Project Give is a Coca-Cola European Partners sales and marketing initiative, encouraging corporate teams to take time out of their busy schedules to dedicate to a charity of their choice. Director Mark Dewhurst and his Revenue Growth Management team chose homeless charity the Cardinal Hume Centre and have so far raised £2,219. As well as fundraising, Mark and his team have been involved in several charity events, including the CEO Sleepout. He tells us about the event and the impact it had on him.

Working with the Cardinal Hume Centre

About a year and half ago my team and I were looking to find a charity that we’d like to support together. We looked at a few different options, but the Cardinal Hume Centre’s work really stood out for a couple of reasons: They not only offer practical help for overcoming poverty and homelessness, but also try to create relationships with people to help get them back up on their feet and back into employment.

Read more about the fantastic work done by the Cardinal Hume Centre

Workshop Photo
Coca-Cola European Partners staff and the Cardinal Hume Centre clients at an employment workshop.

“We are really grateful to the team from Coca-Cola who have been incredibly supportive of the Cardinal Hume Centre and the people we help.” – Cathy Corcoran, Chief Executive Cardinal Hume Centre

Something that resonated with all of us was the opportunity for us as a team to actively help as well as raising money for the charity. My colleagues Victoria Prowse and Dave Leslie, both Senior Managers of Commercial Strategy at Coca-Cola European Partners, organised a workshop that we held at Coca-Cola Great Britain headquarters on Wimpole Street, London. The HR and the Acquisitions team joined us to expand our resources and we worked with a group of 12 people from the Cardinal Hume Centre, giving practical help on the process of finding a job, how to prepare for an interview and what gets you noticed.

Over the course of the year, we’ve raised £2,219 for the Cardinal Hume Centre.

Cathy Corcoran, Chief Executive Cardinal Hume Centre, said: “We are really grateful to the team from Coca-Cola who have been incredibly supportive of the Cardinal Hume Centre and the people we help. They’ve not only raised money with internal events such as bake sales and sponsored rowing competitions and by taking taken part in our flagship Sleepout event, but have also supported our employment programme. They recently hosted a work insight day at their head offices for a number of our long term unemployed job-seeking clients. It was a great success and, for people who are struggling to get into work and can lack confidence, an inspiring and motivational experience. We are really looking forward to the next event with the Coca-Cola team with plans already well underway!”

Getting involved with the Sleepout

The Sleepout is quite a unique experience. When you’re doing charity work it’s very rare that you actually put yourselves in the shoes of the people you’re trying to help. Don’t get me wrong, it’s one night sleeping out in comparison to people that have to do it night after night - it’s hardly the same hardship at all - but it just gives you a little tiny window into what their world is like. That’s something quite powerful and I think that captured the imagination of people.

When you’re doing charity work it’s very rare that you actually put yourselves in the shoes of the people you’re trying to help.

Sleeping out at Lord’s Cricket Ground

Our Sleepout was held at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, so we made our way there from the Coca-Cola European Partners office in Uxbridge.

There was a welcome drinks reception in the Lord’s players’ enclosure where representatives from the charities involved spoke about how Sleepout is growing year on year – it was really encouraging to hear that it is going from strength to strength.

After the speeches, we were taken down to one of the stands which would be our home for the night. They turned most of the lights out, and then left us to it.

I’d love to say I was hugely prepared for the Sleepout, but other than bringing lots of thick clothes and a sleeping bag, I wasn’t very organised. Some people had brought along cardboard boxes which gave a bit of padding and shelter – I was looking across in envy at those people when I was trying to sleep at 3am! Although I don’t think anyone got much sleep that night. I dropped off about 12.30am then woke up at about 2.30am, and that was it. I found it really difficult to get back to sleep.

Bed for the Night
Bed for the night – Mark and his team slept in the stands at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

The sleepout really made you stop and think how lucky and privileged you are in life.

We were lucky that it was quite a mild autumnal night so the temperature didn’t dip too low. Having to contend with freezing temperatures would have made a huge difference to the experience.

What we also didn’t have, and what I’m sure a lot of homeless people go through, is the element of risk and the fear that ‘something could happen to me’. We were in a safe environment in a stand at Lord’s Cricket Ground, but if you were under a viaduct on the A40 on the outskirts of London, that would be a totally different experience. And incredibly scary as well.

For a few moments in a year, the sleepout really made you stop and think how lucky and privileged you are in life – the event was quite powerful in that respect.

For me, the next day was the biggest challenge. Trying to interact with people and function properly the next day on only a couple of hours’ sleep was tough.

The next day

When we took part in the Sleepout, it was mid-week, so the day of the event and the following day were normal work days. We were able to go home and get changed, and even catch a couple of hours’ sleep before heading back into the office - something that people who are homeless obviously don’t get the opportunity to do.

For me, the next day was the biggest challenge. Trying to interact with people and function properly on only a couple of hours’ sleep was tough - you’re operating on probably a tenth or a fifteenth of your capability. The effect that even just that one night had on me really hit home about how difficult it must be to be homeless – aside from the sleeping rough. You’re operating on very little sleep, the sleep that you do get is interrupted, you’re cold and miserable, and probably hungry as well.

When you’re on the Sleepout, you know it’s just for one night so you can grit your teeth and put up with it. For people who are homeless and face that reality every day, it really made you think how hard it would be to get your life back on track.

Over the course of the year, we’ve raised £2,219 for The Cardinal Hume Centre.

Would I do it again?

I would definitely take part in the Sleepout again. The charities involved are brilliant, it’s well organised, and you get a lot out of it as a team – it’s probably one of the most powerful team building things that we’ve done. Plus, you’re raising money for some incredibly worthy causes.

See how Coca-Cola is supporting the community with our various charity projects across the UK and worldwide.