Volunteers' Week: Colleague story
4Wings offers support and information to women who have suffered domestic abuse, female asylum seekers, refugees and others who feel socially excluded, including many who have had to risk their lives to flee their own country, suffering loss of identity, home and community, as well as discrimination and exclusion.
4Wings has created programmes to empower women both personally and politically to help them to rebuild their self-esteem and self-worth, working with them to raise awareness of their rights and break the cycle of victimisation.
4Wings is one of the organisations that the Oglesby Charitable Trust, of which Bruntwood is a long-term partner, has supported through its ‘Spotlight’ grants programme. The OCT’s support has enabled 4Wings to deliver a Storytelling Cartographies project: working with asylum seekers and refugees in a safe space to share their stories through different techniques and media, such as photography, storytelling, drama, art, printing and collage.
Our Head of Business Transformation, Laura Morris and Business Transformation Project Coordinator, Kerri Wallbanks have been volunteering their time through our Cares Hours scheme to develop 4Wings’ aspirations for a community cafe. We caught up with Laura to find out more about their experience.
Could you tell us what you have been doing to support 4Wings?
4Wings are an incredibly creative organisation and had discussed creating a community cafe where their service users could work, come together and involve the wider community in their projects. The OCT asked if the Business Transformation team could support the team to ‘shape’ their project and start them on their way.
Initially we met with Kathrin, the Project Coordinator and Marie-Claire one of the founders and Directors. We discussed their ambition for the project, where the idea had come from and how this fed into the 4Wings vision and ambition. The team needed some guidance and support on how to tackle the project, how to structure it and wanted to stress test if the community cafe was achievable, or if they should break it down into smaller milestones over a longer period.
We visited 4Wings and carried out a full day workshop with the team, including business Directors, their employed team, and interns and volunteers. We took the team through a series of sessions designed to help them understand how to tackle the project and get it up and running. The sessions included agreeing the vision and ‘guiding principles’ for the project, stress testing the concept and breaking the project down into achievable steps. In doing so, we were able to help them create a high level project plan with key tasks and activities, and identify key risks and issues.
Have you done any volunteering like this before?
This was my first full Cares activity at Bruntwood and while I’ve volunteered in the past for other organisations, it has never been linked to my day to day role or career specialism. It was great to utilise my professional skill set to support a charitable organisation, and in a way it felt much more fulfilling. Kerri and I designed the session in a way that we hoped would provide support in that moment, but also upskilled the team for their future.
What do you think has been the benefit of this experience, to you and to 4Wings?
We received great feedback from 4Wings that the session was really interactive, interesting, accessible and that the team had learnt a lot about the basics of project management, as well as progressing their idea for the community cafe. We hope that we’ve been able to provide them with more than just a facilitated workshop, but also tools to support their organisation in the future.
On a personal note it was fantastic to test myself in this situation and really take myself out of my comfort zone, facilitating an external workshop with a team I had never met and knew nothing about. It made me test some skills within my role that I had not used for a while and was therefore a great exercise for me too. Kerri also facilitated large parts of the session and this was great practice for her in her new role with Business Transformation.
What would you say to people thinking about volunteering?
Personally, for myself (and Kerri) it was an incredibly fulfilling experience. We had the opportunity to work with a lovely group of women; women from different countries that have fled persecution or have experienced immense trauma in their lives. A definite highlight was the lunch the women provided to us as a thank you. All the ladies brought a dish from their home countries (from Iraq, to Kenya, Afghanistan and many more) and I can honestly say it was by far the most delicious workplace lunch I’ve ever had!
It was honestly a privilege to work with these ladies and provide them with some skills, knowledge and support to hopefully deliver a project that will have a significant impact on their lives and the lives of other women in a similar situation.
It is fantastic that our business supports and encourages us to complete Cares days and I would encourage people at all organisations offering volunteering opportunities like this, to give them a go and share your valuable skills with others.
Find out more about working at Bruntwood and our Cares Days programme here.