Volunteering: Once you pop, you can’t stop

December 2, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert 

“Thank you for the diligent chivvying”

Perhaps it’s a surprising thank-you note to feel particularly good about, but one of the most cheering emails I’ve had from a Dot Dot Dot guardian was to let us know that his experience with us had changed his mind about volunteering.

He had moved into one of our homes prepared to volunteer for a good cause because he understood that it was part of our model, but he wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.   He had chosen to become a property guardian with us because we had nice flats at a good price in the right place for him, and because of our reputation for fairness and thoroughness.  He didn’t mind volunteering for the 16 hours a month we expected, but he wasn’t particularly excited about our vision of a society where people have the time and energy to give back to causes they care about.

But by the time he moved on from our housing, volunteering had become part of his life, and he carried on after he left – so he emailed me to say thanks for the accountability we’d created for him while he got going.

A survey to make us smile

This man’s email was unusual, but his journey wasn’t.  We recently surveyed our guardians, and of the nearly 100 people who replied, 98% of them said they plan to carry on volunteering after they leave our housing, even though nearly half didn’t volunteer before they joined us.  These responses are encouraging, since enabling people to get involved in good causes and supporting them to become lifelong volunteers is central to our purpose.

Two thirds of the guardians said they plan to carry on doing the same amount of volunteering or more than they have done while living with us, which means continuing to give at least half a day a week to a good cause, a significant commitment.  And two thirds of them volunteered within the borough where they live, meaning that our work has a directly positive effect on the local areas where we operate.

Of the 55% of guardians who volunteered before they joined us, more than half now do more volunteering than before.  Only 4% of guardians surveyed volunteer less than they did before they were housed with us.

A majority also replied that they experienced no down-sides to volunteering – although three in ten said they found it difficult to make time for it.  Covid-19 has also forced four in every five of our guardians to update their approach to volunteering – 11% now volunteer with a different organisation, 13% have moved their volunteering online and, for 21%, the venue in which they used to volunteer is currently closed.  Around a quarter are currently volunteering for less time than they did before the lockdown, while 10% are volunteering more.

When we asked guardians what benefits they experienced from their volunteering, the most frequent responses included the feeling of making a difference, appreciating the roots it gave them in their communities, the fact that it gives them more empathy with people in need, and their own improved mental health and wellbeing.

Giving a helping hand…to form a lifelong habit

These results – and feedback like that quoted above – are very important to us at Dot Dot Dot.  We are not here to press-gang people into doing something they would prefer to avoid.  We aim to attract and house people who want to volunteer and who would like a solution like ours to lower the barriers to doing so, and perhaps a bit of encouragement to actually crack on and do it.

We’re very clear with applicants for our housing that if they’d prefer not to volunteer, they’ll be better off with one of the other property guardian companies in the market – and in this respect it’s fortunate that the other providers don’t expect their guardians to help good causes.  We understand that not everyone has the time and inclination to volunteer, and that’s totally fine – it’s just that we exist for those who do.  So it’s great to see that our guardians are committed enough to their volunteering to continue beyond their time with us.

Our experience is that once people get involved with charities and projects that they care about, and once they are using their skills effectively alongside people they’ve got to know and like, the satisfaction and benefits of volunteering create their own momentum.  So even if getting involved is a bit of a chore at the beginning, it quickly becomes worthwhile in its own right. And those who didn’t volunteer previously are much more likely to report that volunteering has given them new skills they can use professionally and greater satisfaction. We’re glad this means that we’re helping our guardians to improve their own lives, as well as encouraging them to help others.

We’ve thought hard about the ways in which we can help to make volunteering as rewarding as possible for the guardians themselves, as well as impactful for the charities they help.  At its simplest, we aim to help people to find more time to volunteer by lowering their cost of living and providing homes in areas they couldn’t otherwise afford.  Many of those locked in the private rented sector have to work for longer or commute further than they ideally would, and the pressure saps their energy and enthusiasm for giving back.  Reducing the burden of housing costs frees them up to do things they would like to do but previously couldn’t.

