By Darren Eccleston
Today is not going to be a typical Friday. Instead of going to work, a group of my colleagues and I are going to be spending the day volunteering at Ysgol Myn-Y-Dol, a little school in Wrexham.
We’re just some of the 500 plus volunteers from companies around Wales that are taking part in Business in the Community’s Give & Gain campaign for 2011 – the national day of employee volunteering.
I’ve been looking forward to today for quite some time. There is something good about stepping out of your day to day role to do something that has an instant impact on the community.
But for me, today is extra special. Coincidentally, Ysgol Myn-y-Dol is where my four-and-half-year-old son, Ellis, goes to school!
The school itself is an eco-school, and the pupils have worked very hard over the years to achieve their ‘green flag’ status. But they are in risk of losing their flag if they don’t do further work to develop their grounds.
With the school struggling to find funds and resources to get things done, Business in the Community stepped in to help out and called on local businesses for their support.
There is a massive amount of work to be done that will require a lot of hard work. We’re planning on creating a covered sandpit for the kids to use all year round, some raised beds for a veggie patch, building a picnic area, installing bike racks and bins, painting the toilets and even creating something called a ‘minibeast area’ (not sure what that is precisely, but we’ll work it out!). All in all, the kids’ wish-list is pretty long and we don’t want to disappoint!
The lovely local coordinator from BITC, Paula, roped in some extra help for us and has gathered a colourful (perhaps motley is more accurate!) bunch of more than 40 volunteers from other businesses in the area. Truth be told, it makes a nice change to work together with so many other companies and makes things a true team effort.
It’s also good to see the project engaging some of the other parents at the school.
One mum who is a local artist is coming in today to paint a mural of a dragon in the playground. Just wait until the kids see that!
I think I’m pretty lucky that I get to do this as part of my job. Each year, my company, Wates Living Space, gives employees like me the opportunity to swap their day-to-day working lives with a day in the community.
We’re doing three volunteering project in North Wales and around 100 just like this across the UK. I’m told that this equals something like 13,000 man-hours of volunteering time. There’s no doubt that it will make a visible difference in communities around the country. It feels good to know that I work for an organisation that provides much more than just bricks and mortar to the communities we work in.
For me, the best part of a day volunteering is at the end of the day when you see the reaction of the people who will benefit from what you have achieved. It’s a real ‘DIY SOS’ moment which you can’t really explain but gives you this huge sense of satisfaction and makes the hard work all worthwhile.
Now, we just have to pray for the sun to keep shining so we can get the job done. We want to see those smiles on Ellis and his classmates’ faces! Wish us luck!
For more information about volunteering with Business in the Community visit www.bitc.org.uk/giveandgainday.
- Darren Eccleston is Framework Manager for affordable housing contractor, Wates Living Space, and is taking part in Business in the Community’s Give & Gain campaign on Friday 24 June 2011.