Volunteering: Once you pop, you can’t stop

December 2, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert 

“Thank you for the diligent chivvying”

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

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

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

A survey to make us smile

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

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

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

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

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

Giving a helping hand…to form a lifelong habit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How volunteering helps everyone – not just the beneficiaries

October 29, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

Supporting volunteering has always been central to Dot Dot Dot’s work – and our focus on it is something we are never asked to justify.   No one needs an academic paper to tell them that it’s worthwhile to support people who’d like to do good for others. And it’s easy to see that volunteers keep a huge range of worthwhile organisations going, from household names like the Samaritans and the St John’s Ambulance through to small local food banks and sports clubs.

But the indirect benefits to society as a whole of volunteering, neighbourliness and civic engagement go way beyond the benefits to individuals in need who receive help from volunteers, or to the volunteers themselves who get satisfaction from doing it.  People living in societies with more volunteering, more social connections and higher trust tend to be happier and wealthier, so participation deserves to be measured, celebrated and promoted for these reasons too.

Most current discussion of the benefit of living in a community where people are engaged – either by volunteering formally, getting involved in neighbourhood groups or helping others informally – traces back to Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, published in 2000.  In it, he argued that social capital is essential to a well-functioning democracy, and defined it as “connections among individuals – social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them”. 

He also drew a clear link between the frequency with which people get involved in third-sector activities and organisations, and higher levels of trust and social capital.  As he put it, ‘‘civic engagement and trust are mutually reinforcing’’ and ‘‘the causal arrows among civic involvement…and social trust are as tangled as well-tossed spaghetti’’. 

While it usually takes a certain amount of trust and positivity to start volunteering or to get involved with a club or society in the first place, Putnam’s point is that doing so creates a virtuous spiral – the more you participate, the more positive you feel about others because you have more good experiences and you benefit from more reciprocity.  And this in turn makes you more likely to believe that most people are basically trustworthy, which encourages you to participate more.

This is good for individuals. Sociological research repeatedly shows that higher social trust is correlated with higher levels of happiness, life satisfaction and subjective wellbeing, and we frequently hear from our guardians that their volunteering is positive for them as well as helpful to the causes they give their time to.  

But it’s also good for society as a whole.  Work by Marta Portela and others in the journal, Social Indicators Research, shows that the higher the level of social capital a country has on average, the more likely individuals in that country are to be happy and satisfied with their lives.  And these benefits occur even for those who don’t participate regularly – if you live around others who get involved and have a good opinion of their fellow citizens, your life is probably better too. 

It also makes us all richer.  A country’s average levels of social trust predicts its economic growth more accurately than its average skill levels, according to Dr David Halpern, the Chief Executive of the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team.  As he puts it, “Low trust implies a society where you have to keep an eye over your shoulder; where deals need lawyers instead of hand-shakes; where you don’t see the point of paying your tax or recycling your rubbish (since you doubt your neighbour will do so); and where you employ your cousin or your brother-in-law to work for you rather than a stranger who would probably be much better at the job.”  All of that makes life less enjoyable – but it also makes it more expensive and holds back innovation and entrepreneurship, making countries who lack social trust poorer too.

So even though most people who get involved in formal or informal volunteering do it because they want to help a specific cause and because they enjoy it, by doing so they are also making everyone a bit more likely to be happy and wealthy.  We support volunteering because of its positive impacts on good causes and on the volunteers themselves, but by doing so we hope we are also making a small contribution to building a more positive, happier and richer society as a whole.

You can find out more about our commitment to supporting the volunteering efforts of our guardians here, and read more of our guardian stories here.

Spotlight on: Stuart – Changing Horizons

September 11, 2020

The 10th September 2020 marked World Suicide Prevention Day, an important time to reflect that in the absence of face-to-face interactions, keeping human connections alive wherever we can is more important than ever.

Today we are sharing Dot Dot Dot guardian Stuart’s story, in which he speaks frankly about his own mental health challenges, and how this eventually led to setting up his charity, Changing Horizons. Read Stuart’s story below to discover how he has been able to help thousands of people access the help and support they need to improve their mental health – himself included.

Did you know that the leading cause of death men under the age of 50 is suicide? That the same is true of women under the age of 35? Suicide is word that makes people feel uncomfortable. It’s steeped in stigma, myth and misunderstanding. One if five people in the UK will experience suicidal thoughts at some point in their life. It’s highly likely that one of your family members, friendship circle or colleagues are wrestling with these thoughts right now. Sadly, most of us experiencing these thoughts will suffer in silence; too afraid or too ashamed to speak out and ask for support. Tragically, the act of suicide becomes a reality for far too many with one in fifteen making an attempt on their life. It’s terrifyingly common with the devastation of a single act of suicide felt far and wide.

