What do you get when an international corporate giant offers employees a volunteer day a year?
For the children at Sparkways early learning services, it’s a long list of playground improvement dreams come true and a decade-long relationship that provides the tech team at KPMG the chance to give where they live.
The school holidays are in full swing and there’s piles of tan bark ready to go, soil has been delivered and indigenous plants are at the ready.
A volunteer team from KPMG are set to arrive and will soon get to work to help transform yet another Sparkways early years kindergarten.
“We started doing these in 2012,” KPMG’s Associate Director Sam Scriba explains.
“Obviously it’s for a really good cause. Over the years, we’ve gathered a team of us and we try to organise four working bees at Sparkways services each year.”
With the corporate ethos of doing community-based volunteering activities, the KPMG Tech Risk & Cyber team took to calling themselves CAPE, standing for community, animals, people and environment.
“Everyone gets access to one day of volunteer leave a year at KPMG,” Sam says.
“Going out and doing something on your own, kind of takes a bit of effort but scheduling some events through work and getting people to sign up works really well. We have had up to 40 people come along to some working bees at the kinders.”
According to Sam, the team are a cyber-focussed techie bunch, used to sitting in front of their screens, so the opportunity to do something different, away from their desks and in the community has been a welcome one.
“The feedback is always so positive. Sometimes we'll have some of the parents of the service come out, or it might be another boss or helping to volunteer. Just talking to people that don't work in our industry. I think just getting to chat to people about their own experiences.
“That day benefits us, it’s something fulfilling and obviously, there's benefit at the other end.
“The work at the services is tangible, people can look at it and see what they’ve done, like building wooden boats for kids to play in and swings and that sort of thing.”
And while the team love to get out and do working bees, being involved around Christmas time has been particularly meaningful – especially when given the opportunity to give presents, as part of their annual Christmas toy drive, to the children at Sparkways South Yarra Preschool.
Many of the children attending our South Yarra Preschool live in some of Melbourne’s most densely populated public housing residential towers with limited access to outdoor space.
As a result, the service prioritises time outside and opportunities for the children to connect with green space whenever possible, including activities such as gardening.
“We’ve done working bees at South Yarra, which are fantastic but the other thing we have done with them are Christmas toy drives,” Sam explains.
“One year, we had up to 600 people giving gifts, donating time, or providing cash. We had a meeting room here that would end up being full of toys and books and games and stuff.
“Then normally, the week before we wrap up for the year, which is 20th of December a group of maybe seven or eight of us would go down and deliver the presents and the kids would open them up there on the spot. That was when you really got the connection. It was lovely to see and it's nice to have that relationship.”