A breakfast activity at the Rosen Centre Hotel in Orlando during Successful Meetings University (SMU) this August has made a positive impact on the lives of 75 children in Haiti. Tammi Runzler, senior vice president of convention sales and services for Visit Orlando, shared with the SMU group her experience of going to Haiti in 2010 with Clean the World, an Orlando-based non-profit that provides soap to people in need, following the devastating earthquake.
Approximately 250,000 people died as a consequence of the earthquake, tens of thousands were injured, and over a million were left homeless. That trip to Haiti changed Runzler forever. The innocent eyes of the thousands left orphaned stayed with her and she decided to do something to help. She started a non-profit organization, My Neighbor’s Children, dedicated to helping the world’s impoverished and orphaned children, particularly those in Haiti.
Runzler’s responsibilities are great as she oversees a staff of 43 at Visit Orlando, the official sales and marketing organization for the Orlando and Orange County area. Despite this responsibility, Runzler makes time every six weeks to journey to Haiti, spending time with “her children.” She is even learning Haitian Creole, as most Haitians do not speak English.
After Runzler’s heartwarming presentation at SMU, the group created flashcards that had simple words with handdrawn pictures on one side in English and in Creole on the other. The activity demonstrated how easy it is to incorporate a corporate social responsibility activity into a meeting.
In November, Runzler delivered the Creole/English translation cards made during the breakfast to a school her non-profit supports, Bon Samaritan in Cazeau, a suburb of Port au Prince. “This is the first year most of the children have ever been to school. This is a school I have just founded to send the kids from this neighborhood for free,” explains Runzler. “The parents simply can’t afford to pay for any type of tuition. They will also have a nutritional program at the school, so will be assured of getting one good meal a day.”
This is huge as more than half of the population, including two-thirds of the children, suffer from malnutrition in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
“I hand delivered the cards to the school and explained to the children that people from very far away wanted to help them learn some English and cared enough for them to make them flashcards. They were so excited, and immediately started using them,” reminisces Runzler. “I believe the kids liked hearing that other people in other parts of the world care about them, just as much as the cards themselves.”
Many of the meeting planners in attendance commented how touched they were by Runzler’s passionate presentation and how they had the misperception that corporate social responsibility programs have to be complex. A short activity during a breakfast break put souris (Haitian Creole for smile) on the faces of 75 children who have so little.