On top of this, we find that by creating an environment where being a good neighbour and giving time to good causes is the norm, getting involved feels natural.  And the fact that we send round volunteering opportunities and check how all our guardians’ volunteering is going every month creates accountability.

We think of this aspect of our work as being similar to the role of a personal trainer in a gym.  Even if you know that exercising is good for you, getting started can be hard work and you may need a bit of outside help to get you to actually do it.  It’s not that the personal trainer forces you to do anything you don’t want to, they just reduce the amount of willpower you need to exert to get it done.  We hope that our contact with guardians about their volunteering does a similar job for them, in encouraging them to do something they would like to do anyway.

So while we’re very glad we’re able to support our guardians to collectively give thousands of hours to good causes every month, credit for the effort should go to the guardians themselves – they’ve found the charities they want to help and the roles they want to do, and they’re going to continue into the future.  We’re happy we’ve been able to provide some help along that journey.

You can see more of our guardians’ volunteering stories here. Or to find out more about how we are supporting our guardians to volunteer for good causes, why not read How volunteering helps everyone – not just the beneficiaries.

10 easy volunteering options to get you started

February 17, 2020

One of the best parts about being a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian (other than affordable housing in places like Central London) is getting to give back to your community through regular volunteering work of your choice. Through volunteering, Dot Dot Dot property guardians are able to gain experience and meet new people, whilst helping make their communities safer and stronger. However, if you’ve never volunteered before you might be asking, “where do I start?”. If you’re unsure how to get started you’ve come to the right place, because we’ve compiled our top ten organisations where it’s never been easier for you to begin volunteering.

1. The Dragon Café based in Borough, London, offers an antidote to loneliness and isolation often felt by those who suffer from mental illness. They offer signposting and mental health support, as well as activities like Tai-Chi. Simply turn up on any Monday at 1pm and ask for Lu, who will tell you all you need to know about how you can help.

2. If you’re looking for a reason to ditch your gym membership, Good Gym has got you covered. Combining getting fit with doing good, it’s a great way to jumpstart your motivation for exercise whilst also contributing to your local community. Be it running to meet an older person for a weekly cup of tea and a catch-up, to running with a group to help out on community projects, there is a range of ‘missions’ in locations all over the UK that you can join. Simply fill out the application form here and get started within 2 weeks.

3. SANE provides ongoing emotional support and information to people experiencing difficult circumstances or more serious mental health issues. Their helpline, text care and support forum services are provided by volunteers who undergo a training programme to acquire the right skills and knowledge to support those who turn to SANE for help. Find out ways that you could volunteer here.

4 StreetLink helps members of the public to link people sleeping rough to local services that can give them support. Their London-based volunteers direct vulnerable people away from sleeping rough and instead point them towards appropriate organisations that have the resources to help. They are always in need of volunteers to help during the daytime, evening or weekends. To join their team and help combat homelessness, email volunteer@streetlink.org.uk.

5. Until there is a cure, Dementia Adventure is finding ways to live better with dementia. The charity dedicates their time to supporting people with dementia to get outdoors, connect with nature, themselves and their community, and retain a sense of adventure in their lives. As a volunteer, you can support their Dementia Holidays, become a Community Ambassador or Community Fundraiser.

6 Volunteering with Missing Maps means you can help to inform and maximise the relief efforts of organisations such as The Red Cross who work tirelessly to provide aid. Volunteers use satellite images and a drawing tool to mark up buildings, rivers and roads in remote areas that may have escaped previous mapping. Recent initiatives include the Nepalese earthquake and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

7 Thames 21 is committed to cleaning up London’s 400-mile network of waterways. Through huge cleanup events and community engagement, they are working towards the improved condition of rivers and canals for people and wildlife alike. If you are looking to make an impact on your local environment, the project has a huge calendar of events that you can view here. For the majority of the events, there’s no need to book; all that’s required is that you come prepared for the weather!

