For the Love of Scrubs: What I did with my DJS Volunteering Day...

24th April 2020 08:36

Written by Helen Menzies, Associate Director
When I joined DJS Research at the end of last year, as part of my induction I was informed about annual volunteer days. Every employee can take one paid day off work to help out a cause of their choice.  DJS has always supported local charities and our current ‘charity of the year’ is the Thomas Theyer Foundation – although colleagues can support any cause they choose.
Before joining the company, I had seen photographs of charity walks, runs, climbs and sports matches on the website and social media pages.  I was certainly drawn to these charitable values and keen to work somewhere that is genuinely dedicated to giving back. Although, if I’m honest, I was a bit worried I’d have to sign up for a marathon!  
As it turned out, my new colleagues were doing all sorts of things for causes close to their hearts.  Some apply the skills they use at work, for example helping budding young entrepreneurs to learn about research and marketing, and others help out in the local community or charity shops. 
Naturally, in my first few months I had a lot to learn and new projects to get up to speed with. The volunteer day went to the back of my mind - something for the summer perhaps.  Then, in March, the world turned upside down. 
Suddenly, we were all working from home. Then into lockdown.  After a period of re-adjustment, I, like many of my colleagues and friends, started to think about what I could do to help.  Evidence of random acts of kindness, generosity and compassion was sweeping the nation amid tragic daily death totals on the news.  Rainbows started appearing in windows. We began clapping for carers every Thursday night. Thousands of people signed up to become NHS volunteers.  
I noticed on social media that some clothing companies, costume designers and home sewers (like me) had started to sew scrubs for the NHS.  With so many medical staff called upon to fight coronavirus on the front line, there was suddenly a need for thousands of pairs of scrubs. And quickly.  I looked into this further and found the Facebook campaign ‘For the Love of Scrubs’ had been set up to co-ordinate home sewers in producing scrubs for hospitals and GP surgeries all over the country.
As much as I love sewing (and I really do – I have taken over an entire room in our house with boxes of fabric), working in a busy research agency and racing around after a boisterous toddler doesn’t leave me with much time for my favourite hobby these days.  But then I remembered – the volunteer day! Knowing that I could take a day out of work specifically dedicated to this lifted the time barrier and gave me the push I needed to get involved.  
I contacted the co-ordinator in my area to check what supplies I needed and ordered the correct fabric.  Pattern designer Sew Different made a scrubs pattern available for free download and many online fabric shops are prioritising orders for scrubs fabric.  Fundraising campaigns were started to help those who wanted to help but couldn’t afford the fabric. Yet another example of people coming together in a time of crisis with their time, money and support. 
Can you make a difference in a day?  Well, I like to think so. I’m certainly not expecting a round of applause on Thursday night because I did some sewing, but the GP who received the scrubs I made knows they were made with love and when she puts them on I hope she is reminded that we are all so grateful for the fact she, like so many other front line staff, is going to work today.  
Ultimately, thinking beyond the specific task we complete on our volunteer day, it is about what we stand for as a company and the values we promote. Enabling us to take one day out of our working life can lead to something much bigger.  People make connections with their community and start to volunteer on a longer-term basis, outside of work. We can also learn new skills, meet new people and build self-confidence – all things that can benefit us personally both in and outside the workplace.  You could say that the volunteer days are just the start – they are there to nudge us in the right direction, a bit like the free fruit in the office. 
I hope the humanitarian spirit I have witnessed in my local area and all over the country will continue when life gets back to ‘normal’, but I know it will at DJS. 
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