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International Volunteer Day: Collectively, we can make a difference for charities around the world

December 3, 2021

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As International Volunteer Day approaches, it’s been another difficult year for charities around the world. Many are still severely affected by ongoing restrictions and a resulting reduction in volunteers.

Despite the restrictions, our Xero employees spent hundreds of hours in 2021 volunteering for charities that resonated with them as part of our Community Connect volunteer program. For more information about volunteering amidst a pandemic, take a look at this blog authored by our Director of Social and Environmental Impact, Anne Ascharsobi.

Each year, every permanent Xero employee is granted a full day of paid leave that they can use to volunteer with a community organisation of their choice. From animal care to food prep, our people love to spend time supporting the causes and communities they believe in. Volunteering has long been a way for Xeros to engage with a deeper sense of purpose in their work.

This year, to acknowledge International Volunteer Day, and to raise awareness of the wide range of charities and volunteering opportunities available, we spoke to several charities around the world to discover the impact that volunteering has on them.

One Girl, Australia

I’ve been involved with One Girl, alongside my daughter, Madeline, for several years. One Girl’s mission is to harness the incredible power of education to drive change for girls and their communities. The charity supports girl-led education and job pathway programs in Sierra Leone and Uganda. I believe this charity does such important work. Educating girls has a number of flow-on benefits to rest of the world, including fighting climate change, reducing poverty, and creating a fair and sustainable planet.

Department of Conservation, New Zealand

Volunteering with the Department of Conservation (DOC) is really popular with our Kiwi Xero staff, who enjoy the teamwork, getting outside, and making a difference to the environment. Jonny Morrison, Tu Elliot, Shantrelle Pendigrast and Brittney Preston from the Talent Experience team in Auckland spent a day at a beautiful reserve getting their hands dirty – weeding, tidying up flax bushes and surrounding plants, and clearing up walking pathways.

(from left) Shantrelle Pendigrast, Brittney Preston, Tu Elliott, and Jonny Morrison.

The Good Registry, New Zealand

The Good Registry helps Kiwis to give simply, sustainably and kindly with charitable gift cards and registries. Customer Communications Manager, Sophie Whitney, used her paid Community Connect time to write articles that raise the profile of the charity. These included one exploring the importance of building company culture through team activities and challenges (including during lockdowns), and how more meaningful prizes can add to the feel-good effects.

“The Good Registry is almost solely powered by volunteers so we really couldn’t have achieved any of the impact we have without them,” said Christine Langdon, Co-founder and Chief of Good at The Good Registry. “It’s always exciting when we get extra volunteers (including through workplace volunteering programmes like Xero’s!) to help us do all the extra things that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do – like videos, social media creative and articles to tell the stories of our charity partners and givers, shine the light on the joy that giving brings and to inspire more generosity.”

You Matter, Australia

You Matter supports women and families who have experienced family violence through the provision of furniture and other household items necessary to run a functional home – a ‘haven’. Matt Hall, Lead Portfolio Architect based in Melbourne, used his Community Connect day to help out in the warehouse, putting together packages that clients could use in the ‘havens’ provided by the charity.

“It’s only through the incredible work of our volunteers that You Matter is able to provide the level of support required to help the women and families we support,” says Executive Director, Jacqui Kalwig. “We are constantly amazed and grateful for the wonderful work that our volunteers do and for those organisations that support volunteer days for their workforce.”

Matt Hall and Jacqui Kalwig.

Worktree, United Kingdom

Worktree inspires young people to reach their career potential by enabling primary and secondary school students to have real-world conversations with a wide range of working professionals. Sam Ducker, People Experience Business Partner in Milton Keynes, joined a virtual session to answer a number of questions from 11-12 year olds about his experience, and what he loves about his job.

“Since we began our ‘Career WorkOut’ sessions in schools five years ago, more than 2,000 business volunteers have taken part,” says Bhupinder Roda, Events Coordinator at Worktree. “Each volunteer’s answers to students’ questions are different and we often hear of students experiencing lightbulb moments thinking of a particular career path or approach to success in the world of work. Our volunteers are Worktree’s life source, branching out, connecting and inspiring up to 8,000 teenagers each year with their honest reflections on their work life experiences so far.”

Vimutti Buddhist Monastery, New Zealand

Vimutti Buddhist Monastery is a Buddhist community in the lineage of one of Thailand’s greatest meditation masters, Venerable Ajahn Chah, located in Auckland. The monastery is intended to be a secure and peaceful place where people of all nationalities can come together in harmony and mutual respect to hear and practice the sublime path of the Buddha.

Armando Torrealba, Product Design Director in Auckland, used his Community Connect day to help build a new library at the monastery. While it’s not quite finished, volunteers such as Armando have made a positive contribution, enabling Aucklanders interested in studying the teachings of the buddha at the monastery to do so in a peaceful environment. “The monastery hosts stray animals as part of one the Buddhist principles of having equal vision towards all living beings,” says Armando, who enjoyed the company of the resident cats, peacocks and goats while he volunteered.

Armando Torrealba and one of the stray cats at the monastery.

Willing Hearts, Singapore

Willing Hearts is a non-profit organisation that prepares meals for about 10,000 people across Singapore every day. The charity relies on hundreds of volunteers to assist in more than 70 locations every day. Tasks include ingredient preparation, cooking, packing lunch boxes, washing dishes and cleaning in the hustle and bustle of a very busy kitchen. Hui Wen, Associate Campaign Manager, was impressed with the teamwork and strength the team of mostly volunteers displayed. “They are also a family where they talk about their lives, and share food and snacks. The first shift starts at 5am but they remain cheerful and energetic throughout the shift and they are very inspirational”.

I hope these stories provide some food for thought and perhaps encourage more people to engage with volunteering next year and further into the future. We may consider our individual impact to be small, but collectively we can make a huge difference. In a world where the pandemic has hit us all hard in various ways, it is a timely reminder that humanity, above all else, is what matters most.

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