Supporting regeneration in Oxford, the city of dreaming spires

May 24, 2022

In July 2019, we agreed with A2Dominion, a housing association with a social purpose, to secure vacant flats on an estate in Oxford during a regeneration project. While A2Dominion were looking for property security, they also needed a strategic partner that would be sensitive and thoughtful when housing guardians, so as not to disrupt or cause difficulties for remaining residents still living on the estate. They also needed to be confident that the security provider would be a reliable steward of their assets and maintain open communication.

Our extensive experience of working within regeneration schemes and our ability to tailor our approach as required meant that we were well-prepared to be the strategic partner that A2Dominion needed.

Providing community-minded guardians to A2Dominion 

Dot Dot Dot’s stringent vetting process ensured that the guardians selected for Gibbs Crescent in Oxford, understood the importance of creating a good relationship with remaining estate residents. In fact, the idea of community and neighbourliness is built into our business model. All of our property guardians are required to volunteer for 16 hours a month for good causes. Guardians who volunteer demonstrate responsibility and commitment and ultimately, make good neighbours.

The (guardians) have made us aware of some anti-social behaviour on the estate and have helped to maintain a number of the small private gardens in the empty properties, even working alongside some of the remaining residents to grow their own vegetables.” 

A2 Dominion

In total, we secured 22 empty units and created inexpensive housing for 32 property guardians who volunteered to support remaining residents and good causes within the Oxford community.

Amplifying social impact across Oxford 

Our guardians volunteered at Gibbs Crescent itself, and with charities in Oxford. We also connected with an A2Dominion partner aligned with our own values, to provide more focused social value – Aspire Oxford. The charity and social enterprise aims to empower people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, to find employment and housing.

Through their Employment Skills Training Programme, Dot Dot Dot employed their tradespeople regularly for property repairs and maintenance. These work opportunities, together with support from Aspire, enabled them to attain secure employment and housing in the long term.

Throughout the two and a half years that we housed property guardians in Oxford, our guardians collectively volunteered for over 8,211 hours for good causes, many of which were local to Oxford. This equates to £101,400* worth of social value. Former Dot Dot Dot guardian, Mori, volunteered with Oxford Community Action:

“Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections.”

Demonstrating flexibility throughout the pandemic

The emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, which brought about new working from home practices and periods of self-isolation for staff, meant that redevelopment timelines for Gibbs Crescent were pushed back. Due to those adjustments, there were extra empty properties that needed to be secured with guardians.

To support A2Dominion we adapted our onboarding and property management process to ensure that we could quickly take on another phase of flats on the estate. In 2020, we started to house guardians in an extra five flats, bringing the total to 17. 

Our experience with the guardians has been very positive. Once the void properties have been accepted there is very little involvement from our side. Having the guardians in the void properties has given us the peace of mind we needed whilst preparing to redevelop the estate.”

A2 Dominion

A successful handback

When vacant possession was required, we were able to move all of our guardians out of Gibbs Crescent within 30 days. As part of a phased handback, we returned the first batch of properties in January 2022, and the second in March 2022, ensuring they were back with A2Dominion ahead of the next stage of their development.

The success of this contract is testament to our model and approach, and desire to deliver property guardianship with purpose.

Discover more about how we can sensitively support your regeneration scheme with thoughtful and community-focused property guardians who will volunteer for good causes.  

* The social value of volunteering presented uses the Living Wage at £12.35p/h, plus 30% for employee costs  (including National Insurance and pension contributions).

Amplifying her volunteering efforts with Dot Dot Dot guardianship: Karin and the Open HR Forum – Students

May 6, 2022

With the added support of Dot Dot Dot guardianship, west London guardian, Karin, has been able to amplify her volunteering efforts to enable students to access mentoring from real world working professionals. Karin’s initiative, the Open HR Forum – Students, operates on an international scale to create opportunities for HR students to become leaders in their field.

