International Volunteer Day was on Saturday 5 December. What better way to acknowledge it than to share an amazing project that some of our Wellington-based employees have been involved in this year.
COVID-19 has impacted non-profit organisations as much as other businesses, if not more. Volunteering, donations and resources have all taken a hit. But finding ways to help has proven difficult in most areas around the world, with lockdowns and social distancing rules forming barriers to most popular volunteering activities.
Our New Zealand-based employees have been lucky to resume some normal activities in the latter part of this year, including face-to-face volunteering. At Xero, our Community Connect program grants one fully-paid volunteer day each year to every permanent staff member. Employees can use this to volunteer for any registered non-profit organisation.
Volunteering with a difference
Our Head of Customer Experience in New Zealand, John Lee, is a passionate Xero employee who wouldn’t let the challenging year get in the way of helping out his community. So, he rallied a few troops to help out a local school – Titahi Bay North School in Porirua, near Wellington. The experience was arranged through Variety, a children’s charity that helps disadvantaged New Zealand children.
“Low decile schools like Titahi Bay North School don’t have the time, means or money to undertake many projects that could improve the education experience for their students,” John says. “So, turning up with a team of willing volunteers to help out makes a big difference.”
But the volunteer experience wasn’t just turning up on the day to lend a hand. The team of 16 Xero employees also needed to raise around $2,500 for the materials and equipment they needed to complete their projects. So, they brainstormed a few fundraising ideas and were overwhelmed with the level of support they received from staff and local small businesses.
“We were a little nervous at the start that we weren’t going to be able to raise the necessary funds, and we didn’t think we were going to get anything near the response we got,” John says. “Especially to be supported so generously by local small businesses that have just come out of lockdown and are facing financial challenges themselves.”
As well as running Les Mills-style ‘Grit’ classes and selling home-baked scones in Xero’s Wellington office (with one scone selling for $250), the fundraising effort culminated in an auction of vouchers which had been generously donated by local businesses.
“We were blown away with how the wider Xero community came together to make this happen. More than 50 people attended the auction and bid much higher than the face value of the vouchers. People were paying $80 for $40 vouchers, it was amazing.”
An impactful contribution
With nearly $3,000 raised to cover the cost of the project, the volunteers headed to the school to build and paint fences, build picnic tables, paint the hall, plant native trees, and build planter boxes.
“The weather was horrible, but the team vibe was amazing. Everyone was buzzing from start to finish, but it was hard work, so we were all exhausted by the end of the day. A few year eight kids helped out too, so it was great to connect with them and for them to have a stake in the project.”
John says the most impactful moment was hearing from the school Principal what the project meant to the school and the children. “They just don’t have the time or money to do everything they want to do for the kids, who are so deserving. So he was really thankful that we could come in and do some really meaningful work to allow the kids to thrive.”
Stories like these underpin exactly why the Community Connect program is so important to Xero. We’re committed to having a positive impact on our communities, and seeing tangible positive outcomes like this really reinforces the importance of this program.
If you’d like to read about how some other Xero employees have spent their Community Connect days this year, check out this blog post.