Spotlight on Jessica: Knitting hats for newborns

October 31, 2022

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

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

 Staying connected to past passions 

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

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

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

 Adding a little love to a tough situation 

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

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

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

 Making the time to give back

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

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

Why being property guardian is right for Jessica 

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

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

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

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

World Entrepreneur Day: The positive power of online gaming

August 19, 2022

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

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

Creating change through online games

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

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

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

The power of a remote community

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

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

Not all fun and games

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

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

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

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

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

July 28, 2022

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

Improving the wellbeing of vulnerable children

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

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

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

Supporting the development and education of future citizens

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

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

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

Ways to support Visibility Africa

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

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

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

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

June 17, 2022

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

Building the Foundation in the face of adversity

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

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

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

Setting a vision as CEO

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

Creating a ‘map of support’ in the health sector

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

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

Initiating important conversations

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

Join upcoming ‘Stories of queer Poland’ live event

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

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

Amplifying her volunteering efforts with Dot Dot Dot guardianship: Karin and the Open HR Forum – Students

May 6, 2022

With the added support of Dot Dot Dot guardianship, west London guardian, Karin, has been able to amplify her volunteering efforts to enable students to access mentoring from real world working professionals. Karin’s initiative, the Open HR Forum – Students, operates on an international scale to create opportunities for HR students to become leaders in their field.

Developing a passion for communication skills

“One of my first voluntary roles was supporting students and teachers in Slovakian primary schools to develop their interpersonal skills. Since then I’ve been passionate about improving communications between students and working professionals in order to bridge the gap between learning and practical experience in the workplace.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I began a course in human resources with the Open HR Forum, to support my continued learning and development around communications in my home country of Slovakia.

I soon noticed a marked gap in the potential to access career consulting and work experience in Slovakia compared with the UK – the only options were for vast sums of money that were unaffordable for most of the students that I knew, including myself.”

Initiating a platform for students to gain real-world experience 

“I identified the need to establish a sub branch of the Open HR Forum specifically for students to gain practical experience and career consultancy. My main aim was to facilitate opportunities for people to be leaders in their field, something that was driven by students, for students, to dictate their own learning and development.

The initiative I’ve created helps to bring HR students together on an international scale, offering them mentoring and support from large professional organisations for free. Each student is paired with a working professional ‘buddy’ who is able to guide them towards applying their theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios.

They can also receive free advice form HR professionals during webinar sessions which has been really successful in helping to feed international knowledge back into the Slovakian education system.”

Utilising guardianship to re-divert time and energy towards volunteering

“Paying lower monthly living costs as a Dot Dot Dot guardian compared with the private rental sector means that I can afford to spend more of my spare time volunteering.

Dot Dot Dot recognising the value of volunteering is really powerful and was one of the deciding factors for me when I became a guardian in 2021. For me, volunteering comes naturally and is something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing – I’ve always cared about giving something back to my community, but being a guardian allows me to amplify my contributions and the amount of time I  dedicate to my initiative.

Guardianship is not for everyone, but there are many advantages to becoming one. I currently live in a large 4-bed townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, and share the property with a teacher, a human rights lawyer and a scientist. I absolutely love my guardian housemates and am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet them – we all have busy work and social lives, however we still find time to meet and relax as a household.

My relationship coordinator, Dominique, has also been fantastic. We feel supported by Dot Dot Dot and their emphasis on being there for the people as well as the property.”

A guide to Kent’s county town, Maidstone

April 8, 2022

As one of Kent’s most enduring and historically significant towns, Maidstone is ever-evolving to balance new and diverse industries with its historic charm and characterful corners. Peacefully located on the banks of the river Medway, this county town is well worth exploring for its hubs of entertainment, long list of much loved bars and restaurants and leafy aesthetic. We recently visited the area for ourselves – and here are our best bits.

Activities and attractions

The river Medway runs through the heart of Maidstone, and so the town offers a surprising amount of water sports during the warmer months. You can hire out canoes and kayaks to explore the river and even travel out into the pastoral Kent countryside on a day trip.

Cycling is also a popular pastime, and there are plenty of quiet and traffic-free routes to take to discover the county town. You could also head to Go Ape to explore the forest canopies in the surrounding rural beauty spots via zip lines and high ropes.

The Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, residing within an Elizabethan manor house, hosts the most diverse mix of collections in Kent, and has won acclaim for its ethnographic and ancient artefacts. You’ll find  Anglo-saxon treasures, a chair that once belonged to Napoleon and even a 2,700 year old Egyptian Mummy.

The fossilised bones of ‘Iggy’ the Iguanadon (which can be found on the town’s coat of arms!) were discovered in 1834 during an excavation on Queen’s Road. As a historical find of international significance, they are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London, but a visit to Maidstone Museum will allow you to see a full cast of the bones.

Offering one of the most energetic and varied programmes of art performances in the south east, The Hazlitt Theatre offers drama, comedy and musical entertainment and local community theatre groups.

