Monday, 12 August 2013

Guest Blog Post - Hannah Marsh - What a Difference a Day Makes

I met Hannah Marsh when we were eleven years old and attending a special summer introductory session at our new secondary school, Beaverwood School for Girls. We weren’t in the same form group or anything like that but our paths did cross on occasion. Hannah is one of those rare people that truly appreciates everything she has in life. It is so lovely to read her Facebook statuses or see her Instagram photos as she is always so positive and happy. I can be a but grumpy on occasion so it’s always nice to know there are people out there who enjoy every moment of life and allow their positivity to rub off on you.

Hannah has kindly written a blog post for me to explain all about volunteering for The Princes Trust. I hope you find it as interesting and informative as I did!

What a difference a day makes……

My name is Hannah, and I am happy to have been asked to write an article for a guest blog post about my experience with volunteering with the Princes Trust recently.

To introduce more about how I came to volunteer, I would be keen to give some background into my ‘world of work’ so to speak. I currently work for a company which operates within the Lloyd’s of London insurance market based in the City of London (not to be confused with Lloyd’s TSB Banking Group!). Lloyd’s of London is a brand, in which insurance companies who trade within this market are able to insure very complex, specialist and interesting risks worldwide in what is known as a ‘subscription market’, where market players can share insurance risks to enable business opportunities. I work for one of those market players!

I am aware that ‘insurance’ is often labelled as dull, and I would be lying if I didn’t understand why it is perceived this way, but once people understand more about Lloyd’s of London, ‘dull’ and ‘boring’ are certainly not words that apply most of the time. To put it into a more interesting way of looking at things, Lloyd’s of London insures some pretty awesome stuff, be that by terrorism cover, and kidnap and ransom (yes that involves pirates!), to celebrity smiles and sports athletes body parts! There is always something new and sometimes crazy to insure, and there is also so much history which is the part that fascinates me the most – Lloyd’s even insured the Titanic! On a personal side, I have a lot of family links to Lloyd’s of London, my late Gramps worked his way up as a very respected business man in the market (his best friend at one point was even the Chairman and has his name in writing on the walls!), and my Dad has worked within Lloyd’s for many years too, so it certainly explains a little bit about how I ‘fell’ into it all. If anything, the Lloyd’s building is pretty cool – the Willy Wonka crossed with Doctor Who appearance and the ‘not for the faint hearted’ exterior lifts that are worth a ride in once in your life time, to the top floor. The building is ‘quirky’ to say the least, but the delicious restaurant and oozing history promotes its uniqueness and I just love the outfits worn by the Lloyd’s doorman. Not many people can say they work next to Diagon Alley / Leadenhall Market either (Harry Potter fans will appreciate!).

To further support the exciting side of it all, Lloyd’s are always welcoming special guests and public figures, from David Cameron, to Stephen Fry (that’s just so far in 2013), we recently also had Boris and his bikes making an appearance. Because Lloyd’s of London is such a worldwide acknowledged brand and recognised by many public figures, (the Queen Mother even opened the building many years ago), it means that there is always opportunity to encourage companies trading in this market place to give back to society, by way of Corporate Social Responsibility.

“CSR” is basically where by companies actively involving and encouraging their staff into ‘doing good’ and giving something back to society by supporting charities all over the world, and in local regions. I currently sit within the CSR committee where I work and therefore I am always exposed to opportunities available to help towards making a difference for various projects and initiatives for those less fortunate. Part of the benefits of where I work is that the company really encourage staff to volunteer and give their time as opposed to simply just donating to charity. Throughout the year we are actively organising events and ideas to raise money and support all staff to take part in out of work charity related activities by matching sponsorships. Each member of staff also receives 2 days a year, on top of holiday entitlement, to devote their valuable time to volunteering or taking part in a charity event. To date, whilst working in my current role, I have taking part in Race for Life 5km (2011) to raise money for Cancer Research; the Memory Walk 10miles (2012) to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Society. Both events, which I raised sponsorship for, were matched by the company to double the money donated to my chosen charity, which is fantastic.

