meghan-smart-works

How Meghan Markle's patronage is helping support women during coronavirus crisis

The Duchess of Sussex became patron of Smart Works in 2019

Danielle Stacey

Businesses and charities around the world have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but one organisation has found an incredible way of providing an important service to its clients. Smart Works is one of the Duchess of Sussex's patronages, which helps women into the workforce through job interview training and provides clients with outfits for those interviews.

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WATCH: Meghan Markle's fashion transformation

Clients usually visit one of the charity's centres across the UK to receive coaching and clothing, but due to the impact of COVID-19, face-to-face meetings are unable to happen. However, a Smart Works spokesperson tells HELLO! how they've adapted their way of working to ensure they can still help women. The charity has been carrying out coaching online, over the telephone and by video conferencing instead.

"It’s working really well, people seem to be really responding to it," the spokesperson says. "The concern is it may not have the same impact as it does face-to-face, but actually our volunteers have been excellent at adapting and getting used to the new way of life and they've been really open to helping us."

And as for the styling service, Smart Works has found a lovely way of ensuring their clients are still dressed for their job interviews. The spokesperson says: "What we've been doing is speaking to our clients, finding out what size they are, what sort of job they're going for, what colours they like and what clothes they feel comfortable in. We have volunteers and staff who have been taking it in turns to come into our office and help pool together care packages from our wardrobe, that we've been taking to the post office and sending them out. We've also been putting in an interview pack which has tips and tricks."

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Supporting and helping clients is the driving force behind everything we do at Smart Works. If a woman leaves us feeling confident and knowing her value then we’ve done our job. ⠀ Even in these uncertain times our priority remains the same - help women feel empowered and able to succeed at a crucial moment in their lives. ⠀ While currently we’re not able to carry on with our face to face dressing and coaching service our community of staff and volunteers have pulled together and found a way to carry on spreading that Smart Works magic. ⠀ Today we began sending out interview care packages to some of our clients. Each pack contains a few special items including something to wear for the interview, our coaching pack and a personal note to help build that all important self belief ahead of the interview. ⠀ However it is delivered, the Smart Works service will continue to empower women and help them as they look to enter the workplace. ⠀ #smartworksmagic

A post shared by Smart Works (@smartworkscharity) on

To top it off, each care package also contains a beauty product or a piece of jewellery, along with a handwritten 'good luck' note from the team. The new postal service has received a positive reaction from their clients and 49,000 social media followers.

The spokesperson added: "Normally there's a really lovely moment where you see the client in her outfit and you can see how much it means, that's an element missing from this postal service. It's really lovely that clients are getting in touch with us to give us feedback. It gives staff and volunteers a bit of a boost; they know that they are making a difference.

"It's just so nice that the core service can still run, obviously it can't run in the same guise, but that we're still able to deliver and we're still able to make a change and empower people."

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Meghan at the launch of Smart Works capule clothing collection last year

Despite the current climate, Smart Works has still been receiving calls from clients to say they've been successful in their job interviews, with one starting her new employment on a working from home basis. 

Last week, the charity also reached an incredible milestone – they've helped 2,000 women in one year. The spokesperson tells HELLO!: "It's an incredible feeling to know that you've seen 2,000 women before they've gone to their job interviews in one financial year. It's something really aspirational that we want to keep working towards, every year we want to build on the service and every year, we want to keep delivering more."

Meghan became patron of Smart Works in January 2019 and launched a special capsule clothing collection with the charity last September, in collaboration with Marks & Spencer, Jigsaw, John Lewis and Misha Nonoo. For every item that was purchased, one was donated to the charity.

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