When the UK went into lockdown in March 2020, we all experienced unprecedented disruption to our daily lives. Social activities ground to a halt and many employees suddenly found themselves working from home. Changes caused by the Covid-19 pandemic had a dramatic effect on our lives, but for some, the consequences were far more profound. The number of people claiming unemployment benefits reached almost 2.1 million in April 2020. Those who could not work from home found themselves furloughed or lost their jobs, and an increasing number of families found themselves struggling to put food on the table.
As we adjusted relatively quickly to the ‘new normal’ of the pandemic here at NTT DATA UK, our thoughts turned to those who were not so fortunate. In particular, our thoughts lay with employees in the service sector; who are the lifeblood of the City of London, without whom other sectors could not function. Many service sector employees, from people working in restaurants to those working handing out free newspapers, suddenly found themselves without a job and in need of support.
Early on in the pandemic, I met with my friend Pete Pentecost, a City A.M. worker who lost his job handing out the City AM newspapers when the pandemic hit, to discuss how the office workers of the City could support the service sector and others in need. As a result of our conversation, we set up The City Gives Back Project, an incredibly ambitious initiative aiming to raise £10,000 for the foodbank based and being run by Christ Church Spitalfields (CCSPITS) in Tower Hamlets. Six months later, we are immensely proud to have raised £45,000 for this essential cause.
So, what have we learned since this initiative began?
Over the last few months, we have been amazed by the generosity of individuals and organisations alike. The City Gives Back initiative could not have achieved the success it has without the sponsorship of our clients including the Ascot Group, Tokio Marine Kiln, and Howden Group Holdings. Likewise, the volunteers from NTT DATA and our sponsors who packed food boxes on Wednesdays, ready to be distributed to families on Thursdays, were a vital part of our efforts to help as many people as possible. I’d like to give a special shout out to Matt Jarman and Karthik Notada who have attended almost every single week since mid-February, Rashyd Ullah who provided Pete with an iPhone (he was initially very resistant) and taught him how to use it, Simon Williams who is a brilliant box maker, Claire Webster who also bought her son, Rob Cran and Mark Toye, who have very different approaches to packing boxes and so many other members of NTT DATA staff. Thank you all for supporting this initiative.
Those of us who did volunteer felt grateful to be putting our energy into a good cause and to be helping those who had fallen on hard times. We enjoyed coming together to pack the boxes and felt a real sense of community and positivity in giving back to people, many of whom used to support us in our daily working lives before the pandemic began. Our involvement also helped to maintain our mental wellbeing during the most challenging months of the Pandemic, particularly through volunteering to pack the food boxes – it focused our minds on people very much less fortunate than ourselves.
A key lesson we have taken away from this initiative is what can be achieved when we push the boundaries of our expectations. Our initial target of £10,000 soon became £20,000 and quickly doubled again as we realised just how much we could do when we put in the hard work and resources.
Having raised £42,000, we have been able to help more than 65 families per week through this difficult period by providing food and essential supplies. Every time we smashed a target, we were able to help more people, and this only motivated us further to create new, more ambitious targets to strive towards.
Looking to the future
While employment levels have begun to recover from their lowest point in the pandemic, many people still remain out of work, and certain groups – particularly young and older workers – are likely to continue suffering the consequences of job losses.
At NTT DATA we feel it is our duty as a City based organisation that we must continue to look out for those in need of support and do what we can to provide help, whether through donations, volunteering, or other services.
While The City Gives Back initiative is coming to an end, and the number of families in need of the CCSPITS foodbank’s services is declining, now is not the time to grow complacent. NTT DATA remains committed to supporting those in need of support and will continue to do so with our range of partners in the coming months.
Big thank you to everyone!