Virgin Atlantic volunteers: Behind the scenes at We Day UK

By: Maxine Sheppard

March 24, 2014

Earlier this month we were hugely proud to sponsor a groundbreaking event conceived by our international charity partner Free The Children  – a movement of young people brought together at a radical celebration known as We Day, which you can read all about in our previous blog post.

As a headline sponsor, Virgin Atlantic – in the form of our many willing volunteers – were heavily involved in all aspects of the day. In fact, working for Virgin Atlantic can open up a a world of opportunities beyond the day job, leading to all kinds of new experiences, friendships, skills and stretching of comfort zones. And our involvement in We Day is just the latest of those adventures. But don’t just take it from us – let’s see what our people have to say for themselves, about We Day, about Free The Children, and working for Virgin Atlantic.

Meet our volunteers

Our We Day volunteers.jpg

As you can see from the photo above, we were certainly not short of people who wanted to get involved with We Day, so we tracked down a handful of our volunteers to get their thoughts on the experience. First up, we asked about their highlights of the day.

“My best memory of today was Al Gore,” said Sam Mussellwhite, a member of our Senior Cabin Crew. “I thought he was very inspirational. It was a real eye-opener for children today, and gives you real motivation to make a change in the world.”

Paralympian and 7/7 bombings survivor Martine Wright also made a big impression. Her speech was a huge highlight for Paula Lipscomb, a member of our Heathrow Clubhouse team who has worked for Virgin Atlantic for nine years, finding time to trek to Everest Base Camp and visit our adopted Kenya village along the way. “I just think Martine’s story is incredible,” she said. “The way she’s coped with everything she’s been through and remained so positive is inspirational.”

“Everyone was absolutely amazing today,” added Ella Scott, Premier Service Team Leader in our our Contact Centre, . “But Martine’s speech had a very different dynamic to it.”

Al Gore.jpg

So what do our people have to say about our partnership with Free The Children? It appears our deep ties with the organisation have had a profound effect on our staff. “I’d say it’s a really special partnership, which has really allowed us to flourish,” said Vera Rodrigues, Contact Centre Training Manager with 17 years service behind her who has run the London and Loch Ness Marathons, climbed Mt Fuji and trekked the Great Wall of China to single out just a few of her achievements. “It’s great to see how our fundraising efforts can help people progress in their lives through education, and fulfill their own dreams.”

Trevor Zolan, who has worked in our Engineering department for seven years, was similarly impressed. “Having worked with children for most of my adult life, from volunteering in the UK at holiday camps and coaching mini rugby and youth rugby, it was really the partnership with Free The Children which got me interested in all the different adventure options,” he said. “My first adventure was Cycle India in 2011. The charity is really one of the best I’ve ever worked with, and I’d say to anybody at Virgin: just take a look into it, and if it doesn’t energise you I’ll be very surprised.”

One person who had a particularly surprising We Day role sprung on him at the last minute was Senior Cabin Crew member Ben Tilson. Stepping in for a ‘talent wrangler’ who failed to materialise, Ben was left to look after the presenters and run their dressing rooms. “In between that, because I was based at the side of the stage I had to greet every single artist, performer and speaker coming in and out. So I got to meet everybody. Even Prince Harry, who was amazing – only ever interested in meeting the kids. He didn’t want to have any fuss or photos done with anybody else,” he said. “And I got to spread the word about Free The Children and all we do on the ground at Virgin. It was great for us, as Virgin, to be able to talk about things from our perspective.”

Prince Harry.jpg

We also wanted to understand what our volunteers took away from their day, both personally and professionally. “Professionally, I think I’m going to take away the fact that you can do absolutely anything if you put your mind to it. There is no “can’t” or “don’t” or “won’t” – there’s only “how”,” said Paul McCarthy, a contracts manager in our IT Team who’s worked with Free The Children since the very start of our relationship. “This sort of experience certainly also helps me in my day to day role – you really can make a difference by making small changes, and it gives you a positive attitude that you can achieve things when you try!”

And for Ella, it’s all about continuing to get involved. “Personally, I will carry on grasping every single opportunity that comes my way,” she said. Trevor concurs. “I just want to keep on striving, to take on every challenge, and be better than I was yesterday.”

Working for us

So what else can you expect if you come and work for Virgin Atlantic? We spoke to Sally Williams, a recruitment advisor who’s been with us for nearly 16 years. “I love the buzz of the airline industry – it’s addictive!” she said. “I come across quite a few people who come away from Aviation and swiftly hanker to return to it.”

“If you’re looking to work for an exciting, innovative company amongst great people then you should definitely apply,” she added. “Always look at our careers website as there may be vacancies on it that you would not even imagine would exist. And if you like to travel then this is the place to be as we offer the best benefits in the industry. Working for us opens a world of opportunity – not only for your career but from a personal perspective with the many fundraising incentives that we offer.”

“I personally have gained invaluable recruitment experience, being proud to represent Virgin Atlantic at many careers events, visiting a women’s prison to talk about careers, delivering training to new joiners, sharing the passion of working here, travelling the world and having the best travelled children! It’s an exciting place to be and every day I feel proud when coming into work.”


We Day Holly Richard.jpg


If you want to learn more about working for Virgin Atlantic and our company culture, visit our careers website.

Maxine Sheppard

Maxine is the co-editor of the Virgin Atlantic blog. Travel and music are her joint first loves, and despite having written for Virgin for more years than she cares to remember she still loves nothing more than jumping on a plane in search of new sights and new sounds.