#PennaPresence – what our Christmas charity campaign meant to The Connection at St Martin’s in the Fields

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06 Jan 2020

#PennaPresence – what our Christmas charity campaign meant to The Connection at St Martin’s in the Fields

To celebrate the festive period, Penna have been giving a little something back throughout December and into 2020. But instead of donating presents, we’ve given up our time. We’re volunteering at local charities to support their incredible work and help them through the season.

We look through the lens of the work we did at one of our 13 charities – The Connection at St Martins in the Fields – to explore the work done on the Penna Presence campaign and the difference one volunteer day can make.

Connecting vulnerable Londoners with the help they need

There’s many perks to life at Penna. From free fruit, to Pizza Fridays, to a dedicated mental health support helpline. But our employees also value the opportunity to give back, through our yearly volunteering days. These offer a paid day-off work to contribute to a charitable cause close to Penna people’s hearts. Our Christmas charity campaign focussed around using these days with 16 different charities across London and Birmingham. 

One of these causes was The Connection at St Martin in the Fields. This charity helps 4,000+ homeless people in London recover and find housing and work a year, while building trust and life skills to ultimately help their clients stay off the streets of London.

Emmanuelle Parré works in the Partnerships team at The Connection. As she notes, their work relies on the help and support of volunteers;

“Social action is about the significance to the volunteer, but it also has to be about the impact they make through giving generously their time. Volunteers are an active, visible, and invaluable resource to support our clients through recovery from crisis. Volunteers are the very heart of our organisation. We would not be able to provide the quantity and quality of services to our clients without their help. They are individuals who bring in their own stories, lived experience and they sincerely care for our cause. The time they generously spend at The Connection, allows us to deliver a range of essential services that help clients to move on to a meaningful and fulfilling life. Through volunteering, they support our services and contribute to our mission to end homelessness.”

Because of the difference we were able to make, we were delighted that three volunteers – including one from our sister agency, Stafford Long – were able to assist with workshops for The Connection’s clients. Here’s how they found their time with the charity. 

Richard McGavigan – Senior Digital Strategist, Penna

“Our day at the charity began with a tour of the building – where the clients of The Connection eat, sleep, do their laundry. We saw the medical services they provide, the various activity spaces and the telephones for calling loved ones. 

As soon as you arrive, you’re immediately thrown into The Connection’s work – it gives you an appreciation of a situation very different to your own.

The project I volunteered on was creating a website specifically for The Connection’s clients. This was scoped out with service users during the session, and will include general advice for homeless people or for those about to be made homeless, and flag the variety of services on offer. The subject matter was arrived on after consultation with clients during the session on their general internet habits, and the types of websites they browse. Given the majority only use the internet for social networking and email, we advised they will need to promote this site on Facebook and via email marketing. It was great to provide reassurance that they’re doing the right thing, and help them move the project along.

There’s a lot happening behind that bright red door just off Trafalgar Square. It was very humbling from my perspective to spend time behind it – there was a conscious effort by people wanting to do better and improve their situation.”

Corina Gheorghe – Full Stack Web Developer at Stafford Long

“I went to the employee drop-in centre at The Connection. I found supporting the session really interesting, and the wider mission of the charity is really worthwhile. My day began with a tour if the centre – they provide overnight accommodation and cook meals for their homeless and vulnerable clients. They also provide more creative activities and outlets for their client base – like drawing classes in their on-site studio. 

The drop-in involved working on CVs with clients looking for jobs, facilitating mock interview and helping individuals prep for upcoming interviews. What was great for me, as a web developer for Stafford Long agency, was that one of the individuals who dropped-in to the session wanted to learn more about coding. 

I also sat in on a separate session inducting people into the centre – which brought the work they do at The Connection full-circle. A great day, I certainly learnt a lot.” 

And the charity themselves, how did they find the time our Penna and Stafford Long family spent with them? Here’s Emmanuelle from The Connection again on the impact we had; 

“The Penna volunteers helped our clients to prepare for work readiness and enabled the assisting with the practicalities of the return to work. Their friendly and positive attitude reinforced our clients’ confidence, the time they spent discussing and sharing innovative ideas with the clients, made them feel valued and listened to. Because of their expertise, your volunteers delivered well-thought-out ideas that amazed our clients and that we can use for our future planning.”

Penna Presence is our 2019 Christmas Campaign – enabling our employees to give back their time to local causes over the Christmas period and into 2020 too.

To find out more about the campaign, and to donate what you can to any of our 16 Charities, visit bit.ly/PennaPresence.

You can also follow our campaign hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook – just search for ‘PennaPresence’ or @wearepenna.