When you move to a new city, one of the first things (if not the first thing) you think about is securing a job. That is, of course, if the job wasn’t the primary impetus for the move. But once a job is out of the way, and a semblance of a ‘normal’ life takes hold, you start to feel comfortable: you have your coffee shop, your usual supermarket, your local pub, your commute to the office sussed out, and suddenly a life emerges in this now not-so-foreign place. However, if you’re anything like me, you might also begin to feel like you want to connect to your community on a deeper level. You might have a daily routine but you feel you should give back and get involved.
Volunteering, however, isn’t always an option for a full-time employee as the hours and help needed often require someone on shift work or someone with flexible working schemes. When you’re working Monday-Friday 9:00-5:30 PM, as I do, your schedule can limit viable volunteering options. But sometimes you get lucky and realise you have an employer that not only accepts volunteering and social corporate responsibility, but also one that promotes and celebrates it. This is the story of how I found the impressive educational program Team Up, and how my manager handled my request to volunteer.
Soon after moving to London from Toronto, Canada, I secured a marketing position with Chadwick Nott. About 7 months after working alongside this great team, I had the itch to immerse myself more fully into my East London community. Hours were spent scouring the internet for volunteering options, and suddenly I came across Team Up. Team Up is a social venture charity who trains volunteers to tutor children in either English or Maths from low income backgrounds in order to help them reach their academic potential. With an educational background in English Literature this seemed like a great opportunity for me to pursue. And better yet—they ran a programme on Saturdays, which meant it wouldn’t disrupt my work week.
After submitting an application, attending an interview and going through a DBS check, I was accepted into the tutoring programme for Saturday mornings. Or so I thought. Unforeseen circumstances resulted in the school no longer running the programme on Saturdays, and instead they were now going to offer it on Tuesday afternoons. My heart sank: this would mean that I’d have to leave work early in order to volunteer. Immediately I assumed that I wouldn’t be able to participate. Thankfully, a chat with a close colleague resulted in me having the nerve to approach my managers with the proposal. Could I leave work early one day a week to participate for the duration of the programme, and make up the time missed? Low and behold, they said yes!
Since then, I have been partnered up with a group of four 11-12 year-old-girls. Each week I leave work a little early and meet them at the school to review English topics necessary for comprehension. This includes lessons on structuring your writing, using adjectives properly, as well as how to write metaphors and similes. I’ve also tasked these girls with memorising the spelling and definition of a ‘word of the week’ to boost vocabulary. If they remember the word the following week, and spell it correctly, they receive a starburst sweet as a prize. With words such as ‘sagacious’ and ‘mercurial’ I’m impressed—and proud—that sweets are being handed out every session! I certainly didn’t know the definition of sagacious at that age. And although we’re only halfway through the term, this programme has already proved hugely rewarding. It’s amazing to see these young minds work and grow week after week.
But above all else, I’m incredibly grateful to Chadwick Nott for supporting my participation in this volunteering programme. Leaving work a couple hours early on Tuesdays means I might miss the odd meeting or phone call, but my team know that regardless I’ll make up the work. In turn, I think they actually end up getting more out of me as I appreciate this flexibility—which I’ve also seen reflected in my colleagues who work part-time and/or flexibly at our different offices.
Flexible working takes different shapes for different people (I don’t have kids so don’t ever need to leave early for the school run, for instance), and Chadwick Nott knows and supports that. It’s one thing to say you support flexible working, but it’s another thing entirely to walk the walk and follow through.