A different Volunteers’ Week for ELBA
By Ashley Rice, Challenge:ELBA Programme Manager
The first week of June is alway a busy week for ELBA: it’s Volunteers’ Week! The annual campaign sees charities and voluntary groups getting together to recognise the contribution that volunteers make to our communities everyday. Volunteers’ Week also coincides with the international campaign World Environment Day (5 June). Over the years, ELBA has engaged with thousands of volunteers across its three programmes of Community, Education and Employment during this week, though 2020 is a little different.
Last year was probably ELBA’s most ambitious celebration of the two campaigns, as ELBA also celebrated its 30th birthday. Team Challenges took place in parks and green spaces across the east London boroughs as ELBA member companies deployed hundreds of volunteers to support environmental causes. In Mile End Park, one hundred volunteers from companies in the Lloyd’s market spent the day building planters and a growing area for local children and families who don’t have access to a garden. The culmination of the event was Tower Hamlets Mayor John Biggs attending to add the first spade of soil to one of the newly built planters.
May and June is also a busy time for ELBA as many of its corporate partners run their own campaigns, such as Citi and their Global Community Day, Morgan Stanley’s Global Volunteering Month, AXA XL’s Global Day of Giving, and Liberty’s Serve With Liberty campaign. Over three weeks, Liberty take part in 12 Team Challenges supporting a variety of causes from completing supermarket sweeps for food banks, to creating safe play areas for children in an adventure playground.
This year, corporate volunteering looks a lot different with Coronavirus meaning that face-to-face volunteering is on hold for the foreseeable future. However, during the Coronavirus crisis, millions of people in the UK have been volunteering in their community and are pledging to continue to do so afterwards. ELBA also noticed the incredible response from its corporate partners wanting to support the east London community as ELBA took its volunteering opportunities online, and these opportunities are continuing through Volunteers’ Week and beyond.
When lockdown ends, it is this outpouring of community spirit that will be essential to rebuilding community organisations that have been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. The parks have been well used, but lacking the people power of corporate volunteers. Food Banks will be serving more people who have lost their jobs due to the virus. Adventure playgrounds have been unmaintained for months and will need preparing for children excited to get out again. This Volunteers’ Week, ELBA wants to celebrate the amazing work that volunteers have and continue to do, whilst thinking about the essential role of volunteers to come.