Lock DOWN, Team Spirit UP

 In Community, News

For Team Challenge, June usually marks the start of a busy summer period with practical volunteering being at the forefront. When the sun comes out, corporate teams get ready for a day of volunteering at east London’s city farms, parks, food banks, adventure playgrounds and community centers.

The support provided is crucial for our community partners; big maintenance jobs are completed, awareness around the east London community is strengthened and community partners receive much needed donations to have the means to complete jobs that need to be done throughout the year.

This year, undoubtedly, our summer season is different. Due to Covid-19, ELBA’s Challenge team were pulled into their own “Team Challenge” – the key challenge being how to best utilise corporate volunteers to help community partners who usually receive practical volunteering support. The team adapted quickly to the situation and created several volunteering opportunities to keep corporate volunteers engaged in new ways and let them rise up to the remote challenge.

The start of the lockdown period was marked by panic buying and a decrease in donations to food banks. To keep our community fed, we introduced the Virtual Food Drive, where we have raised £9,000 collectively (with volunteer support) for food services and food banks in east London. The Challenge team came up with creative fundraising idea’s like pub quizzes which helped us raise these funds together with companies like Mazars, Accenture, NatWest and RSA. Lloyd’s utilised their catering team to make meals and donate food to vulnerable families. The Magpie Project, who received Lloyd’s donations said:

“We love the connections you bring us ELBA. This food was sensational and you could tell it had been made with care and concern, not cobbled together.”

Lockdown has also had a massive impact on people’s mental health. Not being able to see friends and family has increased feelings of loneliness and isolation for many amongst us. This feeling has been toughest for older people who are facing stricter lockdown regulations. To keep older people engaged with the community, we have introduced a befriending call opportunity in which volunteers chat with older people. These calls have been an amazing foundation in which new connections are established and all matters of topics are discussed and information exchanged: from food recipes, to films, music and London’s history.

The team have also catered for older members suffering from health issues like Alzheimer and dementia. Volunteers have taken on the opportunity to write a letter to one of the 90 members of the Forget Me Not Project. The letters are included in a care package sent out weekly to each of its members during Covid-19. One volunteer described the letter writing workshop that ELBA hosts to facilitate this as:

“horribly wholesome. Really enjoyed myself. Hope the eventual recipient of my letter can say the same…”.

Other ways corporate volunteers have stayed connected with our community partners is through donating arts and crafts packs to families with children, donating gifts for older people in isolation, making snug handwarmers (Twiddle Muff’s) for people with dementia and even by getting green fingers by participating in a sustainable food growing webinar hosted by Core Landscapes.

We want to thank all our volunteers and companies for the amazing turnaround and for being receptive to the needs of the community. They have proven that you do not have to be physically present to build a sense of community and give back in times when support is needed most. Even though we hope that things will go back to normal soon, the strong community spirit is something we are planning to hold UP, even if in lockDOWN!

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