The Unforgettable Journey: The Dream of Reaching the Sky

The Unforgettable Journey program, sponsored by Copa Airlines, celebrates twenty-two years of offering a day of happiness to children affiliated with a number of social organizations.

By Panorama of the Americas Editorial
Photos: Copa Airlines archive

The dream of the Unforgettable Journey began in 1994, with children from the Hogar San José de Malambo. Every December for the past twenty-two years, Copa Airlines and the Tocumen International Airport have been filled with the smiles and joy that come with the presence of a hundred children who get to fulfill a dream that we have all had at one time or another: to board a plane and fly closer to the sky.

“Alberto Motta had the idea for the first Unforgettable Journey,” explains Ivette Franco Koroneos, Director of Legal Services for Copa Airlines and coordinator of this corporate social responsibility program. Over the past two decades, more than three thousand children have benefitted from this program, which initially involved only employees of the company, who raise funds for the project throughout the year. Over the years, however, it has grown to include enthusiastic clients and suppliers who take part in this wonderful activity. In addition to the Hogar San José de Malambo, some of the organizations that have participated in the program in the past include the Fundación Pro Niños del Darién, the Asociación Pro Niñez, the Fundación Pro Integración, the Fundación de Niños Quemados, Special Olympics, and the Hemophilia Foundation of Panama, among many others.

This year, the organization chosen to participate is the Fundación Valórate (Value Yourself Foundation), whose mission is to support children with attention deficit and learning disorders through educational and family programs that allow them to develop holistically, so they can avoid failure, dropping out of school, and low self-esteem.

The Unforgettable Journey begins with breakfast at the headquarters of Copa Airlines, where employees and the Fairy Godmother serve food to the children and converse with them. After this pleasant morning, the children travel to the Tocumen Airport where they are received at the counters of Copa Airlines, which have been specially decorated with Christmas themes for the children’s arrival. They receive their boarding passes amid music and carols, surrounded by animated and entertaining characters. The children’s excitement and joy increases as they line up to pass through Immigration and Security and arrive at their boarding gate, where they board the aircraft bound for the Magic World of Copa Airlines. The children fly for nearly an hour and, upon arrival at their destination, they are greeted with a beautifully decorated celebration, which includes fun games, face painting activities, music, and many gifts.

This year’s Unforgettable Journey will take place simultaneously in Panama and Bogotá. Since 2006, the Unforgettable Journey has also taken place in other cities Copa Airlines serves; in 2015, children in Cuba will be able to enjoy this wonderful experience. In previous years children from the cities of Barranquilla, Río de Janeiro, San José, Miami, Santiago de Chile, Managua, Bolivia, El Salvador, Argentina, Caracas, Bogotá, Porto Alegre, and Santo Domingo have also participated.

Being able to bring so much joy to hundreds of children from around Latin America and helping make their dream of flying a reality fills Copa Airlines and its partners with pride and great satisfaction.

Attention Deficit Disorder

* It is a neurological behavioral disorder that affects 5% to 10% children and is more frequent in males.

* This condition can be of the Hyperactive-Impulsive Type or the Inattentive Type or a combination of both.

* The Hyperactive-Impulsive Type is characterized by restlessness, running from place to place, constant jumping, nonstop talking, and blurting out answers even before the end of a question.

* The Inattentive Type is characterized by not paying attention to details, not listening, not following instructions, having difficulty staying on task, being forgetful and losing things that are needed to complete tasks, and being easily distracted by external stimuli.

The Value Yourself Foundation operates ten centers in six of Panama’s provinces: two in Herrera, two in Coclé, one each in Colón, Ver