Forming meaningful connections in Oxford: Mori and Oxford Community Action

October 28, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

October 26, 2021

 From our founder, Katharine Hibbert

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

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

Preventing long-term blight

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

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

Supporting our green-fingered guardians

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

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

Improving well-being

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

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

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

Delivering food parcels in his community: Daneel Phillips and Made in Hackney

September 27, 2021

We spoke to Poplar guardian Daneel back in April this year about his volunteering with Made in Hackney, a community cookery school that, when the pandemic hit, turned its hand to supporting vulnerable members of the local community.

We recently caught up with Khin, Volunteer Manager at Made in Hackney, to see how they’ve adapted over the past 18 months and how volunteers like Daneel contribute to the direct impact they are making in their community.

“When Made in Hackney started around nine years ago we were the first fully plant-based cookery school and charity in the UK. When the pandemic hit, we realised that we could offer our support, and that food was more important than ever. People still need meals, especially those who are vulnerable, and we could use our knowledge to run online classes for people at home.

“We crowdfunded like crazy to offer a community meal service, going door to door and delivering vegan meals by bike. We still continue our delivery service today, and meet at the Queen of Hoxton kitchen space each Tuesday and Thursday, where professional chefs cook 1,000 meals each week. Cyclists like Daneel come by at 4 o’clock and deliver to between 150 to 200 households.

“Daneel has done so many hours for us and we’re so grateful to him – he’s a terrific supporter! He’s even running the Hackney half marathon with some of our other volunteers, who are raising money for Made in Hackney.”

Property guardian Daneel has contributed almost 700 hours of volunteering during his time with Dot Dot Dot, with many of these going towards his work with Made in Hackney.

“This is my first time volunteering consistently. I’d been meaning to do it for such a long time and the fact that it’s part of my guardianship is great as it gave me the drive and encouragement I’d been waiting for. Now I know it makes me feel good, improves my mental health and enables me to meet different people.”

Addressing health inequalities and food access in Hackney

Made in Hackney is about more than just food delivery. “Our ethos is really about addressing our community health crisis – on both a local and environmental level – to address issues with health inequalities, food access and climate change. The meals we cook and deliver are all local and sustainable – that’s why we use bicycles, too – and we are lucky enough to get donations from local providers like Edible London and Street Box.

“What we’re hoping for is that more people will be like Daneel and volunteer with us, especially cyclists and people who can come and help out in the kitchen. There’s all kinds of things you can help with, not just cooking – you can help with carrying supplies in or with portioning and packing up meals. We also need volunteers for our cookery school where you can join us as a class assistant. We induct volunteers into our school and teach them about vegan cooking. We are now able to hold our cookery classes in person as well as online at our kitchen in Clapham Common.”

If you’d like to find out how you can get involved in Made in Hackney, check out their volunteering page. If you’re interested in becoming a property guardian, take our short eligibility quiz

Providing reassurance to residents in Shoreham-by-Sea

August 18, 2021

We added another seaside location to our portfolio in December 2020 when we partnered with Southern Housing Group, a not for profit housing association, in Shoreham-by-Sea. As Southern Housing Group relocated existing residents of The Mannings estate, Dot Dot Dot took on four flats in late December, housing four guardians for the duration of the six month project.

A greater sense of safety for existing residents

The Mannings project was unusual in that we were brought in towards the end of the residents’ rehousing. Southern Housing Group had grown concerned that there was one remaining family in an emptied area of the estate that had grown increasingly vulnerable to ASB. We knew from the outset that Southern Housing Group needed to secure the properties quickly. Our experience of housing guardians alongside vulnerable residents and commitment to understanding both the Group’s and the residents’ needs made us best placed to take on the project.

Southern Housing Group’s key consideration was the safety of their residents. Like Dot Dot Dot, they exist to help the communities in which they work, and our aligned values made a strong foundation for the partnership. Residents from the estate were involved in key stages of the selection process, allowing them to have a say in who was appointed.

