How Leidos helps to support young people through employee volunteering
When Michael O’Neill was only six years old he would volunteer to push his older brother's wheelchair around at the Glasgow Disabled Scouts so he could participate in the meetings. Michael's brother had a severe form of cerebral palsy and even at such a young age, Michael could see the joy it gave his brother to take part in these inclusive Scouting activities.
Fifteen years on, Michael is working as a cybersecurity apprentice for Leidos UK, he is studying for an undergraduate degree at Edinburgh Napier University in cybersecurity, and continues to help care for his brother. In what little personal time he has left, Michael is also a volunteer leader with the Disabled Scouts and runs a Scout troop. He strongly believes in the work that the Scouting movement does to help young people develop vital life skills including team work, resilience, and self-belief.
“I'm trying to give something back to the people that helped me and my family. Many of my old leaders are still there," he says. “I just want to help other people have the same brilliant experiences I had as a Scout."
As part of his volunteering, Michael leads 30 to 40 young people a year through the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme. The scheme is hugely diverse and teaches teenagers everything from teamwork, volunteering to submitting weekly progress reports on time, and taking part in multi-day treks through the countryside.
Michael believes it would be very difficult to manage his time and fit everything in without Leidos UK's dynamic working policy. The policy allows all employees to flexibly manage their working hours.
“As long as I achieve my work goals, I can have time off when I need," he explains. “Whether that's taking Friday off to help run a Duke of Edinburgh expedition or starting work later in the day so I can be at home to get my brother ready in the morning, dynamic working culture here really helps me achieve my personal goals."
Michael was selected by the UK management team for a £1,000 charitable donation for the volunteering work he does. They were impressed by the commitment and sacrifice he demonstrates every day. The money is going towards the troop's ongoing fundraising efforts for a much-needed overhaul of their 50-year-old lodge to ensure it can cater to young people of all disabilities seeking to attend one of their annual ten-day summer camps.
It's these summer camps, in which leaders like O'Neill each work one-on-one with a disabled Scout to support them to take part in traditional Scouting activities, which has given him the most gratification from his volunteering experience.
“My favourite memory is guiding a group of ten scouts with a range of disabilities, from autism to total blindness, up a fairly large mountain in Scotland," he explains. “When the person I was supporting got to the top he couldn't believe it, and he couldn't stop talking about it all week."
For O'Neill, the firsthand knowledge of what the Scouts did for his brother makes those moments even more meaningful.
"There is such a sense of family with the Scouts, and I remember how my brother always used to come back with this huge smile," O'Neill says. “Volunteering with them is just one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. It’s great to work with Leidos, which not only gives the opportunity for employees to give back to community, but also celebrates our people who do so.”