We’re Here To… practice what we preach

At Here To, we’re curious about how other projects and initiatives galvanize their volunteers and how they make helping out as fun and enjoyable as possible. Joanna, the Here To Community Development Co-ordinator, recalls her experience at TEDxEastend…

When my alarm rang on Saturday morning, my initial reaction was to hit snooze: despite loving my day job as Here To Islington’s Community Development Coordinator, I really do enjoy a good lie in after a busy week.

But as I realised why I had set my alarm on such a ‘sacred’ morning in the first place, I shot into action: TEDxEastend was about to land!

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Signing up and getting ready

1 month earlier, a half glimpse of a Facebook shout out for volunteers caught my eye. For those who don’t yet know, TEDx Talks are a series of independently run events that bring together inspiring speakers to spark conversations and the sharing of ideas.

An avid TED fan, I had previously organised TEDxMiltonKeynes, but quite fancied the chance to participate as ‘one of the team’ for TEDxEastend as was being advertised on Facebook (the added perk of free entry to the event was a bit of a clincher too!). Additionally, this year’s theme was ‘Society Beyond Borders’, which really appealed to me as I have spent a lot of time abroad and consider myself ‘a global citizen’.

Planning

Having made it through the selection process to the final 40-odd volunteers, I was then invited to attend a brief info session at Impact HUB Westminster, were we found out which vital cog in the TEDxEastend machine we would be playing on the day. I was assigned Registration, which was right up my street: as a people-person, I wasn’t fazed by welcoming puzzled guests as they arrived at the slightly ‘off the beaten track’ venue.

After a Friday night walk through of the space, the diverse army of bite-sized volunteers had began to bond. Croissants and coffee fueled last-minute preparations on Saturday morning, and all hands were on deck to pull off a pretty amazing space transformation!

Helping out on the day

My overall experience of TEDxEastend was one of occasional chaos. People got confused, tickets were lost and their were even the odd set malfunction. But nobody really minded: it was all part of the beautifully imperfect experience that comes from turning a dream into a walking talking reality.

In between managing the busy Registration desk, I got to sneak into the back row to listen to the programme of talks ongoing throughout the day.

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One of the speakers that resonated with me spoke about the irony that ‘the more we connect, the less we collaborate’. This really got me thinking, particularly about my experience of helping out at TEDxEastend. Sure, there were a few hiccups with communication while in the throws of delivering an ambitious and busy event. But with good process in place and sound preparation in place, people improvised with passion in line with a common vision. For me, this creativity was the ‘magical ingredient’ that made helping out at TEDxEastend so enjoyable. So, based on my experience, I’m not sure I agree with Leandro!

The overall verdict

TEDxEastend was a win-win for me, as I could both share my skills in a one-off way that fit around my full time job AND I also got the perk of attending one of the hottest events in happening in London at the time (there were over 200 people in the waiting list!).

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My view is that time is the ‘new’ currency in such a fast-paced world, and its time we made it work for us by creating more opportunities to volunteer like I did at TEDxEastend!

Here To… introduce a new team member

Hello Islington!

I’m pleased to introduce myself as Here To’s new Community Development Co-ordinator.

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As a fellow Islington resident, I am passionate about bringing positive change to our lovely borough. So I’m really looking forward to getting to know more about the hard working projects/organisations and local people that are helping the Islington community to thrive.

In my role as Community Development Co-ordinator, my time will be broadly split between a) organisation engagement – curating and managing a growing number of live opportunities on the Here To website – and b) resident engagement – collecting, analysing and reacting to feedback from residents about their volunteering experiences through Here To.

So think of me as the ultimate matchmaker: I’m Here To connect local people and organisations to create a new movement of helping out in Islington!

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In case you were wondering what cake I would be if I were a cake(!), I think I would definitely be a fruit cake with lots of ingredients – and maybe with a bit of a nutty edge too. That’s because I have a varied background: I love community development and I have most recently been researching community resilience in New York; I have also studied French, Spanish, Business and sports massage, and I’ve even had a stint as a dresser for the English National Ballet!

I am very excited to join the dynamic Here To team, particularly as I have spent many a spare afternoon helping out on various projects over the years. Being able to empower others to do the same is therefore very close to my heart.

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The best experience I’ve ever had giving my time and skills was in 2007 when I spent a month helping out a Costa Rican conservation charity called La Toruga Feliz – which is Spanish for ‘The Happy Turtle’. Having just left university, my personal goal was to look for practical ways I could help to solve global conservation issues. As only 1 in 10,000 baby turtles make it to adulthood due to egg poaching, I thought working with La Toruga Feliz was a great place to start.

I was particularly looking forward to using my Skills and my fluency in Spanish to open up a dialogue between local people and tourists on poaching issues that dramatically affect turtle populations. As a result, I got to enjoy some great Perks: learning from and working with people of different cultures, the ability to explore Costa Rica in my free time and (of course) the opportunity to meet many baby turtles!

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Although I can’t promise trips abroad – we’re strictly about Islington here at Here To! – I’m Here To help as many residents as possible to enjoy similarly exciting, fun and inspiring experiences of getting involved locally.

So please get in touch and share any ideas you may have about how we can do this better. We will be busily working away to launch some exciting opportunities in the New Year, so get thinking about how we can help you out with those Resolutions too!

How to get in contact with me