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Volunteering Day – how we use it

As an agency we do a lot of pro-bono work – giving away over 100k worth of consultancy time every year to organisations and individuals whose work we believe in. In recent years that’s included Support SEND Kids, Communities for Nature, Free Periods, the Ginsburg Women’s Health Board and Boat of Hope.

In 2021 we introduced something new for the agency – our Volunteering Day policy which gives every member of the team a day out of the office to spend supporting a cause they care about. What they do, and whether they do it close to home, or in our own neighbourhood here in Clerkenwell is up to them – the variety is part of the point. We want people to choose a charity or organisation that means something to them.

The feedback has been great. So far, everyone who has used their Volunteering Day has come back feeling like they have made a contribution, been given a fresh perspective, or had some fun – sometimes all of the above.

Here’s Helen who recently took time out of the office for a shift at the C4WS Friday Club in Chalk Farm:

C4WS is a charity that supports people without a home. It runs projects in the Borough of Camden – including a winter night shelter and a Friday lunch club. I’ve helped out before at the night shelter – and what’s always stood out to me there is that the organisation is focused on creating a sense of community as much as providing practical services.

Before each winter season, C4WS runs a training session for volunteers. Though it covers everything you would expect by way of routines and health and safety – the training also touches on how volunteers can make sure guests feel welcome and comfortable – encouraging us to think about the day that guests might have had before they arrive at the shelter, the level of stress they could be dealing with – and in this context how it might be best to approach conversation, as well as the kinds of questions to avoid asking. As a volunteer, you’re there to help out with cooking, serving meals or making beds – but as importantly, you’re also there to spend time with the guests, to sit down over dinner or breakfast, and share a chat – for anyone who wants to talk.

I decided to use my agency Volunteering Day at the C4WS Friday Club – as it’s a part of the C4WS’ work I hadn’t had the chance to get involved with before. Just a short walk from Camden Market, the Friday Club is hosted in the Salvation Army’s modern building close to Chalk Farm tube. With its glass frontage, and bright red chairs set around tables to seat two or four – it’s often mistaken for a café or shop by passers by.

Lunch was run by a member of C4WS staff and a trustee of the charity. I joined another new volunteer to serve soup and hot drinks, while a volunteer team from a local company created the magic in the kitchen – whipping up bangers and mash, followed by cheesecake, for 30 or so guests. Just like the night shelter the atmosphere was friendly and warm, with a steady hum of conversation. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to step outside the usual working week, to make connections in my local community and lend a hand to an organisation like C4WS that is making a material difference to people’s lives.

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