Developing a passion for communication skills

“One of my first voluntary roles was supporting students and teachers in Slovakian primary schools to develop their interpersonal skills. Since then I’ve been passionate about improving communications between students and working professionals in order to bridge the gap between learning and practical experience in the workplace.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I began a course in human resources with the Open HR Forum, to support my continued learning and development around communications in my home country of Slovakia.

I soon noticed a marked gap in the potential to access career consulting and work experience in Slovakia compared with the UK – the only options were for vast sums of money that were unaffordable for most of the students that I knew, including myself.”

Initiating a platform for students to gain real-world experience 

“I identified the need to establish a sub branch of the Open HR Forum specifically for students to gain practical experience and career consultancy. My main aim was to facilitate opportunities for people to be leaders in their field, something that was driven by students, for students, to dictate their own learning and development.

The initiative I’ve created helps to bring HR students together on an international scale, offering them mentoring and support from large professional organisations for free. Each student is paired with a working professional ‘buddy’ who is able to guide them towards applying their theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios.

They can also receive free advice form HR professionals during webinar sessions which has been really successful in helping to feed international knowledge back into the Slovakian education system.”

Utilising guardianship to re-divert time and energy towards volunteering

“Paying lower monthly living costs as a Dot Dot Dot guardian compared with the private rental sector means that I can afford to spend more of my spare time volunteering.

Dot Dot Dot recognising the value of volunteering is really powerful and was one of the deciding factors for me when I became a guardian in 2021. For me, volunteering comes naturally and is something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing – I’ve always cared about giving something back to my community, but being a guardian allows me to amplify my contributions and the amount of time I  dedicate to my initiative.

Guardianship is not for everyone, but there are many advantages to becoming one. I currently live in a large 4-bed townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, and share the property with a teacher, a human rights lawyer and a scientist. I absolutely love my guardian housemates and am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet them – we all have busy work and social lives, however we still find time to meet and relax as a household.

My relationship coordinator, Dominique, has also been fantastic. We feel supported by Dot Dot Dot and their emphasis on being there for the people as well as the property.”

A guide to Kent’s county town, Maidstone

April 8, 2022

As one of Kent’s most enduring and historically significant towns, Maidstone is ever-evolving to balance new and diverse industries with its historic charm and characterful corners. Peacefully located on the banks of the river Medway, this county town is well worth exploring for its hubs of entertainment, long list of much loved bars and restaurants and leafy aesthetic. We recently visited the area for ourselves – and here are our best bits.

Activities and attractions

The river Medway runs through the heart of Maidstone, and so the town offers a surprising amount of water sports during the warmer months. You can hire out canoes and kayaks to explore the river and even travel out into the pastoral Kent countryside on a day trip.

Cycling is also a popular pastime, and there are plenty of quiet and traffic-free routes to take to discover the county town. You could also head to Go Ape to explore the forest canopies in the surrounding rural beauty spots via zip lines and high ropes.

The Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, residing within an Elizabethan manor house, hosts the most diverse mix of collections in Kent, and has won acclaim for its ethnographic and ancient artefacts. You’ll find  Anglo-saxon treasures, a chair that once belonged to Napoleon and even a 2,700 year old Egyptian Mummy.

The fossilised bones of ‘Iggy’ the Iguanadon (which can be found on the town’s coat of arms!) were discovered in 1834 during an excavation on Queen’s Road. As a historical find of international significance, they are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London, but a visit to Maidstone Museum will allow you to see a full cast of the bones.

Offering one of the most energetic and varied programmes of art performances in the south east, The Hazlitt Theatre offers drama, comedy and musical entertainment and local community theatre groups.

Where to shop and dine out 

Maidstone offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining experiences. Amongst the recently refurbished Fremlin Walk, you can find a flagship House of Fraser, H&M, Flying Tiger and Waterstones, to name a few. On the other side of town you’ll find independent shopping experiences in and around the streets of The Royal Star Arcade and Market Buildings, with clothing and homeware boutique, Lottie’s Loft, being a particular highlight.

Restaurants and cafes are in abundance, with the highest concentration of eateries located around Earl Street. Check out the highly recommended Frederik Cafe Bistro, La Villetta, Mu Mu’s and Embankment Floating Restaurant on the River Medway.