Most recently, and the main purpose of this article, I have taken part in running a workshop for The Princes Trust (2013) which is something I thoroughly enjoyed, and experienced for the first time.

To give a brief background, the company I work for each year, have a charity of the year to which we are required to meet a target amount of funds to raise within that period, by organising and running various events and initiatives to involve staff and to raise money for a good cause (in September 2013 we have a ‘Charity Week’ lined up with activities taking place all week in our London office). The Princes Trust for 2013 is our charity of the year, and we are proud to be an active Patron. We are currently therefore informed of various opportunities that we, as patrons, can take part in, to support this brilliant charity which aims to help 50,000 young people a year get their lives back in track. It really is a very interesting and heartwarming cause and having the opportunity to volunteer with young people who are on the Princes Trust ‘team programmes’ is extremely insightful, challenging but exceptionally rewarding. It also makes you really appreciate your own strengths, and potential as well as motivating those young people you volunteer with to work towards their goals.

I recently took part in a 1 day workshop which forms as Week 9 of a 12 week ‘team programme’ organised by the Princes Trust. Young people have to apply to be accepted on these programmes which offer practical support including training, mentoring and financial assistance, which are designed to engage young people and help them move into employment. Week 9 of the programme I took part in was entitled ‘CV and Interview Skills’ and the objective(s) of the day was to empathise to the young people (approx. 10 averaging from 16 – 25), the importance and purpose of a CV, how to write one and then how to prepare, and conduct yourself in an interview environment – which included some really good (and very enjoyable!) role plays! It actually brought back my memories of attending Helen O’Grady’s Drama Academy back in my younger days, and my childhood dreams of wanting to become an actress (far too little confidence for that now unfortunately).

The 1 day workshop was my first experience ‘teaching’ to a group, and although challenging, it was thoroughly enjoyable, and exceptionally rewarding. The young people in the group were a really intelligent bunch, each with their own personalities, and dream jobs (from Vets, to Graphic Designers, to Gallery Curators). It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to meet with them, and leave at the end of the day knowing that they had learnt and experienced at least one new thing. We spent the morning and afternoon with ‘ice breakers’ to encourage the young people to interact with each other, and with us, the volunteers, which were good fun and involved sweets – always a positive. The day involved predominately group activities however for those young people who required more assistance, we took part in one on one sessions to really help get a good basic CV together. It was fascinating to hear of the young people’s dream jobs, their idols, their interests and hobbies, and especially to see them in their final week speaking in front of their friends and family for their ‘graduation’ from the programme. I didn’t ‘love’ being called up on stage unexpectedly to hand out certificates and have professional photos taken with each of the young people (tomato face was unavoidable), however I was touched that after just one day with these young people, they actually remembered me and genuinely seemed to have enjoyed the experience overall, especially now having CV’s to use for job applications and expectations for interviews.

For those who are interested in volunteering, be that with the Princes Trust, or any charity for that matter, it really could not be more attainable. There is rarely anything the internet cannot do these days so I would suggest anyone interested to get online, you’re online now as you’re reading this online blog, and go to your chosen charity for information on volunteering. The Princes Trust volunteering opportunities are all over the place, and so you can always locate availability in your local area. You can volunteer individually or through Corporate Support if you’re work place are looking to become a patron, there really are so many options out there to ‘do your bit’. It really is not only rewarding for the young people you help, no matter what you end up doing. A little really does go a long way and I am proud to have devoted valuable time to at least attempt to help or reignite motivation in someone to strive for their goals and achievement. There are so many famous faces who have benefited from the Princes Trust Team Programme and their support, it really is amazing to see how a charity can make such a difference to someone’s life.

Thank you

My case study has now been published on the Princes Trust website to promote Corporate Volunteering, on behalf of the company I work for who is an active patron.

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