Not Just IT

Words and pictures are not enough to describe today, I have been privileged to witness something very special indeed.

Our journey today has felt like a week of experiences in one day, in a good way. First we visited a school sponsored by Sopra Steria, the Bhuvana Krishna matriculation hr sec school in Chennai, where we were greeted by the school elders and a marching band.

Here I cut the ribbon to their new computer room, with 40 computers provided by Sopra Steria, and met some of the students who then had lunch with us. It was a wonderful experience seeing first hand the difference that the Sopra Steria CSR programme makes here in India and not just with IT. The programme also sponsors the schools and Sopra Steria staff volunteer to work at these schools, where they:

  • Mentor the kids through their education
  • Support the families and communities
  • Run summer camps
  • Organise sports days
  • Run arts and crafts workshops
  • Provide guidance on life after school
  • Provide female guidance on life as a woman in India.

Sopra Steria didn’t even start helping this school with IT equipment until later. Not Just IT.

After lunch we were shown around the Sopra Steria Campus; set in 27 acres of landscaped gardens, before meeting the scholars and alumni from the schools in Chennai. Some of the proud parents were also there. One girl was studying two degree courses through Sopra Steria, and was looking to become a chartered accountant in the public sector.

Lastly, we visited the Punjab association destitute home for children; an orphanage, where we were met by 200 children of all ages from 5 to 18. We were then honoured by the lighting of candles as a symbolisation in readiness for Diwali, where Ganesh was surrounded by rings and rows of candles. After this ceremony a bell rang and all the children ran off. They came running back to the dining room with their plates where we helped serve them their dinner, which was provided by Sopra Steria. The children in the home were incredibly sweet, wanting to engage with us and to see photos of my home in Tockenham and the countryside of the UK.

This home really was a home; it felt just like a big family. All the kids were smiling and saying positive things about Sopra Steria and the home. One girl we met earlier at the scholars’ event was now studying to be a lawyer and is in the 2nd year of her course. She is a bright student who was originally a resident at the home.

Authored by John Gough.

An early start for an experience of a lifetime

Wednesday Kim and I had an early start; our taxi took us to the airport at 5am so we were both up at 4am – 11.30pm UK time!

We arrived at the hotel just in time to join the Sopra Steria Community Day in Pune a Share & Support Day in the Sheraton Hotel Pune, the ceremonies started with the lighting of a Deepam, which signifies the removal darkness from the mind and heart of a person. An oil Deepam signifies the light of knowledge, which dispels the darkness of ignorance. It shines itself and causes the objects around it, to shine due to its reflection by giving knowledge, wisdom and intelligence.

After introduction from Gayathri the programme began which included a quiz competition between 8 Sopra Steria supported schools and amazing cultural performances by primary school children and scholars and Sopra Steria staff and even hotel staff. Apart from representatives of schools, children, scholars, we as representatives of 6 countries across Europe also joined in the celebrations with a sing along to Head Shoulders, knees and toes, in each of our native languages, which had everyone on their feet dancing to the same song.

Anil Gokarn was the environment speaker – founder of ProEarth Ecosystems in who process 3.5 tons per day of organic waste processing across 40 odd locations in areas of Pune. His talk and video  on  environmental issues, and particularly climate change, was well received and certainly brought home how this is a global problem that everyone needs to be involved with, seeing so many of the young generations in the room.

The dancing, singing, and guitar playing was of the highest standard and again brought tears to my eyes watching such beautiful performances. Something Kim and I would not have missed for the world. It was amazing to know these young students and scholars had put so much into not only their own educations, but outside of study preparing for this day.

After the event, we had Indian buffet and were able to speak with all of the scholars, students and teachers. The day for me was special, these kids are following their dreams and knowing that Sopra Steria is there helping making the journey even better with the support and encouragement of the SSIF was an honour to see. 

Proof of this was shown in one of the posters at the event of the 660 beneficiaries of the scholarships.

  • 422 completed courses
  • 245 engineering courses completed
  • 5 medicine completed
  • 410 other courses completed
  • With 238 still benefitting from the programme 

Dreams can happen

By John Gough

Our first day – One we’ll both never forget.

