Spotlight on Jessica: Knitting hats for newborns

October 31, 2022

While working as a student midwife, Jessica came across Bliss, a charity that supports parents and babies in neonatal care. After becoming a Dot Dot Dot property guardian, she started volunteering with the organisation. Jessica now knits hats and delivers them to local hospitals for premature newborns to wear.

We chatted with Jessica about what drove her to volunteer with Bliss when she became a Dot Dot Dot guardian.

 Staying connected to past passions 

While training to become a midwife,  Jessica often helped to deliver premature babies. This was when she first became aware of Bliss, which stocked baby clothes at the hospital where she worked. But it was only when she started looking at volunteering opportunities as a property guardian that she started volunteering for the organisation.

“When I became a Dot Dot Dot guardian, I saw Bliss listed on their volunteering resources for new guardians. I was inspired. I had forgotten about the amazing work Bliss does, and I knew straight away that I wanted to volunteer for them.

I loved being a midwife, but I realised over time that the job just didn’t suit me. Volunteering for Bliss has been such an amazing way to honour midwifery and stay connected to my past work.”

 Adding a little love to a tough situation 

Premature babies often come as a surprise. Parents won’t have had the time to pack bags or baby clothes. The clothes which Jessica makes by hand will often be the first outfit these babies wear.

“Delivering a baby prematurely can often be extremely stressful and upsetting. The hats I knit don’t take away that stress, but I hope they do add a little bit of love to a tough situation. They bring home comforts to a starkly medical setting.

I pick up knitting patterns from a local shop, and I get knitting. Once I have made a few hats, I pack them up and deliver the bundle to the hospital. I’ve only just started this journey. But I am hoping to start knitting socks, and then jumpers in the near future.”

 Making the time to give back

Jessica is busy retraining as a software engineer, but she’s found a unique set up which allows her to volunteer and focus on her career.

“I get to knit the hats at home so it’s really easy to fit in my volunteer work around my work schedule. One of the best things about Dot Dot Dot is that they hold you accountable. I used to volunteer, but I stopped when life got too busy. As a property guardian, I’m now making the time to give back to my community. I love that I am able to still support the women I used to work with as a midwife.”

Why being property guardian is right for Jessica 

Jessica lives with her partner in one of our west London flats and both of them are currently changing career paths. So they were looking for an inexpensive living solution when they heard about property guardianship through a friend.

“Being property guardians with Dot Dot Dot has helped our situation enormously. There’s no other way we could afford our own place while we’re both retraining. Property guardianship has given us the freedom to focus on the careers we want.

The flexibility that comes with being a guardian means that we can move out whenever we’re ready – we only need to give Dot Dot Dot 28 days’ notice. It’s also a huge bonus that we can decorate the flat how we want.

One of my favourite things about being a guardian is the sense of community.  We all know each other. Everyone is really sweet, and we all share a passion for volunteering. It’s nice coming home and saying hi to your neighbours.”

World Entrepreneur Day: The positive power of online gaming

August 19, 2022

At Dot Dot Dot, we house some truly innovative guardians who have made a real difference to their communities. To celebrate World Entrepreneur Day, we’re highlighting the work of Daniel who set up his own social enterprise during his time as a property guardian with us.

Daniel previously enjoyed volunteering at a local furniture store. But like many of us when Covid hit, he had to rethink the way he could carry out his work as a volunteer.

Creating change through online games

When the government enforced nationwide lockdowns, we all experienced an abrupt and new kind of isolation. This sudden lack of connection started Daniel on a journey to set up his own social enterprise.

He explains: “I had to completely reconsider how I was going to volunteer. I wanted to bring together vulnerable people who couldn’t leave the house. Throughout the pandemic, we used the power of online gaming to make a positive change in the world.”

A self-proclaimed “semi-professional nerd”, Daniel started building a community on the internet by running online events. He played all sorts of games from rogue-lites, to farming sims and Dungeons & Dragons. By live streaming the games on Twitch, viewers could get involved and interact with each other in real time.

The power of a remote community

Through his regular streaming schedule, Daniel created a safe and supportive space for people to have fun together without leaving their homes.

“We have built a regular community of people who come together to have fun and play games.  But there’s also a strong network of people who show up for each other. I see some people sharing certain problems, and others reaching out to help them.”

Not all fun and games

As things started to return to normal, Daniel saw how the power of games could have an even wider impact. In May 2021,  he officially founded Roll Together which is now a social enterprise.

The Roll Together community not only comes together to have fun online, they now fundraise for various charities: “Twitch is the primary mechanic through which we fundraise. While we stream people can donate money or buy subscriptions. All of these proceeds then go to the charity we are sponsoring at the time.”

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Daniel saw how the positive power of gaming could have an impact far beyond the internet and into the wider community. Roll Together has previously worked to fundraise for charities like Mind, Cancer Research, and LGBT Foundation. They are currently raising money for Operation Underground Railroad, an anti child trafficking organisation.

If you’re interested in joining Daniel’s live streams, check them out on Twitch.

