Ordinary people doing extraordinary things for the sake of others. Employees who provide time and energy, and share their skills to transform the communities in which they live. Here's the EDP Volunteer program.
As a child, Rita had always shown willingness to help others. Then one day, at a family party, her aunt asked her if she wanted to join the scouts. "I heard that and thought I'd love to! To serve the community and contribute to a better world," recalls the leader of EDP Volunteers.
She was six years old when she began to participate in the activities of Scouts Troop 71 Parede, and for her volunteering and serving others blend together. "Scouting is based on serving and on the idea that each of us makes a difference, that is why, from an early age, we've been in contact with different realities and we've been a part of community solutions."
At 19 years old, she worked on a project in nursing homes in the area of Parede. For a year, she listened to stories, sang, painted and gave companionship to clients. There she met Mr. Francisco, who was then 94 years old. "I heard him talking about his wife, now deceased, their love story and how they spent their honeymoon on a train between Algarve and Lisbon. It impressed me a lot. Service is also the encounter between people and other generations," she notes.
"I had never thought of managing the program, despite being so connected to the cause. I had just arrived from Greece. It was the right timing"
Before arriving at EDP, she led youth groups, gave training and became a leader of the National Scout Association. So when she learned that EDP had a volunteer project, she immediately wanted to participate. "I remember feeling joy and motivation to work in a company that had this kind of initiative," she explains.
It started with the projects Junior Achievement Portugal and Parte de Nós Ambiente within the company. In May 2015, when she saw the first images of the migratory crisis and the thousands of refugees arriving in rubber boats, she asked for one month's unpaid leave to go as a volunteer to a receiving center for asylum seekers and refugees in Sicily, Italy. "It was a life-changing experience," says the EDP employee.
Months later, she was invited to strengthen a humanitarian mission on the island of Lesbos, in Greece, with a colleague from the company, Tiago Marques, through the Support Platform for Refugees (PAR, Portuguese acronym), of which EDP Foundation is a member.
When she returned, she was even more decided and willing to work for and on behalf of other people. "I wanted to have more impact on the lives of others," she says. I was in the Institutional Stakeholders Relations Department in Lisbon for five years, and it was just then that the invitation to take up the volunteer area in the organization was extended. "I had never thought of managing the program, despite being so connected to the cause. I had just arrived from Greece. It was the right timing", she adds.
On the wall of the EDP Gas office in Porto, there is a phrase: "None of us is as good as all of us together. " It was Ana Patricia Veloso, the head of EDP Gas Distribution, who posted it. "I follow the motto of the founder of McDonalds and I've adapted it to my managing," she explains.
"The company allows me, within working hours, to do what I like most and what fulfils me most as a person"
Help your neighbour, your friend, your acquaintance and strangers. For Ana Patrícia Veloso, the word "help" is of key importance. She started to do volunteer work a few months before joining EDP in 2010. She helped to raise funds for the first Ronald Home, belonging to the McDonald's group in Porto. During leisure times, she was also a volunteer at the São João Hospital at Porto. Volunteering has been part of her entire professional career, and at EDP that was not to change.
When she joined the company, Ana Patrícia felt herself to be in her natural environment. "I've always volunteered. At EDP, with such a strong volunteering culture, it was icing on the cake. The company allows me, within working hours, to do what I like most and what fulfils me most as a person," she says.
As a volunteer in EDP, she was part of the project "Junior Achievement Portugal", which takes programs that develop a taste for entrepreneurship to schools, furthermore calling on young people of school age to participate in solidarity projects. She was also coordinator of an edition of "Parte de Nós", a social responsibility initiative of the EDP Group.
Nowadays, she continues to volunteer at the São João Hospital. "Through the hour bank, we can do more well-planned and regular work at the hospital,” she explains. EDP created an hour bank to be used in volunteer work. This bank is managed on a departmental level and gathers an average of 4 work hours per employee.
For Ana, "all experiences are touching and leave a mark, each at their own level. Volunteering at the São João Hospital is the most rewarding at an emotional level. We return with filled hearts and it is through seeing and hearing colleagues with their hearts filled that it is gratifying to participate in these activities. I am aware that I do very little, but I believe that this little contribution can make the difference."