In the historic villages in and around Maidstone, top pubs include The Fish on the Green in Bearsted, The Potting Shed in Langley and the Curious Eatery in Boughton Monchelsea.

Mote Park

Mote Park boasts an impressive 30 acre lake offering water sports, a pitch and putt course and a cafe hub. It’s also host to a variety of festivals and events throughout the summer and autumn.

Highlights include Ramblin Man Fair in July, one of the country’s biggest rock music festivals. For three years on the go, Ramblin Man Fair encompasses rock, blues and country, has its own beer festival, and there are options for glamping and camping nearby!

October welcomes the beer and folk music festival, Oktoberfest. Expect Europe’s biggest beer tent with 30,000 litres of Bavarian beer, traditional folk music and a German food market.

How we work with LB Brent to turn empty flats into inexpensive homes in Queen’s Park

March 22, 2022

The regeneration of South Kilburn in Queen’s Park is a 15-year project aiming to deliver over 2,400 new homes as part of a sustainable and mixed neighbourhood. Flats are vacated in phases to prepare blocks for demolition. However, leaving them empty can risk them becoming the target of anti-social behaviour or can mean maintenance issues that could affect existing residents aren’t spotted.

Life for local residents can become worse just when timelines are most critical and when housing teams are most stretched. For Dot Dot Dot, this can be an opportunity to add most value. With a depth of experience in regeneration projects, and a commitment to delivering positive social impact, we work with housing teams to manage voids in a way that maintains flexibility and positivity in the decant process.

Assessing if a property can be used for guardianship

Dot Dot Dot and LB Brent worked together to establish a process whereby properties could be identified as potentially suitable for guardianship and handed over – or returned if unsuitable – in an efficient, transparent manner:

  1. Property in pipeline: LB Brent allocates a property as available for potential guardian use, and invites Dot Dot Dot for a pre-assessment site visit. LB Brent and Dot Dot Dot agree properties which appear suitable for guardian occupation, and LB Brent undertakes any necessary work to ensure that the units pass their EICR and gas safety inspections, are weathertight and have secure windows and doors.
  2. Property ready for triage: LB Brent notifies Dot Dot Dot when they’re satisfied the property is at the handover standard, and sends over gas and electricity safety certs and asbestos documentation.
  3. Key collection and triage authorisation: Both parties agree a timeline for Dot Dot Dot to put the property through triage i.e. assess its suitability for guardianship. LB Brent signs a Triage Authorisation Form and hands over keys. Dot Dot Dot inputs the property and its accompanying authorisation is into a property tracker visible to both parties.
  4. Triage: Over a maximum two-week period, Dot Dot Dot will assess the suitability of the property for guardianship e.g. the amount / cost of work needed to make it viable for occupation in line with our minimum property standards.

Either the property will be accepted by Dot Dot Dot, in which case LB Brent will give authorisation for set up to be finalised and guardians to be housed. Or, Dot Dot Dot will determine that the property can’t be used for guardian occupation, provide the reason for rejection, return the keys and a Property Handback Form to LB Brent, and designate the property on the tracker as being handed back.

Housing guardians to keep properties safe

Once authorised to house guardians, Dot Dot Dot will take on the Council Tax and utilities accounts, add safety certs to our online folder that’s shared with LB Brent, and obtain a selective licence for each property.

Prospective guardians will be vetted, with key considerations being their financial security, ability to move out if given 28 days’ notice, and their desire to volunteer.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform at LB Brent, explains: “The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April 2021, and there are now 19 guardians across four different blocks. They will be joined by dozens more over this year as the regeneration progresses. They have already volunteered over 1,500 hours to good causes, including at local community kitchens, Covid-19 vaccination centres and the Compass network which represents the LGBT+ community within the armed forces.”

The final stage – vacant possession and handback

Using guardians means property owners are able to ask for their buildings back at any time and for any reason – all they need to do is give 32 days’ notice. In turn, Dot Dot Dot will give its guardians the 28 days’ notice required by law.