It’s not as though I wanted to die when I attempted suicide. I was lost in a sea of desperation, burdened with feelings of hopelessness, sadness and loneliness with no end in sight. I had been struggling with for over ten years with depression, a common illness where rates among people in the UK have doubled during the coronavirus pandemic, with one in five adults struggling with symptoms. Suicide wasn’t new to me having lost my best friend to suicide at the age of 21. It came as a complete shock. I had no idea he was struggling at the time which wasn’t unsurprising given that I had never revealed my struggles with depression, self-harm or suicidal thoughts. We’d shared our hopes and dreams together, but clearly kept our woes and worries to ourselves.

Unlike Mark, I survived my suicide attempt but I still felt like I had nothing to live for. Depression had robbed me of my career, my relationship and all the plans I had envisaged for a happy future.

I became embittered by the reality that mental health was very much a taboo subject in a society where talking about physical health is almost part of our daily ritual. It felt like most people dealt with mental health by not acknowledging its existence at all. It seemed so unfair and so unjust. Why should we have to hide how we feel? Due to the stigma of mental health, many of us choose not to speak out. When we do open up to those that are around us, so many are afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing that they just do nothing. Wanting to find a reason to live, I decided to make it my life’s mission to normalise conversations about mental health. I’d achieve that by setting up a charity that provided courses to equip participants with the knowledge to recognise symptoms of mental ill health and install them with the confidence to start a conversations about mental health.

Armed only with an idea, I applied for funding from the National Lottery in 2011 to train as a Mental Health First Aid Instructor and run a pilot project training people in Mental Health First Aid. Remarkably, my bid was successful and my organisation ‘Changing Horizons’ was granted charity status. I’ve never looked back. Through my charity, I’ve gone on to train thousands of people on how to start conversations about mental health. I’ve had participants find solace in the courses I provide and finally access the help and support they need for their own mental health. It fills me with pride knowing that participants have used the knowledge they’ve learnt to start conversations about suicide and ultimately, save a life. Being a Dot Dot Dot property guardian and the inexpensive housing it affords has allowed me to run a lot more fully funded courses and deliver life-saving courses to a greater number of people. It’s why I find being a property guardian such a privilege and am grateful to Dot Dot Dot for that.

Life is really tough for many of us at the moment. Myself included. The coronavirus pandemic has had a profound impact on my mental health. I’m finding life a challenge, but my life is very different now. I’ve built a network of support so that I don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. I speak to counselor on a weekly basis. I take medication to help me manage my mental health which provide stability so I can meet life’s challenges head on. I’ve got friends and a partner I can be open and honest about my mental health with. I still have suicidal thoughts but I now know how to beat them. It is okay not to be okay. However, it’s not okay to suffer in silence like I did. A conversation can be enough to start someone on a journey to recovery. If you see someone struggling with their mental health, stop and have a chat. You could help save a life.

If you need someone to talk to then you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.org 24/7. Check out more of our guardians fantastic volunteering stories here.

Spotlight on: Elizabeth – Women in Localization

August 20, 2020

As Women in Localization UK Sponsorship Manager & Global Sponsorship Liaison, Dot Dot Dot guardian Elizabeth tells of how this volunteering role enables her to take action on a global scale, working to bridge the gap for students to enter the localisation industry, whilst inspiring the next generation to pursue a career they’re passionate about.

“Women in Localization’s mission is to foster a global community for advancement of women and the localisation industry, through networking, education, career advancement, mentoring and recognition of accomplishments. The non-profit organisation has 24 chapters worldwide and grows each year. Local chapters typically hold quarterly events which develop technical and soft skills, as well as networking.

In summer 2018, I was invited by the Women in Localization UK chapter as a guest speaker on the topic of remote working. I shared the stage with a panel of industry experts, exploring insights, educating and supporting the localisation community. I felt honoured to be included in such an event – being asked to speak so early into my career (1 year to date).

I participated in subsequent events and joined the core team in Autumn 2018; my role focused on sponsorship – responsible for coordinating event sponsors. Topics have included Machine translation, Quality Management, including overcoming impostor syndrome, career development and mentoring. The UK chapter has been involved in academic events, bridging the gap for students to get into the industry. I found it incredibly difficult as a Graduate progressing from unpaid internships to a full time job. It’s truly rewarding to inspire the next generation to pursue a career that they’re passionate about. We run a mentorship scheme which volunteers are encouraged to join – providing further support to the community.

