Charity of the Month: Stevenage Credit Union

There 57,000 Credit Unions in 105 countries around the world, helping 217 million members take advantage of affordable financial services. Stevenage Credit Union is just one of them, having been in operation for over 20 years. They are supported by … Continue reading

Charity of the Month: Carers in Hertfordshire

Carers in Hertfordshire is a countywide charity that was set up in 1995 to support unpaid carers, whatever the caring circumstances or condition of the person they care for. There are at least 109,000 unpaid carers in Hertfordshire – people looking after a loved one, who is elderly, disabled, has a learning disability or mental health condition or who misuses drugs or alcohol. Continue reading

Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge: Everything you need to know

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As we prepare to launch the 2015/16 Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge, we round up the main aspects you need to know about.

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge is back and bigger than ever, and with it comes the opportunity for young people to embark on an incredible entrepreneurial journey.

For the fifth year running, the North Herts and Stevenage Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge is open to local schools, charities/community groups and businesses.

What is the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge?

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge works by recruiting teams of lower sixth form students from local schools who are then matched with a mentor (Dragon) from a local business in their task to turn £100 into £1,000 for a local community group or charity through a business venture. Each team is also required to produce a business plan and final report.

How is the Challenge facilitated?

The Challenge runs across local hubs in Hertfordshire. North Herts CVS facilitates the North Herts and Stevenage Challenge. The Project Coordinator will be your main point of contact for information and resources. An essential toolkit will be provided so you will be made aware of the Challenge timeline and what is required.

How long does the Challenge last for?

The Challenge runs annually from September up until March. At a launch event in September all participants will have a chance to meet, network and will be assigned a team. At a celebration event in March, shortlisted teams will be asked to present their ideas to a panel of Super Dragons and a number of awards will be presented.

Who is eligible to take part?

There is a selection process involved. The North Herts and Stevenage Challenge is open to year 12 students from local schools and colleges. Businesses of all sizes can participate from sole trader to global corporation. Charity and community groups can take part but must be members of North Herts CVS.

What are the benefits of taking part?

The Challenge provides a great boost to the local community. For students it is an opportunity to develop entrepreneurial skills, network with future employers, volunteer for a cause they care about and gain experience for their CV. Business people are able to demonstrate their CSR credentials in a tangible way, enhance the reputation of their company and provide mentoring opportunities for young people. Charities are given the opportunity to raise their profile and gain funding to support their core aims.

Is there a cost involved?

Each team is given a £100 seed capital. £50 is provided by the charity/community group and £50 from the business. The seed capital is then counted towards the final amount of money raised.

How do you sign up?

You will need to register your interest by contacting the Project Coordinator – Email or call 01462 689400. You will then be given an application form to complete which will be reviewed during the selection process. You will then be notified if your application has been successful. More information can be found on the North Herts CVS website.


Volunteers’ Week – Time to say thank you

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Every year, over 15 million people volunteer every month across the UK. They often go unnoticed as they go about their work not asking for thanks or recognition, however, without them many organisations and services would not exist. From the 1st – 7th June it is Volunteers’ Week, an annual campaign which celebrates volunteers and the contribution they make to their communities. It is the perfect opportunity to recognise those who put their time, energy and enthusiasm into helping others, whether it’s visiting an older person and breaking isolation, helping a charity in their office or supporting young people.

Savita Mason, Volunteer Centre Coordinator said “If anyone is interested in volunteering and would like to find out what opportunities are available to them they can contact the North Herts and Stevenage Volunteer Centres for a chat. We will also be at the Market Square for the Hitchin Health and Wellbeing day on Saturday 6th June so come and find us to get more information.”

“Volunteers week is a great time to begin volunteering and to use your spare time to help others. It is a way to give something back, but it’s also an opportunity to benefit from new experiences, make friends, gain skills and have fun.”


Mark Packer recently had an appointment with the Volunteer Centre as he was interested in finding a volunteer role, he said “I approached the Volunteer Centre to look for a place where I could volunteer as I knew they would have information about the wide and varied roles available in Stevenage and would be able to help me. I believe going to them saved me a lot of time as I would not have known where to start looking. After meeting them I was quickly referred on to an organisation I was interested in. I have now started my volunteer role with Stevenage Shopmobility which I find really rewarding and would encourage anyone else thinking about volunteering to contact the Volunteer Centre.”

The North Herts and Stevenage Volunteer Centres are projects managed by North Herts CVS. If you are interested in volunteering you can search for and register your interest in roles online at or can contact the North Herts and Stevenage Volunteer Centre on 0300 666 0596 or email


Have you been to the Houses of Parliament?

North Herts CVS is hosting a coach trip to the Houses of Parliament, from 9am to 3pm on Monday 8th June, with the aim to provide a great day out for North Herts residents and connect people with Parliamentary democracy.

With the general election high on the agenda it is a perfect opportunity for local people to find out more about Parliament, its function and role in today’s society.


On 8th June, visitors can enjoy a one hour tour of the Houses of Parliament and participate in a brief question and answer session with local MP, Sir Oliver Heald.

Michal Siewniak who is responsible for community development said: “We hope that our planned activity will help to address the issue of civic engagement, enthuse residents to get involved in democratic processes, intensify the dialogue between institutions and voters.  Finally, we hope that it will help to build a platform for community activism.”

This Houses of Parliament trip is an initiative which is part of the 100 Day Love Your Neighbourhood campaign, hosted by North Herts CVS. The campaign, funded by North Herts Local Strategic Partnership, will commence in June and deliver a wide range of events across neighbourhoods in Hitchin and Royston.

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Local residents can expect a series of exiting activities over 100 days, all aimed at making a positive difference within the community.

The activities will include advice about healthy living, home security, children’s’ fun days, the opportunity to join North Herts Time Bank and more on how to make your neighbourhood bloom.