She also managed to mobilize EDP Gas Distribution management for this initiative. Ana and her colleagues perform larger activities with children hospitalized in Oncology. "We painted the hospital and managed to get the donation of a container through a contractor who is our supplier," she says. Every Christmas, the employees of EDP Gas distribute gifts to hospitalized children and organize a brunch for them.
"To match my profession with a volunteer project"
Volunteering is a part of the everyday routine of Jorge Mayer as well, who has worked for 10 years with the homeless of Porto as a volunteer in the street team and at the planning level of projects to support employability.
"I never thought it was possible to match my profession with a volunteer project" says he who was the volunteering program manager for 5 years. Up until knowing about the Kakuma project, where EDP joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to bring renewable energy and environmentally sustainable solutions to a refugee camp in Kenya.
In 2009, Jorge Mayer was invited by the EDP Foundation to be the manager in the field for the Kakuma project. "I realized that the company really wanted to grow in this area and had the will to do very good things.
In 2010, he was sent to Kakuma, Kenya, where he spent 15 months in the field and was temporarily integrated into the United Nations. "It was a striking project in the social area, with regards to EDP projects of recent years," he recalls. When the project ended in early 2011, the company invited him to lead the EDP Volunteer Program, where he remained until July 2016. "There already were some practices occurring, and the company wanted to make the leap, to have dedicated resources and to create a top-of-the-line program" he explained.
"Even in this context of crisis in which we live, companies can only grow in societies that also grow and therefore, somehow, we are all united. Our company cannot be impermeable when facing what is happening around us, on the contrary. We have excellent professionals, we have many technical skills that we mastered. Therefore, it behooves us to be attentive, open and to involve ourselves in the society around us, in the communities we participate in. Whether it is in Portugal, in Rio de Janeiro, in Bilbao or in Houston. It is up to us to be alert and to connect ourselves to the community. We have to be a public company, but also more humane and more involved in making this a better world. Everyone wins with Volunteering."
Jorge wasted no time and began to plan, structure and develop strategies, approaches and communication tools. In the same year, the Volunteer Program presented Parte de Nós (Part of Us in Portuguese) and launched the Volunteer project LEAN, which transmits methodologies that aim at more effective management of resources and processes used within a company.
Vítor Cordeiro is a major driving force behind LEAN Volunteering. He has volunteered for over 20 years now. At EDP, he began in 2011, the year in which the volunteering of skills began at the company.
"It's a way to give back to society part of what it gives us," says the director of EDP Production.
In his spare time, he goes to schools and other institutions supported by the company to boost process efficiency and stimulate a more rational use of resources. "Our partners attribute to a high value to this support, not only for financial gain, but especially through changing the behaviors and attitudes of people," he explains.
The Group of Schools of Abrigada, in Alenquer, was the first to welcome the LEAN project. Before long, it proved successful and has become an inspiring model for other schools, authorities and institutions supported by volunteers from EDP Production, EDP Distribution, EDP Commercial Solutions and EDP Gas.
The project grew so rapidly that the parents of the students who received training are themselves now putting into practice LEAN methodologies in neighbouring institutions. "It is a very beautiful project and it's even walking on its own now. People are excited to see who can get things more organized, to function better and, moreover, to save money," says Jorge Mayer.
It is the joy of others, the realization of dreams, through small gestures, which moves Armando Almeida to participate in the activities of the volunteer program at EDP.
He is a voluntary electrician in EDP Distribution and he was in a pilot training of the Verifiers Exchange.
"We know that we are contributing to better management and, eventually, to increase the well-being of users," says Armando. "There is always someone in need of us."
To help reduce the energy bill, Armando and his volunteer colleagues receive a short training to do mini audits that help private social welfare institutions to reduce their energy costs and thus have more resources for social activities.
A global energy
Six years after the kick-off of the volunteer program, 20% of EDP employees volunteer annually and volunteering has been connecting locations and businesses. An energy built in 14 countries made up of commitment, involvement and responsibility. But above all, an energy that can make a difference.
