Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Walk in the Park and the Community Gospel Choir

Yesterday was the first instance of the Link4Growth "Walk and Talk" event in Cassiobury Park. A bank holiday weekend too sounded the alarm bells about the weather but as the saying goes "There is no such thing as inclement weather just inappropriate clothing".

At 1pm we assembled at the Cha Cafe... it was raining at the start as it was raining at the end of the walk... but the conversation was both varied and lively... Here are a few of the topics discussed but are just a handful of what I can remember...

"Sustainability, Farming, Seeds, Bermuda, Honduras, Poland, Hungary, Britain, London,  Community, Events, Oil, Canals, History of Cassiobury, Watford, Education, Books, Cooking, Technology, Weather (of course), Cassiobury country show (very quiet)... politics of course scraped in there eventually, a bit about 'anarchy' and the problems of the global economy, oh and Brexit too!"

So a wide range of topics as we walked past the Cassiobury country show... at about 11-12c, raining and a stiff breeze, the car park was very empty and the country show was understandably very quiet. We stopped to chat for a bit, and they were hoping for better weather on Bank holiday Monday (show was open for two days).

As we approached the bandstand it looked like the Community Gospel Choir was about to pack up and go home... had we missed the performance? With it still raining they'd almost given up any hope of people coming out to listen... we decided to stay a while and provide an audience "such as we were" at least someone to sing to. There was enthusiastic banter as the choir robed up and we made our presence felt with total appreciation for their dedication and what was a great performance.

The Gospel Arts Manna Choir practices in the Asda Community Room (North Watford) on Tuesday evenings from 7:30pm for those that might like to enquire... 

Sadly after another 75 minutes... the cold, the hunger and 'nature calling' we made our way out of the park... The first Walk and Talk event a great success... we finished circa 3:15pm ... another event next month on the 23rd September 2018... come and join us...

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Learning (and implementing) new skills made easy!

It's easy when you know how...

Many of us are constrained in what we can do by the knowledge we have. Everything is difficult and time consuming when we are struggling to understand things.

The challenge when we are starting out is that we don't even know what we don't know. There are plenty of people offering fabulous workshops and training, but how do you know if it is what you need and whether at the end it is going to make any difference.

Actually... all the training you will ever need is on the Internet. With unlimited time you could find out all you need without spending any money at all. What you won't discover though is what gaps you might need to plug for your business, how to go about it, a time line and a strategy designed for you, and... which applications (online tools) might serve you better than others.

In the normal course of events you might need to attend quite a few workshops and / or employ the services of a marketing strategist which might start to add up in terms of costs.

Keeping the costs to a minimum

In South West Herts there is something going on a little different to help you acquire the skills and knowledge you need. We believe that...

  • Price shouldn't be a barrier for people to pick up knowledge
  • Availability of a variety of "Learning Sessions" means we can obtain a broad range of skills 
  • We all have expertise and knowledge that others might need. We encourage all to share 
  • Each learning session provides a unique experience applied to your unique business
  • Small groups allow us to grow together and deepen our local business connections

All Learning Sessions are provided on a "Pay according to the value you received" ... that might be £0, £5, £10, £20 or £50 ... whatever you feel comfortable with.

Dedicated facility

We are now just about to complete the setup of our dedicated Learning Facility ready for September. Complete with Workspace (8 attendees), Power, WiFi, Whiteboard, Flipchart, Projector, Air Conditioning... all in a quiet and chilled environment.

Monday is Learning day

Monday's are dedicated to the "Learning Sessions". Keep an eye on the diary via the website here. Learning Sessions are all 90 minutes long. There are normally three 'session times' although in any given week not all sessions might be utilised. 
  1. 10am - 11:30am
  2. 12:00pm - 1:30pm
  3. 2:00pm - 3:30pm

Tuesday is "Take Action - Do it" Jelly day

Many of us go on Workshops, get inspired and then... we get home full of enthusiasm only for life to begin sucking that all out of us as soon as we walk through the door... 

The days pass... then the weeks and we realise that we have forgotten most of what we were shown / learnt... with enthusiasm ebbing away and our memory failing us it is no wonder that most of what we learnt never gets implemented.

....... NO MORE!

Learning Session on the Monday... TAKE ACTION on the Tuesday with the "JELLY". From 9:30am - 4:00pm get along and implement the things you learned on Monday. Maximum of 10 people in the Learning room... a day of fun working with others; also wanting to fast track their business.

With a specialist always there to handhold you through any problems you might encounter and which would stop you in your tracks on your own, you will be surprised what you can get done in a day. 