It was important to Southern Housing Group that any new neighbours would not only be responsible but well-managed. As part of our proposal, we included a profile of Jess, Dot Dot Dot’s relationship coordinator (RC) in charge of property and guardian management at The Mannings, to provide reassurance and a personal touch. With the lowest relationship coordinator to guardian ratio in the sector, our RCs each look after 75 guardians, allowing them to develop supportive relationships and address any issues effectively. 

We also made it clear to our prospective guardians that it was important they built a good relationship with remaining residents in the block. We build good neighbourliness into our model because we know that our guardians, by virtue of their volunteering (each guardian volunteers for 16 hours per month for good causes), make great neighbours and responsible temporary residents.

Our agile approach at Shoreham-by-Sea

We were brought onto the project at The Mannings to provide an effective short-term solution for Southern Housing Group, who needed not only to ensure the safety of the emptying estate, but the safety of their residents as quickly as possible.

Our agile approach allowed us to set out a quick setup plan, bringing four properties up to standard and moving our first guardians in by the end of January, just a month after signing the management agreement. It is testament to the dexterity of our approach and the hard work of the Dot Dot Dot team that we were able to take on a project over Christmas, at the start of a new lockdown and away from our London headquarters with such a quick turnaround.

As we had come onto the project at a late stage in the rehousing process, it was also vital that we could ensure a smooth handover once our service was no longer needed, six months after we moved our first guardian in. Southern Housing Group were impressed with our service, commenting that “Dot Dot Dot were a pleasure to work with from start to finish. All departments and officers were helpful, understanding, and knowledgeable. We didn’t have any issues with the property hand back and there was clear communication and expectations set, which meant it all went smoothly.” 

We set out expectations right from the start, offering transparency and giving our clients peace of mind that we can guarantee vacant possession within 30 days of being given notice, which was particularly important given the short-term and sensitive nature of The Mannings project.

Introducing additional security: Vigilance

As Southern Housing Group continued to rehouse residents in different areas of the estate, more areas started to become vulnerable and there were concerns over an increase in ASB. Due to the condition of the properties, guardianship was not a viable option, but we recommended Vigilance, an ethical security company, to provide hard security services at the estate. Vigilance employs ex-Armed Forces personnel to help them reintegrate back into the workforce, and their commitment to social value both through their work and support for the Gurkha Welfare Trust make us proud to partner with them. 

Our commitment not only to our clients’ needs but also to existing, often vulnerable, residents makes us best placed to navigate sensitive contexts and complex needs in estates like The Mannings. We work closely with our clients through often changing and challenging circumstances, offering alternative solutions like Vigilance in addition to providing property guardianship with purpose. Despite The Mannings project’s short lifespan of six months, we were still able to deliver approximately £608 worth of social value, alongside great neighbours and a greater sense of safety for the remaining families. 

If you want to find out more about how we can cater to complex empty property needs, sign up to our newsletter, Meanwhile Thoughts, or contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

Creating social impact with London Borough of Newham and Civic in east London

March 16, 2021

Since 2016, Dot Dot Dot has worked alongside London Borough of Newham to house a total of 159 property guardians in 46 properties awaiting regeneration across east London.

Beyond the invaluable work we do to manage and secure empty properties in the area, our mission to create social impact in the communities in which we work has given us the opportunity to partner with London Borough of Newham and Civic to repurpose empty spaces for community use.

Aligned values

Like Dot Dot Dot, Newham are also committed to creating social impact through their Community Wealth Building initiative. Community wealth building, according to CLES (the national organisation for local communities), is ‘a new people-centred approach to local economic development, which redirects wealth back into the local economy, and places control and benefits into the hands of local people’. Championed by Newham mayor Rokhsana Fiaz, Newham’s commitment to community wealth building aims to address poverty levels in the borough by economically empowering local communities. 

Almost half of Newham’s homes are in the private rented sector, where rents rose 56% between 2012 and 2019, and a huge 75% of salaries in Newham are put towards rent. At Dot Dot Dot, our commitment to affordable housing in areas where local people are priced out by high rents has provided a strong foundation for our partnership with the borough council.