8. With 39 community eating projects running across the country, Foodcycle is creating a network of social eating cafes that offer a free hot meal and flowing conversation. If being part of your community is important to you, get involved with food collection, cooking meals or hosting at the projects by filling out a simple volunteering form here.

9 Silver Line utilises telephone befriending by way of a 30-minute weekly call, to provide friendship and support to anyone over the age of 65 who experiences feelings of loneliness. By volunteering as a telephone friend, you will be matched to an older person based on your own profile of interests in order to ensure genuine and lasting friendships. To help tackle isolation in communities, complete an application form and return to volunteering@thesilverline.org.uk.

10. The Big Issue Foundation’s core philosophy to ending poverty and exclusion for good is to help people help themselves – vendors use their own funds to buy magazines to sell at their own profit or loss. By extension, The Big Issue Foundation connects vendors with the services and support they need, enabling them to build their futures. Sign up here to volunteer to change lives.

Can’t find what you’re looking for? Check out do-it.org or WhatCharity to narrow down your search in London and the UK.

To find out more about how volunteering and guardianship go together, check out our community website page or read some more of our property guardians volunteering stories here.

This week’s top 5 volunteering opportunities

June 24, 2016

1.UN Volunteers
Where: From Home
When: Various
Category: Translating, Writing. Editing
Commitment Level: Various

UN Volunteers have many different opportunities that you can undertake from the comfort of your home! Share your skills, knowledge and ideas from a computer anywhere in the world. To find out more and search for opportunities, click here.

2.Well Met Thamesmead
trust thamesmeadWhere: Thamesmead
When: Various
Category: Befriending, Elderly
Commitment Level: Ongoing

The Peabody Well Met befriending project in Thamesmead aims to improve quality of life for members of the community who are isolated. Befrienders can play a big part in improving confidence and providing a link to the outside world through social interaction. For more information or to register as a volunteer, please contact Sarah at Trust Thamesmead. T: 0203 828 4936 or E: sarah.feleppa@peabody.org.uk

3. Guy Fox History Project LTD
Where: London
When: Various
Category: History, Children, Education
Commitment Level: Various

Guy Fox History Project is an educational charity in London, with a mission to create innovative activities that encourage children to explore the world around them. They are looking for people who can help them distribute their resources to libraries, community centres and shops. If you are interested in this, click here.

4. Richard House Children’s Hospice
Richard HouseWhere: Liverpool Street / Woolwich Ferry
When: 14th July, 16th July, 17th July
Category: Fundraising, Hospice
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Richard House Children’s Hospice deliver clinical care, short breaks and other residential services to children and young adults, whilst supporting their families through counselling and bereavement support. They are looking for people to help with a few hours of fundraising and bucket collecting in July. If you are interested in taking part, please contact Rachel Green. T: 02075400230 E: RachelG@richardhouse.org.uk

5. Sutton Community Farm 
Harvesting for Our VegBag SchemeWhere: Wallington
When: 29th June
Category: Farm, Community, Harvest
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Sutton Community Farm aims to increase access to fresh, healthy, sustainable food and provide a shared space for people to cultivate skills, get exercise and make friends. They are looking for volunteers who have an interest in plants and vegetable production by organic methods. For more information and to register, click here.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

June 3, 2016

1.Volunteer at Dagenham Farm

HACT BLOG 2Where: Dagenham Farm, Very East London
When: Wednesdays and Sundays
Category: Urban Farm, Organic Fruit and Vegetables
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc (with induction)

Growing Communities is a social enterprise that set up the Dagenham Farm in 2012, following Barking and Dagenham Council’s landmark decision to lease the disused Central Park Nursery site for community food growing. The Dagenham Farm is now one of London’s most productive urban farms – producing over 6 tonnes of organic fruit and vegetables every year in the heart of Dagenham. They’re looking for new volunteers for Wednesday and Sunday sessions – all you need to do is one induction. Visit their website here for further information, or contact former Dot Dot Dot guardian Lucy at lucy.nacsonjones@growingcommunities.org

2. Royal Museums Greenwich

Where: Greenwich
When: Various
Category: Heritage, Museums
Commitment Level: Ongoing Commitment

Develop your skills and contribute to the work of the Royal Museums Greenwich. There are a variety of current volunteering opportunities on offer at the National Maritime Museum, Royal Observatory Greenwich, Cutty Sark and the Queen’s House. For more information, click here.

