Getting down and dirty with our employee volunteers

I’m always banging on about the importance of CEOs making a regular appearance at the coalface – seeing their work in action and drawing down from that when they go back to their day job. Such was my unexpected experience recently.

Our Employee Volunteering Co-ordinator was ill and without thinking through the fact that we had an event the next day, the only possible thing to do was send her home to bed. It transpired my diary was the most flexible the next day as I’d blanked it out to write board papers so I ‘volunteered’ to run the day. 

Hence at 5.45am when the alarm went off I donned my hugely unflattering orange TimeBank T-shirt, picked up the bag of kit packed for me by a somewhat wary Co-ordinator (first aid kit, cups, pens, forms, maps, contact details, list of supplies to purchase, water, biscuits, insect repellent etc etc) (thought bubble - *I’m only going to Kingston*………….)

I arrived at Canbury Gardens just on time to meet our volunteers from BMT Group, an organisation which regularly undertakes volunteering opportunities so they were prepared and full of anticipation. Andy from our partner organisation Quadron joined us and gave a briefing on the day – what to expect, what we were doing, why and how, along with health and safety – and how best to use the tools we had.

He then took us to the garden where we would be working. The team from BMT had been lulled into a false sense of security as the park on the river where we met was beautifully kept, and I think they wondered why they were there. But Andy led us to Canbury Community Garden, formerly known as the gardener’s yard.

It was essentially an overgrown plot at the heart of the park where pretty much everything that could have been dumped had been over the years since the hut became dangerous and then left to grow over. Recently discovered and procured from the Council for the community by Marilyn Mason, the space needed clearing before any plans could be made for its use within the community.

The team set about their task straight away and I popped to the supermarket for supplies, water, biscuits, fruit, chocolate etc. to keep everyone going and make sure they stopped for a well-earned break.  

It’s incredible what eight people can achieve in a day - nine if you include my inadequate contribution! The thing is, you can’t just sit around taking pictures and tweeting or hovering next to the First Aid kit in case someone hurts themselves - you simply have to take part and start hacking away at brambles! A huge amount was chopped, cleared, swept and ‘discovered’ – all carefully watched by a series of birds, mostly robins, watching out for worms and bugs to be revealed for lunch! When Marilyn returned later that afternoon she just couldn’t believe what had been unearthed nor the size of the space that had now been created. I’m sure that with only one or two more days like this the community will take over planting and cultivating their very own secret space.

We finished off around 4pm just before the rain started, with a huge sense of achievement, a team enthused by what they had accomplished, and a day enjoyed away from the office with colleagues they don’t always work with. Off I trundled back home – frankly shattered and with new respect for the TimeBank team who run these days throughout the year across London.  

 If you’d like to learn more about Canbury Gardens take a look here: And if you’d like your company to volunteer and make a difference to your community contact Calley on 020 3111 0701 and take a look here.