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March 2019

Nationwide fundraising in Chile

by Santiago Rivas and Florencia Lucero Heguy

When an entire country gets together to help people in need, it not only raises much-needed funds, but the collective effort also proves that people can make a difference. Being part of an annual collaborative effort to change the world continues to foster pride in the people of Chile; it helps us create a better world.

It is hard to imagine a whole country mobilized in an event to raise funds for a charity each year. However, this is precisely what happens in Chile. For 27 straight hours once every year, Chilean banks, stores, schools and public institutions throw themselves into a life-changing event called the Teletón. The Teletón is the largest charity event in the region, and the funds it raises go to the Institutos de Rehabilitación Infantil (IRI, Institutes of Rehabilitation for Children). The IRI specializes in assisting children and young people with motor disabilities, whether caused by muscular, neurological or bone disorders, and the donations help change the lives of these youngsters.


Held between November 30 and December 1, the 2018 Teletón marked 40 straight years of solidarity which, thanks to the contributions of 200,000 families and donations from the business community, raised more than 55 million dollars – an accomplishment that greatly surpassed the expectations of all Chileans. This national festival of solidarity and charity encompasses the social, artistic and political spheres as all Chileans commit themselves and their talents to raise money for a noble cause during these 27 heartfelt hours.


To make this 27-hour event a success, the work begins long before the official opening of the event, as organizers start planning and executing the logistics to make sure everything runs smoothly. Fundraising events are held all over Chile, and each event needs to be televised, so it is essential that cameras and the media arrive at small towns throughout the country very quickly. This is a challenge due to Chile’s elongated shape and the huge distances from the north to the south of the country. The only way to traverse the difficult terrain quickly enough is by air, which requires a fast plane that can move teams and a large amount of sensitive equipment swiftly and safely. The aircraft must also be able to operate on small runways in remote areas and have good STOL performance. All these considerations make the Dornier 228 a perfect candidate.

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CorpFlite provided the Dornier 228s that deployed TV teams across Chile, reaching isolated towns on time for live transmissions. (Photo: CorpFlite)

In order to cover all of Chile in two days, two planes are needed. One plane flies north and the other flies south. Flight plans must follow the schedules of the television links, which are relayed via satellite. CorpFlite is the name of the company in charge of preparing the aircraft and flight plans. “We joined this campaign with a concrete contribution, which was to make the planes available at our own cost,” explained Kenneth Fell, operations manager at CorpFlite. The company offered the airplanes as a means to facilitate nationwide reportage, since the geography of Chile makes it difficult to have parallel or simultaneous coverage in all cities.

CorpFlite also prepares the aircraft with a combined configuration for passengers and cargo. Passenger room is limited to ten seats, with the rest of the space reserved for cargo. “The layout of the plane greatly benefits the client, because they want to leave with their cargo ready and want it handled with special care, as they are very delicate reporting instruments,” said Fell, adding that “this plane allows passengers to be on the same flight with their equipment, which creates great comfort, safety and reliability.”

Making the reportage possible

To achieve the challenge posed by the Teletón, pilots and television crews had to efficiently fly in and out of places with difficult terrain, negotiating short runways and daunting weather conditions. One of the most interesting of these places is Calama, which is six thousand feet high and has adverse weather, such as changing winds and very low temperatures. And if that were not challenging enough, they arrived at Calama at 5:00 in the morning. “We make sure that the mechanic who travels with us is well fed and dressed appropriately for the weather, so that he is 100 percent ready to support the ground operations on site,” said Germán Ribba, CEO of CorpFlite. Other challenging operations are Punta Arenas and Porvenir, where weather conditions are at their most extreme, with strong winds, snow, ice and rain. Ribba adds that “it’s interesting to see the reporters in action. There is a very happy atmosphere and a great team spirit, and we have food on board and some games and cards to keep people entertained.” He also says that “it’s an emotional experience, becauseultimately this helps people with different needs that need support.”

Renewing Chilean values can be so individualistic at times, but participating in this charity reminds us as a people how privileged we are. Each year the Teletón is a historical emotional milestone for the Chilean people. For us, it is synonymous with unity, solidarity, acceptance, tolerance, love, peace and freedom.

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A Teletón broadcast team interviews a staff member of the Coyhaique rehabilitation center in the south of Chile. Showing what the centers do is a great way of inspiring people to contribute to the drive.

