Why volunteering is part of my DNA
December 3, 2020
For the third year in a row, 100% of our people at Accenture New Zealand have participated in volunteering. In celebration, Business and Integration Architecture Manager, Phil Davies, reflects on his personal journey of community work. He and his wife, Tracy, are the founders of Kiwi Community Assistance (KCA) – an extraordinary force for good in New Zealand, which is a big part of their lives.
When Tracy and I decided to try to help reduce inequality in our local community, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. It all started back in 2011 when we watched a documentary on childhood poverty and realised we lived a 5-minute drive from one of the areas mentioned.
We were too close not to try and help, so we contacted a few social workers and donated various items from our household. We casually set up a Facebook group for friends and family to do the same and went away on holiday. When we got back, we couldn’t get into our house. The front porch was stuffed floor to ceiling with donations.
Next, we started buying extra food to produce a food parcel a week. Then we thought about all that food waste and got into food rescue, with social workers turning up every Friday to take whatever we’d collected.
Pretty quickly word spread. We started dealing with agencies and social enterprises. And suddenly our lounge and garage were full to bursting, people were arriving all the time, someone donated us warehouse space and we won a People’s Choice Charity Award that came with funding. The snowball had started rolling down the hill – and there was no stopping it!
Today, Kiwi Community Assistance works with 70 agencies across the Greater Wellington Region. Last year, our donations helped 60,000 people.
Over the years, we’ve had some extraordinary donations. As the country went into lockdown the flower markets closed, so we received nearly a tonne of flowers! Our volunteers made up bouquets and distributed them around rest homes, hospitals and hospices throughout Wellington just as everything shut down.
We also had a chain of Indian restaurants donate 18 tonnes of rice during lockdown! We had so much we had to ship it out of the region – as far away as New Plymouth.
We operate with only one paid staff member, our general manager Michele, and about 100 volunteers. My wife Tracy, who is our CEO, works ridiculous hours for free. She is the public face of the organisation and also the driving force behind our growth. I chair the board. It’s our job to try to stop Tracy from growing things bigger than we can afford – which is not always easy!
I have a full-time role with Accenture, and I volunteer as much of my spare time as I can. Accenture gives everyone 7.5 hours / one day of volunteering time a year, this can be increased to up to five days depending on the circumstances. It’s great to have that time and encouragement to get involved in our communities! And it’s fantastic to be able to get support from my colleagues when we need an extra hand. A few months ago, when we upgraded to a larger warehouse, Accenture sent teams of 8-10 people out every day to help us move stock and organise the new space. Not only were they making a difference, they were also getting a great workout!
Senior Manager, Jane Holland, was one of our volunteers. As she puts it, “It was hard work! But great to get out into the community. It really made you feel that you were contributing to a grass roots charity that does an enormous amount of good. It was impressive that the warehouse and operations are so well run. Clearly, Tracy runs a tight ship and nothing is wasted or overlooked!”
Jane says many of the Accenture volunteers are interested in volunteering again. “Now we’ve seen first-hand the great work done by KCA in the community, we are keen to stay involved.”
Community is in my blood. My parents were farmers, so I grew up with working bees and barn raisings. When we lived in town, Tracy and I became neighbourhood watch coordinators. It’s the right thing to do – making sure everyone looks out for each other.
One of the things we’re really proud of with KCA is that we’re enabling front line charities to work with more people. Before us, social workers used to spend a lot of time sourcing what their clients needed. Now, we just put food, clothes, and household goods into their hands and they can take everything directly to families.
Their stories are wonderful. We hear about parents being in tears because they’ve never before been able to afford to give their kids fresh meat, fruit, and veggies. That incredible value to the community is what keeps us going.
Learn more about how KCA are addressing inequality with the support of Accenture volunteers by visiting https://www.kca.org.nz/.