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

Volunteers’ Week – Time to say thank you

NC839 Volunteers Week Logo




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

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

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


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

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


Volunteer and give back to your community


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.



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

Time Banking lands in Buntingford

Buntingford blog pic

North Herts CVS Time Bank has now officially launched in Buntingford, with an opening event at Benson hall on Saturday 20th July 2013.

The event was an excellent opportunity for prospective members to learn how the new Time Bank operates and how it will benefit the local community. At the launch, NHCVS Deputy Director Hannah Gray explained that “everyone has skills to share and Time Banking is a wonderfully flexible way to help others in your neighbourhood. There is no minimum time commitment so you just sign up and give time to help others when you are able to”.

Time Bank Development Worker, Nicki Handscombe said “I am really happy the launch was such a big success. We now have a great team to get Buntingford started and everyone is so keen to get started and swap skills. Time Bank is such a brilliant scheme to get to know neighbours, make friends, have fun and learn new things. I feel Buntingford is a fantastic town which already has a strong community behind it so the Time Bank will have a great home here”.

Many guests decided to sign up and become members as a result. Our new members couldn’t believe how simple the Time Bank concept is and are really looking forward to helping others and benefitting the community. As well as traditional time banking, with person to person exchanges, the scheme also offers ‘Fellowship Membership’. This is designed for people who are unable to give back hours due to health reasons, but could still use support from the Time Bank for many different reasons, from tuning a television to helping learning how to use a new phone.

The event was attended by Councillors Jeff Jones and Stan Bull, who engaged with the other attendees and showed great enthusiasm for the new Buntingford Time Bank. Councillor Jeff Jones even signed up as a member himself on the day!

If you were unable to come to the Buntingford Time Bank launch but would like to find out more about becoming a member please visit the website, call 01462 689405 or email Timebank@nhcvs.org.uk to join.

Knitting the Community Together: The Time Bank Knitting Group ‘Yarn Bomb’


North Herts CVS Time Bank, the community skills share project, has today staged a guerrilla knitting project in Letchworth’s town centre.

‘Guerrilla knitting’ or ‘yarn bombing’ is a form of street art, whereby colourful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn are used to cover and transform trees, community sculptures and street furniture. Members of the Time Bank knitting group and other volunteers have been busily working on panels of knitting and crochet, all of which has been darned together to transform the ‘Paradise Is’ sculpture on the corner of Eastcheap and Gernon Road in Letchworth (right opposite the Broadway Cinema which is featured in the new World’s End film!).


The project was started by Time Banker Carmen, who wanted to help promote skills sharing and the already popular knitting group. Carmen said of the project “We wanted to stage something right in the centre of Letchworth to show people how Time Banking can bring together our community, and how anyone can get involved. We have had support from lots of locals, some of whom have never knitted before, and we have even had help from Time Bank members who gave up their time to share their DIY skills to help piece everything together.”

Carmen went on to say “I suffer from anxiety so becoming a Time Bank member works well for me. I give my time as my health allows, which may be as little as an hour, and in turn spend that hour receiving help at a later date. I have had assistance with gardening, D.I.Y, cooking and knowledge sharing, with the bonus of social interactions.”

The Time Bank scheme, run by North Herts CVS, has been growing and growing, and the popular knitting group made up of fellow members takes place every Friday morning at the Community Coffee Bar held at the Brotherhood Hall on Gernon Road. The group is always looking to find new members to help take on new projects, and have recently raised money for Guide Dogs for the Blind by selling knitted clothing and gifts they have made. If you are interested in joining or learning how to knit just come along to the Brotherhood Hall on a Friday morning between 10:00am and 11.30am and join in the fun. It’s free to join in, and members of all ages are welcome.


The yarn bomb will remain in place for one week, and once removed the knitted panels will be re-sewn into blankets to be donated to local charities. The art form is unique in this way, as no public property is damaged and nothing is wasted.

With experience in managing a vibrant skills exchange, already successfully operating across North Herts, Stevenage and Royston, North Herts CVS are also about to launch a Time Bank in nearby Buntingford. The scheme will help bring communities together, re-establishing neighbourly support networks so they can build friendships and help each other out.

The Time Bank is free and easy to join: Please visit www.mytimebank.org.uk, call 01462 689405 or email timebank@nhcvs.org.uk to join.