Post Cards From The Past – Looking forward to Cally Fest

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As we near our Post Cards From The Past debut we are getting excited about the levels of interest from you lovely people.

We are looking forward to showcasing the work of some awesome new up and coming designers who have been putting together some fancy banners, pretty postcards and creative bits and bobs to make our stall positively pop in our next Here To Pop-Up.

Having thought long and hard about how best to collaborate with our friends at Age-Uk, we decided what better than to celebrate all the wonderful stories their clients will have to offer, collecting, collating and celebrating memories of Islington past and present.

We are still on the look out for blog writers interested in documenting our fun goings-ons at Cally Fest, as well as a photographer to capture the special moments and even more excitingly a collection of actors to bring these stories to life in and around Caledonian Road. Anybrilliantbody out there?

Expect pretty postcards, silly and serious stories, washing line art and a Here To Pop-Up Buzz…

Sinéad

(Ps…looking forward to all of the other awesome offerings at the festival)

 

We’re Here To… mystery shop The Saturday Night Project

At Here To, we regularly invite our Wizards to go and try out some of the live opportunities we have on the Here To website with a view to letting us know how it went as a helper. Super-Wizard Tanya took a visit to The Saturday Night Project, one of our most popular opportunities. Here’s her feedback…

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Another entry from a Here To Wizard. After exploring the connotations of and unpacking the thoughts behind the term ‘volunteering’, I have returned to the Here To blog to talk about a recent experience helping out in Islington locally.

This time my escapades took me to The Saturday Night Project at the Sobell Centre. Once every last Saturday of the month, this leisure centre magically transforms into a night jam-packed with activities for 13-19 year olds. The aim is to us the event to encourage a healthy attitude towards fitness whilst giving teens a safe environment to hang out.

My motivation behind volunteering for The Saturday Night Project was my experience growing up: there weren’t all too many places for ‘youths’ to go in my hometown. This led to a lot of hanging around in car parks and putting ourselves in compromising situations. With this in my mind, I thought that any event that can provide teens a chance to escape those situations and get them into a safe environment where they can chill, be merry, and, well, be teens, is a project worth being part of in my books.

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I arrived at the Sobell Centre at 5.30pm and was merrily greeted by the other helpers. I was pleased to see that they all looked quite young themselves and saw this as a sign that they believed in the project and were dedicated to its cause: ‘taking back Saturday nights!’ It did, however, make me feel a bit old!

Alexis, the lead organiser of The Saturday Night Project provided me with a t-shirt to wear. As I’ve written in my previous blog post, something as small as a t-shirt really does do the trick in terms of making you feel like you’re a part of something exciting and a valued part of a team.

I had a quick look around the centre to see what the night had to offer and, boy was I jealous! It made me wish I was a teenager again just so that I could come to the Sobell and get my skates on – because, yes, there was roller skating! But of course it didn’t end there. The ice rink was shiny and glazed, ready to be chiseled by skates, there was a dance studio set up, the gym was opened, and makeshift 5-a-side football, basketball, and badminton courts were all ready to go! You name it, Saturday Night Project had thought of it. It didn’t end at sporting events, either, as there was singing, competitions, and general hanging out too.

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As the clock hands hit 6pm, teenagers started trickling in and I was ready, donning my new t-shirt, and preparing myself for growing crowds. My role for the evening was to greet guests and put their wristbands on to show they had paid the affordable £3 entry fee. However, there was a special offer on that night where free entry was given to anyone dressed up along a Christmas theme. I admired many Santa hats and tinsel accessories that night!

Apparently, The Saturday Night Project I went to was a relatively quiet one. According to some of the young people, ‘it is usually way busier!’ It didn’t feel that quiet though, as it seemed as though I was putting wristbands on an endless number of people!

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I liked the role that I was given as a meet and greet/registration helper, as I’m naturally a gregarious person: speaking to teens made the task all the more entertaining and I think they liked it that there was someone approachable and older manning the entrance. However, I only wish that there was another volunteer beside me as, when there were less people coming in, it could feel a bit lonely with no one to chat to.

