A visit to ARTIS: EY volunteers join a kids’ day out
The Business Involved mission is to put companies that want to make a positive contribution in touch with local groups who need support. Working with the City of Amsterdam and the Volunteer Centre Amsterdam, we support partnerships that make a difference to the well-being of the city. Recently, volunteers from Ernst & Young joined families supported by Moedernetwerk for a day out at the ARTIS Zoo. Despite the rainy weather, it was a great day for all involved.
Moedernetwerk (“Mothers’ Network”) is a volunteer organisation based in Amsterdam West. Their primary goal is to ensure that children and young people with disabilities have the chance to develop and take part in society. To achieve this, they support the mothers (and other family members) of such children, providing information, facilitating peer support groups and meetings, and organising activities that help the development of both the disabled children and their siblings. Leila Badaou is the founder and driving force behind the network, has many years’ experience working with young people with special needs, and is passionate about the importance of participation and inclusion for children with disabilities, whether physical or mental.
“We are the community”
“We don't want these children to get pushed aside or into a corner,” she says. “Why should they go to a special place to play football? We just want to see all children playing football together. Children with autism or Down’s syndrome maybe get sent to a special school – they arrive in a bus; they leave in a bus, and they don’t connect with the community. I always say why, why? We are a part of the community. And that’s why I support the families.”
“Building a better working world”
EY, previously known as Ernst & Young, is a global consultancy organisation with 13 locations in the Netherlands, including one in Amsterdam. EY is dedicated to building a better working world, and the company has a strong commitment to sustainability, human rights, diversity, equality and inclusion. Nobilé Ligthart is an intern at EY Amsterdam and was tasked with organising volunteering activities. The Volunteer Centre Amsterdam (Vrijwilligers Centrale Amsterdam, VCA) put her in touch with Badaou and Moedernetwerk and, says Ligthart, “we just clicked.” Ligthart herself has experience volunteering, but other colleagues who joined the outing to Artis did not. And it was an eye-opener for them, she says: “They were sending me emails afterwards saying thank you for showing me this. It was so nice; we want to do it again.”
Next time, bigger and better
There were some issues on the day – heavy rain for one thing, and a lower-than-expected turnout. But the day was still a hit with children and volunteers alike. Ligthart and the new intern, who will be replacing her at EY, are keen to build on the relationship with Moedernetwork and to ensure that future joint activities are as beneficial as possible. “Next time, we would like to do something bigger,” says Ligthart. “I talked to Leila about everything that went well and what could be better, and how we’re going to make it happen – by having a meeting with all the mothers in advance, for example, so we can make it a better and bigger event.”
Communication and respect
Badaou agrees that it was a great day for the children who took part, with many of the mothers contacting her afterwards to say how much their families had enjoyed it. But it was the first time Moedernetwerk had taken part in a day like this with volunteers from outside the organisation and, she says, there are some lessons to be learned for the next time. “We’re a small network and it’s especially important that if we have an agreement that you’re going to bring 15 volunteers, then that’s what you do. Not having that on the day is a bit stressful.” The key – as in any relationship – is effective communication and mutual respect between the parties involved. “It’s important that volunteers take things seriously. Next time we do something like this, we’ll meet first and plan, so we have solutions if anything unexpected happens.”
Business Involved understands that need for commitment and clear communication and works to ensure that the expectations of both companies and local initiatives are met. Alongside connecting companies with volunteering opportunities, Business Involved provides information and resources on implementing them and fostering meaningful, long-lasting relationships that benefit both the individuals involved and society at large. Visit the Business Involved website to discover how companies can maximise their social involvement, how individuals can volunteer for a cause they believe in, and how social initiatives can showcase their cause and attract support.