Where to shop and dine out 

Maidstone offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining experiences. Amongst the recently refurbished Fremlin Walk, you can find a flagship House of Fraser, H&M, Flying Tiger and Waterstones, to name a few. On the other side of town you’ll find independent shopping experiences in and around the streets of The Royal Star Arcade and Market Buildings, with clothing and homeware boutique, Lottie’s Loft, being a particular highlight.

Restaurants and cafes are in abundance, with the highest concentration of eateries located around Earl Street. Check out the highly recommended Frederik Cafe Bistro, La Villetta, Mu Mu’s and Embankment Floating Restaurant on the River Medway.

In the historic villages in and around Maidstone, top pubs include The Fish on the Green in Bearsted, The Potting Shed in Langley and the Curious Eatery in Boughton Monchelsea.

Mote Park

Mote Park boasts an impressive 30 acre lake offering water sports, a pitch and putt course and a cafe hub. It’s also host to a variety of festivals and events throughout the summer and autumn.

Highlights include Ramblin Man Fair in July, one of the country’s biggest rock music festivals. For three years on the go, Ramblin Man Fair encompasses rock, blues and country, has its own beer festival, and there are options for glamping and camping nearby!

October welcomes the beer and folk music festival, Oktoberfest. Expect Europe’s biggest beer tent with 30,000 litres of Bavarian beer, traditional folk music and a German food market.

How our guardians will be supporting vulnerable members of the community this winter

December 20, 2021

With the arrival of the holiday season it can be easy to forget that for many, the winter period spells isolation and hardship. But there are plenty of ways in which you can help to share joy with others over the coming months. We sat down with some of our guardians to find out how they’ll be volunteering to combat loneliness and poverty, and to get some ideas on how we can all get involved to spread festive cheer.

Spotlight on: Charlotte and Shout, a free, 24 hour mental health text support service

“I’ve been volunteering with Shout for more than two years now and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. People can text into Shout if they have no one else to talk to, are feeling isolated or they have relationship problems. Myself and my fellow volunteers are there to provide a listening ear, de-escalate situations and also to empower the texter to seek the support they need.

In my day job, I co-run a mental health app for the LGBTQIA+ community called Kalda. Its mission is to help people to connect with others who might be facing similar issues and to attend weekly mindfulness sessions via our app, which you can search for on IOS and Android.”

Discover volunteering opportunities with Shout and how you can get involved to support their mission.

Spotlight on: Eke and Connection Support, a befriending service working to ensure no one feels alone this year 

“I’m currently linked with six elderly clients who are at risk of social isolation. I get in touch with them to listen, have a chat and brighten their day. If they ever had a problem or needed help with a daily task at home then I’m always on hand to help them out. Connection Support’s team of volunteers also help out with anything from gardening to shopping to picking up prescriptions.

Volunteering as a befriender means that you build strong relationships with the people you’re linked with and provide vital support to those who don’t have families or are on their own, particularly over the Christmas period. They always say it’s so nice to have someone to speak to and to feel valued. That’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more about Connection Support and their available voluntary positions.

Spotlight on: Jack and the Royal Voluntary Service, providing critical support to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

“As an NHS volunteer responder for the Royal Voluntary Service, who collaborate with Good Samaritans, I put myself on duty to take calls and support vulnerable people in England who are at most risk from the COVID-19 virus to stay well. This is to help support the NHS and social care sector during the ongoing pandemic.

Mostly, I have acted as a ‘Check-in and chat volunteer’, providing short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation. I have spoken with mostly elderly individuals who live alone and are suffering from ill health or isolating, giving them an ear to listen to and assuring that they are not in danger and have everything they need.

It is a really valuable experience because often the individuals I speak to are suffering from loneliness and to help cheer them up and offer them a form of socialising, it’s rewarding.It’snice that even a short telephone call can boost someone’s spirits and hopefully make them feel better about what they are going through.”

The Royal Voluntary Service are always in need of new volunteers to join their team. Head over to their website to sign up.

Learn more about how our guardian community is dedicating their free time to a huge range of good causes across the country.

Want to apply to be a property guardian? Find out more.

Then and now: 10 years of property guardianship

November 19, 2021

Dot Dot Dot founder Katharine Hibbert looks back at the industry she walked into in 2011 and how it’s developed over a decade.

When I had the idea for Dot Dot Dot back in 2010, property guardianship was almost unheard of in the UK.  I spent my first years in business explaining to property owners why placing people to live in empty buildings on a temporary basis was a better security solution than traditional approaches like guards or metal hoardings.  And in those early years several guardians told me that, when they saw our adverts, at first they assumed it was a scam because the value of the homes we offered seemed too good to be true. 

Fast forward to today, and the concept is much more familiar.   Many experienced property managers automatically consider guardianship in the menu of options for buildings that are due for regeneration or sale.  And most of those who come to us for housing know about guardianship from media coverage or have friends who are already guardians.   This means that our focus at Dot Dot Dot can move from explaining the basic business model to talking about what makes our approach, as one of Britain’s leading property guardian companies and the only social enterprise in the sector, different and special.  

As we celebrate the tenth anniversary of looking after our first property, here are my reflections on a decade in the industry.