A year later, I was invited to join the Global Programs, as Sponsorship Liaison, bridging the gap between the local and global teams. I’ve found a grass-roots perspective helpful while being able to take action across a global level, and several other volunteers are in a similar position, which focuses our group on the pulse of the industry.

During the lockdown, Women in Localization has adapted – all events have moved online, with several each month from different chapters around the world. Recently the UK chapter had a virtual pub-quiz to bring some joy during these difficult times.

In my volunteering experience, I’ve made some lifelong friends, with selfless values and compassion, for which I’m incredibly grateful. The UK chapter has a diverse group of skilled, amazing volunteers that are simply brilliant. Always doing what they can to help others.

Anyone considering volunteering, or even undecided, should certainly give it a try. It has certainly changed my life for the better.”

To find out more about Women in Localization, search #WLUK and #WomeninL10n on Twitter, and follow the links below:

Women in Localization – UK Chapter

Women in Localization – Global

This story is part of our Summer Series collection. If you have your own story to tell or a project you’d like to shout about then please contact us at volunteeringstories@dotdotdotproperty.com. Read more volunteering stories from our guardians on our website, and stay up-to-date with the latest news from our Summer Series on Instagram.

Life as a Dot Dot Dot property guardian: Kechinaeke from High Wycombe

July 10, 2020

We touched base with Dot Dot Dot guardian Kechinaeke, who is currently enjoying her 1-bed flat in High Wycombe. Kechinaeke talks decorating on a budget, how she began the search for a volunteering opportunity she loves, and why being a Dot Dot Dot guardian has positively changed her life.

What made you look into property guardianship?

So I heard about Dot Dot Dot through my friend. He’s a property guardian already somewhere else. After he’d told me about what it entails I thought that this could be great for me. I started to think maybe I don’t need to rent privately and I thought I’d take his advice and see if I can get a guardian property of my own. I began looking into it and found that Dot Dot Dot had properties in High Wycombe. 

What drew you to Dot Dot Dot?

I thought it was quite nice that Dot Dot Dot has the volunteering aspect and that property guardians can get involved in charity work – especially as other guardianship companies don’t have this side to them. This made me way more interested. 

What was your experience of viewing your flat?

The whole process was pretty simple and straightforward from start to finish. After I applied I had someone get back to me the following day to let me know it had been approved. The viewing for the property where I now live was actually the same week my application went through so it went really smoothly. I had my matching call and then got invited to sign up really soon and got my key to move in. It just wasn’t complicated at all. 

What were your thoughts when you moved in?

When I moved in there was no proper flooring – there were very old wooden floorboards but they had paint splashed all over them. This was the main aspect that I felt needed to be done. Everything else was great actually. The walls were in really good condition but I think the previous person got it painted really nicely and so I didn’t really need to do this part in the end. I also didn’t have to do anything to the kitchen! Just get a cooker and I was sorted.

How did the decorating go?

In terms of furnishing the place, this turned out to be really affordable. The only thing I didn’t end up getting was my bed as I had this already from living with my Mum. I got some cheapish cupboards from Ikea and got a sofa from Argos along with a cute rug. For the floor, I got ‘vinix’ sheets which are really easy to put down and they look really professional. The best part was that it wasn’t even that expensive. It was £20 for a sheet and I only needed two per room. In the end, I spent about £100. Wasn’t really that expensive to do. 

Where did you live before becoming a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian?

Before I became a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian I was living at home with my Mum and younger brother. My mum decided to go and be with my dad in Nigeria so I had to find somewhere to live on my own. My sister said I could stay with her so I did have a backup option but I wanted to get my own space and take my time to move in and settle down in a place I’d love to call my own. 

What do you like about where you currently live?

It’s nice and quiet, very residential. I like the area, and that there are no disturbances. I’ve not been living here for too long but my neighbours are great. Everyone is really welcoming and I really like them. I’ve spoken to my next-door neighbour as well and had a good chat. I’ve lived there for two weeks. 

What volunteering do you do?

I’ve found a few places where I’d like to volunteer and I know you’re allowed to choose multiple places to do this. I’m particularly interested in doing litter picking in the area – I’m a clean freak and so I like things to be nice and neat. My contribution would make me feel better if my surroundings are clean. 

