Life as a Dot Dot Dot guardian: Mahmoud, Oxford

February 26, 2021

From Dot Dot Dot guardian, Mahmoud, Oxford

I first heard of Dot Dot Dot through a friend who was a property guardian in Oxford. At the time I was living in a flat near my restaurant, Za’atar Bake which was expensive for the area. When the lockdown started last year, I realised I needed to save money in order to be able to sustain my business – otherwise I’d lose it. I saw that there was a Dot Dot Dot flat available so took my chance and applied. Now I’m saving hundreds of pounds each month which gives me peace of mind that my restaurant will be OK.

Last May, we started offering free home-cooked meals every day during lockdown to the homeless and others who couldn’t afford to buy their own food in our community. We thought maybe 10-15 people would show up. We ended up regularly giving away 60 meals a day. A lot of the money I’m saving through living with Dot Dot Dot is redirected to the restaurant and goes towards providing the free meals. I’m grateful to know that I can do this with comfort and continue to do so once we can reopen which I’m hoping will be in March for our community.

We also did a meal for 90 people on Christmas Day for people who didn’t have anyone to spend it with – we were really supported by the community who gave us a Christmas tree, decorations, lighting and we were even gifted 300kg of rice! Oxford Hub (a social action charity committed to bringing people and organisations together) invited us all to have a free buffet to say thank you and I even spoke to the Oxford Lord Mayor about more ways to give back to the community. It’s great to see people paying attention and thinking about other ways they can help.

Since we started offering free meals we have also seen our sales increase through people coming in to support us and our bond with the community has gotten stronger. We didn’t want donations or to make money off the back of offering free meals, so the best way that we can be supported is through people coming and enjoying the food at Za’atar Bake. Giving is about giving to everybody and doing charitable work is an amazing feeling. I want to spread good vibes and hope to the Oxford community and I’m proud to do it. It keeps us all going to see people being positively affected by what we’re doing.

I love sports and staying active, and last June I set a challenge for the community called ‘Running for 30k’ (or ‘Walk for 30k’!). People had one month to either run or walk everyday until they reached their goal of 30k – the aim was to get people outdoors in the fresh air and enjoying sport. Once they’d reached their goal of 30k they were able to come to my restaurant and claim their free lunch or dinner. So many people got involved and one woman told me it was the first time in her life that she felt fitter and lost weight. It shows what happens when you give people a challenge and spread hope.

A lot of people don’t think about giving time to charity when they’re busy with their lives and working hard. It’s all too easy to not think about giving back. Since living with Dot Dot Dot, I’ve not only saved money but gained flexibility in my life in order to give what I can to my community. I enjoy living in a society where we do what we can to help others.

You can find out more about the work that Mahmoud and his team are doing for the Oxford community here. You can also read more stories here from our guardians on how living with Dot Dot Dot has given them the freedom and flexibility to pursue their goals.

Where and how to volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis

March 24, 2020

It’s crucial that we’re all observing self-isolation right now. But the need to provide help and support to others is also more important than ever. Whether it’s donating goods or money to those who are less fortunate than you or cooking meals for your friends and neighbours who are either still working or too vulnerable to leave the house, every little bit helps. There are a multitude of ways that you can volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis but we’ve compiled our own list of easy ways that you can get involved – read on to discover an option that suits you.

1. Cook For Your Community

If you know someone who works for the NHS or in hospitality, it’s likely that they’re still going into work. Whatever their profession, they might be struggling to make it to the supermarkets whilst the shelves are still stocked. It’s no secret that comfort food soothes the soul, so what better way to help your friends and neighbours out than by cooking up some of their favourite recipes?

The great thing is that you can easily do this whilst avoiding contact with others – just leave these meals on your friend’s doorstep! Not forgetting that cooking can help to qualm any stress and anxieties you may be feeling about coronavirus. Check back here for our top recipe recommendations coming soon!

