Local community. Kindness. Volunteering. What do these words mean to you? Is there an easy way you can combine all three? The simple answer is yes – by becoming a member of the Community Matters Partnership Project or CMPP for short. This is what we discussed yesterday at the CSR panel session with the CMPP, facilitated by Louise Punter from Surrey Chambers.

Online CSR panel

Yesterday I was delighted to be part of the panel of an online event being run by Surrey Chambers. It was designed to be an hour’s introduction to the CMPP, with content shared by its Chairman Paul Marcus, its amazing and quite frankly inspiring founder Tracy Jarvis, the wonderful Emma Thompson the Corporate Volunteering organiser at CMPP and me. I was there as a representative of TVision, talking about our membership since early 2018 as a Woking based socially responsible business and what we have done to support the charity to date.

My volunteering examples

When I was asked to be on the panel, I worked out that I had already participated in CMPP five volunteering events. The first was the inaugural event at Brockhill residential home in Woking. Their gardens were in desperate need of cheering up for the residents, but given my lack of experience and quite frankly poor execution with anything gardening related – I opted for cleaning and prepping garden furniture, and then painting it.  I went along by myself, but soon got chatting with a number of other people all local businesses who had willing volunteers attend to help the venue with their sprucing up request.

Next up was helping to create a sensory room at a local junior school – The Hermitage School where I am a Vice Chair of Governors. This time I went along with two colleagues and we cleaned and prepped and painted a room, which had previously been more or less used as a store cupboard. It is now used by the school as a safe space for children who attend the Orchard Centre at the school.

cmpp volunteering

I have also attended two, I guess you’d call them student career networking days. One at Woking High where I was quizzed by Year 9 students about my career to date, what I do at TVision and how I got there, giving them ideas on future careers and the non-standard pathways to get there. My background is science, so marketing isn’t the obvious choice really. But I absolutely love what I do, and I love my job and employer. All of the pupils knew Microsoft only a handful had heard of Microsoft Dynamics (my parents work in IT was the answer from all of those pupils), whereas not surprisingly none of them had heard of Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

A question from one of the pupils still sticks in my mind: “Do you hack the government?” Whilst suppressing chuckles, I explained that yes whilst our developers do coding and offering customised solutions for our clients, it is all about the finance system we implement and support, and no we don’t hack anyone.

I attended a similar event at Gordon’s School as well, but for Year 11s. Each group of students had two tasks, the first to work out what I did with yes/no questions, and then enquire further about how I got to my current position. The closest one group got was Marketing in general, but none of them guessed the sector. I got actress, PR, advertising – so I guess women in IT is still not an obvious career path, although at TVision we are a 60% female team.

Your Sanctuary

But the community action day that touched me the most was when I went with two of my team to Your Sanctuary which is a survivors of domestic violence charity based in Woking.

We had been asked to paint a few rooms to spruce them up. Looking back, the trust placed in us was incredible. They were allowing three strangers into a refuge where women had to flee to avoid horrendous home situations.

As I told the story yesterday morning on the CSR panel, I could hear the wobble in my voice. This has a personal connection for me as a close family member has been in a similar situation. If she hadn’t had support from the family, she could well have ended up somewhere like this – a safe place giving women and their children a chance to slowly start their emotional recovery whilst deciding what to do next. Right at the beginning of the day, one of the residents walked past me with a babe in arms. All I could think to myself was how awful must her situation have been to pick up and leave with a baby that tiny?

cmpp volunteering

Ultimately all we were doing was painting a few walls, but it was saving the charity the cost of professional painters. Also, it was allowing the residents to come back to a clean painted room. We all know what that feels like at home….. freshly painted walls. It makes you happy. And I was so proud that I could give something back and make someone else feel that way, if only for a little while.

Why join CMPP?

There are personal benefits and recipient benefits and company benefits.

From a personal point of view, the feeling of giving back is immense. The kindness economy is something that is talked about a lot. And this is all about being kind to others.

Just by doing some painting or cleaning you can help a charity or school or organisation save money on what is no doubt an already incredibly tight – or possibly even shrinking – budget. This helps the recipient out enormously.

From a company point of view, it just makes your CSR strategy easy. You are effectively outsourcing your CSR to the CMMP and they can help to find you volunteering days that you would never find yourself. You can go alone or as part of a group, as projects vary from one person for one hour to many people over several days. There is something to suit all sizes of businesses, with all sizes and abilities of volunteers. If you can’t do gardening that’s ok – I can’t either. You could offer time to proofread documents or do interview practice.

How to join the CMPP

Find out more by emailing hello@cmpp.org.uk – or feel free to get in touch with me and I can tell you more about the benefits being a member.

When you join you can sign up to alerts offering all of these different kinds of volunteering opportunities. I’m looking forward to the next event I can participate in – probably wearing a face mask!

The full recording of the event is available here to watch.