Knitting & nattering at Healthy Planet’s Books for Free centre in Upminster

We are pleased to launch a new series of blogs about each of our 38 Books for Free centres across England and Wales.  We want to highlight the amazing work done by the volunteers that run the centres and showcase their unique Our first interview is with Lead Volunteer, Daphne.

Daphne tells us all

Daphne tells us all

Tell us about this Books for Free centre…

Books for Free Upminster (in the London Borough of Havering) opened in premises previously occupied by a Woolwich building society branch, in September 2010. We have a large collection of books, vinyl, audio & video tapes, CDs, we can find something for everyone that visits young and old.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering for Healthy Planet and what do you get out of it?

I’ve been at the centre from the beginning – my husband and I had both retired a couple of years beforehand (Daphne worked in the health service) but I was never as keen as he was to retire – They [husbands] just want you to wait on them all the time hand and foot! My husband was passing by one day and noticed in the window the advert for a volunteer to start up the centre here. We initially opened the doors with just a single table near the door. We even asked a local Indian restaurant who were having a refurbishment if we could have their old tables. Otherwise they would just have been thrown away.

I live close the centre and I’ve lived in the town for 30 years – I knew very few people in the town other than my close neighbours before Books for Free. Now I know so many faces to say hello to, it’s great.

Browsers in the Upminster centre

Browsers in the Upminster centre

Male Visitor: “It’s friendly at Upminster Books for Free and adds to my bedside table book collection. They have a great selection and we often donate books and always return books we pick up from the centre. No one likes to see books go to waste so this is a great way to save and reuse them.”

Female Visitor: “When it first opened I was wary about coming in but when I did it was so friendly and I love that I never know what I am going to find, I always bring the books back when I am finished with them.”

Dave & Daphne Volunteers

Dave & Daphne Volunteers

Your centre is now fully sustainable – book donations from visitors keep stock levels up. Visitors often donate a carrier bag of books – and the bag then gets reused as well.

Where else do the book donations you receive come from?

We have a good relationship now with charity shops in the area. They donate books to us that they can’t sell. Local fetes do the same.  All the unsold or unwanted books that had no where to go except landfill can now come here to continue their life. There’s also someone who does house clearances and often brings us books from those. And there was a lady who came to us who had just had a bring & buy sale at her WI (Women’s Institute). She told us she knew instantly where to bring the books they couldn’t sell. We have a ‘Look for me, keep for me’ book, where we write down their requests so that when the type of book is donated to us we know immediately if someone is interested in it, and then we give them a call to let them know.

Knitting circle Upminster

Knitting circle Upminster

Does your BFF centre have any group’s meetings or special events? Could the general public get any more involved?

We have a weekly knitting circle (this afternoon, every Wednesday). Visitors sometimes come in to ask the regular ladies for a bit of help with their knitting. The rest of the time they spend knitting – with wool donated to the centre – making blankets for the premature baby units of the local hospitals, and hats and scarves for the local clothing guild, which distribute garments to people in need and The Mission to Seafarers charity. Only two of the four ladies here today knew each other before they started coming here. They enjoy the natter just as much as the knitting. They also hold the occasional coffee morning. Daphne would like to be able to start up a storytelling event for the children.

Books and browsers at Books for Free Upminster

Books and browsers at Books for Free Upminster

Volunteers at Upminster Books for Free

Volunteers at Upminster Books for Free

Tell us about your team of volunteers…

Some are what I call our converted customers, basically people who I recognise as book nuts, like myself, because I will have noticed them browsing for periods of an hour or more at a time. They might as well help us by doing a three hour shift – they’re here that long anyway! And we have one volunteer who simply comes to the centre to take away our rubbish for us.

How do they work well together? Do you have any stories?

Two of our team are recently widowed ladies who now volunteer together on Sundays – They live on the same street but before they volunteered at Books for Free they didn’t know each other!

Books donated to the centre

Books donated to the centre

It’s very laidback here, and I don’t like ever having to throw visitors out because it’s time to close [The door does indeed finally close on the day we visit around twenty minutes or so after three o’clock, only once the final visitor of the day has chosen what they want to take] Last week we [Daphne, and recently retired engineer Dave} helped pass the time by reading up about world history and geography – discovering the names of new countries in the world and how they came into existence.

