The Smallest Of Things. A review of Here To Kindness Cards Initiative by Rivkha Churney

WP_20150610_002The Smallest of Things

“Sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference,” one student of City and Islington College said. That was certainly the case at “Here To”’s pop-up kindness cards event on the 1st of June 2015, upholding the spirit of national volunteering week. The seventeen year old hit the nail on the head. Sometimes it’s not about big gestures, or Bill-Gates-sized donations; sometimes it’s just about bringing a ray of positivity into the world.

This tiny bubble of positive energy expanded as the event went on. Soon it had enveloped even the most reluctant of passers-by. With increasing enthusiasm, students became excited by the prospect of volunteering- one student even expressing a desire to make kindness cards events a permanent fixture at their college. What had started out as the smallest of things had become huge in the space of two hours.

For a generation too often perceived as self-obsessed, the students of Islington and City College certainly showed that the volunteering spirit is alive and well. A spokesperson for NCS, an organisation for 15-17 year olds promoting voluntary social development, expressed her delight in the level of interest they had experienced, with every eligible student signing up. Yes, some may do it for UCAS points or their CV, but many believe volunteering is a rewarding way to implement their skills and show dedication to hard work. Whatever the reason, this phenomenon is encouraging.

“Here To” now has a remarkable opportunity to harness this energy. Unlike other organisations, it offers micro-volunteering, so that young people can try out different types of volunteering without sacrificing huge amounts of their time or making big commitments. As this event has demonstrated, the smallest things can make the biggest difference.

Postcards from the Past at the Cally Festival by Johnny Rodriguez

Johnny Rodriquez attended our Postcards from the Past event as part of the Cally Fest 2015

The 2015 Here To “Postcards from the Past” Event ( held in Caledonian Road at the very well known festival) was an interesting way of getting social, whilst having a bit of FUN and meeting people from all walks of life, of all ages and beliefs.

I heard about the opportunity thanks to “TeamLondon“-the Mayor’s Programme, that makes it easy for Londoners to give their name and find volunteering opportunities- and as it was a “local thing”, I decided to give it a GO.

Juan

Here to Islington, 2 years old and collaborating with Age UK Islington, is an unconventional idea to

-connect YOU to your neighbours;

-give YOU the chance to volunteer in a fast way, locally and without taking too much of your commitment or your precious time.

-use skills YOU already have or develop new ones, whilst having a good time and making the difference for your community.

At the event I met Joanna Bevan, working with Here To for 2 years by now.

She is easygoing, energetic in a very positive way, and all bubbly and enthusiastic about the Here To and volunteering.

She’s not telling me too much about future plans but I understand she wants to continue creating new  social events that matter, in collaboration with Sinead, Age UK Islington and with the help of good people, who want to genuinely get involved or simply make new friends. Next, is “The Challenge“-she told me- a project to get 17 years olds volunteering.. Well, Good Luck with that !

Back to the event this post should have been all about… It was very nice going through these colourful postcards, basically representing some memoirs of our Neighbours, about their life in Islington.

People stopping by the Here To stand took a  blank postcard and wrote a memory, anything about their time in the Borough. Original, simple and straightforward.

I also left my own memory, because I do love London and am quite falling in love with Islington, to be honest.

Juan postcard

Overall it has been a pleasure for me to meet Joanna and to get involved and

Yes, enjoying some time at the Cally Festival. Also I would like to add a special thanks to Team London, for yet another opportunity to help others, and at the same time help yourself.

Finally, thanks to You, for reading my brief-yet hopefully inspiring-blog, and wether if you are willing to find out more about the Here To “thing” or not, please let me salute you with my Best Wishes for a Meaningful Life.

 

Card making at Islington Community Chest event by Here To Journalist Grace Newton

Grace Newton came along to the Islington Community Chest event as part of Islington Giving week June 2015

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Islington Council’s Community Chest Celebration was filled with entertainment on Wednesday, with countless stalls and entertainment including music and line dancing at the North London borough’s Assemly Hall.

Here to Islington’s volunteering table, which was run by community development co-ordinator, Joanna Bevan, were producing feel-good cards to hand out to people in the festival.

Kristina Glenn, the Director of the Cripplegate Foundation who work closely alongside Islington Council, said: “There’s a real grassroots movement in our borough. Other local areas are cutting back on funding whereas in the Islington borough it continues to invest in the community.”

Jugjit Samra, voluntary and community sector development officer, writes the committee report with Cripplegate Foundation and told Here to Islington: “The council funds Cripplegate to fund the Community Chest Programme. Most groups wouldn’t get funding otherwise [but] the maximum a group can get is five grand.”

The community spirit was lifted in Islington Assemly Hall by the Baluji Music Foundation who graced the stage with the enchanting harmonies of the Inner Vision Trio. The band, whose primary aim is “to bring together blind musicians and make music from around the world”, consisted of singer, Fereshteh Khousroujerdy who hails from Iran, singer and oud player, Ziad Sinno from Lebanon and South Indian drummer, Ghow Ratnarajah from Sri Lanka. The crowd joined in with claps aplenty when the band played the popular Arabic song,  دقي يا ربابه, of which the catchy chorus is ‘Diggy Diggy Ya Rababa’.

The Islington Community Chest is a great way of funding the vital support that groups like Here to Islington provide. The main areas of improvement and investment that Cripplegate Foundation’s Finance and Programme’s Officer, Ruth Lorimer, laid out to the audience are:
>Advice and Support
>Reducing Isolation
>Educating People
>Improving mental and physical health
>Improving facilities

Ruth Hayes, 55, Islington Law Center Director emphasised the importance of the Community Chest Programme and Islington Giving Week when she said: “I think it’s [Islington] a borough that’s becoming increasingly unequal. Financially, the impact of welfare reform and income inequality have created a split of class in the borough.”

Phil Burns, 49, Islington Citizen Advice Bureau Manager, reinforced Ruth’s point: “Nobody realises it but Islington actually has the second biggest child poverty in London. There is an ever-growing number of people out of work or in debt.”

The Packington Line Dancers, who have been keeping Islington locals fit for almost 18 years, entertained the hardworking volunteers and reignited the feeling of true community spirit.

Islington youth group, Amberliegh, performed traditional African dance in colourful dress and to enthusiastic spectators. The cultural drumming, drama and dance music group for children of all abilities and disabilities followed the earlier acts, reflecting the diversity of Islington and its community.

Other community groups included the Handmade Alliance which helps to rehabilitate prisoners through textile production and the Federation of Iraqi Refugees.

Hament Patel, Director of Organisational Change Practitioners, summed up the day when he said: “It’s about sharing knowledge, information and awareness raising.”

 

Written by Grace Newton