LOUISVILLE, Ky., – June 3, 2015 – (NYSE:GE) – When the second earthquake hit Nepal May 12, Tia Benton was still jet-lagged. Awake at 3:30 a.m. and trying to adjust to Eastern Time again, the news of the 7.3 magnitude earthquake left Tia frantically reaching out to her teammates who stayed behind to continue aiding in disaster relief efforts.
Tia had returned to Louisville just two days prior after training 120 displaced women in Bhaktapur, one of Nepal’s most devastated areas, on how to use and maintain water filter units she delivered.
“You could be on certain streets or neighborhoods and see no visible damage, but in other areas – total devastation; complete rubble in every direction you turned,” says Tia, who taught English and set up a science laboratory in Nepal’s Bamboo School system before getting a job as an advanced quality engineer at GE Appliances.
When Tia learned of the news of Nepal’s first earthquake on April 25, she immediately pictured her students and her host family, with whom she stayed for almost six months in 2011 while volunteering through United Planet. Through Facebook Safety Check, she discovered that, even though the first earthquake claimed the lives of more than 8,000 people, her friends and family were safe.
“I have no medical background, but it was always in the back of my mind that I could help,” says Tia. “I began reading some articles and started realizing that many survivors didn’t have access to clean water.” Tia then reached out to Sam DuPlessis, a GEA design manager that works with local water charities, who encouraged her to contact Water with Blessings.
Within 48 hours, Tia had the opportunity to go to Nepal and deliver Water with Blessing’s water filtration units. But, she still needed to ask for the time off.
How did Tia’s manager react to her request for 10 days off at a critical time?
When she sat down with her manager, Mark Motyka, Tia explained that she’d spent some time in Nepal. “I want to do what I can to help the earthquake victims. I’d like to go with your permission,” she asked Mark who told her to go without blinking an eye. Tia was headed out the next day.
Not only did Mark’s reaction help pave the way for Tia’s Nepal trip, her whole team rallied around her. “My GE team texted and emailed me in support, and a good number of them donated to Water with Blessings which GE matched. The 10 days I was gone, Water with Blessings raised $30,000,” says Tia. “From the very beginning, this team has wholly accepted me – as a coworker and individual. Allowing me to participate in a cause so close to my heart is a perfect example of the encouragement I have so often felt during my time at GE.”