Today was a very emotional day for both Kim and myself; we visited the Shri Ghanshyam Sharma Memorial High School, Uttar Pradesh. One of the schools supported by Sopra Steria.

Greeted by the school principal with garlands of flowers on our first day, we were anointed with Tilaaka on our foreheads to honor our visit; we then proceeded to walk in to the school with chants of welcome from the students and showers of rose petals.

 

After introductions, six of the pupils serenaded us, before the younger boys demonstrated their skills and knowledge, asking us for our names and telling us the capital cities of each country they knew of.

We then proceeded to each class in turn, telling them about ourselves while we passed around their mid-morning snacks. We spent some time with some of the primary school age children helping them with their reading ending the day with the planting of a tree, as a reminder of our visit. 

I have never experienced such joy seeing as I had visiting the children, who were as interested in us as we were in them, the hardest part was to leave the school at just after lunch.

Such was the enthusiasm; I could have stayed there all day. It was a truly moving experience and one that brought tears to my eyes – It was a beautiful experience and made better knowing that it was only through the hard work and dedication of the Sopra Steria CSR team and Sopra Steria worldwide that has made this work of the SSIF possible.

For lunch, we were invited to visit the principal’s house for a lavish spread of Indian delicacies, each cooked by his wife. The food was delicious and I made a particular point of thanking the lady of the house for her hard work. We felt part of the family at their house, meeting not only the Principal’s family but also his close relatives and the other teacher and village leaders. It was a fantastic end to our first visit to one of the Sopra Steria’s sponsored schools.

Later that afternoon we proceeded to Nodia and visited the Sopra Steria Head Offices in Sector 134, a very impressive setup with over 3000 employees working there.

We visited the crèche and had a tour of the building, we learnt so much From Gayathri Mohan about the SSIF and the schools programme and its history of how it started over ten years ago, when a security guard asked for help with his daughters education.

The SSIF is engaged with over 50 schools across India, touching the lives of over 75000 children from some of the most challenged sections of society. It sponsors over 660 children studying in colleges whose entire education is funded by Sopra Steria, under the Sopra Steria India Foundation Graduate Scholarship Scheme.

An inspiration and a day we both will never forget. 

By John Gough

Discovering the benefits of giving

Hello. My name is Kim Slocombe and I am a Project Finance Analyst (PFA) in the Finance department.  I have worked for the company via a number of takeovers, starting with F.I., through Xansa, Steria and now Sopra Steria, for the last 26 years.

Three years ago in January, I felt that my children were all grown up and I was not needed as much for them so I decided to start some volunteering work. I was at a fundraising event for Launchpad, which is a Prevention of Homelessness charity in Reading, UK and enquired about volunteering for them. I was accepted and have been spending 3 hours a week helping in their Education, Training and Employment Hub (ETE). 

Launchpad deal with clients who are homeless, in threat of homelessness and, those with housing problems in general.  They offer support; guidance and temporary accommodation to help people get started again.  In the ETE Hub, I help clients write their CVs and apply for work, whilst helping them with basic computer skills so they can continue on their own. 

We also offer skills training courses for computing and keyboard, Construction certificate course practice and Health and Hygiene Food courses. It has been a time of great satisfaction for me and given me a chance to try something new whilst being of some use. It is for my work with Launchpad that I was nominated and won the Sopra Steria “Volunteer of the Year” award. 

I feel very humbled and grateful that my meagre efforts have been recognised in such a fantastic way.  The prize trip to India promises to be a whirlwind tour of the fabulous work done by the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF).

It will be a chance to see for myself what the SSIF, led by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR, do for the children of India. There are projects happening in Noida, Pune and Chennai, which help put around 70,000 children through school and university each year. That we as a company help so many disadvantaged children and families is just an amazing feat. The hard work and care shown by Gayathri and her team should be an inspiration to us all.  I hope to see on my trip how all the projects are helping the children get an education and a chance to elevate their living standards for themselves and their families in the very hard world that they live in.  I have heard of the elation with which Gayathri is received when she visits the schools and pupils her team helps and hope to witness the eagerness to learn, happiness and enthusiasm that going to school gives them.  I suspect this trip is going to be a wonderful experience that opens my eyes to a way of life very different from my own.

