Volunteering – learning new skills, strengthening communities

Caremark Ltd

Volunteering. It’s not a new concept, is it?

But how many organisations incorporate an employer supported volunteering policy into their company structure and what benefits will this bring, aside from the positives reaped by the recipients?

Caremark Limited is one company who believe this activity offers multiple rewards and not just to those on the receiving end, but more importantly to their employees.

Shweta Mahendru, Caremark’s HR & Project Manager who recently formulated their Employer Supported Volunteering Policy is delighted to see that two of the senior management team are already getting out there and doing positive things.

“Volunteering is such a good activity because aside from the contribution given to our communities, it also gives employees a chance to have new experiences, and this in itself brings many benefits, e.g., a broader view of life, greater self-confidence and a willingness to be open to other people.

“Plus, if it helps someone to de-stress by focussing on something new and interesting, it will also help their performance when they return to work.”

David Glover, Caremark’s joint CEO commented: “Volunteering is a fantastic way for a person to develop new skills, support their own wellbeing and personal development, as well as get valuable insight into our local communities.

“What the person learns then comes back into the workplace. Ultimately this helps all of us to develop a better understanding of other people and their cultures within our towns and villages that previously we may have had little knowledge of.

“Plus, voluntary work helps us as a homecare provider embed ourselves more fully into our local community. If from this we gain better insight and a clearer understanding of our community, we are then in a stronger position to deliver the kind of service our clients need.”

Last month Caremark’s Marketing Director, Emma Scholes, took time out of her busy schedule to get involved in the work of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy.

Armed with sturdy gloves and a good pair of shears, Emma joined a group of about 25 other people clearing overgrown vegetation from the towpath in preparation for a sea defence.

This work is part of a long-term project to protect the salt marshes that are home to many species. As the sea is likely to flood the marshes, a sea defence is needed

Parts of the harbour surrounds need regular clearance to minimise invasive plants, brambles, and weeds as all this takes its toll on species struggling to survive.

Emma said: “It was hard work, but I really enjoyed my morning, and I discovered muscles I didn’t know I had!

I also learnt a lot about the diversity of life in this part of Chichester harbour. Knowing that my small contribution is having a positive impact on the wildlife in the area is such a good feeling.

“It was also great to meet and chat with a group of older people and learn more about them as individuals.”

Under Caremark’s new company policy, employees may take five days paid leave per year for any approved volunteering activity. This can be used flexibly, either one day at a time or even half a day.

In addition, volunteering opportunities do not necessarily need to be related to an employee’s current role or skills, so there is always the chance to learn something new and enjoy different experiences.

Alternatively, employees may want to put their expertise to use to help those who may not usually have access to specialist skills e.g., sport.

David Glover is a keen cricketer and has just finished another busy season coaching a group of 30 youngsters from ages 5 – 8 years old.

As Junior Manager of Findon Cricket Club and aided by 4 other coaches (one being his son, Matthew) David spends every Saturday from May through to the beginning of September coaching the children.

Now in his 5th year, David has made a significant contribution to helping children learn an exciting sport.

He is also the secretary for West Area Cricket Association which organises junior cricket for all ages across the whole of West Sussex.

“The programme we run for the initial 8 weeks is an English Cricket Board initiate called All Stars,” he said. “However, we always extend the course by a further 8 weeks as the children love it so much!

“We teach the basics of cricket with drills each week on fielding, batting and bowling. Although this all sounds a bit serious, the emphasis is on having fun and the children really enjoy it.

“Then at the end of the season, all the children are invited to our awards where they each receive a small trophy.

“It’s a hectic and tiring 16 weeks but so worthwhile, especially when I see how the children learn, grow in confidence, and develop good skills over those 4 months.

“For me, it’s a great way to unwind from the intensity of my business life and learn new skills. Teaching 30 energetic and excitable children is very different to leading a team of adult professionals!

“From the community point of view, without volunteers offering their time and expertise in this area, many children would not necessarily have the chance to try out cricket.

Given the importance of sport in the mental health and wellbeing of youngsters, I feel this is a really worthwhile activity to be part of.

“It’s also brought families together and helped forge friendships and that’s something you can’t really put a price on.”

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