At Halebury, working in an industry that contributes towards 1.6% of GDP, we truly believe we have an active part to play in in paying it forward. Last Christmas, we wanted to support our chosen charity, Providence Row, with more than just a financial donation. We donated with something which, as a rapidly growing business, is almost as precious: our time.
Our management team and some of our lawyers made the brave move of stepping away (gasp!) from the day-to-day to become corporate volunteers at Providence Row’s centre in Aldgate.
A bit about the work of the charity: Providence Row work with more than a thousand homeless and vulnerably housed people a year in east London, offering an integrated service of crisis support, advice, recovery and learning and training programmes. They provide a resource centre for people who are rough sleeping with food, showers and access to IT, advice and support for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness; recovery and progression for people whose mental health and substance misuse issues affect their ability to find and stay in accommodation and trainee schemes to help those with complex needs to move into regular learning, volunteering or work. The CHAIN Street to Home Annual Report 2013/2014 states that 6508 people were sleeping rough on London’s streets during that year – the support Providence Row and similar charities provide continues to be absolutely vital.
Onto the day itself: Team Halebury’s mission was to prepare and serve a delicious lunch to the centre’s clients. Head chef Marco was more than sporting about giving up control of his kitchen to six chaotic amateur chefs and miraculously, within two hours, we had between us managed to create a varied menu for 40 clients, which we then served. Afterwards we got the chance to sample what we had created (surprisingly edible) and sit with the clients and workers at Providence Row.
CSR often focuses on what is done by the corporates to help the chosen charity, but what is understated is what you get from this experience as a corporate volunteer. Providence Row provided us with a unique team bonding experience which you can’t put a price on. Thrown into a totally different environment and working under a different kind of pressure, we had to muck in and work together in a way we would not do in normal corporate life. We got to see each other as individuals, rather than work colleagues, which is always a great reminder that although we all have work in common, we have different likes and interests and get along outside the office as well. Working on something so different, getting to meet new people and understand their challenges and how the charity supports on that, gave us a fresh perspective and created a huge amount of positive energy. In three hours, not one of us looked at out phones, and do you know what? The world did not end and the business was still going strong when we finished our stint. The technology cleanse alone was worth its weight in gold.
The benefits of corporate support for charities are clear. Donating resources, be that money or time, are a great way to support. But there are also tangible business benefits in doing something as a team which leads to a new energy and inspires creativity. We all have a part to play in paying it forward. However large or small your company, look into what you can do.
For more information on Providence Row, you can view their website on www.providencerow.org.uk or contact Stephanie Harvey, Fundraising Manager, about what you or your company can do to support.