Volunteer Diaries: Charlie from L’Oreal

Having recently spent a day volunteering at PIP, I can safely say that it’s an experience I cannot recommend highly enough. Not only do you learn a lot about yourself, it is one of the most rewarding days of work I’ve ever done.

The students are an absolute pleasure and make you feel part of the team the second you walk through the door.

We were given a guided tour as soon as we got in the building, complete with commentary every step of the way. Something almost palpable was how much the students valued their time at PIP. They introduced everyone as their friend, couldn’t contain their excitement about the summer leisure scheme and were all so interested in one another and meeting new people.

A warm welcome

A warm welcome

The chance to volunteer at PIP came about after a Disability Confidence Week at L’Oreal head office where I work. As a company, we aim to build our staff’s confidence around disability to remove any barriers to working here. At the same time, we hope to assist those who have a disability, whether it is in our organisation or our local community. The event included a Paralympian giving an inspirational talk and free British Sign Language lessons. The highlight though, was an exhibition of art created by PIP students with various disabilities on their interpretation of beauty.

Bill and Narjis at the L'Oreal exhibition

Bill and Narjis at the L’Oreal exhibition

It was amazing to see the work they had produced and it inspired us to get involved and put on a workshop for the students. The charity’s staff told us that the students often do work experience placements and a handful have paid jobs. We decided our skills in HR could be put to use talking to students about Dos and Don’ts in the workplace.

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Charlie and Tuuli delivering the session

We prepared a presentation for the workshop and even filmed a mock interview in our office to demonstrate what not to do. Finding ways to make these resources accessible to everybody was one of the biggest learning curves for me.

We’re all so used to presenting to like-minded people and using terms and phrases common in our place of work but delivering a session to people with learning disabilities made me think hard about how I communicate and what messages I am relaying. Thankfully, having had the BSL lessons at L’Oréal I was able to use a bit of this with the students who use Makaton to aid their communication – much to the surprise of PIP staff!

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PIP student Narjis teaching Charlie even more Makaton

For those thinking doing some volunteering at PIP, think no more. If you get the chance to deliver a session, keep it simple, varied and accessible. And make it fun! When the PIP students truly get engaged, it is utterly contagious and your inhibitions will be forgotten.

I would like to thank PIP, the students and the staff for having us on the day and I can only hope we can work together again in the near future.

This post was written by guest blogger Charlie Buckland.

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