The first in a series of staff volunteering projects took place last Wednesday and Thursday at ‘The Base’ in Ward End Park. Staff and student throughout the University left their computers, books and offices behind and instead swapped them for shovels, spades, rakes and hammers and got stuck in with gusto!
‘The Base’ is a centre for ‘at risk’ 13 – 16 year olds and is part of the Youth Inclusion Program which seeks to reduce offending, truancy and exclusion in disadvantaged neighbourhoods by targeting this age group.
The Staff Volunteering Scheme (set up by former HR Director Keith Thomas) worked with CSV Environment on this project. I was one of the people who volunteered to take part. Our objective was to transform the outside of the centre from unkempt borders to ones that were brimming with trees and shrubs, to plant a hedge that will eventually disguise ugly fencing, to install benches to create a picnic area to encourage social interaction, and to hide the storage containers by erecting trellis fencing. It was our goal to make ‘The Base’ a more visually appealing place to be!
I took part on the second day of volunteering and over the course of the two days the team did a sterling job of transforming the site. Many of us learnt new skills such as planting trees and preparing soil and we were given many tips by the CSV team. We also got to sample a scrummy lunch, prepared by another CSV Environment project, Concrete to Coriander.
‘The Base’ staff and young people were delighted with the results and everyone involved expressed how much they had enjoyed themselves. It was great to spend a working day doing something totally different and to feel like you have made a real impact for a community. Everyone also agreed that a big part of what they enjoyed was meeting colleagues from other Schools and departments for the first time and getting to know people that they would otherwise possibly not get to meet.
CSV Environment who hosted the event, providing all the tools and training needed, will be working with us to offer three more environment challenges in 2010 so keep reading Aspects for information on these nearer the time. Alternative staff volunteering opportunities include helping primary school children improve their reading skills.
All staff can get involved with the Staff Volunteering Scheme. The Scheme entitles staff (with line manager approval) to the equivalent of two days paid volunteering leaveand will match your commitment in annual leave for up to two additional days. You may find it possible to use flexitime to fit this volunteer opportunity around work commitments. For further information or to sign up to the scheme please contact Chantal De-Silva, Staff Volunteering Coordinator on ext 4604.
A big thank you and well done goes to everyone involved with ‘The Base’ volunteering project!
Words by Louise Russell