Supporting relationships with stakeholders

Aside from delivering residential meanwhile projects for empty properties, there are many other ways we can support our clients. In 2017, Newham council reached out to Dot Dot Dot for some guidance on a potential meanwhile project on a piece of land earmarked for regeneration.

In the short term, they were sensitive to the possible disruption for residents, and wanted to utilise empty spaces in Custom House to bring the community together. Beyond our work to secure empty properties for Newham, we have also been able to support relationships with stakeholders, be it current residents or fostering new partnerships with other meanwhile organisations. In 2017, we used our expertise in the field to set out two proposed organisations that Newham could work with to repurpose the land, with Dot Dot Dot as the junior partner. By 2018, Newham had cemented their partnership with Civic, who are ‘supporting the new development of civic infrastructure’ in east London. 

Social impact in Newham

Civic’s work to reutilise disused spaces as community hubs mirrors our mission to repurpose empty buildings as housing and give back to the community through volunteering. As part of their transformation of the empty space at 3-9 Freemasons Road, Civic have encouraged community involvement in the project through volunteering. 

Dot Dot Dot has been able to assist Civic through our partnership with Newham council, by connecting local guardians in Canning Town and Custom House to Civic’s volunteering opportunities. Guardians have assisted in the transformation of the Custom House Civic Community Hub in a variety of ways, including painting a mural, building outdoor furniture out of pallets, helping out in the community garden and painting ahead of the building’s transformation into community spaces.

Civic has been delighted to welcome our guardians into their voluntary effort, and the project is a great example of how guardians can contribute to their communities: “Dot Dot Dot volunteers have been an invaluable resource in our journey to reopen the high street. They have given back to the community in more ways than one. Together we’ve launched a fruit and veg pop up shop, a podcast and rehearsal room, a hanging garden, a Covid-19 response and so much more. It’s been incredibly fun and they feel like part of the team. We can’t wait to continue to work with Dot Dot Dot across our Newham project”. 

Adapting to new challenges

In March 2020, the arrival of Covid-19 put plans for the community spaces on hold. Civic had to adapt to their changing environment and turned their hands to assisting their community in what was, and continues to be, a difficult time. Dot Dot Dot guardians did not hesitate to help the crucial effort, providing support by distributing food and PPE, assembling activity packs for homeschooling, creating “thank you” packs for key workers and sourcing clothes for those in housing need with Amy’s space.  As each guardian commits to contributing 16 hours of volunteering each month, Dot Dot Dot can provide an invaluable resource and direct volunteers to causes that matter most to our clients and the communities that they serve. Once plans for the community hub remobilise, guardians will be key contributors to Civic’s vital work for the Newham community. 

Not only does our crucial work with Newham continue to provide affordable housing to residents, but it has provided the support and voluntary hours to enable them to invest in meanwhile projects with the community at their heart.

If you’d like to hear more about how we work with our clients and their partners, you can sign up to our newsletter, Meanwhile Thoughts, here or contact us at partnerships@dotdotdotproperty.com.

Spotlight on: Tom – what it’s like to volunteer for Samaritans

December 18, 2020

Writer for The Economist by day and volunteer with Samaritans by night, east Londoner, Tom, has been a Dot Dot Dot guardian for three years. Writing from his 2-bed flat, Tom describes the reality of his eye-opening role as a listening volunteer, and how being part of an army of like-minded people looking to make a positive difference is an extremely rewarding venture.

It’s 10.30pm on a Monday and I’m one of hundreds of Samaritans volunteers on duty tonight. I cycle from Poplar along the Thames path and under the Greenwich Foot Tunnel to my local branch in Lewisham. The river is peaceful and the path quiet. It’ll be silent when I return just after 3.

Becoming a listening volunteer begins with an information evening and a short selection process. Training normally involves several sessions which mix theory and role-play. These are usually in person but have been virtual during the pandemic. New volunteers are then assigned a mentor and you work together to develop your practice until you’re ready to take calls independently. However, you’re never “flying solo” – there’s always at least two on duty in a branch at any one time plus a leader on call. Training is stimulating and eye-opening. I was part of collaborative and close-knit group and many of us have stayed in contact. “This is not work experience” we are told early on. And it’s a really important point. Volunteers are discouraged from seeing training at Samaritans as just a stepping stone to a career in counselling. To train as a listening volunteer is to share the mission of the organisation and commit to regular duties in the long-term.