By Kim Slocombe

My thoughts on the Sopra Steria India Foundation and the volunteering work we do to make a difference

This year I was lucky enough to be nominated for an award for my voluntary work and was selected as one of the Sopra Steria Volunteers of the Year for 2018 where I won an all-expenses-paid trip to India, to see the amazing work of the Sopra Steria India Foundation (SSIF), I leave for this exciting trip in a weeks’ time.

Over the nearly 2 weeks I am there, I will visit the international award-winning Community programmes run by Gayathri Mohan, Head of CSR for Sopra Steria India. Every year, Gayathri’s programme supports around 70,000 children through school, while also providing free lunches, access to drinking water and toilet facilities, and a huge number of other educational and social initiatives.

She also runs the Sopra Steria Scholarship programme, where we fund the full university education and living costs for a number of the brightest students from schools we support. So far more than 500 pupils through higher education programmes thanks to the Sopra Steria scholarship programme.

My volunteering

I volunteer every week at the Great Western Hospital Falcon Ward in Swindon, visiting patients on the major stroke unit, providing much needed company for individuals who may have had no visitors, as well as helping with feeding for patients who have little or no mobility.

I was inspired to volunteer after I had fought a very personal battle caring for my sister with Motor Neurone Disease. It was whilst visiting her in the hospital that that I picked up a leaflet asking for volunteers, that was over 4 years ago now. I absolutely love doing it!

I know some of the patients I see have not had a visitor all day, very often I spend time with each person chatting and putting the world to rights, chatting about travel, gardening or cooking before helping the nurses with their feeding and making cups of tea. Just simple things that I know make a difference, being the major stroke unit there are many patients there who struggle with communications and that takes time, time that the nurses don’t always have.

In addition to my work at the hospital which I am still doing and I also volunteer for a local group called “The Achievers” (Adult LD Group) this is a voluntary group in Swindon that gives adults with Learning difficulties a social context in which to interact with other adults and care receivers. We once a month arrange a social get together for the ‘members’ this varies from a meal at a local pub, cinema or theatre visits, day trips to local amenities e.g. Longleat or a canal boat trip. The members of the group have many varied disabilities from eating and drinking difficulties, communication and hearing difficulties, autism, complex physical needs, long term health conditions, behaviour that challenges others, sensory disability & mental health illness. This is a lovely group currently there are about 40 members in the Swindon area and we have just had a summer picnic and walk and are planning a Christmas meal and a trip to the panto in January, I give my time on this the day trips are usually at the weekends and evening functions I do after work.


By John Gough

The Ben Kinsella Trust and Sopra Steria – steps forward in the fight against knife crime

On Thursday 27 June, the sun shone from the sky above the prestigious National Justice Museum in Nottingham, the perfect setting for a momentous day. It was a day to mark the opening of The Ben Kinsella Trust’s second anti- knife crime exhibition in the UK, as well as Sopra Steria proudly announcing their strategic partnership with the charity, along with their joint ventures Shared Services Connected Ltd and NHS Shared Business Services.

Last weekend marked 11 years since Ben Kinsella was tragically murdered in a random and unprovoked knife attack following a night out with friends. Since then, Ben’s family have tirelessly devoted much of their lives to educating young people and the general public about the devastating consequences of knife crime, through their charity The Ben Kinsella Trust.

For many years, the charity’s work has centred around their London exhibition in Islington – an interactive workshop for children and young people, sharing Ben’s story whilst provoking thought on the consequences of carrying a knife. Thousands of young people have been impacted in this way by the charity’s powerful message.

The opening of the Nottingham exhibition

The launch of the charity’s second exhibition in Nottingham was therefore a significant leap forward in their mission. The exhibition is housed in the impressive National Justice Museum, a former court and jail house, dating back to the nineteenth century and in operation until the eighties.

Fittingly, The National Justice Museum have also been serving children and young people of the local community for many years, educating them on the criminal justice system while exploring urgent issues like knife and cyber crime.

An unforgettable day

The launch brought together all parts of the Nottingham community; the local council,  police, youth and charity workers, and local business and education leaders. As well as Ben’s family, other families impacted by knife crime across Nottinghamshire were also present to support the launch.

