Celebrating National Volunteering Week at Brands2Life, UK

This week is National Volunteering Week in the UK, so to mark this we’ve provided a round-up of some of the great volunteering work some of our team members have been up to recently.

A few years ago, we helped support our employees who wanted to volunteer more, by offering everybody a day’s paid leave each year to volunteer with two charities local to London – either Whitechapel Mission or FoodCycle (check out how two of our team members got on at FoodCycle London here!).

Of course, the last 15 months have changed how we can get involved in volunteering, but we adapted our policy so that everyone can volunteer on a flexible basis across the year during working hours. This includes up to two hours per week for a registered charity or to provide help and support informally to those in need in their community.

Here’s a few stories we’ve gathered from across agency:

Millie O’Connor, Senior Account Executive

“I signed up to AGE UK to become a phone call volunteer a year and a half ago. I speak with an elderly person once a week for 30 mins; I signed up because I am incredibly close with my Grandma and the thought of her (in an alternative world) not having my siblings or me to talk to everyday filled me with sadness. The flexibility of the volunteering hours at Brands2Life have helped me to continue this relationship – the AGE UK service hours are 9-530 meaning without our volunteering hours I wouldn’t have been able to develop the friendship I have today.’

Charlie Metcalfe, Account Executive

Up until last May my experience of communications was limited to Brands2Life’s Southwark office. The people I spoke to were senior executives at international firms. The subject matter was enterprise technology. By the end of the year, I had experienced a very different side of communications – from the inside of an abandoned concrete warehouse in Dunkirk. I was speaking to refugees from Kabul, Khartoum, and everywhere in between.

Media coverage of refugees entering Europe had prompted me to volunteer with refugee charity Care4Calais during annual leave. It presented an opportunity to use my skills in an unusual environment – interviewing child refugees for a BBC Newsround project, and writing blogs for the charity website. Communications is crucial to fundraising, with evident results, so it was exciting to be at the centre of the charity’s operations.

Brands2Life’s volunteering policy meant I could continue supporting Care4Calais after my return to the UK. Using knowledge and contacts developed in Dunkirk, I used my copywriting skill to produce content for the website every week.

Rachel Evans, Associate Director

I’d endeavoured to get involved with the MS Society in some way or another for a while. The start of the pandemic aligned with the 3-year anniversary of losing my dad (who’d suffered with Multiple Sclerosis for 30+ years), and was the point I realised I could talk about this experience openly without breaking down. Coincidentally, at the same time I spotted the MS Society was launching its new Befriending Service and Brands2Life allowed us an hour a week to spend volunteering.

I signed up as a volunteer, managed to get through the interview which included sharing my dad’s story (without tears!), and swiftly had a couple of group training sessions in preparation to get started. The commitment thereafter was a weekly call (for 12 consecutive weeks) with someone affected by MS. I was matched with a lovely lady who was an MS sufferer herself, a mum of children similar ages to my stepsons, fellow TV lover, and relatively local (though this was all done remotely so proximity wasn’t important). We found lots to talk about over the 12-weeks.

Knowing of the loneliness and social isolation that affects three in five people with MS, I was concerned about the additional impact the pandemic may have on those already struggling. This new Befriending Service was a direct response to this – at a time when local face-to-face MS support groups couldn’t meet – and a great way to channel my personal experience into something positive.

Kate Smith, Practice Director

I was on maternity leave when the Pandemic hit, and joined a local volunteer group which collected and delivered prescriptions and urgent food requests to local (often eldery) people who were isolating or shielding. This community grew hugely by word of mouth and although we’re coming out of lock down, there’s still many requests for help, which I have the flexibility to carry out during working hours if needed. This included visiting and cooking meals for ‘Derek’ who felt incredibly isolated and lonely during the series of lockdowns.

I’ve also been able to join Zoom meetings to support another charity – Keeping Families Together in Wandsworth – during the working day where necessary. I’ve been helping the team develop marketing materials and web copy to help explain and promote the great work the charity does to help keep children in schools and support families whose children have been excluded to get them back into education.

Amy Denham, Senior Account Executive

Every Monday at 6pm, I shut my laptop on work and boot up Zoom. The call connects me to my 9-year-old mentee for an hour of talking, listening and learning. She has unbound enthusiasm for everything we discuss during that time, from maths homework to personal development tasks and even the Egyptian Gods and Aesop’s Fables. Last week, she proudly presented a slide deck she’d pulled together on animals and their habitats, completely of her own accord.

I met my mentee through my volunteering work at the Baytree Centre, a social inclusion charity for women and girls living in Brixton. I started volunteering there because of my interests at university: back in the day, I wrote a lot about structural barriers to women’s and girls’ empowerment. Through my role at Baytree, I’ve come to understand that positive change in practice takes time and investment. Helping my mentee to feel supported, safe and live a successful, healthy life isn’t something that can be done through a short-term programme. We’ve been meeting weekly for over a year now, and I really value the time we get to spend together, and I think she does too. I’m looking forward to supporting her growth over the years to come.