Guardian Entrepreneurs…

November 17, 2014

The wonderful thing about working at Dot Dot Dot is that you are constantly hearing about the brilliant volunteering our guardians are doing and also the wealth of volunteering opportunities this city has to offer.  What is even better is when you can see that by providing cheaper accommodation people are able to start their own projects and charitable schemes as they no longer need work as much in order to pay the bills. We have seen a number of these projects springing up in the past couple of years and it is a pleasure to watch them grow and go from strength to strength.  With it being Global Entrepreneurship Week this week we wanted to shout about some of our brilliant social entrepreneur guardians.

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One of our longest running guardians, Ione, set up her project Furry Tales whilst being a guardian with Dot Dot Dot. Furry Tales is a project aimed at ending isolation improving the well-being of older people – via small animals. Care homes can be lonely places so what Furry Tales does is bring small animals like guinea pigs and bantam chickens into care homes so that the residents can touch and interact with them. Animal therapy is an amazing way of ending isolation and loneliness, not only do the older people get to handle the animals which can improve social and emotional functioning but also the sessions act as social events with the Furry Tales volunteers as the residents can interact with these new people.  Furry Tales’ success is continuing to grow with the help of Stepney City Farm (the animals’ home), we made this video to highlight their work.

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Another of our long-standing guardians, Jess, also started up an amazing project whilst being a guardian with us. When looking for volunteer roles she found out about UpRising a programme that helps 19 -25 years develop leadership skills and as part of this she and a group of other UpRisers started Inter-Voice. Inter-voice seeks to empower young interpreters, who need to translate for their non-English speaking parents, by running workshops to develop the young person’s personal skills, support them with technical skills and specialist language, and help them gain recognition in the wider community.

It really is inspiring hearing about all of our guardians’ projects and being able to see how they flourish, and in turn draw in other guardians as volunteers.  There also are a number of other fantastic projects that we have been able to see grow while people have been guardians with us.  Current guardian Matt helped set up Speak-Set which provides an easy to use communication device which can be plugged into TVs to allow elderly people to easily have video calls with their family or carers. Previous guardian Helene also helped set up London Soup which is a crowd platform which hosts events whereby social entrepreneurs can pitch for funding for their projects whilst everyone enjoys soup donated by local food enterprises. And finally guardian David co-founded Talk To Me which aims to reduce social isolation in London and get people talking to each other more.

‘Trust instinct to the end, though you can render no reason.’ – Ralph Waldo Emerson

September 5, 2013

Over the past eight months, I have received some quite amusing looks when explaining to people what Furry Tales is. To me, it makes perfect sense to take bantam chickens and guinea pigs into residential homes and day care centres, to invite groups of older people to the East End haven that is Stepney City Farm, and to enjoy sharing laughter and memories prompted by an array of our furry/feathered friends. I do accept, however, that not everyone sees it like this.

‘Older people? And chickens??’

‘Why farm animals? And why residential homes?’

‘How did you end up doing that then?’

Trying to provide satisfactory answers to these questions has been an extremely useful process for me if, at times, a little frustrating. I became aware that I hadn’t decided to start this project because of logical reasons. I didn’t sit down with a list of potential needs of the varying demographics of Tower Hamlets and try to see what I could do. I just had a feeling.

Having been involved with various other voluntary organisations, often with the intent of gaining professional skills, relevant experience, or potentially useful work contacts, I was keen to do something just for the sheer joy of it – with no ulterior motives. I knew that spending time outdoors and with animals made me feel happy, so I started doing it more. From this came a feeling that perhaps there were others who would benefit in the same way I was, along with an awareness that there were some people who had no access to the farm, or no knowledge of its existence. And from this, came Furry Tales.

Eight months down the line, it is an utter joy to see the project growing and developing with a force of its own. I feel as if I spent the winter months planting seeds and became so engrossed in the process that I forgot what they might turn into. Now, as if from nowhere, all these flowers are beginning to blossom and I find myself marvelling at their appearance.

In July I was invited to pitch Furry Tales to UnLtd, an organisation that supports social enterprise start ups through a range of awards. In ten minutes I had to explain what the project was, why there was a need for it, and why I deserved their support. It was nerve-wracking and empowering at the same time – I loved every minute of it.

By the end of July I received the news that Furry Tales had been awarded a Millennium Do It Award: a package of £4,000 to put towards set up costs, and a year-long combination of legal, business and networking support. I couldn’t quite believe it.

I am now in the process of gearing up for the official Year One Pilot. I am commissioning a website, expanding our network of contacts, reaching out to local government for their support, looking for training opportunities, and recruiting volunteers for sessions that are due to start in October. It is slightly daunting if I am completely honest, but it is also immensely exciting, and I feel more than ready for the challenge.

I have a long way to go with Furry Tales, but it has had an excellent start and I am looking forward to seeing the direction it takes. What the process so far has shown me is the huge reward that comes from following your passions and listening to your instinct – even when you can’t always provide a reason.

If you are interested in volunteering for Furry Tales, have any questions about the project, or just feel like saying hello, please contact me on ione@furry-tales.org.uk

For more about the practicalities of the project, please visit Stepney City Farm’s website: http://stepneycityfarm.org/support-us/furry-tales/

For more information on the support UnLtd offers, visit: http://unltd.org.uk/path/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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