The grand former court room was the setting for the opening of the afternoon’s proceedings where we heard from Home Office Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins; Ben’s sister Brooke Kinsella MBE and CEO of the Ben Kinsella Trust, Patrick Green. Also speaking at the launch was Police and Crime Commissioner, Paddy Tipping; CEO of the National Justice Museum, Victoria Reeves and Chairman of Nottingham Business Improvement District, Jeff Allen.

The rhetoric was clear – the knife crime epidemic can be counteracted with the proper education and support of young people, and cities like Nottingham will only thrive if there are clear strategies and commitment from the government, local authorities, the police, and other public services, working together with charities, businesses and local communities in the fight against knife crime.

The day concluded with a tour of the interactive exhibition in the former police station adjacent to the museum. The emotive and, in some places upsetting exhibition, takes its participants through a journey of Ben’s story while challenging assumptions about carrying a knife.

Immersive theatre is introduced at the final stage of the workshop – an A&E resuscitation room depicting the harrowing consequences of a knife attack followed by time spent in a jail cell with an ‘inmate’ convicted on joint enterprise following their involvement in a knife attack. The role play exercise puts the young people through their paces and reveals the stark realities of prison existence. Participants are left educated, reflective, challenged and inspired. Like the thousands of young people who have experienced this in the London exhibition, there are high hopes for the difference this new exhibition will too make to the young people of Nottingham.

Sopra Steria and The Ben Kinsella Trust partnership

The Sopra Steria team were honoured to be a part of the charity’s opening of their second exhibition and are extremely proud to be in partnership with the trust.

Through this unique model we will use our digital expertise and capabilities as well as our deep experience of working in the end to end justice sector, to help the trust digitally transform and scale their organisation, including implementing an innovative virtual reality experience for their exhibitions.

We are proud to be using ‘tech for good’ and making a fundamental difference to the future of The Ben Kinsella Trust.

Brendan Swarbrick, Executive Client Director, Home Office

ESG Charity Week: Raising money for The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust

Last week our Emergency Services sector hosted a charity week in the Holborn office to support the UK Police Arboretum Memorial Trust. We want to show our continued support for the Police Forces by raising awareness during this week.

Police Arboretum Memorial Trust

The Police Arboretum Memorial Trust started in 2015, to establish a new UK Police Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, the nation’s year-round place for remembrance, ceremony and quiet reflection. They are currently undertaking a campaign to raise at least £4 million to design, build and maintain the new UK Police Memorial. Since 1749 and the creation of the Bow Street Runners, as the world’s first recognised police service, more than 4,000 men and women have given their lives to serve and protect our communities in the UK.

The vision for the new memorial is to pay tribute to the UK’s police service and to honour the dedication, courage and sacrifice of its members who have given their lives to serve and protect their communities, complementing other police memorials around the UK. The new memorial has been designed in consultation with police family stakeholders and will include permanent inscription of the names of both officers and staff who have sustained injuries and subsequently died in the discharge of their lawful duties. Cut-outs of the Memorial fabric will be engraved with the names of the fallen and given to their families as permanent keepsakes for remembrance. The Trust will ensure that an investment fund is available at the end of the project to maintain the Memorial for the nation and to be used to help support the families of the fallen, in partnership with other organisations who provide care.

The Week

The Monday went really well as we worked closely with the Community Matters week combining the Mario Kart competition with the bake-off to great effect. Day 1 of Mario Kart led to fierce competition within the Grad and Digital Practice communities. It was so fierce that David Machin spent most of Monday night trying to beat the fastest track time.

The Tuesday initially started off slowly with the sponging of Muz Janoowalla. At first, people seemed  reluctant to throw sponges at him (maybe fearing for their jobs). However, all it took was one person to participate, which then led to a big scene in the kitchen area. We even had additional volunteers from the office to get sponged to ensure their teams got involved!

On Thursday there was a “Games and Grub” lunch, which involved another competitive day of Mario Kart, games such as Connect 4 and UNO, and various refreshments. More than a dozen people participated in the games and overall it was a huge success.

We hope that all Sopra Steria, Holborn based employees enjoyed themselves and if you would still like to donate you can by following this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/esgcharityweek2019