I recently spent time clearing, digging and weeding the garden at the Goldsmiths Community Garden in Hackney, East London. By the time we finished, my legs, arms and back ached, but in the best possible way. When I tell my friends, they can’t quite believe it: “Hang on, your company paid you to go gardening for four hours?” Their reaction only adds to the pride I feel during this time of year. It’s great to work for an employer that encourages its staff to down “tools” of the office for “tools” of the Earth to benefit local communities.
This was my second Ketchum Social Responsibility (KSR) month experience, having joined the Ketchum team in summer 2013. Last year I had a great time redesigning a church garden, so I jumped at the opportunity to do it again at Goldsmiths. Maybe it is the little boy in me (or my rural upbringing) but spending the day weeding and digging felt mentally cleansing. I genuinely believe that Ketchum and its staff get as much out of KSR as the organizations that we help. Personally, it was a breath of fresh air for body and mind!
This year, rather than spreading out our KSR projects throughout the week, we organized a “KSR swarm.” A single day where over 120 Ketchum-ites were deployed over three projects in London’s East End. And in typical London-style, the day of service was book-ended with pre-and-post Swarm social gatherings. KSR always brings the office together like nothing else!
The Goldsmiths Community Centre is home to numerous children’s clubs, but sadly the garden had been neglected – the number of toys we found buried in the undergrowth testifies to this! Over 60 people volunteered to help, and the before and after photos above illustrate the incredible amount of work that was accomplished in such a brief window of time.
In the afternoon hilarity ensued. An elderly woman came out of her house and asked if we were a professional landscaping service she could hire to do her garden! The team explained we were volunteering. She then proceeded to get out her lawnmower and asked us to lend a hand there too.
While the day was unfolding, I posed for a photo with a wide grin, shovel and a hand-written sign. Little did I know that the picture would enter me into an Instagram competition of over 150 photos, and that I would win and receive a £250 charitable donation that I could pass on to the Goldsmiths Community Centre. This is the first time there has been a KSR contest, and I’m so pleased that I won and was able to give a little extra in support of this great community.
I should mention that this is just one example of the efforts that took place as part of Ketchum’s Global Month of Service in September. KSR teams cleaned up parks, tutored students at a local elementary school and served meals at a food bank – and included more than 950 employees across Ketchum. I know we all look forward to giving back to our communities again next year.