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Each year, SMTP2GO donates thousands of dollars to charities that are close to its heart. As we’re headquartered in New Zealand, many of these good causes have a NZ-focus and include supporting New Zealand’s endangered species.

Donations made by SMTP2GO in the past year have included Forest and Bird NZ, SmileDial, Wasp Wipeout Week and Letterboxer.org.nz.

As we’re a large team, spread across the globe, we thought it would be great to do volunteer work that benefits where we live, too. So, we’ve started a new initiative where each member of staff is encouraged to take a ‘volunteer day’ to pay it forward within their local community.

I live in the UK, in a pretty market town that’s located about 40 miles from central London. It’s a lovely part of the the UK: pretty in a very English way (like a John Constable painting) but still close to the Big Smoke. It’s a very family-orientated town, which is great as I’ve chosen to raise my children here. There are two local charities that I’m keen to share some of my time with: one is a project helping to combat loneliness, especially in our elderly residents; and the other is a charity that helps women back into the workforce by helping them prepare for their job interviews by making sure they look and sound the part. As a mother, the other cause very close to my heart is education and I’ve discovered how a day spent volunteering can help enrich the lives of children (and take a little pressure off the teachers).

So, my volunteer day…

We’re fortunate in my town to have good schools but our teachers are still stretched to the max and always welcome a little help in the form of parent volunteers. A local school was running a school trip for its Year 4 class (8-9 year-olds) to an innovative educational centre based in Berkshire, and I took my first volunteer day to accompany the children, who are learning all about the Vikings, to Ufton Court.

“Ufton is an innovative charity that aims to change children’s lives through challenging and inspirational learning outside the classroom.”

Based within the grounds of a beautiful listed building, Ufton Court is an educational facility that provides hands-on, interactive learning. Having driven though the most stunning countryside, we arrived at Ufton to be met off the coach by two very authentic-looking Vikings: Ulrick and Astrid. Ulrick explained that the first half of our day would see us in the woods, learning how to fight with axes, swords and shields (this went down a storm!), as well as going on a raid (in a specially rigged-up, mock longboat in the woods).

We trekked into the woods, in glorious sunshine, to stumble across a Viking encampment. Before learning to become fearsome warriors, we all put on our war paint – including me! After slaying the enemy with axes and swords, the children learnt how to raid and what exactly the Vikings plundered from various countries around the world. This bit featured a lot of running through the woods, and really loud roaring, which the children LOVED! One fact that I personally enjoyed learning was that Vikings never drank the wine they plundered, but saved it all to give to their queen. Sad days for the Vikings, happy days for their queen!

After so much activity, it was a quick break for a picnic lunch in the great Viking Hall (actually a beautiful, authentic Tudor tithe barn) before the indoor activities commenced. Having switched on his ‘vi-pod’ (I did laugh!) to play some Viking background tunes, Ulrick discussed how the Vikings would let their hair down, when not raiding and plundering. The children took part in some Viking dancing and it was so lovely to see the children all taking part – not a trace of self-consciousness or awkwardness, just absolute joy and pleasure. After the dancing, the children learnt about some Viking games and had a go themselves. There were a few near misses when playing Kubb (a game that involves throwing a stout stick at wooden blocks in a bid to knock them down) – but, thankfully, no lasting ankle damage ensued.

Once the games were over, it was time to say goodbye to Ulrick and Astrid and get back on the bus back to school. Once we were all buckled in, our Viking friends waved us off and the sun set on what really was an incredible day. Back at school, the children were brimming with all the new things they’d learnt and seen, and the new memories made. It was so clear what a fantastic time they’d had, learning things they’ll remember for a very long time. I felt privileged to be part of this day, and to see first-hand how much effort goes into our children’s learning. Our teachers do an incredible job and I do wonder if they get the credit they fully deserve.

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