Setting up Newsletters, streamlining your LinkedIn profile, creating Facebook pages... setting up groups, creating your GMail account, writing content for your website, blogging, Twitter implementation... or just working alongside others rather than alone at home... 

It's a fun day of 'Massive Action' ... go for the whole day or part of the day just £10 ... bring your own lunch and drinks... coffee / tea making facilities available

Final Words

With the new school semester starting in a couple of weeks... why not get yourself some new skills and take some things that have been in the "too difficult" pile done and dusted...

If you would like to be kept up to date with all things SWHerts and join in the conversations... then just join the Facebook Group here... 

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Update on homeless warriors in Watford

It has been a busy few weeks and with the weather being so hot we have handed out nearly 1000 bottles of water, kindly donated by a company on Imperial Way who heard my talk at Stanborough Church.

Staying with the Stanborough Church we have a meeting on the 14th August with the Pastor, the church's youth group and deputy mayor of Watford. They have kindly offered their support to Homeless Warriors by helping put some survival kits together for our street friends and for those in shelters / venerably housed.

They have even ordered another cycle trailer as mine is getting a lot of use. Having two will make things a lot easier.

Myself and Ruth Lee met with Peter Taylor the Mayor of Watford to discuss our ideas and see how we can work more closely together to improve things for the homeless in Watford.

Warriors now includes a new organisation brought to fruition with the help of Ruth Lee. This organisation is called Homebrella. We are aiming to bring all the small projects and individuals in Watford into one communication network. This will enable us to improve effectiveness and opportunities to support one another.

An Example of how we could use such a network is when a small supermarket experienced issues with their fridges; food was in danger of being thrown out. Fortunately we managed to hear about this and saved most of it, with a network of people working together we could have probably saved it all!

So as you can see a lot is happening and along with all of the above we are also in the process of becoming a no profit community interest company (CIC) which will enable us to fund raise and approach business's for support. We are planning a fund raising launch disco and a sleep out too. Discussions are well under way with a company that organises such events.

We also held our first awareness event at GoFest which was held at Stanborough Park during July, a great success with plenty of interest and offers of support.

We are hoping that this is the first of many events and with a view to selling items for additional fundraising purposes. Warriors have some big plans for the future but slowly and surely to ensure that the support goes where it is needed most.

An Amazon wish list has been set up for those who wish to buy an item to donate. Just click on the link to visit and see how you can help.

We also have a Paypal account for donations which you can pay through


Only through working together can we change the Stigma

Written by : Stephen Phoenix Russell

Sunday, 1 July 2018

We are what we eat? Well it is a great start anyway...

Thanks to Sainsburys for
sponsoring the event 
There is no doubt about it... something is seriously wrong with what we are eating. Yes of course the air is more polluted, the food is being genetically modified, and there are chemicals that are used in vast numbers in the food we eat. Given all of that... we still have plenty of opportunity to make choices.

Whether our choices are because advertising is getting us with the next KFC, McDonalds, Pizza... or...  that we have just abdicated our responsibility for taking care of what we eat, believing that the food industry's primary concern is our nutrition and well being. We of course know that is not the case. Perhaps we don't know why so many people are obese and / or struggling with health related issues like diabetes, and we've decided... we'll only worry about it if it happens to us.

Consider this... our cells replicate in vast numbers each day... the only way they can do this is with the right combination of nutrients and minerals. They come from what we eat in the main... or what we put on our skin. If we're not putting in good stuff... then the output wont be good either.

Last Friday I was invited to an event at Watford Central Library. This was hosted by Rachel Dimond who runs an organisation called My Yard. Rachel does a huge amount of community work in many ways but My Yard has taken on a really important job.

Those helping to make the event a great success
My Yard takes fruit and veg from supermarkets where it is getting past its prime and combines this with other fruit and veg to produce Veggie Boxes. Many of these are sold to provide funds to give the same boxes to those in dire need, and who really need some support.

Rachel had also brought along too speakers... Radio 2 Presenter and Author on all things health (especially nutrition) :  Janey Lee Grace,  the other : Jamuna Haim who is a iridologist and Nutritionist previously working at Champneys.

Salad lunch preparation
Sainsburys sponsored the whole event with a wide selection of fruit and vegetables some of which was transformed into a fabulously healthy salad based lunch... the remainder we were invited to take away and make some delicious food for ourselves.

There is no question that the main messages from the event were... the body doesn't count calories... what it does need is Vitamins, Nutrients and minerals... and... that if we eat a balanced, varied range of colourful in season fruit and vegetables we are well on the way to giving our bodies what they need,

Thanks to Rachel for organising the event, the speakers, Sainsburys, the Watford Library and the support team for making it all happen magically.

