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… 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!