Q: What does it take to launch a new organization?
A: A blizzard, a malfunctioning airplane, multiple cancellations and a surprise visit to Iceland.
You’ve heard the expression “no pain, no gain?” Well, getting the guest speaker from Calgary to London for the launch of Operation Eyesight UK last week was no easy task, but the outcome was well worth it.
The guest speaker I refer to is Pat Ferguson, our president and CEO (Pat authors many of the blog posts you read here in Grey Mist Lifting). The trustees of Operation Eyesight UK had worked hard to bring their new organization to a point where it could be introduced to the world, and Pat was scheduled to give a speech entitled, “Partner for Development to Minimise Risk and Maximise Opportunity.” Hundreds of invitations had been sent, and all the preparations for the March 7 event were in place. We were all excited, knowing that this event signalled a huge step forward in building support for Operation Eyesight throughout the United Kingdom.
As the event’s lead organizer, I considered getting to London to be one of the easier jobs. We just had to get to the airport on time, and get on a plane; how hard could it be?
However, a blizzard arrived in Calgary the afternoon of our departure, and the flight was cancelled. Rebooked for another flight, that one was also cancelled due to mechanical problems. Using our mobile devices, Pat and I began briefing our colleagues in London on what to do if we didn’t arrive. We finally got on a flight that worked, but upon landing, we spent what seemed like an eternity in customs and on the “Tube” to downtown London. When we finally arrived at the event location, the Canadian-UK Chamber of Commerce, it was only with an hour or two to spare.
But the adventure was not over. Our flight home was diverted to Keflavik, Iceland due to a passenger who required medical attention – the airline had to make a difficult decision which we fully understood. There we had to stay overnight in what appeared to be a grey and rocky wasteland of a place. However, warm Icelandic hospitality made us feel at home.
Despite the surprises, none of these travel mishaps dulled our anticipation going to London, nor our elation upon leaving with our mission completed. The launch of Operation Eyesight UK was a great success with more than 100 guests representing the corporate and international development communities. Pat’s speech made a powerful impression and, even now, the trustees are contacting the guests and building relationships that will ultimately bring more awareness and support to bear on the challenge of avoidable blindness.
For Pat and me, the whole experience was a grand adventure that bodes well for the future.
Return next week when Pat Ferguson shares an excerpt from the speech she delivered in London on March 7.