Readers’ Lives: Rita Connor

Readers’ Lives: Rita Connor

Charity fundraising has always been close to Rita Connor’s heart, so when she got the opportunity to donate fromHays Travel’s central fund to a local holiday charity for underprivileged children, she jumped at the chance

Q: Your agency made a donation to a local charity, the Children’s Country Holidays Fund (CCHF) All About Kids, from Hays Travel’s community partnerships fund. Why have you continued to support the charity?
We are allowed to use some money from Hays Travel’s head office to support local charities. I found out about CCHF All About Kids, which was established at Stafford House in Hassocks in 1884, originally to take children from London’s slums to the seaside for a holiday. Now the charity provides short breaks for underprivileged youngsters, aged seven to 11 years old. We sponsored one child for a weekend there, which costs £408, but I wanted to get more involved. They have no government funding and host 1,600 children a year on holidays. On my second visit, I asked the children what they wanted during their holidays. They simply asked for everyday items, such as toothbrushes, hairbrushes, shampoo and underwear. Some turn up with a black bag with hardly anything in it.

Q: How have you supported CCHF and what will you do in the future?
We started at the beginning of the year and put a suitcase into the shop for items to be donated to take to the charity. We asked customers to give items such as shampoo and other toiletries, and by the end of it, we had bags packed with donations. Suppliers also helped; for example, we were given Disney toys. Other businesses were also kind enough to donate during the summer. But this is not a one-off. We will do it again next year. It’s very worthwhile, especially when you see how it helps the children. The more we can advertise what we are doing, the more we can help. This is just the start.

Q: Why do you think agencies should get involved in community projects?
A: To increase business and raise awareness about our shop, it is important to get out into the community. We have also got involved in the local infants school and given the school’s parents’ group some funding to market a silent auction to raise money for a new playing field. We already do flight bookings for local schools but now they also get all their foreign exchange through us.

Q: Your agency is part of Bath Travel, which was bought by Hays Travel in 2013. What has the transition been like?
Hays took over in October 2013 and I started in March 2014, so it was all new. I had come from The Co-operative Travel following the joint venture with Thomas Cook. I had been made redundant so I understood what it was like to go through a change of ownership and how employees might feel. I have staff who have been at Bath Travel for many years and it was nice to be able to come in to support them through the changes.

Rita’s tips

*Listen to customers’ requests and give them the holiday that suits them best
*Make clients feel welcome. We have locals popping in for a coffee and a chat
*Raise your agency’s profile by getting involved in the local community

Rita’s CV

March 2014: manager, Bath Travel, Hassocks, West Sussex
1993-2013: consultant, assistant manager, and then manager, The Co operative Travel, at various branches including Southwick, Worthing and Hove
1985-93: travel consultant, Elizabeth Bridges Travel, Portslade, East Sussex
1976-85: apprentice, travel consultant, airline ticketing and business travel consultant, Martlet Travel, Hove and Brighton branches


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