At NatWest Group we’re all different, but we share the same purpose-led focus and values to truly champion potential. Our values are: Inclusive, Curious, Robust, Sustainable and Ambitious.
In our ‘Let’s talk values’ series, we profile colleagues who live and breathe our values. Read about our colleague Pam Sheemar, who truly brings our ‘Inclusive’ value to life.
Inclusion is in my blood
It’s early evening on a quiet, Birmingham side-street. People are gathering with an air of expectation. The aroma of hot food fills the air. It’s simple, nourishing fare: rice and lentils, or pizza and chips. Alongside their meal, people pick up snacks, clothes and other essentials.
This is the daily ‘homeless feed’ run by the Midland Langar Seva Society. ‘Langar’ is the Sikh term for a free common kitchen, and all the food is donated and prepared by volunteers.
One regular face among them is Pam Sheemar. For nearly eight years, Pam, one of our Regional Enterprise Directors, has helped out at the event. She arrives with her own contribution of samosas.
Since getting involved, Pam has also raised over £35,000 for the cause, through efforts as varied as sponsored bike rides and climbing Snowdon.
Pam’s also encouraged hundreds of colleagues to assist over the years, bagging the first Friday of every month for them to join the volunteering.
Since she got the event on the NatWest map, local colleagues have been keen to take part. “People get really excited to be involved – raising the money, donating the food and joining the feed as a team through the bank’s volunteer days,” says Pam.
Teams are often surprised by what they find. Despite the title, the event has expanded beyond homeless people, to support anyone who’s finding it hard to make ends meet. That became even more critical during the pandemic.
“One regular I meet is a taxi driver who has another evening job – but during covid, he just couldn’t afford to feed his four kids,” Pam relates.
“Another is a grandmother who looks after six grandchildren after school. She comes to pick up crisps for them, because she can’t afford to buy them.”
“The feed is such an inclusive event. And it plays into my passions - paying it forward and helping someone less fortunate where you can.”
Pam brings another perspective to the charity effort. As a local magistrate, she sometimes finds homeless people standing before her in the dock. “If you can alleviate some of their pain and hurt, you might prevent people from having to steal so they can eat,” she says.
Her drive for inclusiveness extends to the courtroom – and the classroom. She presents to young people as an ambassador at a local college, giving them an inspiring role model to learn from.
In the workplace too, she’s pushing the boundaries. “Banking traditionally isn’t that inclusive,” she says. “NatWest has opened up a real dialogue about that, but the make-up of our teams in Birmingham doesn’t yet reflect the communities we serve.”
With the active support of her Regional MD, Pam is doing her bit to change that. She’s currently breaking new ground by creating a pilot ‘Career accelerated management programme’, designed to open up the technical skills of corporate banking to talented people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
“Inclusion is in my blood,” Pam declares. “If we thought about everything through the lens of inclusion and diversity, we would see a much more equitable world.”