The biggest Perk of the experience, for me though, was doing something productive on a Saturday night. I don’t always like to go out but that’s not to say I enjoy sitting on my backside on a Saturday, either.

I’d definitely recommend The Saturday Night Project as it’s a fantastic place to go with a great atmosphere and overall goal. I would probably recommend it more to younger volunteers who aren’t afraid to get stuck in, but if you’re up for it, love kids/sports and are willing to give up a Saturday night, then this is the place for you!

Tanya : )

We’re Here To… talk about the word ‘volunteer’

‘Volunteering’ or ‘volunteer’ are words that you may have noticed are largely absent from the Here To website and the Here To blog. This is no coincidence!

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Research and experience at the time of launching Here To showed that people have (often negative) preconceptions about what ‘volunteering’ entails: read as hard to do, costly, long term commitments, lots of waiting around, a lack of clarity, menial jobs and one-way etc.

Here To is less about exhorting people to ‘volunteer’ and more about helping people to find bite-sized ways they can meet personal goals – e.g. get work experience, meet new people, get fit – that just so happen to be good for the community too. So we wanted to use a different language to ‘volunteering’ to reflect the different way of thinking embodied through Here To.

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We’ve tested this approach for the last year and found that not talking about ‘volunteering’ inspires people to see their Secret Skills differently and what they can do to help out in new and exciting ways. You just need to take a look at our gallery of Here To Photomatic Machine pictures to see that in action.

But it also creates a couple of challenges:

a) It’s harder for people to find us online – people tend to look for ‘volunteering in Islington’ rather than ‘helping out in Islington’ or ‘lending a hand in Islington’ when searching online. As a digital platform, we’re worried those people aren’t finding us.

b) People aren’t always sure what we do – we might consider the preconceptions attached to ‘volunteering’ to be a weakness, but they’re also a strength in that people tend to know exactly what you’re on about. As a project that wants to be making helping out easier and clearer to do, we wouldn’t want to be inadvertently confusing people.

As a result, we’re opening up to using the word ‘volunteering’ a bit more when it is really necessary. As one member of our community put it at a recent Food for Thought meet up, ‘I would rather than you focused on innovating volunteering rather than worried about whether or not to use the word itself’.

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We’e spoken to a lot of people about the language we use to talk about Here To, including some of our Wizards. Tanya writes below about why using the word ‘volunteering’ should be kept to a minimum and should be supported by other more inspirational language. This blog post will also act as a healthy reminder for us to avoid overusing it in the future!

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Islington Volunteering Wizardry: how re-naming your volunteers can benefit your organisation

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A quick look through the Here To website and blog and I’m quite tempted by what’s on offer: the Here To website shows that there are so many opportunities I can get involved with locally on my doorstep.

What can I do next? Where can I do it? How to I choose?

Well for a start, the thought of becoming a Here To ‘Wizard’ was all too appealing…

Becoming a Here To Wizard

So what is a Here To Wizard? Why a Here To ‘Wizard’? And does being a Here To Wizard come with the chance to yell ‘abra-kadabra’ every so often? The answer: only if you want it to!

I personally think the term ‘volunteering’ is a bit outdated and it doesn’t always give a feel for what’s expected of you as a volunteer or what the company culture is like. Committed and hard-working volunteers no doubt form the backbone of many different types of organisations, and that’s great. But what’s to stop us adding a spin of creativity and call them something different that sounds a bit more spectacular?

I believe that more projects offering the chance for people to get involved with what they’re doing should shy away from using the term ‘volunteer’. Talking about ‘lending a hand/brain’, ‘doing a good deed’ or ‘helping out’ can sound much more attractive to someone with a bit of free time on their hands. A good example of this was London 2012, where it was Gamesmakers, not volunteers, that captured our hearts and minds.

By fun-ing up some of the language, organisations and charities may be able to get people to give more of their precious time to good causes, as it is an efficient and clever way to communicate a project’s ethos.

