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Today we celebrate Volunteers’ Week, which runs from June 1st – June 7th, and provides us with the opportunity to thank volunteers across the globe for the contribution they make to our communities.

As part of our new corporate social responsibility strategy, K2 employees can now request charitable paid leave (up to 2 days per annum) to take part in registered charity work. In support of this, we wanted to spotlight some of our employees who are actively involved with charity work, helping to positively benefit their local communities through volunteering.

Below, you will hear inspiring stories from three K2 employees who regularly contribute their time to help those most in need.

Vanessa Romao – K2 Client Services Team Lead, Brazil

Vanessa is part of a local charity, Tartarugas do Bem in Sao Palo, who spend their time bringing hope and light to children undergoing cancer treatment in hospital. Set-up in 2018, the founders initially had one goal in mind, to find a bone marrow donor for a 4 year-old boy in the city. Although the wish unfortunately remained ungranted, the idea for a charity was discussed – hence the birth of the Tartarugas do Bem project. In English, the charity translates to Turtles of Good, named after the boy’s favourite cartoon, the Mutant Turtles.

Both Vanessa and her fiancée are part of this wonderful charity, taking time each month to meet with different children in hospital, promoting the experience of joy and laughter. Speaking of the charity, Vanessa said:

“It is such a joy to visit the children. We wear bright doctor-style coats with pictures of turtles on the front and back. We bring toys for them to play with, read them stories or sing songs. The children love sharing their own stories with us, and are so upbeat and positive despite fighting off these terrible illnesses. We often end up providing support and a listening ear to the parents who are there too. Watching their child have fun and laugh again brings a parent so much joy.”

Vanessa explained further that it was through the support of other team members, that these highly emotional sessions were made possible.

“The support there is wonderful. We have meetings before and after each visit, where we all take a moment to hold hands and assess the energy of the group, providing grounding wherever it is needed. It’s a really humbling experience and it makes you so grateful for your own health. The charity also offers additional courses which you can go on, like story-telling for children, so volunteers are given every opportunity to learn and grow.” 

Sarah Coles – K2 Global Account Director, UK

As a volunteer at Ealing Abbey Counselling Services, Sarah works as part of a team who offer unpaid psychotherapeutic counselling to those struggling with their mental health. Initially set-up in 1994 with seven founder members, the charity has grown into one of the largest voluntary sector counselling and psychotherapy providers in London, with 85 practitioners now offering support to around 160 clients.

Sarah has been part of the charity for the past three years, taking on three sessions a week, and had racked up nearly 300 hours of counselling to date. Sarah talks us through her journey with the charity, and how she first got involved with volunteering.

“During my University course, we needed to gain experience in counselling both individuals and groups.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed and accepted to join the team at Ealing Abbey as my second counselling placement. I found the charity to be so organised and efficient, and absolutely loved my time there, so even now that the course is finished, I’m still volunteering three years later. The support systems they have in place for their volunteers is fantastic, with regular supervision sessions to assess how you’re coping, along with a hotline to phone if we’re ever uneasy about a situation and need some guidance.” 

When speaking of her motivations behind counselling and any advice she’d give to others looking to volunteer, Sarah stated:

“I really enjoy forming connections and helping people – one of the reasons I’ve been in relocation services for my entire career! We get given long-term placements, lasting up to a year, which means you get to build deep and meaningful relationships with your clients. You also get to see the impact that you have on someone’s wellbeing, which can be pretty significant. At times, it can be challenging and clients regularly come with complex presenting issues, which can be impactful.  Self-care is really important, constantly monitoring how you are feeling and finding ways to ground yourself. I find practices like meditation and yoga particularly useful, as they help to keep you in-tune with your body and mind. For anyone who is interested, I’d definitely recommend spending some time volunteering as the lasting impact this can have on someone is incredible.  You don’t need to be a qualified Counsellor to provide voluntary support with organisations such as Mind and The Samaritans, who provide training.”
Angela Kelly-Bray – K2 Relocation Manager, UK

Angela is a key member of the Read Easy team in Ealing, a charity which is dedicated to helping adults in the UK learn to read. The national charity provide free one-to-one reading coaching for adults from trained volunteers, through local volunteer groups. The readers and coaches meet twice a week, usually at approved venues, to run through a structured phonetic-style reading programme.

In her volunteering role, Angela forms part of the management team and takes the title of Venue Organiser. This means sourcing appropriate venues for the readers to undergo their coaching, and ensuring enough safeguarding measures are in place to protect both the volunteer and the reader. When talking about motivations behind the charity, Angela comments:

“You’d be surprised at the number of adults in the UK who are not able to read. In a recent study, it was found that there are 2.4 million adults in England alone who can barely read or cannot read at all! The Read Easy charity is so important, as it allows readers confidential and free reading support. There is no time limit for these readers either, they can simply learn at a pace which is comfortable for them. We have a team of co-ordinators who match the reader and the coach, to ensure that both get the most out of the experience.”

Angela continued to tell us a little more about the organisation, and one of the readers who recently got their name into the spotlight.

“Our particular branch (Ealing) has only been open for a year, but there are volunteer support groups all over the country, covering different boroughs. We were lucky to recently have quite a lot of attention in the media, as one of our readers, Jay Blades (BBC’s Repair Shop presenter) created a documentary around his journey to learn to read with support from a Read Easy Reading coach. Volunteering can be time consuming, as I’m often nipping out at lunch breaks or after work to take a look at a venue, but when you see the kind of impact that this is having on someone’s life, it makes it all worth it.” 

Learn more about K2’s corporate social responsibility strategy. If you’ve been actively involved with a volunteering project and would like to share your story, please get involved with our Twitter and LinkedIn conversations.

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