2. Assist Food Banks Under Strain

Food banks are an essential community service but are under immense pressure to ensure that no one goes without during the coronavirus crisis. The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of food banks as well as smaller, local food banks will press on to provide as much support as they can to communities during the outbreak.

So how can you provide much-needed reinforcement to food banks at this critical time? Provided you are not at-risk yourself and have the time needed to volunteer, click here to find your local food bank. You can also volunteer by finding out and donating their most needed food items – these will differ from day to day so keep checking back to find out their most needed items.

3. Look Out For The Vulnerable In Your Community

The government’s advice is that we must now avoid all but essential social contact. As a consequence, this will mean that for most of us, we need to wave goodbye to many of our regular social activities and accept that spending a majority of our time at home will become our new normal. As we adjust to this new and different pace of life, it’s important that we keep up our contact with others, whether by phone calls, social media or video chats – find new ways of staying close to those who matter to you.  

If you are aware of someone in your building, community or neighbourhood who could be at risk of feeling isolated (pay particular mind to over 65’s or the elderly), volunteer to be their point of contact during this period of uncertainty and separation. This could involve being ready to do their shopping, video calling them regularly, or batch cooking their meals if they are less able to do so. 

4. Walk Your Neighbours Dog And More By Joining Your Local Mutual Aid Group

More than 1,000 community focused mutual aid groups have been popping up across the UK. Umbrella organisation, Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK is coordinating localised groups designed to support those who are self-isolating. Whether it’s dog walking, shopping, delivering medicine or other daily tasks, they’ll connect you with people in your local area who you may not otherwise know are in need of help. So far tens of thousands of people have come forward to offer their support.

Here is a comprehensive and growing list of nationwide Covid-19 mutual aid groups, making it quick and easy for you to find one in your local community. There’s also the opportunity to help shape and run these groups even if you’re the one self-isolating. If you’re fit and healthy, this is a great way to volunteer to keep your community afloat and to provide hope to elderly residents who could be forced to self-isolate for four months.

5. Volunteer Virtually

If you can’t leave the house either because you’re self-isolating or you’d simply prefer not to, there are a myriad of ways that you can spend your time constructively by volunteering online. The Covid-19 Mutual Aid group is currently searching for people who can digitally facilitate and build digital tools. From researchers to product managers to engineers to designers, let them know what skills you can offer and how much time you can commit and they’ll get in touch to help you get started.

Alternatively, check out our list below to discover an online volunteering opportunity to suit your needs:

Mental health & crisis support:

Education:

Crafts:

Global support:

  • Assist global crisis relief efforts with Missing Maps
  • Find out how your skills can help the UN

Whilst many of these options may be suited to you, if they haven’t sparked your interest try using do-it.org or Reach Volunteering. Both have ‘do it from home’ preferences enabling you to narrow down your search for a remote volunteering opportunity that you can get behind. Why not also check out Remote Volunteering Options That Work For You? There you can check out more options and some top tips on how to get started today.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

May 13, 2016

1.Hackney Winter Shelter
hackney winter night shelterWhere: St Anne’s Church, Hoxton
When: Every Saturday – 4.30 – 7.30pm 
Category: Food, Homeless, Shelter
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Hackney Winter Shelter run a soup kitchen at the back of St Anne’s church in Hoxton every saturday. They serve a three course dinner for up to 60 people a week. You can come along on an ad hoc basis to set up, serve food, wash up and chat to guests. If this is something that interests you, email Leanne: leannegoodchild@hotmail.com

2.Beanstalk Charity
beanstalkWhere: Various 
When: Various
Category: Education, Young People
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Beanstalk is a national literacy charity that supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading. As a Beanstalk reading helper you will work with children on a one-to-one basis. You would be working with 3 children and would see each child for two 30-minute sessions a week during term time. For more information see here and to register your interest email: SFeleppa@trust-thamesmead.co.uk

3.Greenwich and Docklands International Festival
greenwich and docklands international festivalWhere: Greenwich and Docklands
When: 24th June – 2nd July
Category: Festival, Arts, Theatre
Commitment Level: Various

Greenwich and Docklands International Festival is London’s leading festival of free outdoor performing arts. They are looking for enthusiastic and dependable people who can help make the festival happen. There are a variety of roles – to see more and apply, click here.