Contrary to perception, and despite being founded by a vicar, Samaritans is not a Christian organisation. The Rev Dr Chad Varah described its beginnings as “a man willing to listen, with a base and an emergency telephone.” The Daily Mirror called Chad the “telephone good Samaritan” and the name stuck. Now, over 20,000 volunteers in over 200 branches provide emotional support over the telephone, via email and by letter. There’s currently a pilot project trialling instant messaging too.

When people find out I volunteer at Samaritans, they usually have lots of questions. Our strict confidentiality policy – everything said in a contact remains within Samaritans – means volunteers do not share what’s been said in a call, even with those closest to them. There’s lots of support within the organisation. Common questions asked, that can be answered, include how often do you do it (I volunteer once a week) and do you always do nights (no, you can generally choose your hours but you are expected to contribute to the night shifts).

Volunteering for Samaritans is extremely rewarding: after each shift you know you have helped a number of people. You sense you’ve made a difference at the most basic level – you have been there for someone. You feel part of an army of like-minded people with similar motivations. Although the charity is vast, each branch has its own ways of doing things and each is its own unique community. As a guardian, my regular duties enable me to fulfil my 16 hours and often more.

There are lots of development opportunities within Samaritans. Each branch relies on volunteers taking on additional roles: from management, to mentoring to fundraising. Volunteers are supported to develop their skills and follow their interests. Two years into my Samaritans journey, I’m now helping my first mentee begin theirs.

You can donate to help Samaritans maintain their listening service at www.samaritans.org/donate-now. Whatever you’re going through, you can call Samaritans any time, from any phone for free on 116 123. You can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org. For more, visit www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan.

Read more of our guardians’ volunteering stories over at our guardian spotlight

World Mental Health Day 2020 – Staying well while staying in

October 13, 2020

Saturday marked World Mental Health Day 2020, and as we all continue to do our best to adjust to the changes happening around us, it’s never been more important to take care of our mental health. Autumn is here and with COVID-19 guidance likely to change for many of us soon, being able to stay well even if you need to stay in is vital. For Mental Health Awareness Day this year, Mind‘s campaign has centred around doing one thing today to support your mental wellbeing, and here at Dot Dot Dot we’ve put together some ideas of what that one thing could be for you.

Structure your day

Working from home has become the norm for many, and often this can mean sitting in one room, or one spot for the whole day. Old routines have disappeared overnight, and work and personal time can all roll into one. Splitting up the day and setting a new routine for yourself can be a really powerful way to motivate yourself and hold yourself accountable for the day’s tasks.

Anything from simply blocking time in your calendar, to writing lists, to using an app, can help. The app Forest gives you a virtual tree to nurture while you stay productive and away from your phone. You can set a time (such as 50 minutes to make time for 10 minute breaks in between), in which your tree will begin to grow. If you unlock your phone screen you will kill the tree, so it will make you think twice about checking social media! The app is a great way to stay present and focused and is a nice way to break up time.

Make time for breaks, and get outside if you can

When working from home, many of us take fewer, or shorter breaks, and this can all lead to feelings of overwhelm and of being cut off from the outside world. Breaks are incredibly important for keeping up energy and concentration levels throughout the day, and exercise is essential for maintaining good mental wellbeing. Just a short walk can be enough! Even with the colder weather setting in, find a time to take a daily walk each day if you can and factor this into your routine.

Take notice of your mental wellbeing

Creating time each day to check-in with yourself and how you are doing is a small but vital thing you can do to create space for yourself and notice if there is anything you need. Make some time to sit for a few minutes and be present with how you are feeling, you could also do this on your daily walk.

If you are feeling some anxiety, AnxietyUK suggests practising the APPLE technique:

  • Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
  • Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
  • Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
  • Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.

Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

A little goes a long way

There are also some very small things you can do anytime, any day, that can have a really positive impact on your daily life and wellbeing. Here’s a few ideas:

  • Buy a new plant, or some flowers to brighten up your home or your workspace.
  • Try out a new recipe.
  • Learn something new – sign up to an online course, read some non-fiction or watch a documentary.
  • Take a walk somewhere you haven’t been before.
  • Reach out to a friend you haven’t checked in with in a while.

Connect with those around you, and with your community

Feeling connected to others is a really important part of maintaining wellbeing, and the ways that we do that have changed dramatically over the last few months but have become more important than ever. There are plenty of ways you can keep connected or reach out to build new relationships.

Make sure you have at least one check-in with a colleague or friend each day, even if it’s just to ask how they are, or how their week is going; you never know how much they might need it too. Building relationships with those in your community can be a great way to feel more connected. Is there a local cause you’d like to contribute your time to, or perhaps you could join your area’s Mutual Aid group? There’s also plenty of causes you can volunteer time to remotely.

We are always so inspired by the volunteering that our guardians do, and know that for many this is an important way of improving their own mental wellbeing. We will be discussing more about the benefits of volunteering in an upcoming blog in November, and you can find out more about our guardians and their volunteering stories over on our Instagram page.

If working from home is getting you down, why not get involved in volunteering in your local area? Check out our guide for how and where to volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis.

Six tips for staying sane whilst staying in

April 17, 2020

Whether it’s finding a sunny patch of floor to bathe in, or using up the dregs at the back of the food cupboard, small moments of joy are going to become increasingly more important in the coming months, and it’s never been more valuable to take care of your mental health. What better time to make your space the place to be? Below are six tips for staying sane whilst staying in.

1. Taking breaks in nature where possible

I don’t know if it’s something to do with fewer people and less traffic outside, but I’ve been noticing a lot more birdsong on the few occasions I’ve ventured outside. Connecting to nature and taking breaks outside are essential for keeping some semblance of normality, so make the most of those permitted exercise moments!

2. Staying connected

Now is a great time to make the most of technology and its ability to keep us connected. I’ve found daily face-to-face check-ins to be invaluable during working hours and virtual pub trips to be almost as good as the real thing outside of it. If you hate the sound of silence, Coffitivity is an amazing way to stay productive and transports you with the sounds of a coffee shop.

3. Structuring your day

One thing I find helpful when staring my to do list in the face is to break both my upcoming tasks and my time into small bits. Forest is a great way to stay present and focused, and is a nice way to break up time. You can set a time (I usually set 50 minutes and take 10 minute breaks), in which your tree will begin to grow. If you unlock your phone screen you will kill the tree, so it will make you think twice about checking social media again!

4. Bringing the outside in

One sure-fire way to cheer myself up is to surround myself with colourful things. Plants and flowers bring the colours and brightness of the outside in, and are so important when going outside isn’t always possible. Daffodils are a cheap way to boost your mood and are lovely to stare at whilst working from home!

5. Protecting your mental health

AnxietyUK suggests practising the APPLE technique to deal with anxiety and worries.

Acknowledge: Notice and acknowledge the uncertainty as it comes to mind.
Pause: Don’t react as you normally do. Don’t react at all. Pause and breathe.
Pull back: Tell yourself this is just the worry talking, and this apparent need for certainty is not helpful and not necessary. It is only a thought or feeling. Don’t believe everything you think. Thoughts are not statements or facts.
Let go: Let go of the thought or feeling. It will pass. You don’t have to respond to them. You might imagine them floating away in a bubble or cloud.
Explore: Explore the present moment, because right now, in this moment, all is well. Notice your breathing and the sensations of your breathing. Notice the ground beneath you. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell. Right now. Then shift your focus of attention to something else – on what you need to do, on what you were doing before you noticed the worry, or do something else – mindfully with your full attention.

6. Communicating your needs during stressful times

A lot of us have found ourselves sharing our space with others more than ever before, and communication has never been more important. Non-violent communication is a great resource for when frustration arises:

1. Observation: describe the situation without evaluation
2. Feelings: say what you feel
3. Needs: state your needs
4. Requests: ask for a specific, do-able action

If working from home is getting you down, why not get involved in volunteering in your local area? Check out our guide for how and where to volunteer during the Covid-19 crisis.

