Back in April, news of a national lockdown shook our world and changed what was the ‘norm’ for many of us, including our CSR activity. All volunteering was postponed, meaning colleagues who were looking forward to their day could no longer attend, and the charities and good causes wouldn’t receive the help they so desperately needed.
But, all was not lost! The CSR team wanted to find a new way of giving back. Through our Empower, Pledge, Donate campaign, focussing on education and employment this month, we were able to support TutorMate and offer 30 colleagues the chance to make a difference in a new way.
TutorMate is an online platform that supports volunteering in the form of reading to children across the UK. They believe that the ability to read is a fundamental life skill. It’s not just about succeeding in school, it’s about succeeding in life. Take a moment to imagine what your own life would be like if you couldn’t read road signs, food labels, forms, maps, the text messages on your phone.
It all starts with literacy. A child who can read is set up for life, not just because they do better at school and have better job prospects, but also because they are happier and more confident about their place in the world. In the UK, TutorMate has teamed up with schools in London, Leeds and Bradford with the hope of extending to even more schools across the UK. They offer help and support to children who may have fallen behind at school because of the impact of COVID-19. The beauty of volunteering with TutorMate is that you can do it from the comfort of your own home.
We asked for 30 volunteers and within a week all the spaces were filled! Colleagues from across the business committed to a 25-week programme, reading to the same child for just 30 minutes a week. The time spent with the children would help create a relationship and build trust which really supports their development.
Before they began, colleagues took part in a webinar training session, enabling them to really understand the process of virtual volunteering. From here a quick and easy Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check was completed before being paired up with a child.
TutorMate teamed up with schools and began to match our colleagues and this is where the fun began. Naturally with anything new, we experienced a few minor teething problems - virtual volunteering comes with some potential difficulties, including connectivity and some issues using TutorMate’s live chat option, simply because BGL’s security is bullet proof! Together, we have been able to work through many of the issues and overall our volunteers have thoroughly enjoyed their time.
Here’s what some of our volunteers had to say about their virtual volunteering experience:
“Wow, I'm so impressed so far with the Tutor Mate Platform! Not only have I got my buddy, I know the name of the school, the name of the teacher and that it’s a Catholic school in Tottenham. I’ve also had a message from the teacher (I think all 10 of us assigned to the same class had the same email). I responded personally to the teacher on TutorMate and she has given me some tips on Adrian who I now know has Spanish as his first language, pronounces his name Adrienne and loves Michael Jackson. Great ice breakers, hopefully for a successful first session on Thursday.” Joanne Watson, CtM Commercial
"Just had my first tutoring session. My buddy was really engaged and eager to do well. She was also very pleased with herself after winning our noughts and crosses game!” Natalie Wood, CtM Data
“I’ve just had my first session with Brandon, whose first language is Spanish – it went really well! He was eager to learn and talk about the pictures in the book, it was great.” Sandra Morgan, CtM Commercial
“I’ve just finished my first session too. My buddy had a bit of a slow start with some of the vowel sounds, but by the end of the session she was flying through some 4-5 letter words. Something that seemed to help when it came to the story was having her tell me what was happening in the picture that went along with the story.” Ryan Harvey, CtM Product Engineering
“I’ve just had my session! I am dying of cuteness, it was adorable. My buddy LOVES Disney princesses so we spent the first five minutes going through all the princesses. I’m so glad I signed up for this!” Katy Hemming, CtM Marketing
“I’ve had my session and it was amazing. Went through a story, then did a bit of noughts and crosses and guess the word. The whole experience was very fun and rewarding!” Tarikul Islam, CtM Tech - Data Engineering
“I’ve just had my first session. She is so sweet. It’s been a while since I read stories to my kids so it's difficult to know how much has changed.” Jim Gott, CtM Tech - Data Engineering
“I just did my first session, we did flash cards, two stories and noughts and crosses game with some chatting in between (mainly around favourite foods as food was the theme of one of the stories). My student was very engaged and didn't want the session to end which was lovely!” Emma Fulcher, CtM Commercial
“I wanted to be a Tutor Mate volunteer because I felt I had transferable skills that could make a difference to someone else, my passion from been young was to teach so when this opportunity became available, I jumped to do it. To give something back means so much to me, after two sessions I feel like I have really made a difference. Even though the sessions are virtually via telephone, I have built a bond with my student and I can't wait to see where his reading skills are in three months’ time. Kim Wood, Business Skills Trainer
“It was a goal of mine to spend more time volunteering this year, I really wanted to get involved in something that meant to a lot to me and that I could really see the difference I was making. As a mum of a 2 year old myself I really understand the importance of reading and how magical it can be for everyone involved. I wanted to be part of making this possible for children who either needed more support with their reading or didn’t experience reading at home on a regular basis. At first, I was a little nervous as I wanted to get it right and make sure my student was getting the best possible learning experience from me. As soon as I started though I realised it was just about being natural, lots of encouragement, coaching them when they struggle and having lots of fun. Seeing my student open up, show me their personality and become more confident with me on sessions is amazing. My tutoring session really is the highlight of my week, not only that but I have been able to take some of what I have learnt and use it when I read to my little boy too.” Natasha Paul, Business Skills Trainer
You can find out more about our work in the community here.