The value of volunteering: Supporting communities in Lima
As part of our commitment to being a responsible business, we encourage everyone at Mace to volunteer and give back to the communities surrounding our projects. In 2018, Mace’s people gave 21,000 hours of their time to good causes across the globe, providing countless community benefits and learning a lot along the way.
Leading the volunteering charge in Lima – in conjunction with our role on the 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games – is Project Coordinator, Priti Dabasia. Drawing on her experiences in the city, she explains why the benefits of volunteering extend beyond the communities we support.
For many of us in the Lima team, the project offered a chance to work in a developing nation for the first time. It was a completely new experience and we quickly realised that we were operating in a very different socioeconomic environment than we were used to. Having seen first-hand the poverty in some areas of the city, the whole team decided early on that we wanted to make a positive impact on Lima’s less fortunate communities.
Charitable work is one way that we’ve been able to get involved with local people and positively influence their lives. In particular, volunteering and fundraising has captured the team’s imagination and we’ve been privileged to take part in a number of initiatives during our time in the city.
One charity that we’ve built a strong relationship with is called Project Peru. Having been introduced by the British Embassy, we’ve gone on to support a number of the charity’s inspiring initiatives. Project Peru runs a children’s refuge in an area of the city called Zapallel and we’ve been privileged to offer two teenage residents work experience placements at Mace, giving them an opportunity to explore a career in construction and guidance on planning for life once they leave the refuge.
We’ve also helped to revamp a concrete sports pitch in the neighbourhood, raising funds for materials and also spending time at the pitch, getting involved with the spruce-up and engaging with the people who use it. This allowed us to connect with the local residents, and show them that the Games are already having an indirect positive impact on Lima.
Indeed, aside from the obvious benefits arising from volunteering initiatives, they can serve as a powerful community engagement platform, irrespective of the project or location. Volunteering helps to forge relationships and create avenues for meaningful dialogue with local people; a really important part of being a responsible business.
We’ve seen this principle put into practice during our volunteering activities with Colegio Quest Overseas, a school overlooking the Games venues at Villa Maria del Triunfo (VMT). Working with the British Embassy and the Lima 2019 client team, we’ve organised two sports days with the school, providing coached sessions for the children and helping them to be inspired by sport and the Games. Interacting with the children, teachers and parents on a fun and informal basis laid strong foundations in a community that, considering how close it is to VMT, hadn’t been closely engaged beforehand. Off the back of these new relationships, we’ve been instrumental in driving an initiative to paint local buildings – something that has been warmly received by the community and helped residents and businesses to view the Games in a positive light.
Our voluntary work in Lima, along with our considerate and inclusive approach to delivering the Games infrastructure, provides evidence of just how much of a positive impact international companies can bring to overseas projects, particularly in less developed and developing economies. By identifying opportunities to add social value early on, and encouraging a responsible ethos in your team from the outset, you’ll find, like we have in Lima, that the scope to give back is enormous.
Introducing our best-practice responsible business behaviours to the Peruvian construction industry has generated benefits for communities across Lima. The positives have been two-way, however, with our team taking away huge positives as well.
Volunteering initiatives provide fantastic opportunities for people to develop both personally and professionally. They can be eye-opening experiences, capable of pushing people outside of their comfort zone and giving them a new perspective on things. They can also provide a way for junior team members to gain early experience in project management roles, but in a less pressurised environment.
Volunteering in Lima has also given us an opportunity to build bonds as a team, making us a tighter unit and, ultimately, improving the way we work together. The benefits of volunteering genuinely are two-way and our initiatives in Lima have undoubtedly been effective in engaging, developing and inspiring our people.
We volunteer in Lima because we have a connection with the city and we want to see it flourish. We had a pretty good idea of the impact our good deeds would have in the less fortunate areas of Lima, but the profound impact volunteering has had on us as a team is greater than we could have expected. Our efforts in Lima serve as an excellent case study of why volunteering is so much more than a corporate tick box exercise.