The collection of fresh fruit and veg I managed to collect to take home... very delicious!

Adding the SWHerts Networking calendar to your diary (mobile)

On many occasions people have asked, where is the SWHerts Networking calendar? How do I find out about events? ... had I known I would have come, now I have something else on...

Well all of these issues can be removed quite simply by adding the calendar as another calendar to your own calendaring system. This can be Outlook or Google Calendars... or any calendaring application that can accommodate the ICAL standard that has been devised.

Basically what you have to do is add a 'Public' calendar as another calendar to your application.

In Google calendars there is an option to "Add a friend's calendar" do this on the Desktop / Laptop version of the calendar application... There will be a similar option on Outllook and other diary apps.

Once you have selected that option you will be presented a few options that will look like this...

  • New Calendar
  • Browse calendars of interest
  • From a URL
  • Import calendar

You will be needing the From a URL option

Once selected you will be invited to enter a URL with a screen that might look like below

All you need to do now is paste the link below into the URL of calendar and in future all the calendar events that are added to the SWHerts Networking Calendar will be automatically added to your calendar.


Monday, 25 June 2018

Are you a teacher suffering from burnout?

Teachers leaving education because they want to teach not be statisticians!

I've personally met quite a few teachers who loved teaching but sadly, regrettably have had to leave the profession they were so passionate about. Why would you do that?

Pressure, Stress, no free time, no family time, and decisions being made at work you don't agree with. Decisions that attempt to monitor and justify the way education is delivered rather than for the benefit of children and our young adults.

The outcome is "teacher burnout" you can only do it for so long. Ex-Teachers can't possibly return to the education system either "as is" because of what it has done to them. What then is to become of these teachers?

Most ex-Teachers will tell you, they love teaching but they can't go back to that. This is a huge waste of talent and a huge resource that has had billions invested in them.

Entrance stage left : Zarina Mo

Zarina 2 years ago would have read the above and identified with every point. A love of teaching but impossible to even consider a return to an environment that shattered her confidence and brought on depression through continual pressure and stress from an education system at breaking point.

But Kids still need to be taught... Parents are more demanding than ever of their children, and have high expectations (not saying this is necessarily a good thing) of achievement. Hence the rise and rise of Private Tutoring.

Two years on

Zarina has a thriving local Tutoring business. But it hasn't been easy Zarina would be the first to admit. How do you set up a business? What about Tax? What about expenses? How do you advertise, get found and generate business? ... isn't this just leaping out of the frying pan into the fire?

Help is at hand

As a teacher, Zarina has documented all the challenges she has faced over the past two years in getting her tutoring business to thrive and in the spirit of 'giving back' during the summer months (quieter period for teachers) she would like to help others on the same path.

Zarina explains most ex-teachers think that you can't just go out and teach. There must be some authorising body or something, an exam, or a certificate, mustn't there? ... the answer is no. Most teachers went to school... then university and then... back to the classroom again, so there is almost a complete absence of time and experience out of academia.

The bottom line is... if you like teaching, you have students who want to learn, you know what you are talking about, the students improve, and parents / children like you and believe you can help, then you can be a tutor.

Final words

As Zarina explains... one of the worst feelings in the world is when you love doing something and you feel that you won't ever be able to do it again. Burnt out teachers are often in this place...

Zarina can help anyone either going through this burn out phase (or even approaching it) to be able to do what they love without the gargantuan bureaucracy of the education system. Private Tutoring is on the rise and this is an expanding market...

If this is you... or even someone you know, then get in touch with Zarina... it might be the best thing you've done all year!

Zarina Mo
Email : zarina3000@hotmail.com

Monday, 11 June 2018

Have you got good news to share in SWHerts?

SWHerts Newsletter for June 2018... did you get your copy? ... probably not! ... that's because we've just had a bit of a clear-out. So if you do want to subscribe then click here.

GDPR has put a lot of fear in people's minds but actually it is an opportunity to review what data you store? Why you are storing it? ... and... what you are doing with it? It also provides an opportunity to look at the different methods we might use to engage with our audience. Facebook Groups are a prime example, a self selected engaged group of people interested in a subject.

In the review of what Link4Growth is seeking to achieve locally it has led us to increase exposure of all the brilliant work that is going on in our communities and the people doing it... 

