Leap Day Volunteering

17:55 Wednesday 29th February 2012
Drive BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

CHRIS MANN: In 2008 The National Trust started a new tradition. It’s been encouraging companies to pay their staff for a day off, as long as they spend it doing something to help the environment. Well Rachel Huxley is the Chief Executive of the Peterborough Environment City Trust, and she’s been at the Langdyke Trust today, and joins me on the line now. Rachel, Hello.
RACHEL HUXLEY: Hello. Good afternoon.
CHRIS MANN: All of the above. And so, what have you been doing today?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Well we’ve been doing a range of things. We’ve been planting some trees. We’ve been doing some litter picking. And we’ve been building some willow screens. So a whole range of things.
CHRIS MANN: And how many people have been there?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Ooh. There’s probably about 20 or so of us.
CHRIS MANN: How did you get involved in the scheme?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Well the whole thing was Richard Astle’s idea, from Athene Communications. And the same as the National Trust, his idea was that every four years you’ve got an extra day in February. And instead of just using that as another day at work, you could use that to volunteer for good causes. So he organised his company, Athene, to get involved and do this. And we do a lot of work with them, and we were chatting about it and said we’d like to get involved as well. So a group of us from Peterborough Environment City Trust and a group from Athene came out to the Langdyke Countryside Truat, and arranged a whole load of things that we could get involved in and do.
CHRIS MANN: And did everybody want to get involved? Everyone was keen to do it?
RACHEL HUXLEY: It’s entirely voluntary. No-one has been forced. So yes.
RACHEL HUXLEY: Everyone’s really enjoyed the day. It’s been a really nice day, it’s really good for team building. So yes, we’ve come out and it’s been really nice weather. Got out and about in the fresh air. And we’ve just finished today by coming down and seeing some of the new first lambs of the season. So you can’t argue with that.
CHRIS MANN: That sounds lovely. Better than a day in the office, that’s for sure.
RACHEL HUXLEY: Absolutely. And just a nice thing to do on a day that only comes round once every four years.
CHRIS MANN: So perhaps you should do it more often?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Well yes. So at PECT we allow all of our staff one day of volunteering a year. And I know a lot of other organisations do that. So the Environment Agency for example allow their staff to volunteer a day every year, to get involved in the community, to get involved in environmental projects. And it’s certainly something that we would encourage everyone to do. Just spend a little bit of time giving something back. And I think that’s really important. And you get so much fun as an individual as well.
CHRIS MANN: Yes. You’d think, in this day and age, that companies could afford a little bit of time, a little bit of leeway. And it’s probably very good for staff morale, wouldn’t you think? A bit of variety?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Yes, absolutely. It’s great. As I say it’s great team building. And I think those kind of investments in your staff, and in your local community, you get payback for. And people really value the business that they work for, if they can see it taking corporate social responsibility seriously, and investing in their local community. And I also think it’s not just down to businesses. As individuals we can all get out and volunteer if we want to, and get involved in improving our local environment.
CHRIS MANN: For those who’ve been listening, and like the idea of going to see the new lambs, where will they find them Rachel?
RACHEL HUXLEY: Well I’m at Etton High Meadow. So we’re just outside Etton, at the Langdyke Countryside Truat. But there are lots of places, Sacrewell Country Farm, and Wimpole Farm, who will have lambs at the moment. But yes, at the moment we’re just outside Etton.
CHRIS MANN: Brilliant. Glad you had a great day. Rachel Huxley, thank you.
CHRIS MANN: I hope it’s not four years till we speak again. Chief Executive of the Peterborough Environment City Trust.