Since 2010, we’ve enjoyed a partnership with international charity and education partner Free The Children – a network of children helping children through education and development programmes in 45 countries around the world.
As part of our involvement, we’re proud to be a headline sponsor of We Day. This Free The Children initiative is an annual series of stadium-sized events which brings together high profile speakers and performers from around the world to inspire a movement of young people intent on leading change in their local and global communities. This year saw speeches and performances from the likes of Princess Beatrice, actor Martin Sheen, Nelson Mandela’s grandson Kweku Mandela and of course, our own Richard and Holly Branson and our Chief Executive Craig Kreeger.
The 2015 UK event took place last week at London’s Wembley Arena, with numerous Virgin Atlantic employees offering their time and energy to help out. But our commitment to Free The Children doesn’t stop there. Every year, hundreds more of our people take part in physically demanding “˜Adventures’ in the destinations we fly to, pushing themselves to the limits of their comfort zone while raising money and donating equipment to some of the villages we sponsor in China, India and Kenya. One of those volunteers – Heathrow Clubhouse Concierge Paula Lipscomb – has risen to the challenge on several occasions, so we caught up with her at We Day to find out why she does it.
Paula, can you tell us how you came to be at We Day today?
I’ve been involved in a lot of Virgin Atlantic’s charity adventures that have been running over the past five years or so. I was lucky enough to be a guest at We Day last year and was obviously very inspired by what I heard, so this year I wanted to be a volunteer on the day and was really pleased to be accepted.
How did you get involved and what adventures have you taken part in?
What first inspired me was running the London Marathon in 2010, which was sponsored by Virgin Money. This was the start of it all for me. I did it – I nearly died, but I managed it – and not only raised over £2,000 for charity, but got such a great buzz that I set out to find out about other things I could do at Virgin Atlantic, and discovered the “˜Adventures’.
I then applied and was accepted onto the challenge to climb Mount Fuji in Japan which I completed later that year, and I also visited Sikirar – our adopted village in Kenya – and spent a few days out there engaging with the local kids and helping to build the village school.
I climbed Mount Kenya in the March of 2011, and I took part in Cycle India and Cycle USA as well. The trips are normally about 7 days, with the adventure part being 3 or 4 days of that. And I helped organise Cycle South Africa last year too.
What sticks in your mind from all the adventures you’ve been on?
Falling off my bike! About 10 minutes into the first day on Cycle South Africa I came off my bike, and I fell off in India as well! In South Africa I was just going a little too fast, skidded on some gravel and went flying. In India I fell right onto our Chief Operating Officer who was also on the trip, when my wheels slipped on a wet patch and we ended up in a pile-up. No lasting injuries; just a few war wounds to tell the story!
The trips are a real eye opener. In Kenya a lot of the kids don’t have mirrors so they don’t know what they look like. They’re fascinated with phones and cameras so they can see themselves which they’ve never been able to do before. We were also out there with some members of Cabin Crew in their uniforms and the kids were intrigued by their tights. They’d never see them before, nor had they seen tattoos which they tried to rub off!
It’s great to see how much they appreciate what you’re doing for them, but sad to see how little they have got. But they were just the happiest of kids despite this. That was the real eye opener.
Can you tell us about your current role at Virgin Atlantic?
Quite a contrast. In my day-to-day job I work in the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow. I work on the Concierge desk, which is the main point of contact for most of our Upper Class passengers once they’ve checked in and are awaiting their flight.
My very first job with Virgin Atlantic was as Cabin Crew. I’d been crew for another airline before that but my dream was to be crew for Virgin, so I achieved my goal. After a while I decided I needed a change so I first worked in the Clubhouse as waiting staff, then in several other roles before applying for my current position. I’ve been in my Concierge role for about four years now. Looking ahead, I would love to get more involved in the charity and community investment aspect of Virgin Atlantic if the opportunity came up. That would be my dream job!
What would you say to anyone thinking of applying for a job in the Clubhouse?
The opportunites I’ve had in the Clubhouse have been great. Every day brings new challenges. There’s a big customer service aspect to the role and I deal with all kinds of requests and get to meet lots of interesting people including, of course, celebrities. The Clubhouse is a great environment to work in and I’m surrounded by lovely colleagues, we’re like a little family I guess. Many waiting staff go on to work as crew, but a lot of the Hosts and Duty Managers have been there years. We know we’re very lucky and it’s a nice place to be and to work.
But all the adventures with Virgin Atlantic have opened my eyes to a completely different world. Through doing them I’ve met so many different people and made so many different friends. I look back now and think if I’d never joined Virgin I’d never have had those opportunities to get involved. I have so many wonderful memories and photographs of the things I’ve done.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of embarking on an adventure?
Just do it! Just sign up, because you won’t regret it. You’ll make friends for life, you’ll achieve something you never thought you could, and you’ll be getting involved. Which, after all, is what We Day is all about.
Visit our careers site to read more about life at Virgin Atlantic.