3.Shuffle Festival

Where: Mile End
When: First 2 weeks of July 
Category: Culture, Festival, Community
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Shuffle Festival explores the kind of city we would like to live in. The week-long festivities involve film, science, storytelling, performance art, architectural installations, walks, food, comedy and music. They aim to keep tickets affordable with the revenue providing funds for long-term neighbourhood projects. They’re looking for volunteers to help build and run the festival in the first two weeks of July. Fill out this form (https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1EcNror6ObZI9Zi4Uk0DrrK8bnz6lHCvpW5tmgjfcoPM/viewform ) or email avni@shufflefestival.co.uk for further information.

4.Befriending Team Volunteer

Goodgym2Where: GoodGym, Somerset House
When: Ongoing from June
Category: Admin, Running, Befriending
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

GoodGym are looking for a volunteer to come and help them coordinate their befriending teams, who combine exercise with befriending of older people. This is a great opportunity to gain some experience with a growing and exciting organisation on a voluntary basis. Apply via Charityjob here.

5.Summer Fair Stewards

Where: Vauxhall Park, SW8 1PU
When: 26th June
Category: Community, Festival, Stewarding
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Friends of Vauxhall Park are lokoing for people to help at their Summer Fiar on the 26th June. They need help putting up gazebos, notices etc from 10am on the morning of the fair and then to do general stewarding duties during the fair itself (1.30-5pm). To find out more, click here.

 

This week’s top 5 volunteering opportunities

May 30, 2016

The 1st-10th June is National Volunteers’ Week. Here are some opportunities to get you started: 

1.Trust Thamesmead 

trust thamesmeadWhere: Various
When: Friday 3rd June
Category: Gardening, Arts, Befriending, Sports
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Volunteer at one of four local Thamesmead opportunities in gardening, arts and crafts, befriending and sports. Contact Sarah Feleppa for more information and to pick up a volunteer pass. Email: Sarah.feleppa@peabody.org.uk or call 020 3828 4936.

2. The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts logo(1)Where: Various
When: Various
Category: Conservation, Protection, Wildlife
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

The Wildlife Trust are looking for people to help them to protect local wildlife. They have a variety of volunteering options around the UK which range from community gardening to species surveying. To find out more and to register your interest, click here.

3. Kith and Kids

kith_logoWhere: Tottenham (then Camp is residential) 
When: Camp is 21st to 28th August
Category: Disabilities, Learning Difficulties, Camp
Commitment Level: High

Kith and Kids are looking for volunteers to support their members who have learning disabilities to take part in fun activities on their residential camp. To find out more about this opportunity, see here.

4.Heather Lodge

hestiaWhere: Tower Hamlets
When: Various
Category: Befriending, Mental Health
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Heather Lodge is a supported accommodation service for adults with Mental Health problems. They are looking for a volunteer befriender to offer emotional support to a service user through weekly visits. If this is something that appeals to you, find out more here.

5. The Streets

the streetsWhere: Various
When: Various
Category: Music, Community, Events 
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

The Streets is a dynamic programme aimed at bringing high quality music and performance to the boroughs of London. They are looking for a team of volunteers to engage in the local community through working in the boroughs involved in the activity. For more information and to register your interest, see here.

