Volunteering During a Pandemic – The Positive Impact

Thursday, May 27th, 2021

Volunteering Week takes place annually in the third week of May and it is a great time to highlight the variety of opportunities and range of positive impacts that volunteering makes on the lives of the recipients of volunteer hours. However, volunteering happens all year round and the most recent CSO figures confirmed that almost one third of the adult population of Ireland volunteer, which is over 1 million people! In 2019, the BITCI network member companies provided a total of 341, 856 hours of volunteering to local communities and employees themselves raised over €6 million for charity. This year, so much of volunteering has taken place online or remotely so the activities may not be as visible, but its impact is certainly not diminished.

So, what about the volunteers? Why do they do it and what do they get from this experience? The Schools’ Business Partnership has tremendous volunteers who take time out of their busy workdays to support across 4 programmes: Time to Read and Time to Count, two Primary programmes, along with World of Work and Student Mentoring which are both at Post-Primary level. In the past year, we had over 1,260 volunteers engaging with over 4,250 students and children across our four programmes. Here is a flavour of how their year of virtual volunteering has positively impacted on them.

Sabrina O’ Shea, HR Business Partner, Veolia Ireland

World of Work programmes in Dublin and Kilkenny

Business in the Community Ireland

Why did I volunteer?
When I started in Veolia, one of the first things I did was to volunteer. I think it’s really important for businesses like Veolia to give back to the local community. It’s also great for employees in Veolia to get the opportunity to speak to students and potentially inspire them by discussing their careers. We now have two programmes running and it gives me great pleasure to be the coordinator for both programmes.

What do I get from participating in the programme?
I get to meet a number or different students and hear all about their career aspirations. We can also tailor the Day in the Life session to the students’ interests and I get to support students with their interview skills and give them an opportunity to do a mock interview which I believe they have found very beneficial. I get a great feeling of satisfaction that I have helped them in some way.

What did I love about the whole experience?
I love attending the Wrap Session and seeing how far the students have come, everything they have learnt over the duration of the programme and the confidence that they have to get up and present to their teacher, principal, BITCI coordinator and Veolia group.

Aoife O’Farrell, Team Lead, Client Services, Institutional Investor Group, Northern Trust

Student Mentoring in Limerick

Why did I volunteer?
I volunteered for this program as I have benefitted from mentoring over the course of my life and really wanted to take part in this for Leaving Certificate students, especially given the current environment. It was also an opportunity to get involved in community work and volunteering during the pandemic and take some time out to give back.

What do I get from participating in the programme?
It has been a really rewarding experience getting to know my mentee and the other students over the course of the last few months. It has also provided a welcome break from every day ‘business as usual’ as working from home has been difficult and it has been a really nice opportunity for interaction with colleagues and students from different walks of life. The students were very enthusiastic and engaged which, in turn, brought out the same in those of us taking part.

What did I love about the whole experience?
I loved being able to help in a practical way even if it was just CV advice and sharing life experiences. The experience of volunteering has been great and working with secondary students was fantastic- their optimism and fresh outlook on life has been really refreshing and enjoyable to work with! I would highly recommend the program to others.

Kim Seery, HR Business Partner, Britvic

World of Work programmes in Limerick and Dublin


Business in the Community IrelandWhy did I volunteer?
Britvic have been part of the BITCI programmes for several years so as a new employee I think it is really important to keep the partnership alive as we should always continue to stay connected to our local communities. Personally, I am very passionate about investing time in the younger generation, I think it is great to give back.

What do I get from participating in the programme?
I really get a sense of joy and fulfilment. I know the students learn a lot from our sessions but we also learn from them. After all, their generation will be the next generation that we hire into the business!

What did I love about the whole experience?
My favourite part of the experience was the Wrap session, when the students present [their learnings] back to us. It is really enjoyable to hear about how much the students have learnt about our business and how interested they are; we genuinely take on board their ideas. It is amazing to see 2nd year students present – the module on presentation skills really resonated with them and you can see how much they learnt!