Below a quick summary of the services being provided through Link4growth in SWHerts :-

  1. An independent space to connect people. This could be people wanting information about what is going on in our community or a service and need a bit of signposting to those who could help. You may have an idea you want to discuss, talk through and are looking to meet people who could support you in that... or you might just want to get out of the house for a few hours and have interesting conversations.
  2. To share all the great news of what is already happening so more of it can be done! There are so many amazing people out there doing great things and a whole army of people who might like to participate... If we can make everything more visible then everyone wins! (we already have all social media in place, newsletters set up, the community hub you are visiting now... and of course the 10 or so community connection events we host each month). 
  3. To grow a Kinder, Collaborative business community. Wouldn't it be great if local businesses worked as a team 'collaboratively' as opposed to 'competitively'? It's much nicer when operating in a supportive and compassionate group... both through the good times AND the tough... we all know how hard it is to run a business... we need all the help and support we can get (and give of course). This service is provided through our Business Development Network... it really is about building our community economy though our local entrepreneurs.
  4. To encourage Learning, and the idea of being the best version of ourselves! ... the world is constantly changing... as are we! ... Indeed if we are to be the best versions of ourselves then regular reflection and ongoing questioning in all that we do is part of it. By picking up new understanding we can make even greater strides in all that we do and support others more effectively.


SWHerts Newsletter (L4G) - Monthly

This is to bring together stories and projects that are going on locally and highlights from Link4Growth activity in SWHerts. Also includes the monthly list of Community Connection Events.

Community Newsletter - Monthly

This newsletter is about community news and increasing participation. If you have a community project, event or news to share about what is happening with what you are involved in then this is where it will feature

Local Business Newsletter - Monthly

Sharing news from those local businesses who have committed to working as a Team and growing our local community economy

Final Words

There are some truly amazing people out there some we already know about the majority we do not. Struggling on with little to no funding and providing services that change people's lives.

We have a wondrous opportunity with the availability of the internet and modern communication to discover something that we can contribute in a way that works for us.

This community belongs to all of us... and if we all did a little bit each we could make a massive change to where we live... and take a small step to co-creating a whole new future!

If it is going to be.... it is up to "WE"

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Commemorating 100... but 100 what?

This year, 2018 will be marked with commemorations of 100th Anniversaries... 

The end of the First World War, the formation of the Royal Air Force and the 1918 Representation of the People Act, giving women the right to vote. Watford Area Arts Forum, Watford Writers and Watford & Bushey Arts Society would like to invite you to express your interpretation on a theme of ‘100’ in art form or in writing. You can use one of the themes listed or any other reflection of 100 years ago or the number 100.

The winner of the competitions will receive a £50 cash prize and The Harrington Trophy, 2nd prize is £30 and 3rd is £20.

On Saturday, 28 July, at 2.30 pm presentations will be made to the winners of the competitions in both categories at Watford Museum. The prizes have been generously donated by Richard Harrington.

Art Challenge

Please submit your work with the theme ‘100’ and your interpretation of this, but please give your pictorial entry a title other than ‘100’.

Entries can be in any form; oils, water colours, pen and ink, collages, photographs etc.

Please bring your entry along to Watford Museum on Wednesday 4 July, between 11am and 4pm. All entries will be on display at the Museum (during normal opening hours) from 5 July until Saturday 28 July. You will have the option of putting your work up for sale, but they will remain in situ until the 28 July We are delighted that Sheelagh Frew Crane, a local artist, has agreed to judge the anonymous entries.

Writing Challenge

Can you come up with 500 words on the theme of ‘100’, they could be in the style of a factual or fictional story that you are bursting to write, or maybe a poem? You might put a modern twist on an old fashioned story or fable, suffragettes, the widows of WW1, or 100 years since Stonehenge.

The deadline for entry is Monday 11 June. The top ten entries will be displayed at Watford Museum, and the winners of the literary competition will be announced at a Watford Writers’ meeting on Monday 9 July at 7.30pm. All entrants are invited to the results night and the presentation event on Saturday 28 July at Watford Museum.

Please note the entries should have no less than 300 words.

More information

Full details for submitting your entry and full rules are available by downloading the following documents: WAAF-100 Art rules | WAAF Competiton- Art entry form 2018 | Literature Entry Form and rules 2018

More details also available are available at: www.watfordwriters.co.uk

Queries should be referred to Watfordwriters@gmail.com (Literature) or lwjbutler@live.co.uk (Art)

Bringing it all together... support for the vulnerable in community

For more years than I can remember there have been small groups of people doing amazing things in the community. Very often these groups have no voice... they have little to no money... they are almost invisible except to those that volunteer day in and day out and the beneficiaries of the work they do.... nevertheless they persist... and this is because of the passion of those providing the services and the absolute belief in what they are doing... 