Places, which can be booked now are limited and allocated on a first come first served basis. The cost is £10 per person.

For more information or to book your place please email or call 07825 021746.

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge: What do our charity partners say?

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It has been over two months since we officially launched the 2014/15 North Herts and Stevenage Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge. We asked some of our charity partners to share their experiences of the Challenge so far. Here’s what they have to say.

Sande Nuttall, Up on Downs

Team Mercury of St Francis’ College are hard at work organising an auction at a cricket club to sell beanie hats with the logo of their charity. They hope to entice their target audience with live music and an auction within the school. Sande Nuttall of Up on Downs said, “It’s an interesting process and very enjoyable to meet the young people and hear their ideas.”

Team Mercury have been inspired by their charity which supports the families of children with Downs’ Syndrome in Hertfordshire. The team have got involved as helpers and attended meetings to get a feel for what their charity does. Sande said, “I have high hopes for our lovely team. As young people themselves they have really tuned into the children and played brilliantly with them.”

“It’s a small time commitment and very refreshing to be with a new group of people with a different perspective – as well as lucrative.”

Pictured below: The Beanie hat created by Team Mercury with an interpretation of the Up on Downs logo embroidered on it.


Joan Lomas, Just Sing!

Just Sing! Community Choir exists to promote the health and social benefits of singing. Joan Lomas told us she is very grateful to be included in the Challenge for the second year running. Last year’s Apprentice team raised £700 which helped enormously towards the running costs of the choir. This year they have been matched with Team Caterer & Co of the Barclay School. They intend to hold a dodge ball tournament and musical performance as part of their business venture.

Joan said, “The Challenge is a great way to raise funds, provide students with some real life experience and help to raise our profile at the same time.”

“I’d definitely say apply and get involved. It’s great fun and really interesting to see what the students and Dragons come up with on your behalf. Everyone needs to be enthusiastic, up for the challenge and get involved.”

Pictured below: The choir with their apprentice team last year.

Just Sing with Power of Seven

Gerry Reilly, Dr Hadwen Trust

Team Onslaught of Dragons of the Priory School ditched their textbooks for the day and held a stall at their school’s Christmas Fair. They sold Christmas cards, a variety of cakes along with their charity’s soft toy mascot ‘Hadwen’ to raise funds for Dr Hadwen Trust, the non-animal medical research charity. The team have also set up a text donate facility and are planning a pie and mash quiz night on the 10th January at the Priory School. Tickets for the event can be purchased by emailing

Gerry Reilly told us he has particularly liked being actively involved with his team and Dragon. Fortnightly planning meetings have proved to be lively and productive. He said, “We have enjoyed our involvement with our team, their enthusiasm and watching their ideas flourish and plans develop.

Pictured below: The team went to a lot of effort to sell their products and promote awareness of their charity.


Linda Cudmore, Carers in Hertfordshire

Team Luna of St Francis’ College are well on their way to get the show on the road. They are planning to make programs for their school play ‘Bugsy Malone’. They have also produced calendars which feature interesting facts about their charity. All proceeds will go towards the charity to help improve the lives of carers. A calendar can be purchased from our offices for £8.

Since the launch event Linda Cudmore has met with her team to explain how Carers in Hertfordshire provides supports to thousands of carers so they can focus on their own health and wellbeing.

Linda said, “We have met twice to talk about what makes someone an unpaid carer and the fact that our youngest carers are eight years old. This really resonated with the team.”

“I have enjoyed talking to the team and working with them to understand and raise the profile of unpaid carers.”

Pictured below: The calendars feature lovely artwork and facts about the charity.

Team Luna calendars

If you would like to find out more or participate in the next Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge please email or call 01462 689400.

Have you got what it takes to be a Dragon?

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Now in its fourth year, the North Herts CVS Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge is back, and with it comes the hunt for local ambitious business people to step forward and take on the role as Dragons to mentor budding entrepreneurs in an innovative competition. Businesses of all sizes from sole trader to global corporation across North Herts and Stevenage can participate.

The Challenge promotes skills development and entrepreneurship for young people and provides a wonderful boost to schools, businesses and the local community. The project works by recruiting teams of lower sixth form students from local schools who are then matched with a mentor (Dragon) from a local business in their task to turn £100 into £1,000 for a local community group or charity through a business venture.

The challenge will start in September and will run up until March. Taking on the role as a Dragon is a fantastic opportunity for business people to demonstrate their CSR credentials, provide mentoring opportunities for young people and make a difference to the local community.

Over the course of the Challenge, Dragons will be asked to commit to a minimum of three meetings with their Apprentice team and charity partner, advise and support their team on business related matters, and in producing their Project Business Plan and Final Report.

Last year Team Carbon of St Francis’ College were proclaimed the overall winners of the Challenge for raising the most money for their charity. Team Carbon was one of seven, shortlisted from local schools across North Herts and Stevenage.

The team were successful in raising £1,503.05 for the Time Bank Garden Team, under the support and guidance of their Dragon, Steve Grover from Hertfordshire Timber & Building Supplies Ltd.

They managed to raise the funds by hosting a very successful Fish & Chip Quiz Night and by creating bags of assorted chocolate thins and selling them at a range of events.

Steve Grover said: “I was drawn to the Challenge as I thought it was an excellent way to engage local schools with real businesses whilst helping the community at the same time with fundraising. I think that I learnt as much from the experience as the girls in my team did. I would recommend this to any local business person.”

At the end of the Challenge all of the teams will be invited to present to a panel of SuperDragons at a Final Awards Ceremony, and be in with a chance of winning a number of awards.

If you would like to take part in this year’s Challenge as a Dragon please contact Neena Raj by Tuesday 15th July on 01462 689400 or email for further information.