 

Dot Dot Do It

April 5, 2016

It’s not just our guardians who choose to volunteer. This is what staff member Sophie has to say about her time volunteering in Calais: 

Calais 3‘Over the bank holiday weekend, I joined the hordes of people queuing at Dover ferry port to leave England. Unlike the families with cars full of picnics or young people looking for some sun, I was determined for this not to be a restful break, but a productive one.

Ever since the body of three year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach in Turkey, I have watched the refugee crisis intently, and have been horrified by the conditions that people are living in. At the end of March I decided to do something and joined the masses of volunteers going to sort and pack donations in storage warehouses in Northern France.

There are a variety of grassroots organisation such as Help Refugees and Care 4 Calais who are tirelessly working to distribute donated items such as clothes, toiletries and kitchen equipment to refugees.

Calais 1The warehouse seemed like a different world to me. The boxes, mountains of donations and high-vis jackets are a world apart from our Dot Dot Dot office.  I spent the first two days of the bank holiday sizing clothes donations, creating hygiene packs, folding tents and carrying mattresses.

As a volunteer, I quickly grew used to the pattern of life in the warehouse – packing and sorting until my hands were sore and only stopping for a delicious vegetarian lunch. I was told that volunteer turnover was astoundingly fast, and experienced this myself, with a whole variety of new and exciting people to talk to each day as I worked.

Calais 2On my third and final day in Calais, I ventured into The Jungle as part of a litter picking team. Having heard about the area for months, it was still shocking to finally see it with my own eyes, especially after the partial dismantling that has occurred in recent weeks. The image that has stuck with me was the phrase ‘Free Doom’ written on the side of one of the makeshift shelters. Despite what they’ve been through, the refugees were in good spirits – laughing and joining in with our litter picking and celebrating the cricket score.

Despite arriving home on Sunday evening emotionally and physically drained, my time in Calais was very worthwhile. If you are thinking about going out there, I know that Help Refugees would appreciate any volunteers.’

(Credit to Nic Schlagman for the photos)

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

April 1, 2016

1.Bee Garden build day

Cordwainers GrowWhere: Dalston, E8 3DL
When: Thursday 7th April – 11.00 to 16.00  
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

Help to get the Bee Garden ready for spring planting. They’ve nearly finished assembling the new raised bed planters and now need help filling them with soil. No prior experience or skills are required. For more information and to sign up, click here.

2.Friendship Works

Friendship worksWhere: Various
When: Weekends
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

Friendship Works is looking for people to mentor children who are facing multiple disadvantages. Mentors give long term support by meeting with a young person for three out of four weekends. Activities include visiting a museum, going to a café or pursuing shared interests such as sport or crafts. To find out more and apply, click here.

3.Sustainable Merton

Sustainable-Merton-Logo-Tree-EditWhere: Various
When: Various
Commitment Level: Various  

Sustainable Merton is a community led initiative giving local residents the opportunity to do practical work to make the area a sustainable community. They are engaged in projects covering renewable energy and energy saving, local food growing, water conservation and raising awareness of issues associated with climate change. They are looking for a host of volunteers to perform a variety of roles. To find out more, click here.

4.Gardener at Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice

greenwich-and-bexley-community-hospiceWhere: 185 Bostall Hill, Abbey Wood
When: Various
Commitment Level: Various

The hospice grounds provide an opportunity for rest and relaxation for patients, visitors, staff and volunteers. In order to keep the grounds looking beautiful they are supported by a team of dedicated and committed volunteers. There are a variety of tasks including weeding, planting bulbs, watering and general garden maintenance. For more information and to register your interest, click here.

5.PACT – Prisoner’s Family and Friends Helpline Volunteer

PactWhere: Peckham
When: Various
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

The purpose of the role is to provide support for those involved in the Criminal Justice System. Service users can contact their confidential service by telephone, email, letter, website or via the peer support group. They aim to give practical advice and emotional support and to work as a signposting agent. If you are interested in this opportunity, please click here for more information.