We have a retired solicitor among our team. He looks after any law books we get in and offers free legal advice to any visitors who ask.

Dave tells us he likes Books for Free because he felt bored at home since retiring in February, and volunteering is social – he enjoys meeting different people, listening to their stories, and making new friends.

Stories shared with all generations

Stories shared with all generations

Does your centre work alongside any particular organisation, and what does the relationship do for your centre?

Local authorities have asked us to place a couple of people with learning difficulties – they’re a part of our team of volunteers.  We have a community noticeboard by the door, and as an example of some of the help that visitors provide to the centre, there’s one who regularly brings us dog food which we then pass on to a local charity which cares for retired greyhounds. If there are any magazines for older people that the visitors don’t take, we send them to homes for the elderly rather than recycle them because they have difficulty holding weighty books but still enjoy having something to read. Any books we think won’t be of any interest to our visitors we tear out the pages and donate to schools for the children to make papier mache.

Do you have a favourite type of book yourself?

I like science fiction (Julian May, Iain Banks), thrillers and murder mysteries. We get to know what types of books our regular visitors enjoy.

Interested in Books for Free? Want to get involved?

You can volunteer, visit or donate books at any of our 38 centres across the U.K

If you would like to find a centre near you please visit our website: www.healthyplanet.org/booksforfree

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Be the start – campaign for May 2013

May 2013 be the start of more vibrant communities

May 2013 be the start of more vibrant communities

We’re proud to be part of a nationwide campaign by Start UK called #bethestart which is featuring us on the 13th of May around our #Booksforfree project encouraging sustainability in the community.

If you would like to find out more please visit http://www.bethestart.org/

Be the Start of rescuing books from going to waste.  As part of their goal to rescue books from going to waste, Healthy Planet is asking for pledges from the public to rescue books. This may be by donating books, organising a book swap at your school or office, or share books amongst friends. Conversation is taking place on twitter, #bethestart and @healthy_planet

We're part of start

We’re part of start

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Roar of the Tiger

The Healthy Planet conservation team were very excited to hear the latest developments from our Phoenix fund partner project in Russia last month, where the Tiger team are busy protecting the last strong hold of the endangered Amur Tiger’s habitat.

Camera trap-1, (c) ZSL, Zov Tigra National Park_small

Camera trap-1, (c) ZSL, Zov Tigra National Park_small

The Zov Tigra National Park (“Roar of the Tiger”) is the first protected area of its kind in Russia’s Far East. The 200,000-acre park, established in 2008, protects the tiger’s habitat while simultaneously allowing for nature tourism.

The Park can boast about rich biodiversity: as many as 57 rare and endangered plant species and six mammals, listed in the Red Book, inhabit the protected area. According to the census conducted in 2011, there are 4 resident Amur tigers in the national park. Also, 4 more tigers visit the protected area on a regular basis. Stable numbers of tigers and their prey species are one of the main accomplishments of the project. The monitoring data showed that besides 8 Amur tigers, there are 1,201 Manchurian deer, 99 sika deer, 800 roe deer and 189 wild boars in the Park.

Conservation in action

Due to the mountainous terrain to the north and south of the Park and a few surfaced roads, vehicular access is extremely limited and particularly so during winter and spring, when roads become impassable. In June 2012, thanks to financial support from Healthy Planet, the Phoenix Fund provided the Park’s anti-poaching teams with a quad bike (ATV). Since July the ATV has been used intensively by the guards and showed great performance.

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A GPS Fleet Tracking equipment was installed on the ATV. The Vehicle Tracking System allows to create an electronic record of the movements of the vehicle and constantly keep track of the whereabouts of the vehicle through its communication with various local satellites, and then periodically sends a signal to a database, where the information is stored and analysed. A map below shows the ATV movements and routes.

sergei“The Grizzly ATV became a truly irreplaceable transport for our everyday work,” comments the law-enforcement officer of the Zov Tigra National Park Sergei Marchenko. “It can take up to two people with 80 kg of the equipment to the patrol.

