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

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

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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

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