Once notice has been served, guardians will begin to activate their move on plans, and Dot Dot Dot will offer rehousing options when available and appropriate. The properties are returned to LB Brent in a clean and clear condition, and after inspecting the property, LB Brent will sign a Property Handback Schedule to confirm its return. Dot Dot Dot will close the Council Tax and utilities accounts and transfer them back to LB Brent.

This entire process can occur over a period of a few months to several years, and can flex with the timelines of the council’s regeneration plans. In choosing to work in partnership, Dot Dot Dot is able to provide its guardians with inexpensive homes in a desirable, diverse and dynamic part of the capital, and LB Brent can keep its buildings safe, support its communities and generate positive social impact through volunteering.

Spotlight on: Cate and Charlotte, International Women’s Day

March 11, 2022

This International Women’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on two Dot Dot Dot guardians who are doing fantastic work to both support and lead the way for women in their careers and voluntary work.

Discover how our Manchester guardian, Cate, has powerfully forged her own artistic career path in light of an autism diagnosis. And how our west London guardian, Charlotte, who is volunteering with XLP – a charity focused on supporting young people to recognise their full potential – is helping to  create positive futures for women growing up in inner-city estates.

Cate, forging her artistic career path

From our Manchester guardian, Cate 

During the pandemic I was diagnosed with autism and began to find the work I was doing problematic, especially when I had to take on new responsibilities due to Covid. I started to feel that I needed to fundamentally change what I was doing and work on something new, with an emphasis on supporting others.

Equipped with my experience of being diagnosed with autism and the challenges I’d faced in light of this, I left my job to begin focusing on initiating an art agency. My goal was to create a platform for fellow creatives who struggled to gain normal agency representation due to having specific working needs like myself. Through this support, many artists have been able to go on to set up their own websites and control their own publicity.

Knowing Manchester to be a real hub of creativity and so a place where my arts agency could thrive, I left London behind to embark on a new stage of my life in West Didsbury as a Dot Dot Dot guardian. Soon after, I got a bar job in a pub in nearby Burton Road where there is a hive of artisan shops and businesses with whom I could connect and engage with.

This opened up another new avenue for me. The owner of the pub I was working in decided to utilise an empty unit space next door, and so myself and a female friend worked together to bring the space back into use as a gallery. The aim was to showcase art from local talent, many of whom are women, in rotating exhibitions to help them to publicise their work. Since then, we’ve had three exhibitions and have helped to raise the profile of 24 different artists in Manchester to a global audience through social media.

It’s been a huge learning curve for me as I’ve always wanted to do an MA in art curation but was held back by the cost. However, being so heavily involved in the running of the Next Door Gallery means that I’ve been able to gain first-hand experience in curation, practically executing my own MA. I’ve liaised directly with buyers across the globe as well as learned how to properly store and ship artwork internationally – something I never would have had the chance to do in my old life in London where my energy was zapped by other commitments.

Following the success of the gallery, I’ve been able to scale back on the amount of time I spend working to allow myself more space to focus on my own freelance artwork. Transforming part of my Dot Dot Dot flat into my art studio has been a lifeline for me to be able to develop and produce my work. I’ve recently been part of an art show at the Antwerp Mansions in Manchester and am currently in talks to hold my first solo exhibition on the subject of autism and what that means on a personal level.

Charlotte, XLP

From our west London guardian, Charlotte

For six months now, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor to a 14 year old girl with a charity called XLP. They’re focused on creating positive futures for young people who are growing up in inner-city estates in London and facing challenges in their home lives, at school and in employment. I work with young people in my own career as chair of the Women Employability Resource Group with YMCA, and it’s something that I love doing – but I wanted to work with women in a different capacity when volunteering. XLP was a perfect way for me to draw upon my existing skill set in order to support and provide mentorship to young women.

