If there’s one thing that this world excels in – it’s catastrophe. Natural disasters, famine, war – there’s a reason why many of us chose to look away, discouraged by a perception that there is little we can do in response to a tragedy without end. We can, however, look to our own lives for evidence of where disaster creates profound opportunities for good – when hope intersects with agency and we can find in ourselves the will to act.
Make no mistake, such action is not without hardship or trial. But just as the world excels in catastrophe, the human spirit has an innate passion to build – using recovery as a means to strengthen all that is good about our planet and those who dwell within.
This is true – and remains so through the work of people like Britnie Turner, the entrepreneur and humanitarian leading Aerial, Aerial Recovery, and other enterprises synergized for the betterment of communities who need it most.
“There is more than enough need and there are more than enough resources,” Turner says. “All we have to do is show people how they can truly and sustainably help now and long term.”
In her 34 years, few have amassed resources like Turner – who started her entrepreneurial journey in real estate development while living in her car. She revitalized areas that were abandoned, abused or forgotten restoring them to be places of opportunity, community and connection. Her approach to entrepreneurship was to focus on solving the needs of the world but starting in her own backyard.
But it’s not just a matter of means. More importantly, agency and hope can only be activated where there is the will to act. “I’ve transformed every asset that I own,” Turner says, “into a space for people to find their passion, understand why it matters, activate their purpose and stop living a life of escapism.”
What does it look like to trade escapism for purpose? It can start in our own backyards.
On the morning of March 3rd, 2020, Turner’s native Nashville, Tennessee, was hit by a EF-3 tornado. With 165 mph peak winds and a path stretching 60 miles, the damage to the Music City was not just historic, it was devastating. But in the tornado’s wake, a mission field was left. Aerial Recovery Group, Turner’s humanitarian organization, answered the call. Rallying funds and volunteers from throughout the community – the organization helped to empower Nashville’s rebuilding.
Hurricane Laura – hitting Louisiana the following summer – would offer another opportunity for Turner to bring some good to a bad situation. The most severe hurricane that the state has ever recorded – rebuilding meant going into the community, finding those in need, and offering help one household at a time.
Prior to these missions in the United States, Aerial Recovery had facilitated and empowered long-term recovery efforts in the British Virgin Islands following a slew of natural disasters in 2017, as well as providing emergency relief in the Bahamas in response to the landfall of Hurricane Dorian in 2019. So in 2021 when Haiti was rocked by a 7.2 earthquake leaving immense need – the Aerial team had the experience and resources in the Caribbean to deploy its first responders landing in the country within 36 hours of the initial quake.
“When I first went to Haiti in 2016, I had a powerful realization of how to truly help in times of crisis. I saw that there’s more than enough need – and at the same time more than enough people willing to serve. The gap was people didn’t understand how to help in a meaningful or sustainable way that truly results in elevating the nation. One of our major focuses is working to organize those that want to help and the projects and people needing help so we can build that bridge and the nation can actually move forward.”
Giving people the education and resources they need to serve has been fundamental to Turner’s philanthropy. Aerial Recovery launched its Heal the Heroes initiative in 2021 and with the purpose of providing military veterans with the opportunity to gain the healing they’ve been searching for during their transition from a military career to civilian life. Heading this transformative 1 year program is Jeremy Locke, Turner’s husband. A veteran of the Special Forces, Locke and his team find new purpose in humanitarian relief and helping other veterans do the same.
When war came to Ukraine last spring, Turner and the team at Aerial found themselves in a unique position to lend humanitarian support in rescuing and safeguarding orphans and civilians caught in the thick of war torn areas of Ukraine.
“We’ve conducted these missions and have helped with the safe passage of people out of these really terrifying and horrible situations,” Turner reports. “We’ve been there since the end of February – and we’re still here.”
Almost 7 million people have become refugees due to this conflict to date. Among these were orphans that were stuck near the front lines. Safe, precise, and regulated rescue of orphaned children has become a top priority for the Aerial Recovery team.
To facilitate this work and ensure child safety, Aerial has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Social and Military Administration of Ukraine – and their team is applying the Special Forces principles of force multiplication: training Ukrainian partners in the region to execute these critically necessary relief and rescue missions.
“Wherever humans are hurting,” Turner says, “we want to be helping, especially if we believe in the cause.” For the entrepreneur and humanitarian – there is not a crisis too dangerous or seemingly unfixable that her team will turn down an opportunity to lead with good in the wake of a bad situation.
“We have a team of amazing, passionate people,” Turners says, “who care about doing something about the suffering they’re seeing. Aerial allows us to work together to fuel these amazing hearts with resources and practices to make sure they have what they need to make the difference now and long term.”
One thing is true – bad situations come often. Thanks to the work of entrepreneurs like Britnie Turner, good will always fight to win the day.
To learn more about the incredible work that Aerial Recovery is doing around the world, visit their website. For those interested in supporting Ukrainians in a time when it is critically needed, donations to their orphan rescue mission can be given here.