BioMed Central staff take on a charity challenge

On Friday 16th May, 26 people from BioMed Central’s London office (and another 15 from our fellow Springer companies) shut down their computers, closed their notepads, and headed off into the great outdoors to spend a day working in their local communities instead of the office. Here’s what happened next…

Staff at work
The BMC team aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty at a local allotment

Staff here at BioMed Central (and Springer) are lucky enough to be given the opportunity to spend one day a year volunteering for charity. One of the most popular ways  to take advantage of this is to get involved in Give and Gain Day.

Give and Gain Day is a national enterprise organised by Business In The Community; a UK charity campaigning for increased collaboration between businesses and society. Their aims include stimulating local economies, challenging inequality in the workplace and addressing skills shortages for the benefit of communities and companies alike.

They’ve organised Give and Gain Day every year since 2008, giving businesses “a unique opportunity to bring community action to life”. BioMed Central first got involved in 2013, and we enjoyed it so much that we sent a fresh pack of people this year – alongside representatives from the other London-based Springer groups.

Our vibrant volunteers were divided between four teams; two groups went out  to help redevelop local communities through gardening, while the other two took on the Scope Apprentice Challenge – taking over a Scope charity shop for the day and using their creativity, teamwork and entrepreneurial skills to increase sales, footfall and raise local awareness.

So how did our teams get on? Andi Tucker and Andrea Melendez-Acosta give us their take on the day’s work:

Allotment Team
The Allotment Team take a well-earned break

Pathfinders (Andi’s team)

My team of 16 went out to the Fitzroy Park Allotments, and thankfully the good weather came with us! We met with Mick, one of the allotment’s voluntary maintenance crew, who was quick to impress upon us just how grateful they are for the help of groups of volunteers such as ourselves.

The allotments are a picturesque labyrinth of shrubs, sheds and flower beds, and many of the walkways that wind between them are overgrown, uneven and prone to flooding in bad weather.  As you can imagine this is far from ideal for the mostly elderly population of plot holders.

Camden Council maintain a few of the walkways but it is up to the member’s association to look after the rest themselves; a level of physical activity which they simply cannot manage without outside help. That was where we came in! Our mission, which we had already chosen to accept, was to build them a brand new path – how hard could that be?

Pretty hard as it turned out! Over the course of the day we cut back the plant growth, extracted a rose bush, dug out a pair of trenches (6” deep, over 50” wide and many feet long), carted around seemingly endless wheelbarrows full of earth, hammered wooden stakes down the edges, screwed planks to them, laid down some lining and filled it all with woodchip. By the time lunch came round we were all pretty tired, but the residents perked us right up by supplementing our packed lunches with delicious cakes, quiche and fruit tea made from the produce of their allotments.

With all that under our belts we returned to slogging it out in the hot sun and by 5 o’clock we had completed one path and nearly finished a second. The sweat and the aching arms were accompanied by an immense feeling of satisfaction at a job well done, and we ended the day by staggering to the local pub for a celebratory pint.

Despite the hard work we had a great time, and we heard that the plot holders were already making use of their new path the very next day, so it was totally worth it. We’re already looking forward to next year’s Give and Gain Day, and maybe even doing some volunteering of our own before that.

Scope Team
The Scope Team pose outside their shop

Scope Apprentice Challenge (Andrea’s team)

Our team took part in the Scope Apprentice Challenge where our mission was to increase the footfall and total takings in the Hackney Scope charity shop on May 16th.

Prior to the day we started working on some fundraising ideas and along with the other Springer team participating organised a cake sale because, well, if there is something our colleagues love it’s cake.

On the actual day we arrived at the store bright and early and set to work sorting all the donations of clothes, books and bric a brac that the BioMed Central and Springer staff collected. Sorting, hanging, steaming and pricing was tougher than we thought!

Whilst some of us were hard at work sorting out back, others were handing out free iced tea and cake to local passers-by, to try and entice them to part with their hard-earned money for a good cause.

But our real secret weapon was a ‘lucky dip’ game for children outside the shop where the children could bag themselves a toy, sweeties or even (if they were really lucky) a Gulliver toy.

At the end of the day the tills were up by twice as much as the same day last year. Although we didn’t win the challenge overall we had an enjoyable day giving back to the community where we live and work. Look out for us next year where we aim to raise even more!

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