Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge Awards Night

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge Final Awards Ceremony took place on 22nd March at the Icknield Centre in Letchworth.  Over the past 4 months, six teams from across North Herts and Stevenage competed in the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge in order to … Continue reading

Love Your Neighbourhood: Coombes Fun Day 28th October

Coombes Community Centre hosted a community fun day for last event of the ‘Love Your Neighbourhood’ campaign. Royston residents were invited to the last event of the Love Your Neighbourhood campaign, a community fun day set up for local families. … Continue reading

Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge: Launch Update

The Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge launch event took place on 6th October at the Icknield Centre in Letchworth. This year seven teams from schools across North Herts and Stevenage are competing in the Dragons’ Apprentice Challenge. The school teams aim to … 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 info@nhcvs.org.uk 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.

 

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.

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.

 

 

North Herts 50 Plus Exercise Programme

If you’re over 50 and living in North Hertfordshire there’s lots for you to be getting involved in.

North Herts 50 Plus, an older people’s forum in North Hertfordshire will be starting up a 10 week exercise programme, in partnership with Herts Sports Partnership. The exercise programme will begin on Tuesday 11th March and run each week on the same day from 11am to 12pm at Jackmans Community Centre in Letchworth.

Each session will cost £4 and it is a great opportunity to socialise, meet new people and keep fit at the same time. The first 5 weeks will be based around circuit training and lead onto 5 weeks of Pilates. The sessions will be taught at the right pace and level of intensity to suit the learners and promises to be a fun and diverse programme, building strength and improving flexibility and posture.

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North Herts 50 Plus exists to provide a voice for older people, and membership is free and open to anyone who is 50 or over living in North Hertfordshire. Membership benefits include being part of an enthusiastic group of older people, information and activities, luncheons and talks, as well as involvement in campaigning against inequality and discrimination.

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The group have also tackled digital exclusion and successfully run 10 week basic and advanced IT courses at the North Herts Minority Ethnic Forum in Hitchin. They also meet on a monthly basis and look forward to a talk led by different guest speakers to promote hot topics affecting them. Recent guest speakers have included Geoff Brown from Healthwatch Hertfordshire and members were informed on how to complain about health and social care. Archaeology Officer, Keith Fitzpatrick- Matthews also joined the group to share his latest archaeological discoveries.

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More recently, the group were given the opportunity to learn Everyday First Aid with the British Red Cross and gained the confidence to be able to respond to emergency situations.

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For more information on or to become a member of North Herts 50 Plus please contact Development Worker, Neena Raj on 01462 689408 or email info@nh50plus.org.uk

Our members: Just Sing! Community Choir

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Our member, Just Sing! is a fun, friendly and fabulously relaxed community choir based in Stevenage. Their ethos is one very much of inclusion, as there are no auditions and you don’t need to be able to read music or have any experience to join. Everything is taught ‘by ear’ so no one is at a disadvantage, even if they’ve never sung before and don’t read music. Fees are kept deliberately low, and special arrangements can be made for those who need help.

The group sings all kinds of songs, from classical to pop, from folk to rock, as well as show tunes and favourites from musicals. Everyone’s tastes are covered, and the choir have a wide repertoire, from classics like Tallis’ Canon to Fix You by Coldplay. Members also benefit from lessons all about breathing and vocal technique from their accomplished Musical Director, Penny Manser. The idea is to enjoy improving your singing whilst meeting new people and building confidence at the same time.

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Just Sing! began in Autumn 2009, (then known as Singing for the Terrified) after the library staff at East and North Herts NHS Trust saw the BBC’s The Choir with Gareth Malone, and were inspired to organise a singing event of their own. Aware that many people would like to sing, but are too nervous to join an established choir (usually because they can’t read music or haven’t sung before), the event was intended for anyone who wanted to sing regardless of whether or not they had any experience.

Their first singing session as a group took place in April 2010, with Michael Price directing around 35 people to sing Ticket to Ride by the Beatles, I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserables and Bridge Over Troubled Water by Paul Simon. Michael is a composer and music editor who works on film and TV scores, most famously for the BBC TV series “Sherlock”. The day was such a success that the group has grown and grown ever since, now boasting 60 members!

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The choir’s first public performance was at David’s Bookshop Christmas Fayre, in Letchworth in November 2010, and since then they have performed at the Bennington Lordship, Anglesey Abbey, Wimpole Hall and the Hatfield Galleria. 

Just Sing! now meet for rehearsals every Thursday during term time with Musical Director Penny Manser, and are always delighted to welcome new members. There are opportunities for choir members to sing solos or duets at concerts, but for those who are less confident every new member is given a ‘buddy’ from the existing members to welcome them and help them get into the swing of things.

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This year is set to be the most exciting yet for Just Sing! as the choir is taking part in a new project with Letchworth based composer Alison Wrenn. During the Summer they will be recording and performing 50 minutes of new songs for a community choirs songbook project called Sing For Our Planet. Six specially chosen composers will also be liaising with local community choirs, culminating in a massed choirs performance in the Summer of 2015.

New members are always heartily welcomed to Just Sing! and you can go along to the community hall at North Herts College on Monkswood Way in Stevenage to try your first session for free….the rehearsal schedule can be found on the Just Sing! website here. Also look out for updates on the website for their “Singers’ Night” in April, as well as upcoming themed workshops such as African Gospel and “Abbatastic”!

And if that’s not enough to convince you, why not have a look at some of the videos made by choir members who wanted to share the experiences with the choir?

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