By Alison Starling for ABC7
WASHINGTON (ABC7) — When you take your next airline flight, you may want to look around at the flight attendants and perhaps think of them in a different way.
Instead of just a flight crew, many of them are also helping orphans, sick children, and fighting human trafficking.
Nancy Rivard looks like one of the many flight attendants you see walking through Reagan National Airport rolling her suitcase behind her.
But 20 years ago she decided she wanted to do more with her job and her life, and so she came up with “Airline Ambassadors International.”
“We provide for orphans, and vulnerable children, and we give a way for ordinary people to travel and make a difference,” she tells ABC7’s Alison Starling.
It all started out very small. Flight attendants using extra space in overhead bins to take hygiene products or other donated items to third world countries.
Now, it has now grown to 8,000 volunteers and some $60 million in aid hand delivered to orphanages, clinics and more.
The ambassadors also escort children coming to this country for donated medical care.
“They become a loving companion for that child,” she says. “Many of them have never seen an escalator, and never seen a plane on the most life changing journey of their lives.”
Rivard is not just the founder and president of the organization.
This is personal for her… She has now sponsored a young boy, Manuel, in the Philippines.
“We now have every child in that orphanage sponsored now and it makes me feel so good because we are profoundly impacting their lives and they have profoundly impacted ours.”
Airline Ambassadors’ newest goal is to fight human trafficking.
Training flight attendants, who have hours on a flight to observe passengers, to spot warning signs of people who may be travelling against their will and alert the authorities. Rivard has certainly found her purpose.
“All children everywhere are equally precious so my idea is that it takes off, and that more and more people begin travelling to do good, travelling with a purpose.”
Rivard became a flight attendant for American Airlines in 1976 and recently retired to focus on Airline Ambassadors full-time.
She travels on a mission at least once a month.