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July 9, 2012

MEETING NEEDS:Behind the scenes at this year's IMEX Challenge in Slovenia

This year's IMEX Challenge took place earlier this month in Slovenia. International Meetings Review got the low down on the event.


“After considering a wide variety of CSR proposals, IMEX judges and staff voted to invite industry volunteers to join them in building a bee colony in Ljubljana for next year’s IMEX Challenge,” said IMEX Chairman and Founder Ray Bloom back in December last year. The results of this vote set Slovenia’s capital Ljubljana on its path to hosting the second edition of IMEX Challenge, which took place from 2-4 July 2012.

The IMEX Challenge is a three-day, humanitarian event at which a team of meeting industry professionals gather with the goal of making a positive impact on the lives of others – in particular, the lives of children. 

This year. 15 people from across the meetings industry had the opportunity to work together with staff and patients at CUDV Draga – a residential Care Centre for mentally and physically handicapped children and adults – and the Slovenian BeBee campaign, which supports the habitat of declining bee colonies.




The Challenge included the construction of a 30sqm beehive in the Care Centre’s grounds, renovating a greenhouse and landscaping the centre’s garden. To make learning about beekeeping easy for people with disabilities, the Beekeeper’s Association of Slovenia and the Care Centre Draga have created an easy-to-read textbook on the subject.

Expanding horizons
Valerija Buzan, director of CUDV Draga, believes that the “IMEX Challenge will help mentally and physically disabled children and adults to expand their horizons and learn new activities”.

Anton Tomec of the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association agreed, adding, that “by keeping bees and protecting the environment, protégés of CUDV will gain self-confidence and creatively integrate into society. Beekeeping will not only present a form of self-confirmation, but a way of life for these children and adults.”

The value of the IMEX Challenge to Slovenia cannot be measured simply in economic terms, nor even on the basis of services or time devoted nor in the number of supporters. The significance of the project lies in the knowledge and skills acquired by the residents of the Care Centre Draga, which will enable them to engage in new activities, prepare new products and possibly also generate an income. Therefore, the legacy of IMEX Challenge will last well beyond the July event.



“We were considering where to go with the next IMEX Challenge," explains IMEX Group Consultant Jon Bradshaw.    "It was the enthusiasm, passion and creativity with the bees and the Draga Centre that made us decide on Slovenia. At the end of the day, it’s not just about writing a cheque, but also about using people's time to do something for others and leaving a legacy – an impression for many years."

Bradshaw's IMEX colleague, Faye Bennett, who also took part in the Challenge, adds: “The Slovene have put this fantastic programme together and just from spending time with the other volunteers over three days I could tell that everyone has been overwhelmed by the work that is done here. Everyone agreed on this being the most wonderful decision that we have made.”

Timo Heinaro of Fincentive House in Finland, one of the volunteers taking part in the event, says of his experience: "When I got the invitation from the Slovenian Convention Bureau, it immediately struck me that there were so many aspects that made this something I definitely wanted to volunteer for and contribute to. We have been making friends with the residents and the staff here in the Draga Centre and it has been an amazing experience for everyone. With this amount of people we are truly capable of doing something good.”

Equally enthusiastic about this year's IMEX Challenge is James Rees of ExCeL London and chair of ICCA's UK & Ireland Chapter. “I do support friends in projects, but have never physically come and given my time to a project like this. I felt that I had to play my part too, with the support of my company and ICCA. We had the chance to do things like plant trees, paint and create the behives at the Daraga Centre. When we can come back in five years time we can say: ‘I helped create this.' Of course, the staff here do all the hard work, we just did a little bit, but just to feel that we were able to do something to help was amazing.”

Summinig up the feeling of those that took part and the impact this will have for Slovenia, the Slovenian Convention Bureau's Miha Kovacic says: "Despite the financial and economic crisis, this was an example of the successful integration of various industries and organisations, both international and domestic, all with the aim of undertaking a socially responsible act. The official partners, in conjunction with the Slovenian Beekeepers’ Association and the Draga Centre, have created a meaningful project, the effects of which will be felt long after June 2012.”




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