On July 18th, Nelson Mandela celebrated his 93rd birthday! An amazing accomplishment to add to many others in this great man’s life. To honour Mandela; Sir Richard Branson and Virgin Unite encouraged everyone within the Virgin group to take part in Mandela Day 2011 by giving 67 minutes of their time to their local community.

Excited by the scope of what we could do, everyone at Virgin Balloon Flights HQ got to work on planning an even bigger and better celebration than 2010’s Mandela Day.

Thinking caps on, we brainstormed about all the different ways we could give back to our community and here’s what we came up with:

We baked and sold beautiful cupcakes raising money for local community projects.

We collected boxes and bags of jumble items including clothes, shoes, toys, books and bric-a-brac and donated to The British Red Cross, Katherine House Hospice and Compton Hospice. We even managed to get Staffordshire based designer dress agency Hush to come on board and donate old stock to our clothes box donations.

Senior Customer Service Representative Sophie Ellis helped out family member Rachel to take her two young twin boys, who were born prematurely, to a hydrotherapy pool for the afternoon as community swimming pools are too cold for them.

We litter picked around our office and tidied up the surrounding green spaces helping to keep the area cleaner for people to enjoy.

We donated soft toys, music cd’s and children’s clothes to a brand new sensory room at the local nursery Earlyworld.

We collected and sent out 18 board games, a PlayStation, a box of PlayStation and computer games and two bags of educational and fictional books to a local after school club for children aged between 4 and 14 years.

We mowed our neighbours’ lawns and helped out with gardening.

We volunteered at local community project Sanktuary giving late night clubbers a safe place to wait for taxi’s or friends (and even gave high heel clad feet a rest with free flip-flops!)

We gave two local students, one at GCSE level and one at A Level, the opportunity to complete a week’s work experience within the customer service and marketing departments at the company HQ.

Accounts assistant Cheryl helped to organise and complete a day within her church community called ‘Messy Church’ where children enjoyed a fun-filled activity day playing games and eating ice lollies!

Customer Service Representative Ryan Laing became a fully-fledged Street Pastor and completed his first night about town, helping to battle the issue of homelessness and poverty giving strength and support to those who needed it.

Staff donated £2 each for a handmade bracelet by 11-year-old cancer sufferer Harry Moseley through his charity Help Harry Help Others – a fantastic inspiration to us all.

We even got CEO and Chief Pilot Kenneth to help sort out our donations, don’t worry he didn’t really pack away the office pooch and company mascot, Cookie the Pomeranian.

Once again all the staff here at Virgin Balloon Flights have thoroughly enjoyed their efforts for Mandela Day this year. We hope that each little bit of help or support has collectively made a positive difference within our community and we take our hats off to the people who work so hard to improve the lives of others all year round.

Here’s to another superb effort for Mandela Day!