 In the first months of work we already were able to get to the arduous areas with no roads, cross the Milogradovka river fords. Now, poachers who are very well equipped these days have no advantage, and it is especially important in the autumn season when hunters go to forest to harvest wild game. ”

Success

From July 1st through December 31st 2012 the inspectors of Zov Tigra National Park achieved the following results:

– 164 anti-poaching patrols were conducted
– 17 administrative citations were issued during the ATV patrols
– 13 violations of protection regime were revealed
– 1,101 km patrolled on foot
– 539 km patrolled by ATV
– 4,591 km covered by cars and motorcycles

Educational classes supported

‘Thanks to support from the Healthy Planet, we continued to implement the project aimed at conserving Amur tigers by focusing on environmental education of local people through holding ecological lessons at Lazovsky Ecological Centre, schools and kindergartens of Lazovsky district, attracting local people towards tiger conservation issues and involving them in nature conservation events.’

The Lazovsky Ecological Centre’s mission is to design and facilitate programs and opportunities that promote responsible relationship with the natural world, demonstrate and promote world sustainability, encourage experiential learning, creativity and playfulness, and cooperate with other organizations. The Centre’s target groups are school and kindergarten children, their families, local educators, tourists and other conservation-oriented public groups. Staff members fulfil the Centre’s educational mission by interpreting studies of conservation and environmental protection in both field and classroom environments.

The eco-centre held 89 ecological events such as lectures and seminars, public educational excursions and a variety of environmentally oriented actions for 1,927 children in age between 4 and 17; produced and distributed informational materials devoted to big cats of Primorye, local fauna, Amur tiger and its habitat, food chains, and tiger monitoring methods.

In August, the educators organized annual celebration of Tiger Day holiday twice. First celebration was held on August 8 on the sea shore of Petrov Bay. The specialists of the Educational Department of the Lazovsky Nature Reserve together with young activists entertained the holidaymakers with various contests, quizzes and interactive games. As many as 140 children and adults became active participants of the Tiger Day Festival and demonstrated their good knowledge of tiger conservation issues. On August 21, the Tiger Day Festival was celebrated by residents of Preobrazhenye village. Over 350 people dressed up in tiger costumes participated in a festive procession and competed in numerous contests. As always, the holiday drew much attention by people in Lazovsky district and proved to be success.

Healthy Planet’s Conservation Community allows you to support grass root conservation projects around the world. It is a fun and engaging way for anyone, anywhere to support real conservation projects that are helping to make a healthier planet.

Get involved

www.conservationcommunity.org
www.twitter.com/conservationhp
http://www.facebook.com/ConservationCommunity

Get On the Map!

Conservation Community launch event_Nov 12On Tuesday 27th November I attended my first event as part of the Healthy Planet team at the launch of the Conservation Community and the Get on the Map initiative, which attracted a full crowd of enthusiastic attendees to Google Campus London.

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Shaylesh Patel – click on image to enlarge

The Talks
The evening kicked off with an inspiring talk from Shaylesh Patel founder of Healthy Planet, with the hard-hitting line “for the first time since records began, our kids are on track to lead a shorter life than their parents’’ – what a way to engage an audience! Shaylesh passionately spoke about the greener and healthier choices that we, as individuals, can make to help create a better planet for future generations, and the wide variety of projects that Healthy Planet has initiated. Being a new intern at the organisation the success of the projects astounded me as much as the audience! The Books for Free initiative for example, has so far saved over 2 million books from being pulped or sent to landfill – that is a whole lot of books!

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Dr Mark Mulligan – click on image to enlarge

Next up on stage was Dr Mark Mulligan – lecturer at King’s College London and chair of the conservation advisory board for the Healthy Planet Foundation. Mark – clearly an avid conservationist – explained the core concepts behind the development of the Conservation Community which aims to combine knowledge, technology and people to actively get involved in conservation through the use of mapping and social networking. The online experience allows the user to choose projects to get involved in, create an online profile, interact with members and spread the word of conservation to the wider community. Amusingly the social media fanatics in the room all looked extremely excited at the prospect of creating a new online profile and being awarded with badges for frantically tweeting!