"We can be better people by putting into action the most human part of us: looking after and caring for others, the love of the life to which we all are entitled to."
Ana Maria Schneider
In São Paulo, as in the Porto offices, there is a sign with a motivational text. This time it's by Bertolt Brecht about good throughout life: "Volunteering is the union of wills to do good with respect to those in a greater state of vulnerability," reads the quote. A relationship achieved through the "delivery of talent, time and knowledge," says Ana Maria Schneider, of the EDP Institute, one of the managers of volunteering at EDP Brazil.
It was she who, in 2014, embraced the project in Brazil. Throughout her life she has done various volunteering jobs, going from caring for disabled persons to activities in favelas with care offered to families in situations of drug abuse or domestic violence. Currently, Ana is actively involved in the activities of the EDP Institute.
The "Desafio do Bem" project, in which work teams choose one social organization and, with it, design a project to be implemented, is one of the most prominent in Brazil.
Aware of the importance of their role, EDP has also developed a support plan in the slums next to São Paulo's headquarters: they installed 10 computers so that the volunteers can teach a digital inclusion course to children, teens and elderly. "There are about 1300 people who are assisted in the Digital Inclusion Cycle Favela Colosseum which has welcomed the work of 16 volunteers," says Ana Maria.
"Volunteers are people who like to actively participate in society and to give the best of themselves to those who do not have the same luck, so as to turn the world into a better place."
Long meetings, words of encouragement, the will to succeed, and sparkling eyes. This is the description of the recently adopted routine of Mayra Sanz, coordinator of the volunteer program of "EDP Renováveis".
Before joining the company, Mayra had just collaborated as a volunteer in a non-governmental organization caring for animals. "It is thanks to "EDP Renováveis" that I have had the opportunity to participate in such different actions and get to know very distinct realities".
Volunteering is one of the strong points of the Social Responsibility program of EDP Renováveis. In Spain, the program is growing and supports different areas of society. Employees are divided into social activities to raise food for poor families, to develop activities related to the environment - for example, planting trees and cleaning rivers - or to produce emergency kits for refugee camps in team building activities. A job that, step by step, generates smiles and tries to make the world better.
"It is one of the most ambitious projects we ever had: the most demanding but the most rewarding one as well"
Lots of volunteer projects, lots of energy put into initiatives that really make a difference. EDP Spain employees also give all they have to gradually change the world.
Carmen Echevarria works in the Human Resources Department and has been with the company since 1999. Her involvement with the company's volunteer program began with the Nyumbani project in Nairobi. Now, in 2017, she is responsible for the Program at EDP Spain.
This project has installed 220 photovoltaic panels in Nyumbani (Nairobi), providing free energy to 1000 orphaned children who were abandoned and rescued in the streets of Nairobi. They live with 100 grandparents in an eco-village specifically created for them: Nyumbani Village.
Our staff in Spain has mobilized and succeeded: they brought technical expertise to the site and, thanks to the funds they raised through highly creative initiatives, they travelled several times between Nairobi and Spain to oversee the whole process.
But there's more to the company's volunteer program: our partnerships with the Red Cross and Caritas allow us to reach more people in a more effective way, with initiatives such as distributing non-aggressive and non-sexist toys to children, organizing Christmas festivities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods, or holding sports events with charitable purposes.
The company also holds marrow donation campaigns on a regular basis, and in 2017 one of our workers found a donor for his daughter thanks to this initiative.
The aim of the program is now to increasingly enhance the skills of employees in service to society, paying close attention to the global objectives of sustainable development to be achieved by 2030. The program will invest more and more in people's skills and in the connection to business. Rita Monteiro believes that the results of this will be positive: "EDP can make an important contribution by challenging employees to continue to participate in a program that concerns them and has the potential to transform our world".
"For a company such as EDP that operates in the energy sector it is important to develop actions in the communities where we operate." She adds: "An employee who volunteers through the company has the opportunity to meet those in need, to make a difference, and to experience rewarding interactions with other people."