I’m also going to do some church work and some gardening. I work in an office 9-5 every week so I’d like to do something more interactive outdoors so I can talk to people in a different environment. There’s nothing daunting about volunteering in any way and you get to choose what you want to do which means you can ensure you’ll be doing something you enjoy and that you can get things out of. 

Has property guardianship positively impacted your life?

Definitely! I’ve been wanting to save to buy my own property for a long time so this is a great way to help me do this – it’s the best opportunity. In fact, even when I was at home I was paying £500 each month and now I’m only paying £300 which is a huge saving. To think that I’ve got my own flat to myself and the space is mine. I love it. Getting to live on my own and affording a flat isn’t something I expected I’d be able to do and It’s only because of Dot Dot Dot that I can do this. 

How being a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot is different

June 16, 2020

Expensive rent and bad property management are just two examples of how the housing sector is failing many members of our society. At Dot Dot Dot we keep compassion at our core, setting ourselves apart from others in our industry through our continued focus and care in helping our guardians to build safer and stronger communities.

This purposeful approach means that we pay considerable attention to supporting our guardians to thrive. By providing them with good-quality, affordable homes, we enable them to use their extra time to volunteer for a cause that they care about and that will instil positive change within both their communities and themselves.

Read on to learn more about how being a property guardian with Dot Dot Dot is different.

We make it easier for you to focus on the causes that really matter to you

Since we began in 2011, we have turned hundreds of empty properties into homes for community-minded people who volunteer for 16 hours a month, enabling the buildings to become hubs of social value. Our vision is simple: we give homes to people who will breathe life into empty buildings, and who are invested in making a positive impact on their neighbours and communities. With lower monthly living costs, our guardians have more time and freedom to focus on a cause close to their heart without the pressure of needing to be elsewhere to earn money.

Volunteering outside of work is a chance to dedicate time to the things you love doing – whether that’s helping to plant a community garden, turning your own project into volunteering, or learning more skills. Your experience will be all the richer if you feel excited and motivated by the field – this is why you have the opportunity to use your voice and choose an organisation that fuels your passion.

You’ll have the opportunity to meet like-minded people and extend your network

We know that friendships come in all shapes and sizes. We also know that everyone has a skill to offer that is useful. At Dot Dot Dot, we will help you to organically grow resilient communities that allow everyone to use their strengths for the benefit of their fellow guardians and their neighbourhood. Our guardians are made up of designers, students, teachers, cleaners, magazine editors, librarians, support workers, engineers, zookeepers, midwives, DJ’s and dancers. No matter what their reason for loving the experience of guardianship – whether it opens up a new way of living for them, or it makes their existing lifestyle easier and more affordable – all our property guardians share a common trait: they are committed to volunteering for a cause that is bigger than themselves.

Being part of a community based on something more than just geographical location is to share a common belief in the world; volunteering will enable you to connect with others who also give value to your belief in the importance of giving time to projects you care about. By regularly giving your time to a good cause, you will have the chance to develop strong bonds with others in your own community, increasing your sense of belonging and connections to those around you.

Your volunteering will stay with you for the rest of your life

Whilst we don’t offer ‘forever homes’, we do offer homes that have a ‘forever impact’ on you and the people around you. The benefits of volunteering on you as an individual as well as those you engage with are tangible and far-reaching. You are giving yourself and others the tools and skills needed to create a real and sustainable future by keeping connections and friendships alive.

Volunteering also has long-term positive effects on both your mental and physical health. The National Centre of Volunteering conducted a study on the benefits of volunteering on mental health and found that 80% of participants reported a positive effect on their mental health and wellbeing through providing a sense of purpose and meaning, along with improved confidence and self-esteem.

To find out more about how to become a Dot Dot Dot property guardian, check out our guardian website page or complete an application form today. You can also head over to our Instagram to follow our Summer Series, where we’ll be telling our guardians’ volunteering stories every week. 

Dot Dot Dot’s plans to build back better

June 16, 2020

From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

At Dot Dot Dot we have been motivated through the Covid-19 crisis by the knowledge that our work to create housing and support neighbourliness is now more useful than ever.  Good homes are important, but they are even more important when you’re locked down and can’t leave.  Living in a supportive community is always life-enhancing, but never more so when you know you might become seriously ill and friends and family are far away.  

Our work will become even more useful to property guardians, property owners and the wider community as the lockdown lifts.  That’s why we’re hiring – read on for why we’re aiming to do more in the coming months, and the positions we need to fill. 