Andrea Walsh, Global People & Culture Business Partner, Norton Lifelock

World of Work & Time to Read programmes in Dublin


Business in the Community IrelandWhy did I volunteer on the World of Work programme?
I have been part of the World of Work programme for 3 years and have seen the ‘lightbulb’ moment on the students’ faces when we talk about our career journey. We help them prepare to tell their own story and research areas of interest, as well as guiding them on protecting their brand. They got an understanding of our business and are now aware of not only the good that comes from the digital, world but also of the risks of ‘living’ in the digital world and the impact it can have.

Why did I volunteer on the Time to Read programme?
As an avid reader and a mum, I love to see and hear children reading books on the Time to Read programme (not online, but real books). I look forward to the hour we have each week with the students, listening to their comments/tone/engagement and connection with the story – I feel privileged to be able to do this.

What do I get from participating in these programmes?
It is very much a two-way street – as I learn as much from the students and teachers as I hope they get from our sessions – this is personally rewarding to me. When the [World of Work] teacher said she had never thought about personal brand being relevant to an individual – this was eye opening to her and great that she shared it with the students.

What did I love about the whole experience?
All of the above and if there are even a few ‘lightbulb’ moments, I know we have made a difference! I feel privileged to be involved with the Time to Read programme. In the World of Work programme I particularly enjoyed the recent Wrap Session interview with students who participated two years ago and are now studying for the Leaving Certificate. It was beautiful to hear their career plans and to hear the students ask about being mentored.

Suzanne Kenny, Vice President, Deal Execution, ING

Time to Count Programme in Dublin


Business in the Community IrelandWhy did I volunteer?

When the Time to Count initiative was mentioned in work I was keen to be involved. I generally do try to participate in sports and social and charity events, and the idea of helping the direct community where we live and work appealed to me.


What do I get from participating in the programme?
Working from home is a requirement at the moment and certainly has benefits but I’m in the house alone all day and thought interacting with my colleagues, BITCI and the children would be an interesting change. The application and vetting process was very smooth. We are given great guidance on the lesson/game plans and all share our experiences after each session to help each other out.

What did I love about the whole experience?
Getting to know the children has been great, I have 5 in my group and they all have very different personalities. Even though I only put in an hour or so a week, it has been very rewarding and fruitful. I definitely end each session smiling and I feel like I have made a difference in some very small way. Obviously, a key aim is to encourage working with numbers and to try and make numbers fun. An added bonus is seeing the children help each other solve problems and watching their confidence grow each week! I would recommend this programme to anyone with an hour a week to spare if your job can facilitate it, honestly this experience will prove very impactful.

Keith O’Connor, IAPI marketing / talent / education

Student Mentoring Programme in Dublin


Business in the Community IrelandWhy did I volunteer?
IAPI’s Diversity & Inclusion Council has been working to broaden and deepen the talent pool we can attract to the Commercial Creative Communications industry.  We had identified three tiers of audience that we wanted to engage with and one of these was Secondary School students.  Business in the Community Ireland specialises in reaching out to disadvantaged students and this was a driver in our participation.  For our members to be able to fully engage with the broad spectrum of society we need to be sure that all of society is represented in the talent we attract.

What do I get from participating in the programme?
We had 11 different agencies from our membership engage with the Student Mentoring programme.  Participation was strong and positively viewed both by the mentors and the students.  During school lockdowns we moved from direct mentoring (which wasn’t possible with the students being at home) to delivering presentations on subjects like creativity and media.  This proved to be very popular and enabled an enhanced learning experience both for the students and our members who presented.

What did I love about the whole experience?
It was fantastic to be able to deliver a mentoring experience with our secondary school and to empower our members to make a direct impact on young lives at such a critical juncture in their education.  We would hope that we are able to broaden the horizons for the students involved and give them an inside view of an industry they may not otherwise be aware of.

For more information on how to get involved with our programmes, click here.