But it could be so much better...

What if instead of being isolated pockets of 'goodness' each trying their hardest to get by and sustain what they are doing that these groups began to break down the 'made made' barriers... and work collaboratively together. It's a tough gig opening up... you have to accept that things might change (even you) ... that things might operate a little differently going forward, and that it's a team effort not about just one person...

So what a delight to receive the email below...

This is an email from Stephen Phoenix Russell  (Warriors) sent out during May

I will be linking up with New Hope / GROW Hostel / Police and YMCA along with other any relevant agencies/groups that are relevant, for example Jane Johnson's amazing Random Cafe project.

Warriors will be applying to become a CIC which the best way to put it is a non profit company with the mission to improve homelessness and the vulnerably housed. This will also able me to help the other links that I will be working with. Warriors will be able to fund raise and it will be easier to approach companies for support.I will be also looking to supporting Herts MIND Network and New Leaf college where I can, but this will be at a later date when established.

So volunteering wise at present is still going to be seeking donations/picking up and dropping off those donations supporting the evening food stations and Random Cafe by finding and donating food/drinks and support (Support as and when needed.

When the CIC is in place I have been offered a patch at New Watford Market where we can distribute items and use to raise awareness and hopefully along with any of the organisations we will be linked with.

This is my short term goals, taking it slowly and will build up over time! I need to continue building trust with both those on the streets and the agencies/charities I link up with. Long term goal is to have some sort of shop unit with the ability to take on only the homeless to work there improving skills and social awareness and give them a fighting chance to move on and find jobs of their own.

So that is my dream and long term project and of course this is a while off for now but the research and prep starts now.


New socks
New Boxers
New Knickers
Jogging bottoms
Rain jackets

Sleeping bags
Ruck sacks
Water bottles
2 man tents

Chocolate bars

Mostly non perishable but as Random Cafe's mission is to feed bellies and not bins and are hugely into not wasting food you can let us know what you have and can distribute to the cafe as they have one every Saturday. Evening food stations will need different items and would be best to ask them on their group "Food for thought

Final Words

There is a real energy in #Watford these days with collaboration and co-creation at the centre. Still a huge way to go... but as more of us as individuals begin to take more responsibility for what is happening in our streets and realise that we are part of the reason why these challenges exist... then the faster we can change things and help those in need find the answers that work for them... 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Good Food Market in Bushey

Local Farmers Market right here in Bushey EVERY WEEK!

On the 15th April I visited the Bushey Good Food Market. Earlier that week I had met the two ladies who operate the market at Bushey Networking Group.

I had known about the market for a couple of months, but hadn't managed to get along there but I was curious as to how the initiative came about and the plans for the market.

Ereida explains most of the background in the video at the end of this piece but suffice to say they had been travelling into London to attend farmers markets with their own Coffee Station and asked themselves why? ... Why are we doing this? ... and why isn't there anything like this where we live (Bushey).

So that got the ball rolling and then it was a question of where? ... after some initial emails and conversations the Bushey Academy were the most excited about supporting the project and the rest is history. The Market now operates each and every Sunday 10am-4pm at the Bushey Academy location.

The ladies have big plans for the market. Not just as a place to buy high quality locally made produce, but also to have themed events such as Health & Wellness days and a cheese fest coming up on the 3rd June! ... it is hoped even great sporting events could be shown on Market days.

There is plenty of room for expansion too. The Market could at least triple in size on the current location and the aim is to turn this into a festival of community each week and really provide something that all the local people can get behind and support...

Please do get along and support this community centric initiative... you will at the very least bump into someone you know (most likely) ... and get a chance to try some excellent local food and those producing it...

You can find the Good Food Market here...


Monday, 21 May 2018

What can I say?

Image result for royalty free image of a mouth

A sore topic for me lately…

my ability to write and speak about issues which I hold dear to me has been curtailed. A temporary situation, hopefully. During my research I found this:

Lots of information, the part that interested me most was the freedom of the press. Whilst I haven’t thought of myself as a journalist (being an amateur blogger in fact) this is the area I was asked to consider.

We have all heard the stories of the ‘paparazzi’ hounding celebrities to beyond the point of reason…but what about stories concerning the general public?

Amnesty International state that the freedom of the press should be maintained; however there are some ethical issues to consider. If the writing can cause harm, is it right?

