23 May 2016

What do you do when you’ve got a tired looking play area and need something special for children to enjoy? You call in the fabulous volunteers from CEB! On a sunny Friday in May, 30 volunteers from this international company based in Thames Ditton took up the challenge to revamp the YMCA Hawker play area as part of their Global Impact Day.

Emma Wiles, our head of children’s services has had a vision for the play area for some time: “ I wanted to see something that focussed on outdoor creative play, using recycled materials.”  She set about planning the tasks for the volunteers and they broke off into groups to begin work, alongside YMCA staff. We had an assortment of pallets, electrical cable reels and logs to work with, along with tools and paint, and a few plans on what to build.

Within the first two hours the picket fence had been repaired and painters started in earnest with the slate grey and purple berry paint. The sandpit had been cleared of the ancient sand (eww, not nice) and the cover was being painted. The cable reels were sanded and the mud kitchens were beginning to take shape nicely. The log designers had sketched out their designs and had started to transform them.

We were intrigued as to the day jobs of this very capable and enthusiastic bunch of volunteers, and had a chance to speak to a few as they worked.  Zubeida Osman was one of the sandpit crew.

“I work in the Finance Department at CEB. This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, it’s great I’m really enjoying it. I think it’s nice to be able to give back something to the community.  I’ve got my eye on doing some gardening later!”

The mud kitchen teams were drilling, sawing and hammering to build a kitchen for kids to make all sorts of potions and pies with grass, mud and water.  Colin Smilley found it very rewarding: “I’m a key account director at CEB. I’ve heard from friends about this kind of community volunteering, so I thought it would be good to get involved in this with CEB. I’m happy to get stuck in and help out wherever I’m needed”.

Suzanne Tang, a management accountant at CEB was part of the team decorating the logs, and she found the painting therapeutic, and a great change from what she would normally be doing on a Friday!

“It’s good fun and so nice to be out of the office environment, on a lovely sunny day. I like this idea of working to transform something for the local community. It’s good to have a look at the Hawker Centre too and what’s on for the kids, I’ve never been here before.”

We encouraged a local mum Becky Dodsworth and her young son Leo who was in the Pod soft play area to take a look and she couldn’t believe her eyes. “It’s so lovely to see this area being revamped – we never come out here because it’s so small and there isn’t anything to do. But I can see how fun it’s now going to be with the logs and the mud kitchen.  I love the colours of the fence, it looks really modern. We will definitely come out here to play now!”

By 3pm, the team had completely transformed the play area and YMCA staff were thrilled with the result. We can’t wait to work with the CEB volunteering team next year and our heartfelt thanks go to this hardworking, dedicated group of people.