Let’s take ‘Wizards’ at Here To as an example. Hearing the term showed me that the Here To team are fun, lively, and dare I say… magical. The use of language made me want to get involved as it gave me a clearer idea of what to expect and whether it was for me.

Becoming a Here To Wizard not only gets me more excited than helping out, it also means that Here To are getting more of the kinds of people they’re looking for, and that it creates a shared sense of belonging.

So, if you’re a charity that is looking for people to help with the upkeep of a community garden, why not enlist a team of ‘Shovel-wielders’ instead of volunteers? If you require some admin assistance, you may want to call on local ‘Administeers’ instead?

If I ran an organisation tomorrow, then I’d probably use the term ‘Rockers’ just to see what what happen and what kinds of people that might attract!

So in sum, I’d urge you to get out your thinking pads and start thinking of names that really show what you’re about.

Yours truly,

Tanya (proudly a Here To Wizard)

We’re Here To… reveal new website features

To help celebrate our 1st birthday (along with the bash at Islington Town Hall), we were really keen to action some of the rich feedback we’ve had from the community over the last year by making some improvements to the Here To website.

Here’s a summary of what’s changed!

A clearer pathway through the website

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For starters, our homepage is looking quite different: we’ve made it clearer what we’re Here To do and we’ve created 2 distinct pathways for website visitors in terms of content. So, when you visit the Here To website, you’re either Here To find a project or create a project, and that then takes you off to the right information for you.

Match me to a project

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Until recently, people who live, work or play in Islington could only sign up to opportunities by selecting one that interests them and clicking on a day that they’re free to get involved.

But as our portfolio of projects is ever-changing, website visitors may not always find exactly what they’re looking for, or they may have missed something really appropriate for them amongst all the choice.

To resolve this, we’ve created a new ‘Match me to a project’ function on the homepage!

After submitting a few details about what sort of local project they’re looking to join up to, this information then comes through to the Here To team.

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We can then send personal project recommendations to people via email, as and when appropriate opportunities come up. This will save people time searching for opportunities and will help them to use their free time better more quickly.

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New dashboards for helpers to manage their projects

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Like organisations, local people now also have a dashboard that they can log into where they can manage the projects they’ve enquired to and leave feedback to organisations and the Here To team as to how it’s going.

The ability for helpers to submit feedback feedback will enable the Here To team to help them meet their personal goals more quickly and enable organisations to see how they can better meet the preferences of the people they’re trying to engage with.

 A new design for project header images

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For organisations, we’re changed the image uploader settings so that images are displayed in their full glory on the opportunity page – that means no more red box covering a third of your picture.

A new hub of information for organisations

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We’ve also made some changes to the FAQ page to make it more of a hub of information for organisations. We’ll be updating this information soon but in the meanwhile you can now download our latest version of our toolkit.

If you have any questions or feedback related to the new website changes, please do get in touch: call us on 0203 475 3825 or drop an email to hello@hereto.org 

If you’re interested in giving more detailed thoughts and fancy getting a few perks for yourself too, you can sign up to become a Here To website testing Wizard!

We’re Here To… meet Tanya!

Tanya is one of our AMAZING Here To Wizards. She first got in touch with us in November 2013 looking to learn how a small community-faced organisation like Here To works.

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Keen to offer up her copywriting skills, Tanya has been happily blogging away for us ever since. Here’s her reaction to helping out at #HereToParty, Here To’s 1st birthday party that took place at the end of January 2014…

Hiya. Wizarding Tanya here. I’m just recovering from last-night’s fun-filled extravaganza!

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In this blog post, I’m Here To tell you all about what happened at this magical 1st birthday bash. If you were one of the hundreds there – be it as a volunteer, a local project, or an ice-cream hungry potential participant – then thank you! If you weren’t there, you really missed out, so make sure you come along next year: not a single person lacked a smile by the end of #HereToParty!

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There were canapés, cakes, mini burgers, words of wisdom from the Mayor of Islington, and a big reveal of new Here To website features which people praised as set to make volunteering in Islington that bit easier.