Chilean children celebrating solidarity

While the Teletón activities are taking place all over Chile, people can donate in person as they participate, or they can watch events live on television and call in their donations. One great example of a community event occurs on Chiloé, an island paradise in southern Chile. More than one hundred students from different schools on the island held solidarity activities to launch the 2018 Teletón. In Castro, one of the principal towns in the archipelago, the sports-mad inhabitants held a Zumbathon in the Plaza de Armas. A Zumbathon is a sports dance contest based on the Zumba exercise fitness program, which is popular around the globe. Sebastián Cárdenas, principal of the ‘Los Ciruelillos de Coanil’ school, said that “our wonderful schools are responsible for organizing this activity, which I have the privilege of coordinating. All the resources that we can collect in the stands during the activities will go to the benefit of the Teletón.” The community also joined in and ran stands where people could have their hair done, enjoy a manicure or massage, and purchase Christmas crafts and food. In addition, locals are proud to provide services that raise money. During the event the children of all the Castro schools met in the community center to do what they believe is one of the important things in life, that is: “to be together, to enjoy activities together that have a positive impact on the community,” said Cárdenas.

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Players of the Universidad de Chile football team visit the Santiago rehabilitation center, inspiring the children to stay strong and motivated. The participation of athletes and celebrities aids in engaging audiences to participate.

The people the Teletón helps

Manuel Sandoval has a psychomotor disability caused by prenatal asphyxiation. He overcame a multitude of obstacles and today he says: “I’m 100% happy, I do not lack anything. Thanks to the Teletón, I have achieved my autonomy and my independence.”Manuel entered a rehabilitation center in Antofagasta in 1981, going to kinesiology every morning, and went from there to kindergarten. His sister taught him to read and write and, years later, he was able to attend and finish primary and secondary school. After this he achieved his greatest goal: to attend university. “I studied journalism at the Catholic University of the North,” says Manuel.

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The Teletón teams visited Osorno, in the southern part of Chile, where they performed and presented various attractions.

“What helped me most was the sense of pride I gained at university.” Afterward it was difficult to find work due to the ignorance of people about motor disabilities. With perseverance, enthusiasm and a love for life, he landed his first job as editor of social networks for a television program. “This brought me an income and more economic independence,” he says proudly. “With my savings and a loan, I was able to buy a car.” During a period when he did not have a job, he worked with his father as a taxi driver. He had a number of clients who chose him ahead of other service providers. This was how he established a reputation, and finally a company gave him a permanent job. “I felt intimidated because the work was more corporate in nature. Sometimes fear contaminates your mind, but I had the wisdom to trust myself,” he says, adding that “the Teletón taught me to believe in myself.”

Reaching beyond Chile’s borders

Chile’s example inspired other countries in the region, who now have their own Teletóns and are part of the International Teletón Organization (ORITEL). Currently, ORITEL consists of thirteen countries: Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Nicaragua, USA and Puerto Rico, making it one of the largest voluntary aid associations in the world. Collectively, they affect the lives of over 400 million people.mpora

Since its foundation, ORITEL has carried out multiple initiatives, such as continental congresses, conventions on cerebral palsy, the promotion of preventive programs and support management for fundraising, among other projects. The organizations that belong to ORITEL provide rehabilitation services in almost 90 centers throughout the region, providing medical support to thousands of people with disabilities who have limited resources.

Reaching beyond Chile’s borders

It is an amazing feat that Chile manages to unite all media, artists, companies, schools and social organizations on a specific date and with a common goal. Assisting disabled children in their rehabilitation is just one aspect of the organization’s success; another is the amazing cultural change taking place in Chile, where people are developing awareness and knowledge about people with disabilities. Once a year, they stand together to fight for the dignity and rights of those with disabilities, improving the chances of people like Manuel Sandoval of gaining economic autonomy.

The Teletón is a symbol for a country that prides itself on its willingness to unite and strive to create a better world for people with disabilities.

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Children in Linares, Chile watch eagerly, ready to participate in the Teletón. Each city organizes different kinds of activities to engage locals in the fund-raising event.

The Teletón in numbers:

Currently the Teletón institutes provide aid to 97% of the child and adolescent population with motor disabilities in Chile.

Every year the IRI receives more than 3,000 new patients. Since the institutes were set up, they have provided treatment in more than 729,000 therapeutic cases.


For more information visit www.teleton.cl

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