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.”

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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 do-it.org or can contact the North Herts and Stevenage Volunteer Centre on 0300 666 0596 or email volunteering@nhcvs.org.uk.

 

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.

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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.

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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 dragonsdenpriory@gmail.com

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.

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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.

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If you would like to find out more or participate in the next Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge please email info@nhcvs.org.uk 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 info@nhcvs.org.uk for further information.

Volunteer and give back to your community

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Are you looking to do something new? Challenge yourself? Meet more people or perhaps improve your skills? Then Volunteering may be the answer. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in your local community and support those in need. Volunteers are a lifeline for charities, without them many would not be able to continue their good work. Using your time to do something to help a charity can be extremely rewarding, it can help boost your confidence, is fun and looks great on your CV too.

Honor Wood started to volunteer at Stevenage Haven, a shelter for homeless people, 18 months ago as a Lunchtime Helper. She said, “After retiring I wanted to stay active and give something back to the community. I was particularly passionate about homelessness and wanted to do something small that would be helpful. I decided to volunteer as a Lunchtime Helper which involves preparing and serving lunches to the residents at Stevenage Haven. One aspect of the role I enjoy is interacting with the residents and making sure they’re OK. I also like the friendly atmosphere and the structure volunteering gives to my week.”

She added, “If anyone is thinking about volunteering, I would say just go for it. It is important you find a volunteer role that is suitable and interesting for you.”

Savita Mason, the Volunteer Centre Coordinator said, “This is where the Stevenage Volunteer Centre can help. There are many different roles available for people to get involved in. You could volunteer with children, support older people in the community or perhaps help an organisation with administrative tasks and get involved in marketing or fundraising. The Stevenage Volunteer Centre is here to help find the right volunteer role for you. You can contact us to arrange an appointment to discuss the opportunities available and can also view them online at www.do-it.org.uk.

The Stevenage Volunteer Centre is a project managed by North Herts CVS. If you are interested in volunteering please contact us by calling 01462 424307 or by emailing info@volunteerstevenage.org.uk. We are based at In Town Training in Stevenage Town Centre and are open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9am to 4pm.

The Herts-made Project at International Women’s Day

My name is Anne Taylor. I am a Development Worker, supporting community groups in North Herts and Stevenage.

A couple of weeks ago I went along to the International Women’s Day celebrations in Stevenage Town Centre. It was a perfect day for it, all blue skies and sunshine, though there was a chill in the air. It was organised by The Stevenage World Forum for Ethnic Communities. Funding for the event came from Herts County Council, Stevenage Borough Councillors and the World Forum itself.

It was good to catch up with some of our member groups. For example, The Herts-made Project is a fledgling group of women working hard to make a living from selling beautiful hand-crafted goods. I was delighted with the lovely necklace and bracelet I couldn’t resist buying! I was also tempted by some lovely hand-painted vases and jewellery boxes produced by one of their members.

Another member group taking part was the Irish Network, who were just one of the organisations putting on a wonderful and colourful display of national dance.

There were plenty of tasty snacks also on offer. I especially enjoyed a home-made scone packed with fruit, from Carers In Herts.

There was lots of information about issues affecting women. Blood pressure checks were offered and taster vouchers for Stevenage Leisure Centre.

Kate Belinis of the World Forum said: ‘International Women’s Day was a huge success, enjoyed by all those present; women, young people, families and the many voluntary and public organisations who gave up their Sundays and supported the event’.

Support your local charities by sharing your professional skills

Skills Share Herts is a new ground breaking project developed by the Volunteer Centres across Hertfordshire. It matches employees and unemployed individuals that have professional skills with charities that require expert advice or help with short term pieces of work. This may include helping an organisation to create marketing materials, build a website, develop a database or it may involve providing advice on HR policies or assisting them with their business plans.

