90 attendees from around the world descended on Maui, Hawaii, for a five-day incentive program. Spirits were high, each person worked hard to earn the trip, and many brought along spouses and partners. Group gatherings ensued, but on one particular day, attendees experienced something a little different.
The head of events, Nola Conway, president of Global Destinations Marketing, a corporate meeting planning company out of Beverly Hills, Calif., rounded up the group for a four-hour corporate social responsibility program benefitting Maui’s youth.
“The group left the hotel at noon and went to a club for children ages 9 to 17 years old,” she says. “The facility is a place for mostly underprivileged kids to go after school from 3 to 6 p.m. While there, they are encouraged to participate in computer classes, sports programs, arts classes, etc.”
Conway worked in concert with Island Partners Hawaii, a local destination management company, on putting the event together. Each participant had the option of choosing one of five tasks.
Task #1: To unload boxes of school supplies and pack backpacks. Students were off from school during the week of the program, so children worked alongside meeting delegates to fill backpacks with age-appropriate materials for school. About 80 children helped in the effort.
Task #2: To assemble a shelving unit for backpack storage.
Task #3: To assemble picnic tables for the club.
“They desperately needed these tables and they took quite a bit of construction, so a lot of men worked on this project,” Conway says.
Task #4: To unload food supplies and stock the kitchen.
Task #5: To upload software on computers.
“A lot of the kids were interested in photography, specifically, so several of our volunteers helped upload photography-specific software,” says Conway.
Beyond working on physical tasks together, meeting delegates and children were able to connect emotionally throughout the day. Even Conway, a native of Australia, found the day to be especially touching.
“It provided a great opportunity for me to personally interact with several of the kids; I even met one child from Australia,” she beams. “I also talked with two girls in the kitchen. One wanted to be a singer and the other wanted to go with her to New York City and be an actress. It was really inspiring to be around them.”
At the end of the day, one person from Island Partners Hawaii taught both children and participants how to do a Hawaiian chant.
“Right before we left, about 12 of the kids did the hula for participants,” Conway says. “The kids loved having us there so much that several of them cried when we left.”
The children weren’t the only ones to shed tears. At the meeting’s awards dinner, Conway and Island Partners Hawaii arranged for nine of the children from the club to come for a surprise visit.
“After everyone sat down, we brought the children out on stage with the club leader,” Conway says. “They did the hula and said thank you for what everyone did during the CSR program. “There wasn’t a dry eye in the audience and cameras were clicking all over the place.”
Better to Give
How did the meeting participants like the CSR program?
“According to our post-event survey, it was the highlight of the entire five-day program,” Conway says. “All of them found it to be incredibly rewarding. They were so happy to have been able to give back to a community that very much needed it.”