So the first area is an ethical one, but next comes the legal aspect. The law is unclear on this area (please do correct me if I am wrong, as am no legal expert) but my understanding is that whoever holds the copyright can be seen as culpable in law.

I have more questions than answers at this point!

What happens to our rights after Brexit? How does the new General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) affect it?

What can I say?   I’m not 100% sure at the moment. I have some exciting projects in the pipeline but for once, my lips are sealed😊

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

What is community building?

Community has many different meanings, and it depends on who you ask! If you work for the council... operate a charity or host a social or sports group... or you're a local resident in the area then community will mean very different things.

Community is it about belonging to something?

For many being in a community brings along with it a sense of belonging. In today's society it seems that the need to belong to something is a real human need. Why we need this "belonging" is a good question, and although interesting this isn't the subject of this post.

Community as a general explanation of everything that makes up our society

The word "community" is often used to express the meaning of our society in general and everything that makes up the complex environment that we live.

Community as in "a small group of people with similar thinking"

This is the most interesting use of the word community. A community of this type can be any size... people who are playing sport, working together, meeting up to undertake some art and craft or leisure pursuit, churches, charities and those volunteering as small groups. Each represents a small community of people focused on doing something, participating, and taking action.

This is the grass roots of our 'general community' discussed above. The coming together of small groups of people. Individuals can be and often are involved in a many communities, as we all over time develop a keen interest in many topics.

These 'communities' involve people who typically live close to each other, they meet often, and they attract to them those with common thinking. But.... they rarely have money to advertise or promote themselves... so how do you find out about these communities?

Community Building

How great would it be if we could somehow bring together all these groups (both physical and online) together to help promote and share all the good work going on, so that more people could find them, engage and hopefully join in.

This is one of the key functions that Link4Growth SWHerts is providing. By creating an integrated platform that all community information can be placed on and enable local community groups and people (local residents) to engage (as well as businesses).  This is an open service where people can add content themselves and through this we are able to create an independent inclusive community space that covers the following...

  1. Local stories of great things happening in our 'communities' and about local groups (small communities of people) that are doing great work
  2. Local community noticeboards for all the towns that make up the SW Herts District
  3. Local meetups to enable local people to come together and find out what is happening in our communities, get signposted or connected and make new friends
  4. A place for local independent business owners to get to know one another (through the Business Development Network) and to support each other so that we can all win
  5. Local business noticeboards for our Business Development Network members to share what is happening in their businesses
  6. A series of Public Town calendars that can be updated by anyone wishing to share events happening in their community
  7. Specialised calendars such as SWHerts - Networking which contains many of the local networking events being hosted in the area
  8. Local TV Station (YouTube) with channels (Playlists) for Community, Local Business, Events, Entertainment, History... and a channel for each town too.


This isn't about trying to encourage us to 'build the community at large' that of course is already there, and, as big as it needs to be. Community building is more about enabling more people to 'join in' with things that are happening in the small community groups that exist or indeed starting new ones. To do that we need to have a place to find out what is going on.

There are already people doing amazing work and there is so much going on. If more people could tap into the plethora of things happening around us, it is likely, through that visibility people would find something that interests them enough to engage. That's community building! ... joining up the dots, increasing visibility and encouraging more people to engage.

If this could be accelerated locally, regionally and nationally... with all that sharing and cross fertilization of ideas... what would that look like?

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Watford Homeless get focus

Watford has an increasing number of people living on the streets.

There is no single factor that contributes to this fact. It is a combination of circumstances and each individual and situation is different.

Anything from a series of calamitous events resulting in eviction, divorce, loss of work, right through to various types of addiction.

One thing that unites all those on the streets is that they are all human beings, and they all have a unique story... indeed, sometimes, that is all they have!

There have been organisations in Watford reaching out to the homeless for many years, New Hope trust, various churches, charities, and smaller groups all playing their part and doing their bit...

So what’s changed? Why the sudden focus?

Community... community is beginning to be revived. You might ask what does that mean? Community means so many different things and covers a huge range of topics. Community being revived is a bit nebulous isn't it?

We are the most connected humans there has ever been. We can contact people right across the globe at no cost with the right equipment. We have the power of the Internet at our disposal. The Internet is enabling us to find like minded people... those with similar thinking and a passion to solve real human problems. This is enabling a multitude of new 'communities' (small groups of people) to be set up.

The great initiatives that are going on in our own community (some of them listed below) are benefiting from the power of the Internet and Social Media. We can now access thousands of people in seconds and spread the message, inviting others to contribute, participate, and engage. We are now witnessing here in our own town of Watford, the power of what is now happening.

