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The power of logistics in humanitarian aid - connecting women from different professions

The power of logistics in humanitarian aid - connecting women from different professions

Renáta and Kristýna. Two women who work with their hearts. And it shows! Even though it might seem that their fields are diametrically opposed, it's just the opposite. The first of them, Renáta Chlebková Benešová, is a CSR specialist at the humanitarian organisation ADRA. Helping is her mission. The second, Kristýna Copková, is a marketing manager at the logistics company Geis. Even though she works for a large multinational company, her heart is in the right place. And she is certainly not afraid of any challenge. But what do they have in common?

It's not easy to find an open box on their calendars to find out. But the ladies did find the time and chatted a little differently than work and on the run.


So how did it come about that you two work and help together?

Kristýna Copková:

Our collaboration started online. Renáta and I connected through LinkedIn. I responded to Renáta's post and the communication took off. But we didn't leave the first offline meeting with the vision of establishing a collaboration. It was only after further conversations that we found out how a logistics company with such a wide scope and range of services as Geis can be helpful. Renáta asked in surprise: "Even warehousing? Do you really have warehouse space? Boxes? Packaging material? Pallets?"

I think openness, honesty and looking for possibilities - connecting the disconnected - played an important role here. Doubly so if you want to and can help.

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

Yes, that's right. The LinkedIn message has set great things in motion. ADRA was looking for a long-term storage partner. You say to yourself, why does ADRA need a warehouse? We use the warehouse space to store materials that we need during emergencies, such as desiccant after floods. We also lend them to other European ADRA offices, for example to Belgium during major floods.

And then, naturally, the links also developed in the area of logistics and transport. Kristýna and the Geis people were open to cooperation, and that's the basis. In our first personal conversation, we had no idea what was ahead. Mainly because of the events that came up... the tornado, Ukraine...

Kristýna, when did your collaboration start, what did you expect from it and how does it actually work in the end?

Kristýna Copková:

When? It's been a couple of years. I expected that our services and the many years of experience of our colleagues in logistics could help a good cause. And it has happened, it has come to fruition. It is important for us to know that support and help is targeted, and that is what ADRA can guarantee. That's why we cooperate in other countries in our region - in Slovakia and Poland.

What about the war in Ukraine? Have you also joined forces to support people affected by the conflict?

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

Probably each of us will have deeply stored in us how we reacted to 24 February on a personal and professional level. ADRA Czech Republic in Ukraine has been helping for several years in the eastern region with the reconstruction of infrastructure. And so it was natural that we would get involved in helping people directly in Ukraine, but also those who were seeking safety in our country.

ADRA is used to responding to emergencies like tornadoes and floods very quickly, and it is necessary to act really from minute to minute. It was incredible that Geis also stepped in to help in a flash. Again, it was pivotal that it was a given for Geis to get involved and only then did they look at how. How best to use Geis's professional focus in helping people significantly affected by the war conflict. It was great that the relationship with Geis and Kristýnawas one of trust, willingness and commitment that just 'clicked' from February onwards. I appreciated immensely that Christine would answer the phone even on weekends or late hours, even on vacation. Thanks to Kristýna's lion-like commitment, we have done a tremendous amount of work together.

Kristýna Copková:

Exactly as Renáta mentioned. And I thank you, Renáta - you have a lot to do with that too. What can I say - it affected everybody, everywhere. I admit that we managed everything thanks to the commitment of our Czech, Slovak and Polish directors, whom I could turn to at any time. They advised, helped, or even invented and suggested how to improve things. They didn't look for reasons why not, but rather for ways to implement everything.

Is it even possible to quantify the extent of such cooperation?

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

In terms of transport, certainly yes. Geis together with us transported one fifth of the aid we sent to Ukraine. In numbers, that's 397 pallets, 204,702 kg. But behind the numbers there is a lot of administration, communication and much more that cannot be expressed in numbers.


Kristýna Copková:

Even if we quantified it all.... Do these numbers tell anyone anything? Millions have been collected, hundreds of thousands of kilograms have been transported, thousands of kilometres have been travelled, hundreds of kilometres have been walked, tens of hours have been spent on the phone. The main point is that the results of all these activities are incalculable and long-term, if we talk about the situation in Ukraine.


My understanding is that Geis cooperates with ADRA both on the spur of the moment during current humanitarian crises and on long-term projects. How does acute aid differ from long-term aid? And what exactly does the quieter and longer-term form of cooperation look like?

