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

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.

LYN logo

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 michal@cvsbeh.org.uk or call 07825 021746.

Our Members: Dr Hadwen Trust


Our member, The Dr Hadwen Trust (DHT) is the UK’s leading non-animal medical research charity, funding and promoting the development of new techniques to replace the use of animals in medical research.

The Dr Hadwen Trust helps scientists to implement existing techniques and develop new ones which are more human-relevant and replace animal experiments. Funded solely by charitable donations, the DHT has awarded grants to over 160 research projects since 1971 for some of the most advanced and successful human-related techniques in the most diverse areas of research including cancer, Alzheimer’s, asthma, kidney, heart and liver disease and diabetes, amongst many others.

The Trustees of the charity, which was founded in 1970, had two main goals: to play a major role in funding non-animal replacement research, and to nurture widespread support for this. The DHT is still focused on these key principals and continues to demonstrate that cutting-edge research methodologies have led to significant advances and innovations in pursuit of more human relevant approaches without the use of animals.

Later this month, The DHT are hosting a fundraising Curry and Quiz Night at Hitchin Boys’ School, on Friday 31st January. Entrance is just £10 per person, which will go towards their continued work and development. Teams of up to six are invited to come along from 7pm, and also enjoy a full bar and raffle, as well as a vegan friendly curry supper.

Booking is essential, so call 01462 436819 or go to their website to buy your ticket and find more information.

Quiz poster 2014 Original

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.


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!


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.


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!


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

Visiting our Members: The British Schools Museum


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!



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.



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

Dog walking, baking and photography…Skills Sharing with Time Bank

I’ve always wanted to volunteer to help a local charity or voluntary group but with working full time, doing up my house and a busy social life I’ve struggled to see where I could fit this it into my hectic schedule! So, when I heard about the Time Bank, I knew this was the answer as it offered me a way to give my time to help others in a more flexible way… giving my hours when I can fit them in.

The Time Bank is a community skills exchange which operates across North Herts and is soon to expand into Stevenage and Buntingford. It enables you to give your time to help local people, then ‘bank’ the hours you’ve given so you can exchange them for support when you might need help or want to learn a new skill. Straight away I was keen to get involved so I signed up and offered to help with general errands, cake baking and dog walking.

Within a few weeks I received my first request for help from a lady called Jackie who wanted someone to help her make a 70th Birthday cake for her husband. Jackie had helped a Time Bank member to rejuvenate their garden and so had available time credits to seek help in the kitchen.


I was delighted to be able to help, as baking is one of my favourite hobbies. I arranged to meet with Jackie so we could discuss the cake options over a cup of tea, and discovered that Jackie’s husband keeps racing pigeons which were his pride and joy….. and so we came up with the idea to decorate the cake with a pigeon theme. I baked a rum infused fruit cake, iced with white sugar paste, and then decorated with sparkling flying pigeons! Jackie reimbursed me for the cost of the ingredients to ensure I wasn’t out of pocket and was thrilled with the result. She even emailed to thank me after her husband’s 70th Birthday party and tell me how happy he was with such a personalised cake.

I donated two of the three hours I had earned helping Jackie with the cake to the ‘Community Pool’ which is where you can give your hours to help those who may need help from the Time Bank but are unable to give back due to health reasons. I then used my remaining hour to seek some help in getting to grips with my new digital SLR camera and was matched with Time Bank member Kent who is an experienced amateur photographer. It was so helpful to be shown how to use my camera, rather than just reading the instructions and trying to work it out myself, and I’ve benefitted from lots of photography tips from Kent too!

I am now doing the best Time Bank activity in the world as I get to take a gorgeous guide dog named Kera out for long walks once a week. I love dogs but don’t have the time to have one of my own, so when I saw the opportunity to be able to help an 84 year old blind lady exercise her energetic guide dog, I jumped at the chance. I have built up a lovely friendship with her owners Elvina and John, and John has even shown me how to use Skype on my ipad, which I think just shows how everyone can get involved and the skills sharing possiblities are endless!