As the immediate health crisis subsides, government support for businesses and individuals will unwind.  This will lead to significant financial hardship for individuals.  Those who rent their homes are going to be hit particularly hard, as they are least likely to have savings, and most likely to be in the jobs that have been worst-affected by coronavirus. 

Like everyone, these people have energy and skills which they can apply to the problems we all face.  If they are forced into a situation where they can do nothing but struggle to keep their heads above water financially, their ability to get involved in good causes and make a difference will be lost. They need homes they can afford, and a living situation which enables them to find new opportunities and to work on the projects they care about.  Dot Dot Dot has been striving to provide this since day one. 

At the same time, we can expect disruption and uncertainty in the property sector as businesses adapt to the impact of coronavirus.  No one yet knows what the outcomes will be – has our approach to shopping, socialising, travelling and working in offices changed for good, or will we return to old habits as risks subside?  What will happen to house prices and therefore the viability of regeneration schemes?  It’s too early to know, so property owners need flexibility and a reliable, cost-effective way to manage buildings whose future is uncertain – a service Dot Dot Dot has always provided.

And the country as a whole needs motivated, kind people who will be good neighbours, who will maintain and build on the community-support schemes that have sprung up through the crisis, who will watch out for the elderly and unwell, and who will start to rebuild the charities and voluntary projects which have seen their income streams evaporate.  We exist as a social enterprise to funnel our residents’ energy into exactly these tasks.

So Dot Dot Dot’s work has never been more needed, and we are ready to invest to make sure we are able to do even more and even better as the country begins to recover.  We were growing strongly before the crisis hit, and we have rapidly adapted our approaches to make sure that we are able to operate safely.  We have been taking on new buildings throughout the crisis, housing dozens of new guardians during April and May, and we intend to continue. 

That’s why we are now hiring.  Our first step will be to strengthen our business development and marketing teams, and then reinforce our services team. 

Today we are looking for a new Head of Growth and Partnerships – this is a senior role in the business, and is an opportunity for someone with expertise in winning work and building relationships to join us to help us grow and to shape the business for the future as a member of the Strategic Leadership Team.  We particularly welcome applications from women, disabled people and people who are Black, Asian or from minority ethnic groups.  More detail on the role is available here.

Please spread the word – and watch this space as we advertise future roles over the coming weeks.

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:



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.

Life as a Dot Dot Dot property guardian: Desire

March 6, 2020

Futurist Women launch party

Futurist Women launch party

Here at Dot Dot Dot, we support all of our property guardians to follow their passion through volunteering. For Desire, our former employee and Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian in Newham, her passion was and still is to give a platform to younger women in communities where the tools they need to develop their careers aren’t easily accessible. Through living as a Dot Dot Dot Property Guardian, Desire was given the all-important time she needed to put her passion into practice and volunteer with Futurist Women.

Futurist Women is a social enterprise, established to provide exposure and equality for women and youth in underdeveloped communities: “We want to educate and empower them with the skills and knowledge to allow them to adapt to the developing trends across all disciplines.

“I’ve been involved with the project from the beginning as one of the founding team. My friend and founder of Futurist Women, Tiffany Nelson, brought the idea to me and I immediately wanted to get involved and make it happen. We want to encourage young women to think outside the box, be more creative and grow with the times and technology”

Futurist Women talks

Futurist Women talks

Desire’s main responsibility in her volunteering is to raise the profile of Futurist Women and to help them gain credibility as a social enterprise. One example was their launch party, entitled ‘Millenial Maiden’ which took place in Ghana in December 2017: “As the Curator, it was my job to organise meet-ups for the team in Ghana to make sure that plans were coming along smoothly. I oversaw and assisted in writing proposals and emails to potential guest speakers and sponsors for the event.

Futurist Women launch party

Futurist Women launch party

“Over the two days we introduced who we are and the aims of Futurist Women, alongside networking sessions and inspiring talks from leading women in various industries such as oil and gas, media, construction and health.” Ultimately, their vision is to build socially and economically conscious global leaders, who are ready to embrace gender and career equalities.

Currently, around 250 charities are in receipt of voluntary assistance from Desire and her fellow Dot Dot Dot property guardians every month. Since we began in 2011, more than 3,000 charities have been helped, and more than 1,200 people have been housed by Dot Dot Dot and contributed to their local communities through their volunteering.

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

10 easy volunteering options to get you started

February 17, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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