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Other event highlights included wonderful artwork depicting the Here To story by the very talented Ji; a laugh-inducing balancing act with The Saturday Night Project where you had to send a tweet whilst balancing on a ball; a spontaneous mass sing-along with members from the Chaps Choir; craft-making activities everywhere (from making bunting to DIY nature-spotting tools); and of course, the utterly delicious Udderlicious ice cream that you got as a perk for completing 3 activities (I went for raspberry cheesecake and banana fudge with sprinkles – obviously).

And that’s only to list a few! Attendees even impressed themselves by making their own ice cream out of a plastic bag (you had to see it to believe it ).

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It’s important to remember that the night wasn’t just about festivities and fun, but that each activity provided perks all-round: for those taking part, the organisations running the activities and the wider community.

In the photo below, it might just look like people are sewing are learning how to sew on buttons, but in doing so, they were finishing-off strings of bunting for The Handmade Alliance to sell to fund their work with ex-offenders and prisoners.

It’s amazing the impact you can have in just 10 minutes!

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#HereToParty was also about thanking the local people and projects listed on the Here To website that help everyday to make Islington a better, brighter, and livelier place to live. The birthday was a great excuse to share experiences, meet each other and recognise everyone’s contribution.

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As a Here To Wizard, I’d like to thank the Here To team personally for providing me with a chance to get involved with the #HereToParty event. The night was a blast, and flew by because of all the fun I had. I was tasked with meet and greet for most of the evening, which meant encouraging everyone to get involved in the activities so that they could get their three stars and free ice cream. The star system was clever and really representative of what Here To is all about – give a little by getting involved and you’ll get perks for yourself and the community. I really felt as though I was part of a bigger picture.

So, Here’s To the first birthday, and the second, and the third… I can’t wait until next year!

Waving the Here To wizard-ing wand goodbye for now,

Tanya

We’re… #HereToParty – the round-up!

As you may already know, we’ve just celebrated Here To’s 1st birthday at the Islington Town Hall.

In just 16 days, the Here To team, 11 Here To Wizards and 13 Islington-based community organisations worked busily together to plan a traditional birthday party with a twist!

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In addition to revealing new features on the Here To website, we offered up the chance for guests to earn a FREE Udderlicious ice-cream by completing 3 micro-volunteering activities.

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The event wasn’t all about eating yummy canapes, ice cream and birthday cupcakes baked by young people from Highbury Fields School though.

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#HereToParty was also a chance for the Here To community to get together to meet each other offline.

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The Islington Mayor, Islington Young Mayor and Councillor Barbara Sidnell came along for the ride too!

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Some key moments at the event included a performance and workshop from Counterpoint Dance Company

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…ice-cream making with Udderlicious

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…live artwork from Ji

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…a flashmob sing-a-thon facilitated by members from Chaps Choir and lace-making and knitting with Age UK Islington.

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Other wonderful activities were run by The Handmade Alliance, Help on Your Doorstep, Islington Giving, The Saturday Night Project, Hanley Crouch Community Association, The Garden Classroom, Freightliners Farm and the Hills Community Trust (thank you!).

The good news is that at least 122 people came along and 147 micro-volunteering activities were completed. This roughly equates to 24 hours of helping out in just a single evening. And that’s not including the hours of help given to use by numerous Here To Wizards.

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Guests left some lovely comments on our feedback wall too, which made us very happy:

“The event was lots of fun (which is always good). I loved the micro-volunteering on site.”

“You should run this event every year!!!”

“Lovely participants, stalls and activities. Very friendly and enjoyable.”

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A BIG well done to everyone that was involved and keep your eyes peeled for future events!

For more pictures, click here.

We’re #HereToParty – join us!

Sign up for FREE tickets by clicking here.

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This time last year, Here To Islington launched at Platform with a spectacular tea dance.

Since then, hundreds of local people and projects have come together via the Here To website to kick-start a movement of helping out across the borough. For example:

  • * 14 local people have got to watch free theatre as ushers
  • * 24 have made new connections through befriending
  • * 31 residents have learnt new recipes helping on cooking projects

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We want to mark our 1st year of activity by throwing a big birthday bash to thank you for your contribution, to meet new friends and to share with you some improvements we’ve made to the website.