4.Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest

Where: Lordship Hub, N17
When: 29th May 11am-6pm
Category: Festival, Rivers, Community
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Tottenham Ploughman Riverfest are looking for volunteers to film the event, hand out leaflets in advance and to help compere the stage. The RiverFest is an opportunity to bring communities together and to make their rivers better. To find out more, click here. If you are interested in getting involved, please email Cheryl: info@tottenhamploughman.com

5. Play Days

play daysWhere: Lordship Rec, near Bruce Grove
When: 26th June
Category: Community, arts, 
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Play Days is a festival of (child’s) play for adults. It’s about communities coming together and having a good time. There are a variety of opportunities in event production, event management, games facilitation and craft workshop leaders. To find out more about the day and to express your interest, click here.

This week’s top five micro-volunteering opportunities

April 15, 2016

1.Motor Neurone Disease Association 

mndaComplete a SnapAction to help raise awareness of motor neurone disease (MND) on social media.

Share their infographic  on Facebook or re-tweet on Twitter. Don’t forget to include the hashtags #SnapAction and #MND

For more information, click here.

2.Johnson and Johnson 

johnson and johnsonYou take a photo, they make it a way to do good.

For every photo you share through Donate a Photo, Johnson and Johnson gives $1 to a cause you want to help.

To find out more, click here.

3.Casserole Club

casseroleCasserole Club volunteers share extra portions of home-cooked food with people in their area who aren’t always able to cook for themselves. They share once a week, once a month, or whenever works best for them.

To find out more, see here.

4.CharityPush

charitypushCharityPush is a portal of free to install apps and games. Download the apps you want and for every one CharityPush donate money to various partner charities.

For more information, see here.

5.Postcard Happiness

postcardhappinessSend postcards to others who could benefit from a posted note or a message.

To join in, click here.

 

 

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

March 24, 2016

1.Wilton Way

wiltonsWhere: E8
When: 2nd April and 16th April
Commitment Level: One-off opportunities

On the 2nd April Wilton Way are hosting the Hackney Deaf Childrens Society Easter Egg Hunt from 2.00-4.30pm. They are looking for some volunteers to help set up the hunt and assist the families in finding eggs around the community garden.

On the 16th April they are hosting a Big Dig event, organised by Capital growth. For more information about this, click here.

For more information, email wiltonsway@gmail.com.

2.Girlguide Group

girlguideWhere: St Hilda’s East Community Centre
When: Tuesdays 4.30-6.30pm
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

A new east end Guide group is currently being set up, focusing on building girls’ confidence, raising aspirations and having fun in a girl only space. They need enthusiastic volunteer Leaders, Assistant Leaders, Helpers and Occasional Helpers to join our team to run this new group.  This volunteering option is for women only. For more information and to register your interest please contact Kim by emailing kim@sthildas.org.uk.

3.Trussell Trust

trussel trustWhere: Various
When: Various
Commitment Level: Various  

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbacks, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK.  To learn more and to get started, click here.

4.Alternative therapies for substance users

Where: HMP High DownHMP1
When: Various
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

They are looking for volunteers to work with clients (prisoners) on the Substance Misuse Unit. Ideally they would like volunteers who are trained to deliver alternative therapies such as deep tissue massage and yoga/relaxation. They would like someone who can commit to delivering these sessions either twice or three times per month (Monday-Friday). For more information, click here.

