The incredible difference that 300 CEB volunteers made over one day in London

This time last week it was a beautiful sunny Friday – the sort of day when you really wish you didn’t have to sit in an office all day. How fortuitous then that it was the CEB Global Impact Day and TimeBank had set up six volunteering opportunities for 300 of their staff across London. 

As Chief Executive you usually get the best jobs and seemingly I had – my role was to visit all the projects – well actually five of them as when the team had worked out the logistics I could only get round five in time (you have to remember we are a charity and CEO or not I don’t have a chauffeur driven car to take me round the place!)

The morning hadn’t started well when I realised just HOW orange our T shirts were and how visible I’d be for miles around, never mind on my epic tube and train trip across London. But as it was a beautiful day there was no excuse to put a jumper over it so I just held my head high and headed off.

First stop was Selby Trust in White Hart Lane. It was a pretty easy journey from my house and I was there in time to hear the volunteers briefed and start off their jobs for the day. The Selby Trust was set up by local people who transformed former school premises into a thriving community centre and the volunteers were soon busy creating a food growing garden, building raised beds and painting rooms and car parking bays.

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I then headed down to Kings Cross by the canal to an amazing project where volunteers had already made a huge difference, painting, clearing, digging and cutting. They had even discovered a 'bug hotel' for which they prepared new bedding.

The idea that slap bang in the middle of central London we are cultivating our ecosystems and ensuring biodiversity for future generations is incredible – it’s just off Caledonian road and I must have driven past it a gazillion times over the years. How fantastic it is to have your eyes opened to London.

Now though it was time for me to continue on my trek, this time to Canning Town where local MP Lyn Brown was due to visit and thank our volunteers. We also had the local press coming so it was important I made it on time.

By the time I reached the Core Landscapes project just after midday the CEB volunteers had achieved a huge amount – indeed, Nemone Mercer, the horticultural nursery manager there, said she was astounded how much they had done and hadn’t expected that much from the whole day – wheel barrows were coming across an exceptionally busy road to cover wasteland with soil to set the temporary garden on.

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Lyn duly arrived, not only with her assistant but also her dog which revelled in the attention of the photographer, volunteers and of course me. It’s so good to see a local MP care about her community and want to help and she really showed an interest in the project, the volunteers and TimeBank.

Grabbing a sandwich en route, my tour of London took me next to Southwark Park where our 50 CEB volunteers were making nesting rafts to float in the pond where the other half of the team had donned waders and cleared and rebuilt the bank earlier in the day. It’s a fantastic setting and dependent on volunteers to help make it such a great space for the public.

Tempted though I was by the ice cream van parked nearby I knew there was one more site to visit so off I went to Peckham. Here the volunteers had completely revitalised a community space, rebuilt sheds, painted walls, planted vegetables and transformed it so much I thought the local organiser might cry!

They’d just finished when I arrived and covered in paint and soil were gathering their things to head off to CEB’s thank you bash at the Oval. There was such as buzz around the place and it was amazing to see how excited they were by their achievements.  

Finally I headed off to our very own TimeBank bash at Kings Cross to thank the project co-ordinators and hear how things had gone in South Park in Fulham, the one project I didn’t get to. However our Chair Andree Deane Barron had visited, welcomed local MP Greg Hands and helped volunteers to spread manure - I think I won out by missing that one!

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I don’t often have the opportunity to visit our projects in action and I certainly don’t often get to visit five. I was hugely inspired to be reminded of the incredible difference that 300 people can make in one day across London.

So thank you to CEB, thank you to our community partners and thank you of course to the TimeBank team who made it happen and who all wore their orange T shirts on the day too – I think our table was quite visible in the pub!