My role is to empower and support the young woman I work with to begin to lead and shape her own future. We do many things together such as grabbing a coffee or going for a walk – anything that facilitates a conversation with her in order for me to provide guidance. XLP are even organising a weekend away with fellow mentors and mentees, and so I’ll be helping to push her out of her comfort zone, giving her opportunities to experience things she wouldn’t have in her everyday life otherwise.

There are challenges involved that relate to mentees socio-economic backgrounds and a lack of positive female role models in their lives, and so my role as a mentee really hinges on building trust and providing a listening ear for her. Specifically as a woman, I hope to have a positive impact in broadening her worldview and demonstrating to her that she is allowed to make space for herself. I am there to help her break a pre-existing bias, encouraging her to realise that she belongs in this society just as much as men and boys, and to empower her to take up space in her community.

For myself, I’ve learnt so much from this young woman – you couldn’t do this role without really seeing and feeling the impact it has for her. It’s a privilege and an honor to have a space in her life and share her challenges and sit with them in those times. I feel incredibly grateful that I am a trusted person in her life, and I hope I can continue to enable her to create positive goals and put her mind to achieving them.

Balance busy city living with peace and tranquility in Croydon

February 3, 2022

For all those searching to exchange the busyness of the city with a leafy retreat, our double room available in a 2-bedroom period cottage is well located within the grounds of Ashburton Park, north Croydon. With its ever growing restaurant scene, abundance of serene spots to unwind and surprisingly good connections to central London, discover why this leafy borough might just be for you.  

Escape to the country park 

In Croydon, you’re never far from a multitude of green spaces and serene spots to unwind. Our 2-bed cottage sits within the grounds of Ashburton Park, with acres of green space to enjoy, including two tennis courts and a basketball court.  But if it’s a real oasis of tranquility you’re after, then South Norwood Country Park offers vast meadows and wetlands to amble through plus an idyllic lake with swans, geese and waterfowl.

Fast growing food scene 

Croydon has some great spots for trying cuisines from all over the globe. Independent and local street food traders offer up their inventive menus – from Egyptian to Caribbean. You can also taste your way around the world at some of the town’s upscale restaurants.

Plenty to see and do

Calling Croydon home means that you’re never short of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned pro, CroyWall is the place to be when it comes to bouldering. Or to experience a traditional Canadian pastime, Bad Axe Throwing is a must. Take some friends and enjoy an evening blowing off some steam! 

Don’t miss the magnificent clocktower building on the edge of Queen’s Gardens, which is actually the Museum of Croydon. The museum documents the development of the town since 1800, and provides artefacts donated by current and former residents of Croydon.

Well connected to central London

Despite having no tube station, Croydon is surprisingly well-connected to central London with frequent, direct trains to most major inner city stations within 15-20 minutes (or Brighton within the hour if you fancy a spontaneous trip to the seaside). Croydon’s vast tram network makes getting around the area convenient and will even take you towards Beckenham and Wimbledon. Plus the London Overground from West Croydon will deliver you to east London and beyond. 

Discover more about our available double room in the area and how you can apply to move to Ashburton, north Croydon.

Forming meaningful connections in Oxford: Mori and Oxford Community Action

October 28, 2021

Through their regular volunteering, Oxford guardian, Mori, is helping to redistribute food and spread the word about the work of Oxford Community Action in their local community and further afield.

We caught up with them to find out how the organisation supports Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities ‘to tackle and overcome barriers created by structural inequalities’ through grassroots activities and community engagement.

“I started volunteering with Oxford Community Action in August 2020. After I settled into my home, I started going to their Wednesday food distribution operations and became a regular volunteer.

I started off helping to pack up food parcels – we were in the basement of a school and we were packing parcels for close to 300 families. A few months later, I talked to Hassan, one of the leading organisers – he had been looking for someone to take over their social media department. For the last year or so, I’ve been the main person to coordinate social media advertisements, announcements and campaigns. I talk to organisers and think about how we can promote Oxford Community Action on Facebook. 

We used to reach out to people or organisations for support, but through my voluntary social media work we have started to see organisations getting in contact directly and asking if they can join up with us on certain activities. For example, we’ve got connections with Oxford IT Bank, an organisation that picks up laptops from organisations or individuals and drops them off to us at Oxford Community Action to give to families and school children who don’t have access to a laptop at home.

