Eindhoven Airport on streettour

'After today, I look at homeless people with different eyes'

Almost all employees at Eindhoven Airport do volunteer work on a structural basis. This is due to the hours that the employer makes available for this purpose, and to the tangible activities that partner Samen voor Eindhoven offers. The enthusiasm is great and so is the impact. Just take the popular streettour for which many an airport employee signed up. 'After today I really look at homeless people with different eyes.'


'Does anyone know where I can leave these?' Mirjam, a participant in the streettour in a moment and working at Eindhoven Airport, holds up a plastic bag crammed with socks. 'Brand new they are. The leftover from my husband's flopped sock shop.' The playbook for Together for Eindhoven included a request to bring items for the giveaway store of the foundation behind the tour, Experience that Stands. A colleague points to two thick winter coats already laid out for the socially vulnerable people that Ervaring die Staat takes care of.

Varying range of volunteer activities

Commitment to the region and its residents has always been in Eindhoven Airport's DNA. This has taken off since the airport entered into a partnership with Together for Eindhoven in 2019. That assists the airport with advice and organizational strength in the field of corporate volunteering. Since then, socially engaged employees have been served annually with an offer of about 9 activities. Some are one-time, others recurring. Those who wish may contribute 16 hours each year during working hours to activities of their choice. The enthusiasm for this form of volunteer work is great: of the 75 employees, 60 invariably participate in one or more activities.

At the center of the social landscape

That success is partly due to the excellent offerings, says Gijs Vrenken, manager of communications at Eindhoven Airport. 'Every year we sit down with Samen voor Eindhoven to determine the new offer. We choose goals that suit our organization and make sure there is something for everyone. To keep it interesting for regular participants, we also add new activities to the palette.' This would not be possible without Samen voor Eindhoven, says Vrenken: 'They are at the center of the social landscape in the Eindhoven region. They know exactly which organizations are there and - more importantly - what our people could do for them.'

Today's streettour is a real evergreen among charities. 'Actually, this is an activity I don't readily sign up for,' confesses participant Paul. 'I prefer to choose causes that need hands. A visible result at the end of the day gives me satisfaction.' That he is there today anyway is due to the enthusiastic stories of colleagues who preceded him. The tour has yet to start, but his colleague Frédérique already finds the event successful. 'I told my children that I was going to do this tour. Then we had an extensive conversation about homelessness. The fact that I am becoming aware of the situation homeless people are in and that I am igniting my environment with it is already part of the goal, isn't it?

Win-win situation

Experience State's streettours are run by formerly homeless people. It is one of the forms of day care that the Foundation, among many other services, has to offer former homeless people. It brings them back among people and boosts their self-esteem. Nikkie and Tommy are today's guides. Nikkie was an addict for ten years, he says as he guides the group toward Woensel. He lost his home while in detention. 'Leading street tours is a way for some people to process their past. But I do it for the brisk walk. Otherwise, I'd spend whole days sitting at my computer.' Tommy went through a "rebellious" phase a few years ago. As a result, he lost his home. After he also overreacted in his parents' home, he ended up on the street. Like Nikkie, he got his life back on track with help from Experience that State and other agencies. He wants to use the tour to create understanding for homeless people. "I hope the people I toured won't protest if a shelter ever comes to their neighborhood.

Seed planted

The airport employees hang on their every word and ask plenty of questions. Paul too. 'I'm glad I went,' he observes afterwards. 'After today I really look with different eyes at the homeless people I meet in the city and at the airport. I now understand how someone can get into this situation and what help is out there for them.' Paul says volunteers are needed in his hometown to drive individuals who cannot do it themselves to their doctor's appointments. 'Maybe I'll start doing that, in my spare time. The seed was planted by the volunteer work I had the opportunity to do from Eindhoven Airport: that showed me sides of life I knew little about.'

Help with the practical side

A tip from Vrenken for companies that work with corporate volunteers or want to start doing so: 'Arrange it structurally. The consistency with which we offer high-quality activities has created tremendous willingness with us. It is a lot of work. That's why we also engage Samen voor Eindhoven for the practical side. They make the contact with the social organizations and bring in their need for help cards provide a good program with a clear briefing. We do the recruitment ourselves. But that's not difficult, because colleagues experience corporate volunteering as a real enrichment.'