Spotlight on: James – Chatter Chamber

Since becoming a Dot Dot Dot guardian in spring 2018, James has volunteered for over 70 hours for good causes, contributing to our guardians’ huge milestone of volunteering over 160,000 hours collectively since 2011. That’s the equivalent of 100 years of full time work given to charities and community groups. He’s recently been working on a project called Chatter Chamber, which allows people who would not normally meet, to come together and share ideas. Find out more about the work he has been doing and how being a Dot Dot Dot guardian has enabled Chatter Chamber to take off in his blog below.

London is a grind. At least it has been when I’ve lived in extortionately hiked-priced accommodation. But Dot Dot Dot, with it’s affordable housing model and volunteer-friendly environment, has allowed me to take risks and avenues with my volunteering in ways inconceivable in the private rented sector. And it’s not just been the unshackling of financial constraint. It’s been the uplifting energy that seems to come from being around others who also want to make a difference in their neighbourhood. All these forces have helped inspire my volunteering. Simply, I am a different person for it.

As part of my 16 hours volunteering each month, I have been working on a project that brings different people together for shared meals in their local areas. Dubbed ‘Chatter Chambers’, these meals encourage people who wouldn’t normally spend time together to interact. According to a study by the University of Oxford, eating together is said to increases happiness levels and community cohesion. Yet, too many people still eat alone.

One of my proudest contributions to Chatter Chamber has been devising a way that enables people who couldn’t afford to eat out, to still come to the events and have a meal of equal experience. There is now a sign up form that gives people two options to attend a meal. They can either pay £3 to confirm their place, and pay for what they order on the night, or they can put themselves forward for a free meal ticket, covered by those paying the £3.

It’s been wonderful connecting with the different social groups in my local area. It has taught me how all our stories can fit and create greater meaning together. Walking down the street now feels like something that I’m part of. And it’s been encouraging to learn of the many different organisations driven by the needs of those in our communities. The Migrants Resource Centre have been excellent in thinking of ways to ensure their users can get the best out of these meal events in the community. And, I’m excited to now be collaborating with an elderly care home, to cater for their residents attending the next Chatter Chamber meal event.

Being involved with Chatter Chamber, I have learned how listening and understanding can be a powerful tool in bringing people together. Not only does it help you feel more connected, but it also allows you to appreciate people for who they are in the here and now, even if you might think differently. It seems there has been recent concern that emotion has won over logic in politics. But by sharing warm, congenial experiences with people over meals in my local area, I’ve come to think that emotion is a logical engagement that should shape our society and politics.

At our cores, it’s emotion, feelings and bonding that makes us living creatures; and if we don’t appreciate these human essences, we risk ignoring the potential for us to come together and achieve greatness.

For my next volunteering steps, I am looking to help with the design and trial of a new app that will allow Chatter Chamber meals to take place more often. I’m also hoping to find more charity and social groups to get involved, to ensure everyone across society has the opportunity to share a positive experience together over food. It would be great to hear from Dot Dot Dot guardians, to link up their experience and community networks too.

Find out more about Chatter Chamber and volunteering opportunities here.

Read about 100 years of volunteering and more of our guardians’ volunteering stories here.