Skills Share Herts provides a way for charities to access professional and business skills which could help to improve the management and delivery of their services and gives companies the opportunity to show that they are supporting their local communities. It provides a means for companies to develop, measure and promote Corporate Social Responsibility and also provides opportunities for staff training and allows employees to gain valuable skills and experience whilst helping a good cause which can boost their morale.

It is also great for individuals with professional skills who may be unemployed. It gives them the chance to develop themselves, improve their CVs and career prospects as well as giving them the opportunity to gain access to new networks and create links in the community that they otherwise may not have made.

Skills Share Herts operates by using an online social networking platform. When employees or individuals register themselves they can create a profile for themselves and state what skills and experience they have and what they might be able to help with. Charities are also able to register their volunteer opportunities that require professional skills and browse the expertise on offer. Both parties are able to communicate with each other directly through the site.

If you are interested in joining Skills Share Herts please contact the Stevenage Volunteer Centre by calling 01462 424307 or emailing info@volunteerstevenage.org.uk. Alternatively you can request to sign up to Skills Share Herts by visiting the Skills Share website.

 

 

New Year’s Resolution: Fun and flexible volunteering with Time Bank

When I moved to North Hertfordshire from London last year, I was determined to become a part of the community. There’s not much in the way of neighbourlyness in London, and I really wanted to get to know some new people in my new home town. A friend of mine told me about the local Time Bank, and having heard of the concept before I was keen to join in, and made it a New Year’s Resolution to get involved!

The idea of Time Banking is to bring the community together and give people a really flexible way to volunteer. The best part is that for every hour I give of my time, I get one back! This means that if I, say, give one hour to a member running errands for them, I then get to ‘bank’ that hour and ‘spend’ it on something for myself, like having a member look after my dogs whilst I go out.

There are Time Bank members with all kinds of skills, and I signed up for a real variety when I joined as I was keen to get involved in as many things as possible. Lots of people say that they don’t have any skills to share, but they are always able to think of several things in the end, as all skills are valuable to the Time Bank and the membership is so varied. I offer my crafting and IT skills, sewing and mending, and errand running….although I’ve been called on to help with various other things too! A regular list of requests is sent out, so you can pick and choose what you get involved in, plus you get the chance to put in requests for things you’d like too.

My first exchanges were altering and mending some clothing for other members, which saved them the expense of going to an alteration shop and meant I could bank a few hours very easily and quickly. I was then asked to get involved in some of the family fun days Time Bank runs, and offered to teach children various crafts on the day. It was lovely to help out at such a vibrant and inclusive event, and a brilliant way to earn time credits. After that, I ran some errands for a gentleman who was temporarily house bound, delivering post for him and collecting a bit of shopping.

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I was also delighted to get involved in the Time Bank ‘Knit and Natter’ group’s ‘Yarn Bomb’ project, where a group of volunteers knitted and crocheted patches, then pieced them together to cover a local sculpture. It certainly created a lot of interest and I can’t wait to get involved in this year’s project!

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Next was a lesson in applying make-up for a member who wanted to know more about modern cosmetic products and techniques. The lady came to my home as I don’t drive, and we sat and chatted over a cup of tea whilst I showed her some of the makeup I use and how I apply it. Once our Time Bank Development Worker, Nicki, had made the initial introduction, it was all set up between the two of us, and at a time that worked for us both.

And that’s what’s so great about Time Banking….it’s so completely flexible! I can give as much or as little time as I like, when and where I want to. Sometimes I have more time to spare than others, so I can get involved in more. But when I’m too busy, I don’t have to commit myself to any particular amount of work as I can just fit the volunteering around me.

My most recent exchanges have been great fun too, and a brilliant challenge. I was asked to re-upholster a foot stool for one member, and although I’d done this before I really enjoyed developing this skill and getting some practice in.

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Then I was booked to paint a mural on a member’s wall at her home, which was just an amazing opportunity and wonderful fun!

