An innovative partnership between Kisharon Langdon and a library in north-west London is reaping benefits for library users as well as people with learning disabilities and autistic people.
Running throughout the winter, the partnership enables a number of volunteers from Kisharon Langdon charity to create what has become known as a ”warm hub” at the Child’s Hill Library by serving soup and hot drinks. They also put together and and give out “warm packs”, which consist of a hat, gloves, a scarf, woolly socks, a jumper and a blanket for people in need.
Aviva Braunold, Kisharon Langdon development and learning lead, said that the project, supported by a Barnet Innovation Community Fund grant, enhanced the volunteers’ skills, telling the JC: “It really helps with IT skills since the volunteers have to use email and learn how to go online. Using a spreadsheet develops numeracy and literacy skills, as does doing price comparisons in shops and online when they need to restock the refreshments.”
Braunold said that the volunteers used specially adapted spreadsheets with images of items of clothing to make them more user-friendly.
Library vistors are able to order the packs, which are made up at the Kisharon Langdon centre in Hendon, in specific child and adult sizes. Once they are ready for collection, the customer will receive a text “inviting them to come into the library, pick up their warm pack and also get a hot drink”, she said.
Putting together the warm packs required teamwork skills since “everyone is communicating directly with one another", and several people have taken part in food safety and customer services courses, learning basic hygiene to help them serve drinks and soup to library visitors safely. “All these skills can be put down on the volunteers’ CV,” said Braunold.
Braunold has found that the “warm hub” project has helped build confidence. “The feedback we get from the volunteers is that they really enjoy being able to help other people, which is so empowering. They have a real sense of achievement.”
Childs Hill Library has a partnership with Kisharon Langdon. The library also provides IT support (Photo: Kisharon Langdon)
Dov, a volunteer with Kisharon Langdon, said: “I made the warm packs. I went to the shops to buy the hats. I put the socks in the bags for the orders. I put the bags in the right order. I liked sending a text message on the work phone to the people about the warm packs….They said: ‘Thank you’, which was nice of them...I enjoyed helping people.”
Fellow volunteer Shammai said: “Teamwork is dreamwork. We are the dream team. I like learning and doing well, and I can use my new skills to help others and that is a good thing”, while Talya described the warm pack project as “the best”, adding: “I’m very good at it.”
Braunold said that Kisharon Langdon’s “person-centred approach” was “about celebrating people’s strengths. It’s not about what people can’t do, but about enabling people fulfil their potential. Often people don’t realise what they can do until they try it.”
Library manager Neha Dhakar said that the Kisharon Langdon volunteers played a pivotal role in creating a welcoming environment for visitors, who “come to the warm hub at the library to read the papers with a drink, others to have a chat. Parents drop in on their way to pick up children from school and children pop in after lessons for soup. Others want help with IT or support with language skills.”