Spotlight on Isabella: Creating a ‘better future for the children of today’

July 28, 2022

Since becoming a property guardian, Isabella, who lives in one of our Letchworth properties, has focused her voluntary efforts on supporting children from disadvantaged backgrounds in Ghana with community interest company, Visibility Africa. Discover how Isabella’s travels to the country have shaped her voluntary work.

Improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children

Our Letchworth-based guardian, Isabella explains that “In Africa there are 12 million children without a permanent, safe and supportive environment to call home. We have visited Ghana on several occasions. After seeing the reality of the situation with our own eyes, it is clearly evident that the problem is huge.

Visibility Africa aims to aid orphans with life threatening health issues. Isabella says “Visibility Africa carefully picks orphanages to partner with across Ghana. We raise finances to support children whilst also raising awareness about the hardships they face.”

We are currently partnering with an orphanage which houses 58 children all living with HIV from birth. Spending time with these children has given Visibility Africa a new focus. We have started devising ways to combat stereotypes that are associated with vulnerable children in developing countries.”

Supporting the development and education of future citizens

Improving the wellbeing of orphans and vulnerable children across Ghana is achieved through training programmes, educational sponsorship, and the provision of supplies and support to improve child development.

“Our motto is ‘creating a better future for the children of today’” explains Isabella. “We have found the most effective way to do this is by helping, supporting and encouraging these children as well as providing key educational resources to help them to grow, become future leaders, teachers and more generally citizens who can contribute to a better Africa.

So far, we have successfully completed two projects, raising a total of over £2,500 to assist with orphans’ medication, school fees and other home essentials. We have also partnered with Organi Cup to provide reusable sanitary equipment for the girls, free menstruation education, and follow up visits to encourage the use of the menstrual cups.”

Ways to support Visibility Africa

“There is still so much more to do and we would love for people to join us on our mission whether that’s through volunteering or assisting in any other capacity.

Visibility Africa is looking for people who share our value systems and beliefs. Whether you have an interest in marketing, fundraising, market research or simply just want to be part of a community dedicated to making a difference – we would love for you to get in touch to discuss how you can get involved.”

If you are interested in getting involved, please reach out to info@visibilityafrica.com or dm them on Instagram at @visibility.africa.

Spotlight on Angelika: Building a network of support for the LGBTQIA+ community in Poland

June 17, 2022

During Pride this year, we spoke to London-based guardian Angelika, who recently moved to the city. She was drawn to Dot Dot Dot’s volunteering-based approach, having helped set up the Tecza Po Burzy Foundation in Poland, which exists to support LGBTQIA+ people with their mental health.

Building the Foundation in the face of adversity

“I study neuroscience and have done LGBTQIA+ activism in the UK before so I felt compelled to get involved and redirect my focus on Poland specifically. The political situation has worsened in Poland, and the government is actively making it worse so it’s really important to offer support there.

When we set up the organisation last July, we did a lot of research into what support looks like for LGBTQIA+ people to understand how we can better cater to their needs. There are a number of LGBTQIA+ organisations in Poland but none which focus specifically on mental health support. The ones that exist have some initiatives, but largely focus on legal representation and assistance, cultural and artistic events. We needed to know what obstacles people face and what they required of an organisation that is trying to offer support.”

“It took us ten months to get registered as an organisation –  we can’t say it was due to homophobia, but they were definitely making it more difficult.”

Setting a vision as CEO

“As the founder and CEO, my role is to make things work! My focus is on the  bigger picture –  figuring out how we can do this long term. I talk to a lot of people, and try to find the right ways to communicate our mission and vision. My work for the organisation is varied. I spend time coming up with a strategy for funding, and I sometimes get involved in social media work.”

Creating a ‘map of support’ in the health sector

“There is a real lack of knowledge when it comes to the physical and mental health of LGBTQIA+ people. It is shocking to find out that 83% of medical professionals don’t know much about what it means to be a trans person, for example. We are working on a long term project to help combat this. When you’re distressed and you have to spend hours and hours looking for help and support online, it is even worse when you don’t know if you can trust the person who is sitting in front of you.

We’ve built and keep developing something we call the ‘Map of Support’. It is a database of trusted mental health professionals (therapists, psychiatrists, sexologists etc). We check how trained they are, and in what areas (i.e. same sex couples therapy, neurodivergent patients etc.). We want to make sure the people who say they are LGBTQIA+ friendly are actually helping and not traumatizing people further.”

Initiating important conversations

“One of our visions is to create something educational and meaningful for the community. We are currently working on a magazine that brings artists and therapists together. The first issue was about relationships. We wanted to focus on role models for the LGBTQIA+ people as there aren’t many in current mainstream media. In the second issue, we are discussing spirituality. As LGBTQIA+ people, we are often excluded from conversations on and exploration into the world of spirituality. The magazine includes interviews and articles from therapists as well as book and film recommendations. There is always a ‘guest from abroad’ section in English.”

Join upcoming ‘Stories of queer Poland’ live event

The Tecza Po Burzy Foundation is hosting an event, ‘Stories of queer Poland’, on Wednesday 22nd June at King’s College, London. This live panel event will also be hosted on Zoom. Register to attend the event. 

Angelika and the team at the Tecza Po Burzy Foundation would also love to hear from anyone interested in helping out with the organisation. Email info.teczapoburzy@gmail.com.

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.

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