With new Covid-19 infections reported on a daily basis and parts of Ibiza facing lockdown again, the dreaded second wave of the Coronavirus pandemic has arrived on the shores of the Balearic Islands. And while many residents are understandably feeling powerless, frustrated and fearful, charity initiative Together For Healthcare Heroes [T4HH] is determined to stay focused on their mission to treat thousands of European frontline workers and their nearest and dearest to a free holiday in 2021.
Since the official launch in July 2020, Jan Michael Himmler, Nick Thompson and a large team of local entrepreneurs have taken big steps towards their ambitious target of hosting up to 10,000 guests. Starting out with less than a handful of accommodation options on Ibiza, by the time we speak to the Together For Healthcare Heroes co-founders at the beginning of September 2020 they have managed to get close to 100 holiday homes, villas and hotels on board.
With the blessing from the Consell d’Eivissa, the aim is to welcome hospital, care home and hospice workers from all over Europe and the UK in Ibiza as well as other desirable destinations across the months of April, May and October 2021.
Together For Healthcare Heroes has also been speaking to some of the biggest names on the island’s nightlife scene about organising live stream events that will help raise funds to cover return flights and travel insurance for the lucky beneficiaries. A crowd-funding campaign is also being planned in the run-up to Christmas, so all of us will be able to chip in to thank those who have been dedicated to keeping us safe.
We got the chance to speak to Jan and Nick about the inspiration behind this incredible initiative, the challenges they have been facing and how the campaign is uniting Ibiza in showing the island from its most generous and welcoming side…
Let’s start at the beginning! How did you come up with the idea for Together For Healthcare Heroes?
Jan: It was late March and my wife and I saw the horrible images from Italy, when they had to transport Coronavirus victims on military trucks. We saw the healthcare staff working all night long to help patients, and potentially they would be doing the same for our friends and family. We thought, ‘What can we do? Can we provide something to the people who are helping society the most right now?’ And we had the idea to fill our house on Ibiza with nurses and doctors next year, so they can have a nice time with their families after they have taken care of ours.
Nick: Jan and I have a really good friendship and we talk about a lot of issues outside of business. From the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic we were very concerned because we could see it getting worse and worse. But the people we were most concerned about were the people who were at the frontline, making sacrifices so we could continue with our lives as normally as possible.
We wanted them to know that we can see their incredible efforts. We have access to a huge network of people in the real estate sector of Ibiza and Jan said he was prepared to put his house into the process to get the ball rolling. So we put our heads together and worked out a game plan.
Jan: Within two weeks we had 20 holiday homes on board, which means that if each property can fit eight guests, we could give 160 people a free holiday over the course of one week. That’s when we realised this campaign could have legs and we decided to raise the bar. We said that if we would reach 50 houses we would contact the Council of Ibiza, because you can’t run an initiative of that size without blessing from the local government. Thankfully they loved the idea and allowed us to include private homes, which makes T4HH even more inclusive.
How do you define a Healthcare Hero? Who can apply for a holiday?
Jan: Professor Olivier Borens from the University Hospital in Lausanne, Switzerland, joined our advisory board and he helped us to come up with the definition. It is not just the doctors and nurses who work in the Intensive Care Units. We learned that in the ‘hotspot hospitals’, which are all around Europe, all the staff members have become one big ICU team. We want to be as inclusive as we can be on the side of the beneficiaries, so everybody who worked on the Covid-19 frontline or who directly supported those working on the frontline, is a Healthcare Hero. This includes the cleaning staff who disinfect the wards and help to keep the medical team safe, but also care home and hospice workers.
We can imagine you have received a lot of applications already!
Jan: Right now, we already have over 25,000 applicants. But we expect that by the end of the initiative we will have around 200,000 sign-ups. Obviously there will be higher demand than what we will be able to supply, but we hope to reach 1,000 accommodation options. Right now we can host between 800 to 1,000 guests, so we still have a way to go.
Nick: The demand is going to be huge, the supply is what we need to ramp up. So we need to get the message out that we are still looking for more accommodation options. We are looking at other destinations as well but T4HH was an initiative that was born in Ibiza, so we want to launch it here and get the blueprint right.
Jan: It is a truly European initiative and we hope that every country that wants to send out Healthcare Heroes to Ibiza can also provide accommodation for Spanish guests in return. Of course they would be happy to come to the Balearic Islands, but if you tell them they can spend a week in the Swiss mountains that’s a more unusual holiday for them. Likewise, if a healthcare worker from Italy can spend a week in Paris or London that might be a more exciting option for them than the Mediterranean.
Can healthcare workers from the UK apply despite of Brexit?
Jan: Of course, the UK will be a big beneficiary as it was so badly affected.
How are you going to choose the ‘winners’?
Jan: We were talking to the hospitals about what the fairest process would be and in the end, we settled on a simple ‘lottery draw’ so the staff members who aren’t as visible as the doctors and nurses won’t get forgotten. We are thinking about live-streaming or televising the draws from the Old Town of Ibiza.
Ibiza’s entertainment and hospitality sectors have taken a big hit this year, yet you have hotels and nightlife brands all committing to contribute. Have you been surprised by their generosity?
Jan: The response has been overwhelming. Those who have been affected very badly by the pandemic are supporting those who have been affected the worst.
Nick: They are putting people before pesos, so to speak, by valuing what the Healthcare Heroes have been doing for society above a potential loss of income. Ibiza has been slightly tainted in the past by its VIP image, but by us giving back as a unit, the initiative is really showing the island as the welcoming and loving place that it always has been.
Jan: Nightlife is such a huge part of Ibiza and the big clubs were so disciplined in not opening this year. It’s a really great message that the first people they want through the doors when they can reopen will be the Healthcare Heroes. We are proud to say that we are in talks with The Night League and the Pacha Group to help us with live-streaming events, and we would love for more of the island’s nightlife brands to come on board. It’s great to see them join forces to give back!
And how can those of us who can’t offer a holiday home or spin the decks for this amazing cause, help?
Jan: We are planning a big crowd-funding campaign before the end of the year to be able to pay for all the flights and travel insurances. You are looking at a cost of around 400 Euros per Healthcare Hero and we are already in talks with some airlines to get discount codes for the bookings.
Nick: We just want people to remember that there are individuals who get up every morning and make huge sacrifices to make sure that if we need help, there is someone there to give it.
Picture Credit: Feature image by Arno Lippert.