Going wild about helping

Published on
2 November 2023

Muddy wellies and wheelbarrows replaced laptops and tablets when an army of volunteers from The Cumberland spent the day at a wildlife sanctuary close to Carlisle.

As head of data and credit risk Stephen Banks usually spends his days indoors and deskbound. But, thanks to the Community Days volunteering initiative at The Cumberland, Stephen and his team had the chance to flex their green fingers with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust.

The team spent the day planting seeds, potting plants and cutting back weeds at Gosling Sike Plant Nursery and Gardens at Houghton.

“They even let us loose with a scythe,” said Stephen. “At home we have a large garden, which my wife cares for beautifully.

“My one job is to mow the lawn. And now, thanks to the fantastic team at Gosling Sike, I know how to work a traditional scythe, which is so much kinder to the environment. We may not have been the most efficient team but what we lacked in horticultural expertise, we made up for in enthusiasm. And it was incredibly satisfying to see the difference we made.”

Gosling Sike is an organic working farm and the site of Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s northern office. There you can find a wildlife garden buzzing with life, lush pasture, wetland and beautiful woodlands.

The Cumberland encourages every employee to take part in a community day, giving them a day’s paid leave to support good causes. The scheme not only benefits local charities, but also the building society’s colleagues, who are given the chance to broaden their horizons and learn new skills. It’s part of The Cumberland’s commitment to kinder banking, which sees it support a range of good causes and projects in its communities.

A group of 10 volunteers from the marketing department spent the day at The Grange-over-Sands Community Foodshare. The project was founded by mother and daughter team Rahina and Genevieve Borthwick in a bid to reduce food waste and support those in poverty.

The Cumberland has pledged £250,000 to help combat food poverty in the region this year as part of its Kinder Kind of Kitchens initiative.

“How The Cumberland got us the grant is amazing,” said Rahina. “And now The Cumberland has sent us all these lovely volunteers. We are sending a heartfelt thank you from all of us.”

It was all hands on deck as the volunteers knuckled down to sort a food pantry and declutter an annexe, which will be transformed into a home for a family of Ukrainian refugees.

“It was incredibly humbling to meet Rahina and her dedicated team,” said PR executive Aaron Eland-Cullis. “I don’t think Rahina realises quite how special she is. It’s not just a project for her – it’s a way of life and she works 24/7 to help others.

“It was inspiring to work alongside her for the day and we are very grateful for the opportunity which really puts things into perspective. We won’t forget our time there.”

Colleagues from The Cumberland have also rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in at Eden Animal Rescue, People First and the Oaktree Animals’ Charity.