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I think what I love most about Time Banking is the variety. As you can see, I’ve been involved in all manner of things and got to meet a fabulous range of new people. No two assignments are the same, and that keeps my volunteering exciting and challenging, as well as really rewarding.

So there’s no question about what my New Year’s Resolution for this year will be….I’ll certainly be aiming to get involved in more skills exchanges and even more varied ones too! I’ve already got my next exchange lined up….I’ll be helping another member to set up a Blog soon. And as I’m getting married in May, I’m saving my banked hours to get some help setting up the reception venue and having my dogs looked after whilst we’re away!

If you’re looking to get more involved in your community, get active, help others out or just to meet new people, deciding to join the Time Bank is the perfect New Year’s Resolution! So, if you’re interested in flexible volunteering, join Time Bank for free in North Herts, Stevenage, Buntingford or Royston, by visiting  http://www.mytimebank.org.uk/ or contacting timebank@nhcvs.org.uk

A post by Time Bank Member Emily

Time Bank gets spooky with a half term crafty fun day

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North Herts CVS Time Bank, the community skills share project, hosted a free Halloween themed event last week. The fun day was held in Letchworth’s Brotherhood Hall, and over a hundred people came along to take part in lots of different craft activities!

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The event, which fell in the half term break, was set up to encourage new and existing Time Bank members to get involved and to demonstrate how Time Banking is a great way to volunteer, even for busy families. Time Bankers relished the opportunity to share their crafting skills with people of all ages, making spooky themed face masks, decorating ghoulish cakes and crafting pipe cleaner creepy crawlies!

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I had great fun showing the children how to make flapping bats from wool and card, as well as paper Jack-o-Lanterns…. and I think the children had just as much fun! It’s always a pleasure to share crafting skills to earn Time Bank credits, and this event was a great chance to show people what we do and what they can get involved in. We had members sharing lots of skills, including knitting and crochet classes, cake decorating, and origami, which really shows how diverse our collective skill base is!

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Time Bank Development Worker Nicki worked hard to publicise the event in order to encourage families to sign up as Time Bankers, and the fantastic turn out was testament to how the scheme is a great way to be a part of the community.

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In addition to their crafting skills, current Time Bank members boast a broad range of skills including IT coaching, sewing alterations, language lessons, dog walking, child care, DIY, gardening and help with filling in forms. Skills exchanges can really be anything members need help with, and every hour a member earns through their chosen skills is then banked ready for them to spend when they need help themselves…. I’ll be saving up the hours I earned at the craft event for when I next need a dog sitter!

The Time Bank, which operates across North Herts, Buntingford, Royston and Stevenage, has grown immeasurably in recent months and offers a great way to help develop local communities and increase social interaction. It’s free and easy to join too…. just visit www.mytimebank.org.uk, call 01462 689405 or email timebank@nhcvs.org.uk to join now.

A post by Time Banker, Emily

Launching the new Stevenage Community Action project

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Stevenage Community Action, the newly formed local initiative managed by NHCVS, today hosted a ‘Meet the Team’ event at The Hyde Out Community Centre, to launch their new services.

The event was a great opportunity for current and potential members to find out more about membership benefits, as well as to meet the Stevenage Community Action team and learn about how they can help with funding, recruitment and volunteer management amongst other skills and experience. There was also chance to network with other small groups and charities, in addition to a ‘Twitter Masterclass’ and lunch.

The new initiative, funded by Stevenage Borough Council, has been set up to support charities, community groups and social enterprises in the Stevenage area and to help them to become stronger and more sustainable organisations. Members can gain information, guidance and resources enabling them to deliver effective, high quality services, as well as ask for advice on charity governance, funding bids and changes in the funding environment. In addition, members have access to a wide range of material resources free of charge, including hire of event materials and books.

The event was also attended by the Mayor and Mayoress, Councillor Jack Pickersgill MA, MSc. and Mrs Margaret Davies-Pickersgill, who were pleased to help launch the project and see so many growing groups in attendance.