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

ADRA has almost three dozen charity shops in the Czech Republic. They help with the reuse of clothes and household goods that are no longer needed by someone as part of sustainability. People in social need or homeless people are provided with everyday necessities for free. Geis in particular is an incredible help in transporting goods to charity shops. It is 30 pallets a month. In this way we are together helping people, who are now also significantly increasing due to inflation, to live better. And I can't fail to mention another area in which Geis is a partner through transport. ADRA is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year and has prepared an exhibition to mark the occasion, which is touring 15 cities in the Czech Republic. Our dear Geis is taking care of the transportation. There is really a lot where he is a great help and partner to us, ADRA. Moreover, it is all connected on the wave of great human cooperation. What more could we ask for. There is much more behind the six letters "thank you".

I suppose it took other people to help so much...

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

In order for aid to be well, efficiently and purposefully implemented, it is necessary to have a team of people who not only love their work, but are professionals in their field. During emergencies, it is "our" Jožka who coordinates the whole event. In the case of the tornado and the aid in Ukraine, it was necessary to significantly strengthen the team with a logistics team that took care of providing material aid. We are glad that a large number of our volunteers are always involved in the relief effort, who need to be coordinated, insured... And it's also the economic, PR department and many other wonderful people who join their forces to help as quickly and efficiently as possible, even in the long term. Many thanks to all of them!

Kristýna Copková:

There are a lot of people behind the help, even if they are not visible. On our side - from a logistics point of view - every position is important, from warehouse workers, dispatchers, drivers, branch managers, but also the management itself. Thank you to everyone that together we can help.

Kristýno, a jak takové nasazení zvládáte spolu s dalšími činnostmi, které máte ve firmě na starosti?

Kristýna Copková:

That sounds like an easy question, but I admit that it's really hard to answer. Sometimes I don't know myself. For example, it's to the detriment of not being able to engage in conversations with my colleagues, as I'm caught up in work, solutions, planning. You are driven forward by the fact that you are not indifferent to the fate of people when you know you can help them. I believe that in that moment we can each "turn it on" and be that superman. As the events quickly unfolded, the doors of cooperation with ADRA in other countries - especially in Slovakia and Poland - opened more. There, the Geis - ADRA partnership developed very quickly given the situation, there was no time to waste.

In addition, I am pleased that thanks to the broad cooperation with the humanitarian organisation, our employees have the opportunity not only to meet people who are exposed to crisis situations and are experienced, but also to receive valuable advice and experience from them on how to behave in crisis situations. The training from Mr. Koláček from ADRA made us realize that it is important to think about ourselves in these moments. Just being aware of this is extremely important. Since each of us is probably a bit afraid inside at such a moment and does not want to admit the crisis situation, it is important to admit that it has occurred. Because such moments are part of life too, we cannot close our eyes to them or avoid them indefinitely.

Renáta, tell us more about the training. What is it about?

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

The training is conducted by Josef Koláček, the head of emergency events and an expert thanks to his years of experience. The aim is to raise awareness on the topic of crisis preparedness and crisis response in work and everyday life. A training model would be more appropriate, but due to time constraints, it is mostly training. It is suitable for management who have responsibility for decision-making processes as well as the correct response during a crisis event. Not only a covid pandemic, but also for example an energy crisis are significant periods where how we react within the team, how we direct ourselves and the whole team matters. But they can also be events related to work-related injuries or deaths within the company. If I know how stress manifests (through knowledge of symptoms and physiological reactions), how I and my team react to stress, then I can better evaluate my reactions to stress for my own actions and those of my team members.

How do you, Kristýna, perceive the involvement of Geis employees in charity/charitable activities and its impact on belonging to the company?

I feel an incredible strength from the employees. Strength in the fact that when we share a common goal or a common problem, we are truly and literally one family. That is the strength of our company. That despite our size, we are still based on traditional values and maintain a family approach. The family supports each other, sticks together, and moves forward, through both bad times and better. Therefore, when there is any further opportunity for support - whether active or passive - the decision is clear and it's on, we want to be there. Proof of this, for example, is how actively our employees support the charity runs organised by ADRa. In addition, for over 15 years we have been organising an employee initiative, a fundraiser whose proceeds help to purchase and train guide dogs for the blind. We also support the AVON walk and when needed, many of our employees have provided accommodation for Ukrainian families. And the list of activities in which our colleagues are involved certainly does not end there.

And ladies, I won't forgive myself one question a bit off-topic - what do you do when you are not sitting at the computer or actively helping people who are in acute need?

Renáta Benešová Chlebková:

I really like to spend time in nature, whether it's walking, cycling or collecting herbs. Such ordinary and mundane things are often the most precious. And when it's not too windy or rainy and it's a bit more stable during wartime, I also like to bake goodies for my family. They're not big things, but life is often made up of little things that then make up that beautiful colorful mosaic..

Kristýna Copková:

I'm mostly devoted to my family. I'll specify that exceptionally not Geis family. I play sports, spend time with friends and children, read or just let myself switch off and relax. Just as Renata mentions, I enjoy the little things, the little things and the opportunities that life offers me.

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