We’re Here To… pilot a new project with Islington Aftercare

At Here To, we’re always on the look-out for new ways we can support local people in Islington to get perks and new skills from helping out on local projects. But even better, is when one of our very own Here To helpers comes forward with a new idea for a collaboration. Enter Joe Mitchell!

Joe SHP

The background

Joe first used the Here To website to find a volunteering opportunity when he moved to Archway last year. After a positive experience helping out at DORCAS, a local befriending project, Joe started to explore the idea of getting Here To involved in the work he does for his day job at SHP.

SHP stands for Single Homeless Project, and it’s a charity driven to improve the quality of life of homeless and vulnerable people in London. SHP have been recently commissioned by Islington Council to run Islington Aftercare, a service that supports people in recovery to get into education, training, employment and volunteering.

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After a couple of joint meetings, it became clear that Here To’s approach to volunteering – bite-sized, clear and perks-based – was best-placed to support SHP to build the confidence of its clients in this area.

We therefore got to work and collaboratively designed a 1-week intensive programme that included 2 training sessions and 2 opportunities to help out locally in Islington. The key aim of the pilot project was to enable SHP’s clients to experience volunteering in small ways (with no obligation to commit in the longer term), and to boost their confidence, self-awareness and knowledge of what volunteering is all about. Exciting stuff!

What happened?

It’s safe to say that the overall, the week-long pilot was an extremely positive experience for everyone involved: SHP clients, SHP staff, the Here To team and the 2 Islington projects we supported.

In the first session, we looked at volunteering as a concept, explored motivations, barriers and potential activities, and created our own volunteering profiles to better understand what sort of helping out we would all be interested in.

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In the second session, we mapped out the key steps of the typical volunteer journey and led some empathy exercises to better understand the pressures faced by local projects in Islington, and why they might need people to help out.

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After 2 classroom based sessions, we then launched into helping out on 2 local projects. The first was Finsbury and Clerkenwell Volunteers’ lunch club in Old Street, where we served food and socialised with guests…

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…an the second was supporting the Islington Council Parks Team with a bit of gardening/DIY to finish a natural play area in Whittington Park.

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Although a very busy week, we’re pleased to report that 14 SHP clients took part in the training sessions and 8 of those went on to volunteer in just 7 days (3 of whom helped out twice!).

Feedback from participants

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Clients’ thoughts…

Very interesting! I am now more aware of volunteering and it was useful to see how to search for opportunities on the internet

It was a simple concept that worked

The classroom sessions were really informative and set me up for volunteering – it has encouraged me to do more

The sessions helped me to explore the barriers I face to helping out locally and gave me the tools to address these

This was a constructive use of my free time

It was good to have something physical to do through this programme. Not too long ago I would never have done something like this

I enjoyed keeping busy and doing activities I had not done before

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Other comments…

Joe Mitchell, SHP – The week really inspired a number of our clients to continue with volunteering. At least 5 have already been searching for their next opportunity to help out locally with their key workers, and 4 have applied to or are keen to continue with the projects we visited during the week! The workshops helped our clients see how simple it is to find opportunities. The bitesize volunteer sessions were very popular and gave our clients a taster of the joys of volunteering and just how easy it is to help out in their community.

Judy Gould, Finsbury & Clerkenwell Volunteers – Working with Here To and SHP on this pilot project was pleasing on all sides: it felt good to support people to build their confidence through volunteering with us, whilst also having more people to run our lunch club and socialise with our older guests. We have already had several applications from those who took part who want to help us out on a longer-term basis. It was good all round!

Chris Collins, Islington Council Community Ranger (North Area)Being one of the volunteer projects to benefit from this Here To pilot initiative was brilliant! Everything just fell neatly into place and the help from the group to finish the natural play area in Whittington Park was very much welcomed. We look forward to supporting more groups via Here To in the future.

All in all, the pilot was very successful and participants reported an increase in their confidence, self-esteem and motivation to volunteer as a result of taking part. We’ll therefore be looking in the coming weeks to see how we can offer this programme on a more regular basis for SHP’s clients.

It really is amazing what you can achieve in a week!

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