WestJet and LiveDifferent: Going (beyond) the distance to make a difference

Since 2008, WestJet has been taking us to new heights, powering our program delivery, business travel and fundraising efforts with the gift of flight.

And in 2012, we decided to take our relationship to the next level.

Wanting to make a difference in one of WestJet’s most popular Caribbean destinations, we established the inaugural WestJet LiveDifferent Build, their first international Community Investment initiative.

2022 marked our 10th anniversary!

To date, more than 500 WestJetters have worked alongside local translators, contractors, and community and family members to build 53 homes with families living in extreme poverty in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

But it hasn’t stopped there.

Beyond building

At LiveDifferent, we are amazed and inspired by the incredible passion and commitment of our volunteers who consistently go above and beyond to make a difference.

When LiveDifferent volunteers exceed their fundraising goal for a Build, that money goes back into community projects through LiveDifferent’s Emergency Relief and Community Development Fund. This fund supports local needs and helps enhance the quality of life for people living in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

But with WestJet, things are done a bit differently.

In addition to their personal fundraising goal, WestJet challenges its WestJetters to fundraise over and above to support a community project. WestJet sets out the goal that they will match WestJetters over-fundraising efforts up to $5,000. Pooling and matching the funds allows us to plan for more impactful community projects that WestJetters can be a part of during their annual Build. This ensures they can see first-hand the tangible results of their efforts.

Any additional funds raised that are not allocated to these projects will then go to LiveDifferent’s Emergency Relief and Community Development Fund.

“When we issue the over-fundraising challenge to WestJetters, it’s amazing to see how they go above and beyond and start to connect to the cause before they get to the Dominican Republic,” says Brittany Tough, WestJet’s Community Investment Advisor. “Year over year since we’ve asked them to do so, they have surpassed their goal – and in some cases doubled it – allowing us to make a bigger impact in the communities we know and love. It truly is WestJetters’ care, passion and commitment to making a difference that propels these projects and fuels their hearts to be a part of something that connects them to the communities we serve and the people we care about throughout our network.”

Over 10 years, WestJet and WestJetters have raised more than $105,000 in additional funds.

And these funds have opened up a world of possibilities.

Choosing community projects

We strive to ensure that our annual over-fundraising projects are sustainable and truly benefit the entire community. Each year, we work with local leaders, organizations and our team in the Dominican Republic to see how we can make a positive, sustainable and lasting impact.

WestJet has always been enthusiastic about staying involved to see how they can contribute, not only with WestJet homes and projects but in other areas as well.

WestJet has made significant enhancements within local communities by …

  • buying land and playground equipment for a new children’s club (and later providing maintenance for this equipment);
  • buying equipment for a local medical clinic and underwriting the salary of a doctor to be at the clinic three days a week for one year;
  • refurbishing basketball courts for local youth;
  • improving roadways and infrastructure;
  • assisting with funding for hurricane relief;
  • building an ocean breaker wall;
  • cleaning and assisting at the local dump (and later building a waste management centre); and
  • supporting house renovations and other humanitarian items

“WestJet has been an incredible partner and to be able to recognize 10 years of working together – hands-on with WestJetters from all areas of the WestJet community – is something we are extremely proud of,” says Alison, Interim Director of International Programs.

“The sheer number of WestJetters we’ve been able to work with and the magnitude of their over-fundraising illustrates the strength of the partnership and the commitment to having a positive impact on others. However, it’s the re-engagement of WestJetters along with their colleagues, friends and family – the depth of the WestJet community, in and outside of the work day – that truly speaks to the sense of community that WestJet and LiveDifferent share.”

Soaring higher together

This amazing connection between WestJet and LiveDifferent has grown and developed over the past 10 years. From the homes that love built to the connections that the WestJet LiveDifferent Builds program has helped to foster and the incredible over-fundraising that supports entire communities, we have created something truly special.

Through our commitment and dedication to one another, as well as the communities we serve, we have been able to make a difference and show the world what love can do.

And we will continue to do so in the years to come.

Author: Gina Alward

Date: April 28th, 2023

7 ways to lift people up during Kindness Week

In Canada, the third week in February is known as Kindness Week—a time when people are encouraged to make some sort of declaration of kindness and charity.

So in the spirit of kindness, we’ve compiled a list of challenges for you to do each day in your school or community to help spread more kindness.

Day 1: Help someone feel seen

When we take the time to show people they’re valued, we can make a profound impact, and it all starts with one small word of kindness.

Your mission: Think of a person in your life who should be thanked for what they do, find them and thank them!

You can call, text, email or better yet, reach out for an in-person get-together. At the end of the day, the important thing is that you’ve shown this person how much you appreciate them.

Day 2: Clean up

Helping to create a warm and welcoming space is a great way to show someone you care.

Your mental health is greatly affected by your environment, so taking the time to make sure that a space is clean and tidy can have a positive effect for those interacting within this space.

Your mission: Clean up! Pick up some trash, do the dishes or help tidy up a common room that you share with others, like your classroom, cafeteria or library. You can even take this task outdoors and show some kindness to the environment.

Day 3: Hand out high-fives

Research shows that teammates who high-five during a game are more likely to be successful.

That’s because the high five is generally programmed in your brain as a positive experience. It’s even been proven to be more effective than words of affirmation to encourage and lift others up.

Your mission: Find ten people and give them each a high five!

Day 4: Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes

We’ve all heard this expression, right?

Well, that’s what empathy is—it’s understanding someone else’s experience so much that you can actually imagine having that experience for yourself.

You’re mission: Strike up a conversation with someone outside of your circle.

It could be a volunteer, a new teammate or someone from a different grade. Simply take the opportunity to connect and try to see the world from their perspective.

Day 5: Give a small gift

Think back to a specific time when someone went out of their way to let you know they were thinking of you. How did you feel?

When we do small things to show someone we’re thinking of them, they often feel seen, valued and cared for.

Your mission: Gift someone a small token of your appreciation.

You could bake them their favourite treat, lend them one of your video games, or make them a care package to help them study for a big test (filled with pens, flashcards, snacks and more!). The trick here is to think of something this person would want to receive, and give it to them.

Day 6: Volunteer for a passion project

There’s always a reason for your passions.

Whether it’s taking care of animals, creating beautiful music or simply having meaningful conversations, your passions help you understand your purpose. And these callings have the power to transform both you and your community.

Your mission: Volunteer for a cause that you think is important.

Go online, take a look around your community, and plan some time when you can get involved. It could be as simple as fundraising for this cause, volunteering directly or donating items to support their mission.

Day 7: Offer to help

There’s never a shortage of people to help in the world. Sometimes you just need to think outside the box.

You could help carry someone’s groceries to their car, offer to babysit for a family member, change someone’s tire, visit with the elderly, help your siblings with their homework, walk your neighbour’s dog, or even share this list with others.

Your mission: Find five people who need help and give it to them!

Do you have more suggestions?

Kindness can be shown in small ways like those listed above or in big ways like joining a humanitarian build in another country.

No matter how big or small, each time you show kindness to another human being, you’re creating a ripple effect that can be felt throughout generations.

What other acts of kindness can you think of? Drop them in the comments section below.

Thank you to our partners at Boston Pizza for supporting this initiative.

Author: Gina Alward

Date: April 17th, 2023