What springs to mind when you think about Marks and Spencers? Percy Pigs, a softly spoken lady saying “this isn’t just…this is M&S…” and stores conveniently located for that Friday night dine in for 2 meal deal?…….me too!
However, what I wasn’t so aware of is the fantastic voluntary/community work that its employees and stores invest their time into across the country in order to enhance the quality of life for local communities and projects.
Whilst not skincare or weather related (see my Instagram feed!) for those of you who have followed me over on A Brunette Edit for a while, you’ll know that my day job isn’t actually reviewing the latest products from Space NK – I’ve been a social worker for 13 years and during that time have come into contact with countless unsung heroes – people who give up their time and energy to help others.
Therefore, I can truly appreciate the efforts of everyone at Marks and Spencer who celebrated National Volunteer Week this year. More so, during this last week hundreds of store employees gave up their time and energy and came together to deliver transformative projects.
There’s a misconception that volunteering is for people with lots of time on their hands and who don’t work full time. However, I’m pleased to have discovered that larger companies, such as M&S, actively promote the participation of their employees to get involved in community support, through schemes such as paid volunteering time (where charities of choice can be chosen to be supported) and employee volunteer awards.
With child poverty set to reach a record high in 2019, Marks and Spencer decided to focus on investing in young people for this year’s Volunteer Week, with schools comprising 25% of all projects chosen. One of the projects chosen by the Bristol stores was Hartcliffe Nursery School, who’s outdoors area was in desperate need of a revamp and facelift after experiencing significant budget challenges over the past few years. The school is situated in one of the more deprived areas of Bristol and many of the children who attend do not have regular access to safe green spaces to play and broaden their already active imaginations. The school reached out to the social network Neighbourly who connect local charities with businesses and allow collaborative connections to facilitate real change and support good causes.
Over one day, a team of 10 volunteers from Bristol M&S stores (in horrendous weather conditions!) set out to clear, repair, paint and plant designated areas of the outdoors space to kickstart what had been a project waiting in the wings for too long. Hedges were pulled down to facilitate access to previously unobtainable areas and borders and paths were planted with colourful and sensory plants such as lavender and sage. What caught my eye was the almost fairy-tale like path area that was created to lead to a secret garden space which I can just imagine children using their imagination to play pixies and fairies! (Toadstools still needed!) Fruit trees were also planted to provide the school with home grown snacks in future years and there are big ambitions for some dis-used boats to be turned into exciting play areas!
Matt Green, deputy headteacher, talked about the strains the school had faced on budgets and how the pressure on staffing costs will always take priority over other projects and that the work M&S had done was invaluable in giving the school, and its attendees, a much needed boost in a stretched financial climate.
There is still lots to be done and the school is still heavily reliant on fundraising and volunteers to complete all the aspirations they have for the outdoor areas. However, the work carried out by M&S store employees will enrich the lives of children in the area for years to come. The team definitely earnt their Percy Pigs that day!
This is a collaborative post with the Marks and Spencer Community team