Celebrating the fruits of solidary seeds
“Every week, more than 1,800 people facing economic difficulties and risk of social exclusion receive essential non-food products thanks to our network of volunteers and collaborating entities”, said Josep Lluís Guiu, head of Cellnex’s Sustainability Department, at the round table in which he participated during the second Volunteering Day hosted by Cellnex and the Cellnex Foundation. This very special day managed to convey the scope that our small actions can have on a social level and which undoubtedly sowed that seed of interest in many people who are considering taking an active role in the exciting world of volunteering.
Together with Josep Lluís, other colleagues from Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and the United Kingdom shared their altruistic experiences in and outside the company where they work, highlighting the enormous impact of their vocation for volunteering. The activities in which they are involved range from technology and IT outreach among youth and in areas at risk of exclusion and action to stop the trafficking and smuggling of minors, to supporting start-ups with a social impact, maritime safety, inclusive sports, environmental activism and more. These diverse experiences reflect the potential of small gestures.
Beyond the clear social motivations, corporate volunteering generates a tremendous impact on employees and companies alike. Among the revealing data put forward by Voluntare, an international network promoting Corporate Volunteering in Europe and Latin America, is the fact that over 76% of volunteers report improved physical and mental health, as the activity reduces stress and impacts on personal growth. Further, volunteering strengthens connection with the purpose of the company by 30% and improves employee engagement by up to 20%. It is also an activity that has a very positive influence on integrating organisational policies of diversity, equality and inclusion.
Cellnex is aware of this, and for many years has been supporting the solidarity initiatives proposed by its employees. For some time it has worked on a corporate volunteering programme, now channelled through its foundation, which implements projects closely linked to its know-how to cooperate with sustainable development and the 2030 Agenda.
A garden for all
November was a very special month for the entire team of volunteers because, in addition to the celebration of Volunteering Day, the winning project of Solidary Gift 2022 was announced. Every two years, the initiative injects a social entity in need with hope and great possibilities.
Nearly five hundred of the company’s professionals donate one euro from their monthly wages over two years. This sum, together with the Cellnex Foundation’s gift matching, which means the donation that the Foundation incorporates into the initiative, serves as the starting point of the yearly call for solidarity projects. “The most magical thing about this initiative is that the volunteers themselves develop the proposals, which must be detailed exhaustively, and determine where the money –which this year totals €56,000– will go”, says Àngels Ucero, Director of Sustainability at Cellnex and Director of the Cellnex Foundation. “It takes involvement, empathy, enthusiasm and passion for what we believe in.”
The initiative selected for 2022 is ‘A vegetable garden for all’ (Un huerto para todos), spearheaded by the ASPASIM Foundation, a non-profit focused on the welfare and inclusion of people with severe intellectual disabilities. “The vegetable garden is organic, accessible, open to everyone and fosters a space for reverse inclusion, normalising the abilities of people who society only sees as disabled, and making them visible”, says Rosa María Albarran, Project Manager of Environment at Cellnex. For several years Albarran has worked closely with ASPASIM and is the driving force behind their candidacy.
Among the proposals for this year’s Euro Solidarity, the standouts sought to improve the quality of life of people from various communities – individuals with functional diversity, for example, and people with cancer, language disorders and rare diseases, as well as victims of child sexual abuse. All represent great sensitivity and social value. Choosing one was truly difficult, albeit exciting, considering the fruits of that decision.
The donation will fund preparation of the land on which ASPASIM’s vegetable garden sits, as well as the educational classroom where children’s horticulture workshops are held, and building accesses for people with reduced mobility —ramps and walkways, for example—, as well as automatic irrigation systems and augmentative communication systems. It will also broaden the scope and quality of the activities and workshops offered there.
The Cellnex team of volunteers had the chance to experience ‘A vegetable garden for all’ first hand. The family activity enabled those present to discover the foundation’s footprint on the surrounding area, the environment, education and, above all, social inclusion.
Marc Tort, volunteer at the ASPASIM garden, saw to the task of presenting every corner of this space in Barcelona’s Collserola mountain range and sharing many basic notions about organic, regenerative, local and inclusive agriculture which are so forgotten and disconnected from the urban environment today. Marc asked the guests: “What does a seed need to grow? What are the phases of photosynthesis? How is compost made and what is it used for? Would we know how to answer these questions?”
The unbeatable experience underlined the essential role of volunteers in this group of social entities and demonstrated, once again, how essential it is to continue to connect with people, the community and the environment.