2011 was the perfect moment to launch a property guardianship social enterprise…

As Dot Dot Dot’s founder, I was fortunate to be in the right place with the right idea at the right time.  My work as a journalist had allowed me to specialise in empty homes and the housing crisis, a topic I had been drawn to because – like many millennials – I found myself locked out of home ownership and stuck in expensive, poor-quality rented homes.  I had written a book and worked on a Channel Four programme on the topic, but I had reached the point where I wanted to do something practical to fix the issue, rather than just talk about how bad the problem was.

At the same time, I saw that the property guardian concept was arriving in the UK from the Netherlands.  There were two Dutch companies operating here, each managing a small number of properties, mostly in Central London.  I could see that the idea was bound to catch on – it was (and still is) the only way to achieve all three priorities of flexible, reliable, cost-effective security, where other options can only manage two of the three at best.  And because it allowed property guardian companies to offer homes in prime locations at a fraction of the market rent, it couldn’t fail to be a hit with people looking for a place to live. 

But what I also saw was that the property guardian companies in the market were looking at it only through the lens of security.  The people placed to live in buildings were there as warm bodies to achieve the goal of keeping the building safe, and not as stakeholders to be considered beyond that.  What struck me was that, even if you only cared about property security, who you house in the buildings you are looking after matters.  If you can identify considerate, responsible people who want to be good neighbours, they will naturally take better care of their homes.  And if you add in positive, thoughtful management, the outcomes will be better all round. 

This created the chance to build Dot Dot Dot.  By focusing on housing people who want to volunteer, we are able to support good causes. And we are also able to offer a better security service by attracting and recruiting lovely people who want to take good care of their homes and to be a positive presence in their local communities.  This insight was what allowed us to get started, and continues to be what creates our success today.

…But the lack of government action to ameliorate the housing crisis means that the need for our business model is even greater in 2021.

All the issues which motivated me to launch Dot Dot Dot at the beginning have only become more acute today.  House prices and rental costs have continued to spiral, meaning that it is even more difficult for people to cover their living costs, especially if they want to use some of their time for causes that matter for their own sake, rather than purely to earn money.  This is bad for individuals, but it’s also terrible for society as a whole as it limits the skills, talent and energy available to communities.  While we’re very proud to house hundreds of people across the country, supporting thousands of hours of volunteering a month, property guardianship can never be a complete solution to the housing crisis – the lack of government action over the past decade to improve the situation for people living in privately rented homes is deeply disappointing.

Safety and compliance standards needed to rise in 2011…

Back in 2011, property guardianship was the wild west.  Property owners and would-be property guardians had a very limited understanding of their rights and property guardian companies’ obligations, creating a risk of exploitation by unscrupulous providers. 

Since the beginning, Dot Dot Dot’s strategy has been to communicate a clear understanding of the legal situation to all our stakeholders, and to comply with or exceed those legal standards at all times.  This has enabled us to develop our reputation for quality, reliability and straightforwardness, and we have also used this approach to force others to raise their standards. 

In 2017 we commissioned a leading solicitor and an expert QC to produce a white paper setting out the legal context for our work, together with six other property guardian companies.  We contributed to a 2018 London Assembly report on the sector, welcoming the politicians’ calls to ensure that rules are obeyed consistently to ensure a “level playing-field” among property guardian companies.  And we have consistently tried to keep our stakeholders informed about legal standards and best practice through all possible channels – including this blog.

…But they still have a way to go today.

Whilst guardians today are rarely given notice periods shorter than their legal entitlement or subjected to illegal evictions, it is still not unheard of for people to be placed to live in buildings which are not safe to inhabit.  Property guardians are entitled to the same health and safety standards as tenants in the private rented sector – for example, buildings must be equally fire safe and must meet the same standards for gas and electrical safety testing.  However, some operators still cut corners.  This is bad because of the risk to guardians and because it’s against the law, but also because it harms the reputation of our industry.  This may deter property owners and would-be guardians from considering reputable operators, which cuts them off from the benefits the model can provide.

Our hopes for the next decade: property guardianship becoming boring

It was exciting to be involved in a new industry at the beginning, and we are proud to have done our bit to shape the sector by pushing up standards and emphasising the importance of recruiting great guardians and managing them well.  Over the past ten years, property guardianship has become a much more familiar part of the landscape, but it is still not as common as it should be – far too many properties still sit empty, representing a cost to property owners, a blight on neighbourhoods and a missed opportunity to create housing. 

In the years to come, we hope that we will see the market becoming even more mature, so that stakeholders aren’t choosing between using property guardians and leaving buildings empty, but are instead able to choose between a range of property guardian providers who all meet basic quality standards but offer different approaches to the model.  Some will be drawn to our purposeful, community-focused approach, whilst other customers will no doubt prefer a more basic version, just as some people choose fair trade coffee and others don’t.  

There is potential for our sector to provide good homes to tens of thousands of people, not just the thousands currently living as guardians.  We look forward to contributing to that growth – and to providing our own purposeful spin on the model.

 If you’d like to find out more about how we do property guardianship, you can watch our animation. 

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.

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