This week’s top 5 volunteering opportunities

May 30, 2016

The 1st-10th June is National Volunteers’ Week. Here are some opportunities to get you started: 

1.Trust Thamesmead 

trust thamesmeadWhere: Various
When: Friday 3rd June
Category: Gardening, Arts, Befriending, Sports
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

Volunteer at one of four local Thamesmead opportunities in gardening, arts and crafts, befriending and sports. Contact Sarah Feleppa for more information and to pick up a volunteer pass. Email: Sarah.feleppa@peabody.org.uk or call 020 3828 4936.

2. The Wildlife Trusts

The Wildlife Trusts logo(1)Where: Various
When: Various
Category: Conservation, Protection, Wildlife
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

The Wildlife Trust are looking for people to help them to protect local wildlife. They have a variety of volunteering options around the UK which range from community gardening to species surveying. To find out more and to register your interest, click here.

3. Kith and Kids

kith_logoWhere: Tottenham (then Camp is residential) 
When: Camp is 21st to 28th August
Category: Disabilities, Learning Difficulties, Camp
Commitment Level: High

Kith and Kids are looking for volunteers to support their members who have learning disabilities to take part in fun activities on their residential camp. To find out more about this opportunity, see here.

4.Heather Lodge

hestiaWhere: Tower Hamlets
When: Various
Category: Befriending, Mental Health
Commitment Level: Ongoing

Heather Lodge is a supported accommodation service for adults with Mental Health problems. They are looking for a volunteer befriender to offer emotional support to a service user through weekly visits. If this is something that appeals to you, find out more here.

5. The Streets

the streetsWhere: Various
When: Various
Category: Music, Community, Events 
Commitment Level: Ad Hoc

The Streets is a dynamic programme aimed at bringing high quality music and performance to the boroughs of London. They are looking for a team of volunteers to engage in the local community through working in the boroughs involved in the activity. For more information and to register your interest, see here.

 

Spotlight on Kahina

April 27, 2016

Kahina has thrown herself into volunteering during her time with Dot Dot Dot and has spent over 50 hours giving back to the local community. She has worked with young people on a mentoring project and with other guardians on the Divest Bexley climate campaign. She described moving to this area as ‘the best thing that’s happened to her in a long time!’

The linkHere’s what she has to say about being a guardian:

‘I moved to Abbey Wood in November as a new Dot Dot Dot guardian. What made me choose Dot Dot Dot Property is the fact that, unlike other Guardian Companies, it’s first and foremost a social enterprise. And having a strong background in volunteering, it was the right and obvious choice for me.

I decided to volunteer at The Link as it’s near to my building, which means that I can be flexible with my hours. I also like the fact that they offer a lot of help and support to the Thamesmead community. And it also happens to be a great building, which is a bonus!

I have been volunteering there alongside Lorraine Heath-Norwood, who is their Young People Employment Advisor. With her, I mentor Young People and help them getting work and professional training. A typical session would link3involve us meeting a young person for a follow up, seeing how they are doing with their job search, helping them with either writing or editing their CV, cover letter, work experience application, but also mock job interviews and tips of all sorts. What we offer is guidance and help. I have recently been asked to oversee the content of a leaflet advertising their next Careers Fair, so my involvement there is quite diverse, exciting and interesting!

The young people we guide come from different walks of life. Some have left school before gaining their A Levels, some hold a University degree but are struggling to get a job, and others have mental health issues that are holding them back. The highlight of my volunteering at The Link so far has been seeing one young person with mental health issues overcoming his disability and gaining enough confidence to get back into work. Which is extremely rewarding!

They are expecting their department to grow, which means that hopefully the number of young people seeking our help will increase. And that’s something I’m really looking forward to!’

Get involved

  • If you’re interested in volunteering and becoming a guardian with dot dot dot, apply here today
  • Keep up to date with our news and our guardians’ volunteering experiences on Facebook and Twitter

 

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