5.Green Thursday Volunteers

chiltern rangersWhere: Wycombe Rye Lido Car Park
When: Thursday Morning
Commitment Level: Low – Can attend as few or as many sessions as you please

The Chiltern Rangers are looking for volunteers to help them care for the local environment and woodlands. The work varies each week but is all focused around conservation. Find out more here.

This week’s top five volunteering opportunities

March 4, 2016

1.Richard House Children’s Hospice – Bucket Collections

Richard HouseWhere: Upton Park Stadium
When: 28th March and 9th April
Commitment Level: Low

Richard House Children’s Hospice are looking for people to collect donations at two football matches. On the 28th March volunteers will arrive at 12pm to collect before the match which begins at 2pm. On the 9th April volunteers will arrive at 10.45am to collect until the match begins at 12.45pm. For more information please contact Rachel Green on RachelG@richardhouse.org.uk

2.Providence Row

Where: Various Providence Row1
When: Various
Commitment Level: Various

Providence Row tackles the root causes of homelessness to help people get off, and stay off, the streets. They currently have a variety of vacancies for volunteers including in fundraising, gardening and advising. Check these out and apply here.

3.Good Gym

Goodgym2Where: Various
When: Various
Commitment: Low

Good Gym is a group of runners who combine keeping fit with doing good community work. You can run as a group to work on a community project, do one off missions or commit to visiting an isolated older person on a regular basis. For more information, see here.

4.Organic Food Growing Volunteer

May Project Gardens1Where: May Project Gardens
When: Various
Commitment Level: Low

May Project Gardens are looking for volunteers to come help maintain the garden. Over the coming weeks they will be focusing attention on general garden maintenance, site planning and fruit and vegetable production. For more information and to register your interest, click here.

5.Samaritans

Where: VariousSamaritans
When: Various
Commitment Level: Regular Commitment

The Samaritans are a round the clock listening service, which aims to provide emotional support to anyone in emotional distress or at risk of suicide. There are a range of volunteering opportunities available at their 201 branches. For more information and to apply, click here.

Progress on the edible estate

June 17, 2014

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This week we returned to the raised beds to find out that the crops had already started being eaten – but by some sort of bug, not the local residents! The carrots and beetroots were especially popular with the uninvited dinner guests, with them virtually wiped out but surprisingly the lettuce was untouched so clearly we have some fussy eaters on our hands. We have been thinking about perhaps covering the beds with clear plastic sheets from now on to allow the little sprouts to survive those first crucial days growing, and we will come back to this next week and see how this new batch has done.

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Following from the bug’s feast we replanted some carrots and beets and also went about filling the third bed with some new crops; spring onions and various beans. This week we also placed some grow bags around the estate in areas that will get enough light but also out of the peoples way enough to avoid any casualties, to man or plant. In these we planted tomatoes, peppers and more courgettes. Soon there will be a whole feast of veggies on the estate.

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We had a great turnout from guardians with 5 of them turning up to get stuck in which was great, and the weather held out too which was a bonus. In total there were 8 of us which meant we could really get a lot done. We even set up a production line with digging the trenches along the fence where each person was involved in the process; digging, turning, clearing, planting, watering. It was team work at its very best! We also found some interesting objects along the way including lots of metal rods and a lovely teapot spout. Unfortunately however there were no residents joining in this week, we did hear a lot of cheering around the estate for the football though so perhaps that played a part in people staying indoors.

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The watering rota was set out again so we are looking forward to see what the beds hold in store for us next week.