Great Initiatives:

These local initiatives are just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many things happening we will seek to cover those in additional posts and comments on this story.

Random Cafe

This is an initiative that was begun locally by Jane Johnson. The idea came through a nationwide initiative called the 'Real Junk Food Project'. The idea is quite simple. Supermarkets throw out tons of perfectly edible food each day / week... what if that food could be collected and then either given away, sold or turned into tasty hot meals for those in need. Feed bellies not bins.

The Random Cafe operates 4 cafes per month. Organised (not so randomly) around the Watford area on a Saturday afternoon.

1st  Week - The Barn Central Watford
2nd Week - Centrepoint Community Centre - Raphael Drive
3rd Week - West Watford Communty Centre - Harwoods Road
4th Week - Meridan Community Centre - Meridan

Find out more:  Website   Facebook Page   Twitter    Instagram

Watford Homeless

Ruth Lee began the Watford Homeless project because she was unable to find an organisation that would enable her to support the homeless in the way that she wanted.

Ruth has a very direct outreach approach. She has met and spoke with most of those who are homeless. She seeks to understand them, learn about their stories, and find out what it is that they need to make life a little more comfortable in their situation.

Ruth is also researching all those who are actively involved in supporting the homeless and looking to facilitate connecting them together. Ruth feels that if everyone worked more closely together with the homeless then we can have an even greater impact.

Find out more:   Website   Facebook    Twitter

Homeless Warriors

This initiative has recently started with the massive energy of Stephen Phoenix Russell. Almost homeless himself Stephen has become a tireless warrior in Watford to help remove the stigma that is attached to homelessness.

Stephen provides a unique outreach service for those living on the streets. Through talking and chatting with the homeless directly, Stephen has been able to build a mental profile of each individual and is now attending to their specific individual needs. So effective is Stephen's approach that the homeless are affectionately calling him their 'Personal shopper'.

Stephen communicates all the work he is doing through the Facebook Page 'Homeless Warriors' (recently renamed) where you can read about the daily activity and how the generous people of Watford are contributing to help Stephen on his mission.

Find out more:   Homeless Warriors (Facebook)

New Hope

The New Hope Trust has been in Watford since 1990. A local charity with a long service record in supporting the homeless of Watford. Started by two housewives who felt moved to take action when seeing the homeless sleeping around the St. Mary's area, New Hope has grown from a soup kitchen and a few basic services to providing 61 beds every night and a total of 8 accommodation services.

New Hope is funded / supported from a variety of different sources including Watford Council, Three Rivers District Council and work closely with the Salvation Army Housing Association, Places for People and Herts Young Homeless.

New Hope have additional revenue generating services to fund their extensive work in the area... 2 shops, one in Watford (Queens Road) and another in Croxley (New Road) and an online store.

Today New Hope is one of the largest providers of services to the Homeless in the Home Counties.

Find out more : Website

A Slice of Happiness

A local charity which is in the process of being set up to bring to Watford an idea that has been successful in San Francisco and Los Angeles. A 3.5 ton truck with WiFi converted into a support vehicle for a multitude of services that are needed by the Homeless.

Shower and laundry facilities, support workshops for mental health, drug and alcohol misuse, signposting, outreach, GP, dentist and chiropodist are some of the services that they are looking to provide. Currently they are raising awareness and already have hundreds of followers and offers to volunteer their services to support this much needed facility in Watford which will help to make  huge difference. It can also serve as a distribution point for clothes, bedding, shoes, and other items that are in constant need.

Awareness started in February this year and once the charity registration number comes through the will start applying for funding and begin fund raising activities. They are already building their public profile with great connections locally and wider afield there is huge interest and passion to ensure this happens fast.

Find out more : Facebook page

Final Words...

Each of the above (and others not mentioned) are an integral part of the support, compassion and empathy that is needed for those that are homeless in Watford. None can provide the complete solution and multiple approaches are needed to ensure that the wide variety of needs can be catered for...

Indeed with so many different strands the homeless can be comforted that if any should disappear there will always be others there to plug the gap.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Christmas Day? WT....?

Eh? Christmas Day at Easter?! Well all I can say is I have been very busy!! I/m not a social media junkie, and recently became aware that some people think they 'know' me by what is written in social media. It's another example of the rapid judgementalism which we all seem to suffer from...fake news people!! That said, I have taken an extraordinarily long time to finish my blog, and to update the Watford Homeless website. I am remiss, and shall put this straight forthwith. Hence Christmas...