We also have connections with Willow Brook Farm just outside of Oxford, the first Halal and Tayib farm in the UK. They got in touch and we had a family day last summer where we took 80 adults and children to visit the farm. Building connections like these would have been hard before because we didn’t have a social media presence. Anyone who wasn’t friends or directly in touch with us wouldn’t have known about the organisation, but now there’s more knowledge about what we do and more people reach out to us.

There are many personal advantages to my volunteering too. As someone who is in the middle of a PhD I’m really immersed in that process and it’s lovely to have a mid-week break from what I’m doing. It offers me a community to come back to and that was particularly important during times like last winter when I wasn’t seeing many of my friends. 

Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and  with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections. 

We’ve done so much work over the last year that has been a pleasure to be part of. Quite early on, we had an online event where we brought together a lot of BAME doctors and nurses to give community members a chance to ask them questions. Government efforts to provide equal access to and information about the vaccines are still sorely insufficient as unequal vaccination uptake data tells us, so to be able to bring together over 100 people to ask questions that they wouldn’t usually be able to ask a doctor or nurse, was an important moment. They could address some of the community’s anxieties and empower them to protect themselves and the people around them. We also recently started an event for BAME mothers, where they can talk about their experiences of maternity.”

To find out more about Oxford Community Action, visit their websiteYou can also keep up with our #10years celebration where we’re highlighting guardians from the past ten years and the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to. 

 

How our green-fingered guardians give their homes ‘kerb appeal’

October 26, 2021

 From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

Of all the reasons for having Dot Dot Dot guardians looking after buildings, you might think that the fact that they keep corridors, gardens and front doors looking nice is the least important.  It’s certainly true that property security, social impact and making good use of an otherwise wasted asset are the main reasons people come to us.  But our experience over the years is that keeping buildings cared for aesthetically makes a big difference to property owners, to neighbours and to the guardians themselves, and is often a highlight of our work.

From the point of view of people living locally, neglected homes with overgrown gardens make whole streets look less welcoming and one or two boarded up flats can make whole estates look tired.  Such properties can be a magnet for anti-social behaviour and dumped rubbish, and can even be an arson risk.  If the situation continues for an extended period, it can be demoralising for neighbours who would normally be houseproud – why bother to make the effort to weed and clear your own front garden or pick up the litter from your corridor when the area still won’t look tidy.  And empty buildings can depress house prices for properties nearby.

Preventing long-term blight

Meanwhile, it’s understandable that anyone working on a property development or regeneration scheme would feel that it’s a waste of resources to pay to manage the visual appearance of buildings that are waiting to be transformed or sold.  It’s natural that they would prefer to focus their efforts on the outcomes of their project or on buildings that are still in use by tenants, leaseholders and business occupiers.  But if a project hits delays, this can mean that empty buildings end up being a blight for years.

This is where Dot Dot Dot’s property guardians can make a big difference.  Because they live in buildings and treat them as their homes, they want them to look nice so that they have a pleasant place to spend time.  And because we go out of our way to recruit thoughtful, considerate people to join us as guardians, they care about their impact on those around them.  We support our guardians to look after their gardens and front doors, and where necessary we provide them with equipment and help to do so. 

Supporting our green-fingered guardians

In addition to this, many of our guardians actively enjoy gardening, so take on more of it in their local areas as part of their volunteering.  In our partnership with London Borough of Ealing, we supported guardians to clear weeds from gardens around the estate where we were working.  With Tower Hamlets Homes our guardians reactivated planters across the Robin Hood Gardens estate, encouraging long-term residents to get back to growing vegetables.  Through a scheme run by Poplar HARCA, guardians adopted public flowerbeds and planted them up for everyone to enjoy.  At our project with RedKite in High Wycombe, several guardians volunteer to pick litter on a weekly basis.  Guardians created a roof garden at Booth House, owned by the Salvation Army.  And the pictures above show the transformation our guardians achieved at one of our projects with London Borough of Croydon.