In true Here To style, opportunities to help out locally on live projects will be at the heart of the event.

So whether you’ve got 10 minutes or an hour to spare, you can leave with new skills, community connections to local projects and a tummy full of cake and ice-cream!

A sneak preview of some of our activities…

  • * Get creative by making nature-spotting tools with The Garden Classroom
  • * Learn how to make bunting by getting crafty with The Handmade Alliance
  • * Make homemade ice-cream by inventing a new flavour for Udderlicious
  • * Have your ideas immortalised in art by having a chat with artist Ji
  • * Get top-tips on leading workshops by designing an after-school session

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What else is happening…

    • * Other Here To Projects to help out on – from design to dance!
    • * A VIP preview of new features on the Here to website
    • * Meet the Islington Mayor and Young Mayor
    • * Speed-networking between local people and projects
    • * Party food, ice-cream and cake

 

PLUS, a few surprises!

Sound like fun? Want to meet local residents interested in helping out in Islington? Sign up for FREE tickets by clicking here.

And don’t forget to bring a friend, colleague or neighbour.

Want to get more involved?

We’re looking for helpers to support the running of the event in a variety of ways, from making our birthday cake to making decorationsfilming and facilitating.

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Click on the hyperlinks or visit islington.hereto.org for more details. It takes just 5 minutes to sign up online.

Thanks for listening!

Here To… introduce our HeadStart interns

It’s been a busy week for the Here To team, particularly as we’re expanding at a rate of knots!

On Monday we had the pleasure of introducing Joanna, Here To’s new Community Development Co-ordinator, but now we’re Here To share a bit about Elisa and Samera!

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Hi everyone. We’re Elisa and Samira!

We’ve just landed the role of interns at Here To Islington, specifically to help organise Here To’s 1st Birthday Party at the end of January 2014.

Getting here has been a really exciting journey, with helping out locally at its heart.

We both took part in the National Citizenship Service programme in the summer which was powered by The Challenge. We worked in a team to build and deliver projects that made a real difference to where we live.

We then continued on to take part in HeadStart, a new project from The Challenge, where in exchange for 16 hours of helping out in the local community, young people can get a job interview.

Our job interview was with Here To Islington, and we’re both pleased to report that we were successful!

Coincidentally, we both go to the same school, but we’ve not spent that much time together as we study completely different subjects at AS-Level: Elisa studies Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics, while Samira’s taking Music, Drama, English and Chemistry. So between us, we’ve got most bases covered!

Here’s a bit more about us individually (and our best ‘silly faces’ in the Here To Photomatic Machine):

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Secret skill(s): acting and playing instruments.

Interests: playing basketball, learning new songs on the piano, jamming to music on my bass guitar, art, drawing, One Direction (I’m a secret fan) and socialising with friends.

Helping history: Islington Food Bank – I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would and I was surprised to find out just how many people depend on Food Banks as a source of food. This was a good eye-opener for me and I intend to continue helping out on the project.

Most looking forward to at Here To: planning the event and seeing the outcome of all our hard work. I hope that this internship will help me improve my communication skills in the way I articulate my ideas too.

ELISA

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Secret skill(s): listening.

Interests: reading (particularly Harry Potter and The Hunger Games), listening to music from the likes of Ed Sheeran and Bastille, studying the sciences, graphic design and sleeping.

Helping history: St John Ambulance CadetEnvision (helping young people to create a campaign to help their local community) and fundraising events and face-painting with Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospice. Across all three of these opportunities, I loved feeling part of a community and the smiles on the children’s faces at Noah’s Ark were priceless!

Most looking forward to at Here To: having the opportunity to express my creative side, which is something I don’t get to do very much at school considering the subjects I am studying.

That’s all from us for now!

Stay tuned for more updates on our time with Here To and how the planning is going for the Here To 1st Birthday Party.