NHCVS Deputy Director Hannah Gray, who is heading the initiative, said “We are excited to have the chance to meet all our new members, as well as welcoming those groups who may also benefit from membership with us. The team are looking forward to initiating and nurturing the development of new groups, schemes, enterprises and organisations in Stevenage, as well as seeing the growth of the recently launched Stevenage Time Bank.”

With decades of experience in managing a diverse voluntary service, already successfully operating across North Herts, NHCVS are confident that the new Stevenage Community Action project will provide a valuable resource to local groups.

To find out more about Stevenage Community Action, check out the new website: stevenagecommunityaction.org.uk

Visiting our Members: The British Schools Museum

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NHCVS members, The British Schools Museum in Hitchin offer regular tours with their volunteer guides, and recently I went along to join in and learn more about the Grade 2* Listed building.

The original British School was formed when, in 1808, Joseph Lancaster visited Hitchin and met William Wilshere, a local lawyer and land-owner. At the time, the working poor had no access to education and there was no government funding for such things. Lancaster however shared his ideas for education with Wilshere, and they managed to gain support from like-minded philanthropists who helped to convert an old malthouse that he owned in Hitchin into a Monitorial, or Lancasterian, school.

Pupils at the school were taught within Lancaster’s revolutionary methods, where one Master would teach thirty of the brightest children (the Monitors) who would then in turn teach the rest of the 300 pupils in smaller groups. The school taught boys and girls, although separately, and became very popular with children travelling from all over the area.

In 1925 however, the Trustees of the British Schools handed the site to Hertfordshire County Council, who renamed it Queen Street Infants’ School, then in 1969 the last school on the site closed, with the buildings being used as Hitchin College’s Community Annex. When the site was offered for sale by Hertfordshire in 1990, the Hitchin British Schools Trust was formed to save the buildings from redevelopment and to create the British Schools Museum.

Our tour began in the old playground, where we were told how the children were not allowed to run at all and a high wall stopped the boys from throwing things at the girls in their play area below! We were then collected by our teacher, all dressed beautifully in the Victorian style, and taken to the amazing Gallery classroom.

There we sang a hymn to start, then practiced our maths in old money on slate, as well as reading parrot-fashion and writing with a dip pen. It was so lovely to learn about the old teaching methods and get to turn our hand to them….especially  for those of us who are left handed and would not have been permitted to be at that time!

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Having said goodbye to our teacher, we toured the museum’s examples of an Edwardian classroom and war-time schoolroom, before looking into the huge and stunning Lancastarian schoolroom. There, a member of the tour was given the task of acting as Monitor, whilst the rest of us stood around the little semi-circle painted on the floor and repeated letters of the alphabet to learn by copying.

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Next we visited the Headmaster’s house, which is an amazing example of a Victorian home, complete with all kinds of rare and interesting artifacts. Our tour concluded in the Discovery Room, followed by a visit to the gift shop and cafe of course!

The site is an extremely important example of this part in the history of elementary education, and the Lancastarian schoolroom is the only surviving one of its kind. It remains largely unchanged from the room in which 300 boys were once taught, and the adjacent Galleried classroom still has its tiered seating in place as in 1853 when it was built. It’s such a delight to see such a cared for building, and a relief to know that it is in such safe hands with the committed team and volunteers from the Trust.

The museum is open on Tuesdays (10am to 4pm), Saturdays (10am to 1pm) and Sundays (2pm to 5pm) until 26th November. The team also organises a number of annual events on Bank Holidays and school holidays, and on the first Sunday of each month you can enjoy a Victorian lesson at no extra charge, just like the one I took part in.

There is a small admission charge of £4.50 for adults, £2.00 for children over 5 (under 5s free) or you can get a family ticket for just £12. This includes your tour, and children can explore the site dressed as a Victorian boy or girl in the costumes provided! It’s tremendous value for a wonderful day out, and I’d recommend it to anyone!

A post by Emily, NHCVS Events Coordinator