Guardians also get involved in green projects beyond their own front doors – Dot Dot Dot guardians volunteering with GoodGym have planted spring bulbs and cleared weeds at community facilities across London.  And our guardians living in homes owned by Peabody at Thamesmead have got involved with conservation volunteering around the parks and waterways in the area.  

Improving well-being

We hear from guardians that this creates opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have – given the cost of renting or buying a home with a garden in London, many wouldn’t otherwise be able to spend time looking after plants and enjoying outdoor space.  The evidence shows that gardening is good for physical and mental health and reduces social isolation – chatting with neighbours while taking a break from working on your front garden is a good way to feel more connected to your local area.  Even just a window box on a balcony is cheering.

So, as with most of Dot Dot Dot’s work, taking care of gardens and the exterior appearance of the buildings we manage creates a win-win-win situation.  It alleviates a burden for property owners at no cost.  It makes neighbourhoods more pleasant and welcoming.  And it is worthwhile for guardians themselves.  

If you’d like to hear more about how our guardians can contribute to their local area, you can sign up to our newsletter, Meanwhile Thoughts or contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

Finding a sense of community in north west London: Farah and The Granville

October 21, 2021

Queen’s Park guardian, Farah, found a renewed sense of community in her hometown of north west London when she started volunteering for The Granville last year. The centre delivers food parcels to the local community and provides a multi-purpose space for people to come together.

“I had gotten really into gardening during lockdown and was looking to continue when I came across The Granville in May 2021. I started with Granville Community Garden and found out they were also running a foodbank. It runs twice a week, and I thought it was great to be involved as the pandemic made me realise the level of food poverty in the area. It’s also an opportunity to get to know local people.

My main role is helping with food parcels. Lots of the food is donated from local companies that have surplus and they donate in huge quantities. The volunteers go through the donations and divide it up. We make 100-150 parcels per shift and they all go to the local community. I also deliver to those who can’t come to The Granville. It’s nice to walk around the area and get to know it (and it’s good exercise!)

The gardening is connected, it’s been quieter at the moment but I’ve been maintaining the space throughout the summer and we will get started again soon. It’s grown by the community, for the community, and anyone can access it. There’s also an allotment.

It’s been a good way to get to know local people in a way I would not have normally. There’s a real sense of community spirit – everyone helping each other out. It’s taught me a lot and it’s the highlight of my week! 

One of the challenges is seeing face to face the poverty in the area and how many people rely on the foodbank. It’s made me realise also about my own food waste and use.

My favourite moment has been engaging with people when I deliver the food parcels. Often it’s the kids who open the door and it’s a sweet encounter, and they’re really funny and honest.

It’s been lovely having access to inexpensive housing. It has taken a lot of pressure off me, and I can do things like invest in my local community and feel more part of it. I knew the area as I grew up in north west London but now I am really part of it.”

To discover how you can get involved with The Granville,  visit their website.

You can also keep up with our #10Years celebration where we’re highlighting guardians from the past ten years  and the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to. 

How the Dot Dot Dot team volunteer their time to good causes

September 29, 2021

To celebrate a decade of being an award-winning social enterprise, we’re telling the stories of our guardians, property owners, the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to, and the Dot Dot Dot team.

At Dot Dot Dot, we wouldn’t be able to support the volunteering efforts of our guardians without being socially-minded individuals ourselves, willing to dedicate time and energy to good causes. So, we caught up with members of our team to share some of the ways in which they have volunteered to support a wide range of communities in the UK and abroad, from a Chinese community centre in Soho to refugees in Calais.

Anna Scott, New Guardian Assistant

My volunteering story began in 2018 when, motivated by a podcast, I decided to go to Calais to help cook food in the Refugee Community Kitchen. I felt nervous, unsure what to expect. I needn’t have worried, as when I arrived I had that rare but instant feeling that these were my people. 

