Volunteering has been part of my life for as long as I can remember (probably starting with the time my mum forced my brothers and I, all small children at the time, to dress up as Goldilocks and the three bears to fundraise for Barnado’s). It’s always been so important to me to use my time and skills to help others, and I’ve made some brilliant friends along the way over the years. I started volunteering with the charity HandsOn London a decade ago, when I was looking for opportunities to give my time that would fit in with my already demanding work and social life. Since then, I’ve spent time with women’s literacy and empowerment charities, prepared meals for families with children in hospital and even rejuvenated the pathways in Dulwich Park. I have also worked on the charity's WrapUp London campaign since its inception in 2011, which has grown to become one of the largest volunteering events in the city and is now a national network across the UK.
Every November, WrapUp London brings together hundreds of volunteers to collect, sort and distribute unwanted warm winter coats donated directly from the public to charities and community projects supporting people who are homeless, escaping domestic violence, refugees or living in poverty. When someone receives a coat from WrapUp London, it can also be the first step to accessing many other services that the charity or community project provides - it can do much more than keep them warm. Since 2011, WrapUp London has collected and delivered over 175,000 warm winter coats.
We launch the WrapUp season by collecting coats at London underground stations - members of the public can drop them off on their morning commute. This year, two of my colleagues and I volunteered bright and early at Victoria station to help spread the word about the campaign and sort and organise the coats that were donated. I didn't much enjoy getting up at 5am, but I loved seeing the fantastic community spirit of everyone who donated a coat, wanted to hear more about the campaign or volunteered their time. WrapUp London has been made possible by the dedication and hard work of volunteers, and it's wonderful to see that's still true now, even in a global pandemic!
Because volunteering is such a significant part of my life, it's important to me to work for a company that recognises that providing paid volunteering leave is a part of employee wellbeing. For me, this is something that Hi embraces and encourages. Because every employee at Hi has 2.5 days of paid volunteering leave each year, my colleagues and I were able to volunteer for WrapUp London together. I really enjoyed being able to share my passion for the campaign with the people I work with, and I think my colleagues saw another side of my personality too. I really appreciate that Hi is so supportive of my commitment to volunteering - even our CEO came down to Victoria station to donate a coat himself!
I haven't used all of my of volunteering leave for this year yet, so I'm going to help out with the next stage of WrapUp London, sorting and organising the donated coats before they are distributed to their final destinations at charities and community groups across London. For me, the Christmas season can't start until we've Wrapped Up London!
You can still donate a coat to the WrapUp London campaign until 28th November 2021. Find your nearest drop off point at the website: WrapUp London | HandsOn London.
To find a WrapUp campaign outside of London, have a look here: Help Us Wrap Up. Coats you no longer need can make a real difference (wrapupuk.org)