As part of Edelman’s 603 “Summer of Service” initiative to mark the company’s 60th anniversary, our 60+ offices across the globe have engaged in 60 days of volunteerism (mid-July to mid-September). I recently had the opportunity to volunteer my time at a local homeless shelter.
This had a particular resonance since our London office is based in Westminster, which is reported to be the borough with the highest concentration of rough sleepers in the country. According to Westminster.gov, currently around 2500 rough sleepers sleep on Westminster’s streets each year. Walking from the station to the office you can not help but notice the homeless trying to find shelter on the streets of Victoria.
Though we may take notice in passing – the man selling the Big Issue near the traffic lights and the curled figure beneath the sleeping bag in the corner – it can be easy to turn a blind eye with our first morning coffee or morning meeting on our mind.
During my volunteering session I spent four hours at The Passage, London’s largest voluntary day center for homeless people. The center offers basic services such as hot breakfast and lunch, showers, counseling, access to general practitioners and laundry services. They also offer services aimed at helping their homeless clients rehabilitate themselves. These programs include education and training services, mental health care and ongoing support for alcohol and drug abuse.
I worked on the lunch shift, serving tea and coffee and cleaning up after the service. Many of the other volunteers offer their time at the center on a regular basis and know most of the clientele by name. There is an unmistakable sense of warmth and kindness at the center and although I was not quite sure what to expect in my interactions with the clients, it soon became clear that for the most part, they were happy to be met with a reciprocative smile.
Visiting the shelter makes you so aware of all that you have in your own life and what a small ask it is to give of your time, a commodity we so often take for granted. I feel inspired working for a company like Edelman, which is committed to giving back and allowing its employees the time to do the same.
Jaclyn Ross is an Account Manager on Edelman London’s Health team. Her clients include AstraZeneca and Novo Nordisk. Jaclyn has worked at Edelman for four years and originally hails from South Africa.