The atmosphere in the kitchen was fantastic, music blared as we spent hours cutting vegetables and talking about every topic under the sun. If I hadn’t already booked a return ferry, I would have stayed longer! Even now, three years later, I often think of Calais and plan to go back when I can.

Annabel Cleak, Data Coordinator

I volunteered with a Kenyan charity called CIFORD Kenya as part of a training course about the charity sector with Child.org. I worked with CIFORD to conduct research on how gender roles, space, and farming interact in the Meru community, and carried out an impact evaluation of female empowerment workshops for teenage girls.

The data I gathered enabled CIFORD Kenya to gain further funding for their projects. I formed valuable friendships, and felt very fulfilled using my skills to help a charity gain the money they needed to continue work which uplifts the local community.

Mark Muldoon, Relationship Coordinator

I volunteer at all sorts of different places and I’ve always tried to do it in my local community – it feels good to not just live in my neighbourhood but to be playing an active role in it. I’ve been a volunteer event photographer at Poplar HARCA/Poplar Union since August last year and a volunteer painter and decorator at Civic in Custom House every now and then since last May. 

I’ve also been a food waste distributor for OLIO in Poplar since November last year and I’ve volunteered as a litter picker in Limehouse Basin for Moo Canoes. Through OLIO, I solely manage the redistribution of supermarket food that would otherwise be thrown away, ensuring as much of it as possible gets into the hands of less well off families in my local community.

Omar Al-Amin, Business Development Manager

I have volunteered at different stages of my life, and with different charities or projects in different sectors. The one common aspect that cuts through all of the volunteering I’ve done, is the chance to meet new people – the charity or project staff, the other volunteers, the end users / customers, – and the chance to see new places. It usually involves some form of (light) exercise, the chance to be outdoors and to learn new things. In other words, it’s a chance to feel connected. An increasingly rare feeling in the modern world.

Kieran Picton, Relationship Coordinator

London Friend is a charity who support vulnerable members of the LGBT community. I got involved in volunteering for them because I wanted to help people in an immediate sense, to assist those going through a difficult time to understand their situation and improve their self-worth. When the pandemic started my volunteering changed to checking in with members by phone call every week.

Some of the people I speak to suffer from complex PTSD and don’t leave their homes for some weeks, so I might be their only real human interaction.

It’s helped people to feel less alone; they tell me knowing they have someone checking in with them each week gives them something to look forward to. I feel like what I’m doing isn’t significant, but when I’m told things like this, it makes me realise what seems small to me can make a world of difference to someone else. To know I’ve made a positive impact in one person’s life makes it fulfilling for me.

 

Liz Clarke, Relationship Manager

When I first moved to London, I volunteered in my lunchtime at the Chinese Community Centre in Soho. I would help elderly people at a smartphone workshop and assist them with their use of their touch screen phones, particularly using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. It highlighted to me the importance of digital inclusion and accessibility, which has become even more important through the pandemic and in a world where we are now often faced with using QR codes (the barcode you might see on a menu, for example). It was rewarding to help people reach out to their families overseas who they had not been able to see or speak to for a long time. I also got to hear the stories behind the connections they wanted to make and the people they wanted to speak to. This was a special way to spend my lunchtimes.

Patrick Harrison, Business Development Associate

I volunteer for my wife Sue’s forest school business, Branching Out-woods, mainly at a primary school in Braintree.

The theory of forest school is that the children choose what to do in the woodland, and the leaders assist them to do those things, which might be den making, craft, cooking, rope stuff, or almost anything in their imagination. There is a big role for risk taking and fires which the children learn to make for themselves. It sounds hippy-ish but the evidence is that it really helps a child’s development (and the adults! – it’s so hard not to give the answer but let the child take (managed) risks and learn from their mistakes). We do see the children change in a few weeks!

After week three of the six allotted sessions we see the children relax into it and make the time their own. When we ask them if they would like to see anything changed, the response is “No, this is our time to do what we want”. It seems many children have so much of their life structured and directed.

Keep up with our #10Years celebration where we’re highlighting the stories of our guardians, property owners, the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to, and the Dot Dot Dot team.

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