Food, Glorious Food

March 5, 2014

Food is great – not only does it keep us nourished, but a good meal with friends or even strangers binds you together in a way that nothing else does with quite such ease. On the volunteering side of things, food based projects are brilliant: they draw on skills you already have; most end up being inherently social (as is the way with food!); and most importantly many of these roles can be done on a relatively ad hoc basis or at the weekends, meaning that even people who struggle with volunteering around work hours can get involved.

logo foodcycle

Food Cycle makes excellent use of food that would otherwise be wasted – in their seventeen hubs spread over the UK which provide food for those individuals at large risk of food poverty. Volunteers can do any number of tasks: from chopping, stirring and serving, to menu planning based on the provided ingredients. Engaging with the diners is also essential – there’s something here for everyone! Currently there are four hubs in London each occurring on a different day of the week, as well as the Pie in the Sky Café, running out of the Bromley-by-Bow Centre on a daily basis.

logo casseroleclub

A different approach to solving issues of food shortage or malnutrition is that undertaken by Casserole Club. An innovative idea, especially for those searching for an opportunity to volunteer as and when you can – as a member, you cook for an isolated individual in your area who would otherwise not cook for themselves. I’m certain we all have experience of the demotivation often involved in cooking anything substantial for one, and this is exactly why Casserole Club exists. It is here solely so that individuals who live alone, and who therefore may be experiencing this lack of motivation daily, can instead have a portion of something delicious and homemade with a little bit of love brought right to their door.

logo upperrooms

The Upper Room aims to improve the lives of socially vulnerable people and give them the confidence to be economically independent. UR4Meals is one of their mechanisms for doing this – providing an evening meal five days a week. As a volunteer you can get involved in the running of these meals on any day of the week, making that a weekly or even fortnightly commitment. In this role, you can either help the chef with food prep, or assist with serving, cleaning up and sharing some friendly smiles.

logo thfoodbank

Tower Hamlets Foodbank takes food donated by the community and organises and redistributes this food in emergency food packages for individuals who have been referred and are in crisis. Understandably, this is the sort of operation that benefits from the power in numbers – the more collections that can be done, the more food that can be sorted, and the more foodbank attendees that can be catered for and cared for. There are vacancies also for help with admin in the office, so there is plenty to be done – get in touch if it takes your fancy and see how you can get stuck in!

logo thefoodchain

Another wholly worthwhile venture is The Food Chain. Here, nutritional advice, cooking classes, communal eating opportunities, as well as weekly donated grocery supplies, are delivered to people living with HIV in London and their dependants. There are tonnes of different volunteering opportunities at The Food Chain, ranging from the regular to the more ad hoc, and the reports from current volunteers are glowing. This is well worth a look, and the variety of ways you can help mean there is surely something for everyone.

As M.F.K. Fisher wrote, “First, we eat. Then, we do everything else.” Without dedicated volunteers supporting all of these, and the many many more invaluable projects, those individuals who these initiatives support would not have the wherewithal to do what Fisher describes as, quite simply, “everything else”.  The variety of food based voluntary roles cover every single option, so if you are someone looking for heartfelt, community based volunteering with an unquantifiable impact … tuck in!

Having a Lark in the Park

September 23, 2013

Instead of yawning at the TV one September Saturday, I whizzed off on my rickety bike to find The Stockwell Festival. Luckily, when I eventually found Brixton People’s Kitchen, they’d come far better prepared, with a custom-built mobile-kitchen bike, built for free, from recycled materials, by two lovely Germans.

BPK bike close up

Bike envy aside, the day turned out to be a great one – the weather mocked the forecast and came out in (patchy) sunshine and we transformed an intimidating mound of mushrooms (weighing at least half of the 19ish kilos of saved fruit and veg) into very popular tempera titbits.

BPK mushroom close up

Celebrated as a great alternative to popcorn by one happy mum, they were also easy pickings whilst cooking, although decidedly trickier to photograph…

BPK Sign

Cooking alfresco with music from the bandstand wafting over was pretty cool. Mixing this with free food that would have otherwise been landfill, and a bit of teaching kids from the children’s centre what I’d just learnt myself, made it a great day.

Other highlights were working out how to up-sell a stuffed marrow to suspicious punters and chatting over a frying pan outside with a Portuguese lady, who gave a vivid description of fruit orchards back home in Madeira, previously known only to me by the cake.

 BPK close close upBPK me

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