BONUS OPPORTUNITY

iu_logo_conInto University are looking for people to volunteer as Academic Support Tutors to support primary and secondary students during their after-school sessions. The programme provides free tutoring and support to young people in a stimulating classroom environment. Volunteers act as role models and support academic progress. For more information and to apply, click here.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

February 26, 2016

1.Befriending Scheme

Where: Across London  Peabody
When: Various
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

Peabody Housing Association is looking for volunteers to take part in their ‘Well Met’ befriending scheme. There are opportunities all over London to befriend someone who has become isolated and lonely. They are asking for a couple of hours commitment a week. If you are interested or want more information email: well.met@peabody.org.uk or call: 0207 021 4327

2. Clean for the Queen – Litter Picking

Clean for the queen1Where: Ackroyd Green Link
When: Friday 4th March 9.00-12.00
Commitment Level: Low

Clean for the Queen is an initiative from Keep Britain Tidy marking the Queen’s 90th birthday this year.  This litter picking event is going to be held at Ackroyd Green Link (between Bow Common Lane and Burdett Road). They will supply gloves and litter picking equipment. If you are interested in attending, please email Chris at: Christine.Gennings@towerhamlets.gov.uk by the 28th of February

3. Bucket Collector

Where: London BridgeBreast cancer
When: Friday 11th March
Commitment Level: Low

Help Breast Cancer Care by collecting money at London Bridge Tube station so that they can support more people facing breast cancer. If you are interested in this opportunity, click here.

4. FoodCycle – Kitchen and Customer Service Assistant

FoodcycleWhere: St Leonards Street, E3 3BT
When: Various 
Commitment Level: Various

FoodCycle combines volunteers, surplus food and a free kitchen space to create meals and make positive social change in the community. No particular skills are needed, they are just looking for friendly and enthusiastic people looking to help out. Find out more here.

5. Post Pals

Where: Anywherepost pals
When: Anytime
Commitment Level: Low

Post Pals need volunteers to send cards, letters, emails and small gifts to seriously ill children and their families in the UK. This opportunity requires very little commitment. If you are interested in getting involved and brightening a child’s day, you can find out more here.

Dot Dot Dot Letters: Send a letter and make a difference

October 1, 2013

Last night saw the launch of Dot Dot Dot Letters, a group who will meet regularly to write cheerful letters to people who need a bit of a pick-me-up. The possibilities are pretty much endless: soldiers, prisoners, people in hospital, people who are lonely and isolated, anyone who needs a bit of love, really! There was a great turnout and I came home with a very impressive 20 letters, all ready to be posted off to poorly children (through Post Pals), adults undergoing chemotherapy (through Chemo Angels) and to elderly people (through Neighbours in Poplar).

IMG_20131001_121403

Hosted by Wilton’s Music Hall, we met for a couple of hours to fire off lovely letters whilst drinking tea. Actually, we were so engrossed in the letters and the conversation that hardly any tea was drunk! Sorry Wilton’s! This venue is absolutely amazing – the epitome of real life shabby chic, with really friendly staff and the sounds of passionate scenes emanating from the play in the next room – it’s well worth a visit.

I think most people will understand the pleasure of receiving a hand-written letter. I’ve been very inspired by websites like More Love Letters and One Million Lovely Letters – especially the testimonials from people who have found the letters and had a bad day completely turned around. It was amazing to have so many people come and write such a lot of letters as well as to have the opportunity to meet lots of new people. The only downside, and I mean only, was the distinct lack of cake, a serious issue that will definitely be rectified for next time.

IMG_20131001_120717

IMG_20131001_120837 IMG_20131001_121024

 

This is open to absolutely everyone, you can drop in for a quick one or stay the whole time. Come and get involved, it would be great to see you and there are lots of people who would love to receive your cards and letters. If you want to hear more or get updates on when we’re meeting, email me at lizzie@dotdotdotproperty.com.

And finally, a huge thank you to everyone who came, I can’t wait to post this huge pile of letters sitting on my desk. See you next time!

IMG_20131001_122038IMG_20131001_122545

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