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Ed Parsons – click on image to enlarge

The final speaker of the evening was Ed Parsons – Google’s Geospatial Technologist – who ended the talks with a surge of optimism. He outlined the major impacts that technological advances have already had on increasing global communication and social interaction, and the positive knock on effects to global conservation. Ed continued to say that as technology continues to spread, we as individuals can build relationships with conservation projects that we care about, we can tackle local and global issues, and we can make a real impact on the natural world.

The Activities
AL0A4192The clearly inspired audience were then given the opportunity to make their own individual conservation hopes and dreams heard. To start, everyone was assigned to a team which reflected a current Conservation Community project – I was team Tiger to reflect the Phoenix Fund mission to conserve the Amur Tigers in the Russia Far East.

After learning about the different approaches Healthy Planet are undertaking to increase the conservation of each species, everyone was asked to think of their own conservation wish and attach the wish to the Healthy Planet Map – note the name of the initiative Get on the Map! Reading some of these wishes was definitely the highlight of my evening, seeing everyone talk about their favourite animals and what they would like to see done to help conserve our world for centuries to come was inspiring! All these wishes are online on flickr for everyone to view.

Conservation wishes

My personal favourite wish has to be “that future generations will be able to enjoy immense biodiversity both overseas and in the UK”.

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The Chat
The final part of the evening ‘networking’ was the part I was most dreading! Typically, when I’m nervous I stumble over my words and end up hiding in a corner, so the idea of approaching a complete stranger and plucking an intellectual conversation from thin air was terrifying! Fortunately for me however, whilst debating whether I was safer hiding in the ladies or under the stage, I was approached by a lovely young gentleman who too admitted to contemplating running to the foyer and texting his entire address book as a tempting solution to his nerves. Surprisingly I was much more at ease after this conversation – safety in numbers and all. Soon the buzz of the evening filled the air, the conversation (and wine) was easily flowing, ideas were bounding, and the growing interest in the Conservation Community was obvious.

Animal themed photo booth

Animal themed photo booth

The Food
The final triumph of the evening was the excellently chosen vegan canapé selection which was provided by Vegan Peasant Catering. The food was delicious, and that is coming from someone who usually shrivels away from a humus pot and anything resembling a vegetable. I can proudly say I tried Tahini Ganoush and Sage Crisp & Candied Lemon Zest on Crostini. In addition for anyone reading this who wants to spark a conversation with a group of powerful looking women –  go armed with a tray of Pink Sea Salted Brownies, women are like putty in your hands. See all the photos from the event on Healthy Planet Flickr.

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Find out more at on the Conservation Community Website our storify from the night or Follow Us on Twitter or Facebook!

You can watch the talks on You Tube Conservation Community launch by Healthy Planet at Google Campus

We are currently editing a short film by potentialproductions.org which will include excerpts from the event and mini interviews with the guests, watch this space.

Blog post written by Rhiannon Downer: Marketing & Communications intern at Healthy Planet

Oh no, not more socks!

WImagee all get the chance to brush up on our acting skills at Christmas. You have to put on the face of a lottery winner as you unwrap that well-meaning but awful present.

When the festive period ends, we’re left wondering what we should do with our unwanted gifts. It is estimated that 40% of toys and novelty presents end up in the bin within a year, so instead of throwing them away or leaving them in the back of a cupboard why not make sure that they go to a good home?

Luckily, in January and February Healthy Planet is helping you to do that.

Stuff for Free is a giant community reuse event that gives you the opportunity to swap those unwanted presents for something more to your liking.

What’s more, you’ll be helping the environment. By re-using things instead of throwing them away Healthy Planet is reminding us that by taking part we will be helping to reduce landfill waste, while saving the earth’s valuable resources and helping ourselves find something that we really do want.

To take part Healthy Planet is inviting everyone to:

The Vision Warehouse
15 Kendal Avenue
Acton W3 0AF

Drop off your unwanted stuff between 12 and 22 January and to take your pick of the collected stock from 27 to 29 January.

It’s free, fun and you never know what you might find.

For details, check out our Stuff for Free web page.