I'm a bit 'bah humbug' about Christmas. I find the whole build up quite stressful, loads of people in the shops and a very materialistic attitude from the entire world (or so it seems). I do daydream about going away, having a 'not Christmas' somewhere but where would I go to escape? Every media channel from Facebook to terrestrial t.v. gets infected by the seasonal bug. I would have to find a total retreat, somewhere off the beaten track, and disconnect from all things electronic from say, October to December (those early adverts drive me crazy!).

Instead, I try to get in the spirit...but this year I refused to engage in the mass commercialisation of what was, once, a simple Pagan festival. I decided not to buy presents. This is how the idea of volunteering on Christmas Day began.

A work colleague, Sarah Wood approached me (knowing my feelings about the season of goodwill!) about spending some time with the homeless on Christmas morning instead. This little project just grew and soon enough we had a little army of well-wishers. The New Hope trust were pleased with our donations and one of the nice things was having children involved as well.

We raised a small amount - which are going on pants yet again - to donate, in addition to the small food mountain that some people brought along!

What to do next year? Perhaps this is my 'retreat' to do something for others and try to forget the Christmas madness all around.

Bah humbug and a Happy New Year :)

(Seriously, Ruth, it's Happy Easter!!!)

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Open Talk TV SWHerts moves a step closer...

It was back in 2016 that the original idea was mooted for a local TV channel to provide a voice for local people to share stories about local issues.

Over the past couple of months this has been resurrected. Plenty of discussions have been taking place with Victoria Hart of Hart-in-Media a local  award winning video production company to bring this into being.

Victoria Hart
The aim of the TV Channel is to bring stories to light of things going on in our community which need addressing. This isn't an opportunity to just have a moan, rather, to look at the situation and work out how it can be turned around so everyone can win.

We often see in society situations that don't sit well with us, or that we feel could be improved. Being a completely independent channel... not funded by business or others with specific agenda's we are hoping that Open Talk TV - SWHerts can begin a trend that starts to emerge in other parts of the country...

There are a great many stories out there... sometimes they are only from one perspective, but by airing those views and canvassing others, hopefully we can begin the process of opening dialogue and seeking solutions where everyone wins, rather than just a few with influence and the financial strength.

Example of recent work by Victoria Hart

Friday, 2 March 2018

Community, Conversation and Coffee

On the 1st Thursday of every month a number of people from Carpenders Park and South Oxhey meet at Perk Coffee shop on Delta Gain. the 1st of March was no exception... although the weather did conspire to make it a little more difficult than usual.

The coffee shop was as warm as ever... the hospitality friendly and inviting.. and the coffee up to its usual amazing standard! The conversation was also very interesting... 

This month two of the local councillors from the area attended along with a selection of local business people and it was nice to see Caroline and Paul the new occupants of the Hairdressers on Delta Gain.

Conversation turned to the redevelopment in South Oxhey and the new occupancy deal for businesses that want to be there. Rents are allegedly 3 times what they were before and only a tiny percentage of the old businesses are able to return there. The hairdressers moving in to Delta Gain are from the old South Oxhey parade.

Also discussed was the parking situation behind Delta Gain. Many folk park there and head into London on the train, others use it as a spare off road parking facility for extra cars... and worse! The challenge with the car park is that it is in private hands. There is little the council can do about it.

I can't help feeling that if it was explained to the land owner that it would benefit everyone (including themselves) if the car park was better managed then they would be in favour. If more people could park easily... they would use the shops more often (raise the vibrancy of the parade)... this would in turn help the local businesses to be more successful with less churn and change... which ultimately would mean less admin and work for the landowner... it could be a win / win / win and everyone benefit... which would then benefit the community... Maybe a chance for some community mediation?

Not just Conversation though...

A number of the local businesses also attend the monthly Business Development Network meeting we also host at Perk... this is on the first Tuesday evening (6:30-8:00pm) and enables local businesses who want to work as a team, help and support each other to meet on a regular basis. If you'd like to come along on the 6th March the link is here... if your first visit then use the promo code: "1stVisit" to come along for free and experience what we do... very friendly, no pressure, great local people.

Learning & Development... 

in amongst the other discussions yesterday there was still time to pick up tips, tricks, get connected, explore new ideas and even get help with technical issues on Spreadsheets... spreadsheets was a subject of one of our regular "Learning Sessions" series.

On each Tuesday we run a series of "Learning Sessions" to enable us all to upskill. More info here

There are plenty of community events being hosted in South West Herts throughout the month so if you would like to come along and join in the conversation then please do... you will find everything listed both on the SWHerts Facebook Page and the calendar for Link4Growth SWHerts.