Angela Bell, Head of Group Communications at Slater and Gordon writes about her experience at the Hamodava café and how volunteering helps build better communities.
One of the best quotes that I have read recently about volunteering was in the book Thrive, The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, by Arianna Huffington (2014).
“Giving and service marks a path in which we are no longer strangers and alone, but members of a vast yet tightly knit family (Huffington 2014, p. 401).”
I liked this quote because it goes to the fact that selfless acts bring people together and build better communities.
One of the best volunteering experiences that I have had recently was serving people in a café in Melbourne’s CBD.
Run by the Salvation Army and provides some 2,000 free meals every week to people who are homeless or disadvantaged. One of the best aspects of this café is that it’s set up like a commercial café (although there is no financial charge) and customers are able to order from a menu in a modern environment.
Volunteers are required to assist in the café’s operations by undertaking tasks such as waiting on tables and serving food and drinks and by making sure that there are enough plates, cups and saucers washed and ready for the customers to use.
Each month, a small team from Slater and Gordon arrive early in the morning to work in the cafe.
Slater and Gordon is supporting the cafe as part of our support of the Collingwood Football Club Foundation and their Magpie Nest Housing Project. The program ties in well with our overarching social responsibility program that offers two days of volunteering leave for every Slater and Gordon employee.
I found serving the customers at the café a deeply rewarding and enjoyable experience. I spent my time working on the café floor; coordinating the delivery of the food with four of my other work mates. And then I spent the lunch session on the dishes, working with another colleague who was on clean up duties.
Along with interacting with the café customers, one of the many highlights was the simple act of volunteering with some of my colleagues.
At the cafe debrief at the end of the day, everyone reported finding the experience a humbling one and one which opened their eyes to the growing problem of homelessness (Read Janine’s blog here: http://bit.ly/2bakbrA)
It was also an experience which brought us together outside the office. And that brings me back to the quote about how volunteering or service “marks a path in which we are no longer strangers and alone, but members of a vast yet tightly knit family (Huffington 2014, p. 401)”.
Aside from having the opportunity to contribute to a key service for homeless and disadvantaged people in Melbourne, a group of us from Slater and Gordon were brought together outside the office. We had to work together quickly in a new environment and with roles that many of us had not performed before in a cafe.
Studies have shown that employee volunteer programs increase engagement and productivity, amongst other benefits (also covered in the book Thrive if you want to read more).
At Slater and Gordon we have continually sought to innovate and provide legal services and products that increase the affordability and accessibility of legal services – it’s at the heart of what we do.
In addition to our core legal work however, we recognise that it is important to make a positive contribution to the communities in which we operate, and to our client and key stakeholder groups.
This volunteering experience is one of those ways. It’s another way in which we can keep building better outcomes for our people and our communities.
Volunteers from Slater and Gordon at Hamodava Cafe.
Huffington, A 2014, Thrive, The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder, Harmony Books, New York.
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