Following the success of BIG Alliance’s 2018 volunteer placement campaign, we set out to double the number of business volunteers visiting schools to help young people improve their mental well-being as part of Time to Talk 2019. Not only did we take the number of business volunteers from the 17 in 2018 to 30 this year, the number of businesses involved also grew, with Euromonitor International, Expedia Group, The Guardian, NMPi, Bolt Burdon, Fooditude, and CC Group all recruiting employees to support.
This reflects the continued appetite from our member businesses to support the fight against mental ill-health and a growing awareness of the benefits of volunteering to individuals’ mental well-being, something highlighted in NCVO’s research which reports that “over 3/4 of volunteers say that their volunteering improves their mental health and wellbeing”
The experience and learning reported by the volunteers was overwhelmingly positive, with the benefits coming from:
- The lesson plan, session run-through phonecall and welcome at the school by the BIG Alliance
- Getting out of the office and doing something different to the day job
- Having the chance to hear directly from young people on their thoughts regarding mental health and how it can be improved
- Making a contribution to a topic that’s important to them
- Improving presentation skills and group management with a new audience
- Having such an enjoyable experience it has increased the chance of them volunteering in schools again in the future
“I've never engaged with a large group of children like that before, it was a great experience to be around their energy and ideas. It's definitely given me more confidence to volunteer in schools in the future” (Guardian volunteer)
“[I] gained more experience in simplifying a topic to an audience that may not know much about the topic beforehand (vital in my role at work). [I had such a] great feeling of satisfaction after the event having spread awareness about the topic” (Expedia Group volunteer)
"It was so rewarding hearing both classes' thoughts and enabling them to have a think about stuff they may not always appreciate!" (NMPi volunteer)
Impact on schools
The greater number of volunteers involved in this year's programme allowed our brokerage to reach even more pupils within each school, with over 800 pupils being guided through a discussion on what makes them feel happy and safe, both within and outside of the school environment. Staff within the participating schools were encouraging of our non-school staff members delivering the workshops and what they were able to achieve:
“Having volunteers come in to school is a great idea. Getting the children to find something in their classroom that makes them happy can help them see their learning space in a different light” (Gillespie Primary School)
“The sessions worked well with the volunteers. The children learnt about what 'mental health' actually means, they were able to reflect on their feelings and understand that it is important to look after their mental health” (Sacred Heart Primary School)
Below are some examples of what the pupils wrote down in the session, with one suggesting that for them it's important that pupils are kind, caring, helpful, and happy.
A continuing partnership
This initiative of volunteer placement in support of the Time to Talk campaign was formulated in partnership with Islington Council's School Improvement Service and Lil Fahy, Mental Health Improvement Advisor, spoke of the ongoing partnership and increased reach of this year’s project: “It was brilliant to run the Time to Talk Day campaign with schools and the BIG Alliance for a second year. The schools fed back that they really enjoyed having people from local businesses to come in and engage with pupils about mental health. It was also great to see an expansion of businesses who got involved this year. We look forward to continuing to develop this offer for schools in collaboration with the BIG Alliance”
Help us to do more
We want to place even more business volunteers into schools to increase the awareness about mental well-being, as well as any other topics which could benefit young people locally. Whether you're a business, or a school which would benefit from volunteers delivering some workshops for you, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us what themes we should focus on and how you can get involved.