The 5th December is the United Nation’s International Volunteering Day, a worldwide opportunity to celebrate and promote the work of volunteers.  Volunteers are taking on some huge challenges across the world and in the UK.  At Nexus Planning we try to do our little bit and our teams have helped out in small way with our local charity partners – allotment digs, staffing food and furniture banks, litter picks and garden makeovers.  In this blog two of our team, Amine Djelladj in London and Megan King in Reading share their experience of volunteering in 2022 – and how they and their colleagues benefited from volunteering, whilst making small contribution to the well-being of the communities in which we live and work.

A boost for mental health

The year started off with gardening for Thames Reach, a charity which seeks to help end homelessness in London. We took on the challenge of giving gardens to two hostels a makeover.  The team were hard at work all afternoon, removing weeds and collecting rubbish to restore the gardens back their best. Later in the year the team, as a local nod to the spirit of the Great British Beach Clean  headed out to the Thames itself, cleaning the river bank at Gabriel’s Wharf, Southbank. It took our team of seven a couple of hours to collect 6 big bags of rubbish, filled with a wide variety of items of trash which had been washed up onto the shore.

I was impressed by the attitude of my colleagues. Instead of simply showing up to state that they had attended, all of them, on both occasions, were trying (and often competing!) to make the biggest impact possible. Seeing the material impact of this mentality and attitude stuck with me. More specifically, seeing the difference that a small team, with the right mindset, managed to make in such a small space of time is an indication of the power of the individual. Through participating in these volunteering events, and seeing the influence that they can make, I am certain that my colleagues have felt inspired to do more and take more initiative to make the world we live in even a slightly better place.

I also felt that these activities were boosting my own mental health. It is often mentioned that helping others is one of the quickest ways to happiness and self-satisfaction, and the truthfulness of this statement can only be recognized with action.  I also sensed this boost amongst my colleagues.  The physical nature of the activities, the associated socialising and the chance to experience a new challenge outdoors, were all factors which undoubtedly boosted the mood of those who took part. I feel it is important to incorporate volunteering activities into our working lives in order to pull us out of our comfort zones. The reality is that mental health should be treated like physical health, and in our busy lives people often neglect the small acts of kindness or favours to others which can go a long way in sustaining and boosting their own mental health.

Empowering the team

In Reading we’ve tried to embrace volunteering as a means to empower our team – whilst doing our bit to help. We work a lot with Launchpad, a homelessness prevention charity in the heart of the town. In February we gave some to time to assist with Launchpad’s allotment dig. This entailed a lot of muddy fingers, but also a cup of tea too! Not only was this a good opportunity to get outside in the sunshine, but also a way of working together with the team and building those relationships away from the office.

In recent year Nexus have taken part in the Great British Beach Clean. Like our colleagues in London this year we decided to stay close to home, in keeping with our on-going efforts to minimise our carbon footprint, litter picking along the River Thames. This was organised in conjunction with ‘Reading Adopt Your Street (RAYS),  a local group that encourages community action to improve the environment. Again, this enabled the team to get together, with one common goal, collecting as much litter as possible – and there was plenty! It is activities like these that enable the office to build common goals and work together as a team.

We have also just held our own bake sale. Everyone in the office contributed by bringing in their own masterpiece, all chocolate! This enabled us to raise a little bit of money to donate to Redifood.

Volunteering has given us a great opportunity to work together as a team outside of the office and I’ve founded it a great experience.

Authored by

Amine Djelladj,  Assistant Planner

Megan King, Assistant Planner