Everyone in the Time Bank has a DBS check (formally known as a CRB check) and is vetted when they join, so we can all feel confident when working with vulnerable members. I love that I can fit volunteering into my busy life, and also benefit from other peoples skills.

Time Banking is such a great way to give what little spare time I have to help others and really makes me feel part of the community. I’d recommend it to anyone…it’s free to join and easy to keep up with skills shares and your earned hours on the Time Bank website.

A post by Hannah, Time Bank Member

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Spring into Time Bank: The Official Launch of the Stevenage Time Bank

Stevenage Time Bank Launch Invite

Our exciting new community skills share project, Stevenage Time Bank, officially launches on Saturday 9th March with a free launch event at the North Herts College Community Hall, on Monkswood Way.

The event will provide an excellent opportunity to learn how the new Time Bank will impact on people and organisations in the local area, and guests will hear from existing Time Bank members, to hear about their experiences and successes.

Everyone will also have chance to take part in a lively, interactive Speed Skills Swap which will demonstrate just how easy and rewarding it is to get involved with the Time Bank. The scheme is free to join and gives members the opportunity to use their skills, knowledge and experience to help people and earn time credits. Members then have the chance to use those credits to get help with something they need.

The scheme is already very successful in Royston, Hitchin and Letchworth, and some of our most popular skills have been gardening, DIY, computers, crafts, befriending and language skills…. but the Time Bank values all skills equally and the possibilities are endless!

If you’re interested in learning more about Time Banking, and would like to come along to the event, you can book your place free via our Eventbrite page or email us at timebank@nhcvs.org.uk or call us on 01462 689405.

A post for Time Bank by Emily, NHCVS Events Co-ordinator

Love Your Local Voluntary Sector Event

On Tuesday 12th February, during Valentines week, NHCVS hosted a free afternoon tea event aimed at connecting businesses with the local community, in partnership with TLI Hertfordshire. Our ‘Love your Local Voluntary Sector’ event was an excellent networking opportunity, with guests from local businesses, charities, and local organisations.

The event offered the chance to better understand and to experience some of our newest projects.  ‘Dragon’s Apprentice’ project ambassador David Gaze discussed how the scheme is a fun and affordable way for businesses to engage with young people and support local charities, sharing in some of the successes he’s experienced through the project. Whilst Community Action Manager Jeoff Colls presented the idea of the successful ‘Connect Model’ which helps businesses to develop their corporate social responsibility and benefit the community in which they operate.

NHCVS Deputy Director Hannah Gray with speakers David Gaze and Jeoff Colls
Photo couresy of Sharon Cooper Photography

Guests were also treated to an afternoon tea with cakes served by our lovely volunteer Alison, as well as a demonstration of the new ‘Skills Share’ system from NHCVS Deputy Director Hannah Gray. The demonstration showed how effectively Skills Share is able to match businesses with charities that need specific help for short term pieces of work, and offered a real insight into how businesses can effectively engage with their local community and ‘give something back’.

Afternoon Tea during networking at our Love Your Local Voluntary Sector event
Photo courtesy of Sharon Cooper Photography

The event took place at the historical British Schools Museum in Hitchin, and attendees who’d not seen the beautiful space before were delighted to discover a place of such great interest. Time Bank Ambassador and volunteer Andrew rallied around to put up displays around the venue too, in order to showcase some of our projects and give guests a taster of our work.

Presentations at the British Schools Museum in Hitchin
Photo couresy of Sharon Cooper Photography

We’ve had lots of very positive feedback from those who attended the event, and very much hope that we can host similar events in the future.

If you’re interested in volunteering, getting involved with our projects and events, or would simply like to know more about us, please visit our website at www.nhcvs.org.uk or email info@nhcvs.org.uk .

A post by Emily, NHCVS Events Co-ordinator