“It’s all about giving back” – Volunteers’ week shines a light on staff contributions

Published on 06/06/2022

Many L&Q employees volunteer their time to help support our local communities and increase our reach and impact.

Without them, we would not be able to deliver on our mission to provide homes and neighbourhoods that everyone can be proud of.

People choose to volunteer for a variety of reasons. For some it offers the chance to give something back to the community. For others it provides an opportunity to develop new skills or build on existing experience.

Regardless of their motivation, their time and commitment make a huge difference to the lives of many local people.

A great example of this was a volunteering project that took place at Bonner School last September.

Based in Mile End, the primary school puts gardening at the heart of its curriculum – inviting pupils to learn about plant science, natural history and the environment in an oasis of their own.

But when the popular green space needed a spruce up, the school faced a problem – who to turn to for help?

That’s where our volunteering programme came in – with members of the Development team rolling up their sleeves to re-design the garden in two days. Alongside the charity ‘Grow your own playground’, 12 staff transformed the gardening and outdoor learning areas, providing new planted areas for the children for their return to school.

Sarah-Jane Gwynn, a Buyer in our Development and Sales team led the group on the day.

“Within the playground, the school had an area with rotten vegetable beds. What we needed to do was take all of those out, reconfigure them and build more planters”, said Sarah-Jane.

“It was a hands-on job. We scooped up the earth, moved it, took out all the wood and weed barriers then put the garden back together again.

Thanks to the team’s handiwork, the revived area is giving inner city children, many of whom do not have outdoor space at home, experiences that may have been out of reach.

From the chance to pursue an outdoor activity, to a place for learning outside of the classroom – the new and improved space is helping pupils get active, boosting educational attainment and promoting good health and wellbeing.

And the children weren’t the only ones to benefit from the experience.

“The volunteering day was the first face-to-face work activity I took part in post pandemic”, Sarah-Jane said.

“It was great to see colleagues that I hadn’t seen for two years and meet new starters who joined during lockdown too.”

“The lady who runs the volunteering programme writes children’s books about growing vegetables. She knew I had a young granddaughter, so she gave me one of her books and signed it. It was a very sweet gesture.

“I also picked up some great techniques which I’ve used in my garden since moving into my new home recently”, she continued.

The activity was part of L&Q’s volunteering programme, which encourages volunteering amongst staff and aims to empower people in our neighbouring communities to thrive and achieve their potential.

Colleagues are entitled to up to 21 hours volunteering per year, with more than 90 taking part last year.

The programme allows staff to try their hands at activities that differ from their day-to-day work. From working with supply chain partners to source equipment for a local school, to cleaning and greening outdoor areas in Hackney– volunteering hours can be used at a charity of their choice.

Sarah Jane’s volunteering streak continued when she gave a talk at St Mary’s Magdalene School in Greenwich in January. Debunking the myth that construction is just about heavy-lifting and forklift driving, Sarah gave an educational presentation on the lesser-known roles in the industry.

Through the Foundation’s Schools Partnership Programme, we visit schools and colleges to talk about careers in construction and what they involve”, Sarah-Jane said.

By engaging young people at an at an early stage, we have the opportunity to broaden their career horizons and introduce them to the wide range of real jobs and rewarding careers the modern industry has to offer.

“At L&Q, we have a diverse mix of jobs on and off site. In design, planning, place making and project management.

“It’s all about the next generation. We need more women in construction and I’m all for that,” she said.

Sarah-Jane is currently studying for CMI level 3 management, a professional qualification, through One Housing’s Aspiring Managers programme. Delivering a talk helped to hone some of the skills she had gained through the course.

It was like being in a theatre, on centre stage, with everyone looking at you. As well as using slides, I wanted it to be different and engaging, not just students listening to my voice. Mid-flow I would ask questions and get feedback. I took a lot from the experience and it boosted my confidence.”