Daylight Saving Time!


VPA BLOG! – Week 6

As I sit here watching the football on a very questionable illegal internet feed, I have finally got round to writing the blog for week 6. Week 5 was supposed to be done by the ever so reliable Tawanda, but as you may be able to see from the lack of text, it has not been uploaded (apparently he wrote three pages worth but it didn’t upload) – sure you did…

Anyway things are getting really interesting for the volunteers now, as we hit the halfway mark of the 12-week placement and everybody starts to feel the heat of deadlines and obismal weather etc. Speaking for myself, I currently have so much on my plate at the moment. My placement is an external project, working with Rochdale Boroughwide Housing – a local housing mutual. I am really enjoying my placement – gaining the experience I want, working on a frontline service, meeting people and having fun along the way. I also volunteer half a day a week at a local housing charity – The Bond Board. On top of all this, I have just this week started training for a weekend call centre role which at least is paid! Not enough hours in the day…


So week 6, Monday – Wednesday we were all getting busy with our projects. Here is what everyone got upto;


The computers were still down at RBH so I had to be quite flexible with my work. I helped out with the job club at the drop-in centre on Monday, helping a regular service user get a job interview! Tuesday consisted of mainly working on my folder whilst also helping out with the gardening club and planning a funding bid for the group. Wednesday was really productive, as I planned a consultation session for some housing development work with a senior housing officer. I also had some good news regarding the possibility of a paid position within the company!


Getting stuck into the planning of their Halloween event by leafleting and putting up posters in Middleton. They also got chased by a dog which was in keeping with the spirit of their Halloween plans. They also enjoyed maintaining Boarshaw Clough and working on the path.

James and Tawanda

More door knocking. I wish there was more to say…


Besides swanning off to Turkey and basking in the sun, she attended a job interview in the North East for a Landscape Design position with Groundwork, fingers crossed for you Karen!


Liz has been sniffling and snotting all over the place all week. However she still managed to bake the most incredible carrot cake. It is highly recommended that she goes into business selling baked goods. ACTION: TAWANDA TO BANKROLL THE PROJECT.

In terms of work, Liz has been stuck at her desk, researching, telephoning and e-mailing. Not good at all!

Bits and bobs

I have a habit of ranting on so I will summarise some of the other mundane topics which have been doing the rounds amongst the current VPA team:

– It has been commented on that there has been limited and sometimes zero supply of milk. This is obviously unacceptable 😉

– We have been trying to figure out how best to go about delivering the final presentation. Most are keen to film a day in the life of a volunteer which requires a handhelp video camera and a good video editor!

– Our team night out is this weekend. We are off to a Thai restaurant to fill our boots before we hit some bars and spend money we don’t have! I hope everyone can make it!

– Those of us doing countryside skills are pairing up and planning an improvement to the site. It is getting very wet and windy now which means my feet will get very cold…


– Apparently we have a ‘leaf test’ or something soon? All to revise…

-Oh and the team trip is next Thursday! I am not sure where we are going yet but it should be good fun.

Marc’s bit

I think that is enough waffling for one week so I will just leave on one final note;


Having planned to let my hair down and go to the Warehouse Projects ‘Halloween Special’ last Friday, it seemed all my birthdays had come at once when not only did my friend got us in as VIP’s with FREE entry (Tickets normally £26) we also gained exclusive access to the boiler room in which you could watch all your favourite DJ’s that night play live in front of you in a room of no more than thirty people. Talk about up-close and personal! Needless to say I had an unbelievable night. I may still have some zombie make up on my face though…


Much love x


Don’t rain on my parade (but at least there’s cake) – week 4


Monday to Wednesday we have been carrying on with our projects. Here what few of us have been doing:

James – Turned into Mr Postman spending 6 hours stuffing envelopes but he did it singing many a tuneful song . He also learnt about the exciting new plans in Business Services

Karen – Finished drawing the bridge design.

Mac – Monday worked in the office designing posters. Tuesday consulted with a garden group and is going to write a bid so that they can by some equipment and go on trips. Also worked with children in the afternoon doing a steering group (Project our place)

Sarah and Rachel -Planned the finer details for the Spooky spectacular and maintenance events.  Looking forward to hosting the events and have lots of exciting ideas such as nature trail where we will be looking for fairy goblets (AKA Acorns)

Sharaz – Looked up bid ideas.

Liz – Was ill for Part of the week but for the rest week worked on Prezzie and emailing people

Field Trip


The Vistors centre

On a very wet and windy Thursday everyone  visited  Brockholes in Preston. With an amazing nature site, where the whole visitor centre is floating on water. First stop was the cafe with a nice hot drink and a slice of cake, Yummy!  In such a beautiful surrounding, it was a perfect place for a team meeting and to catch up on the weeks progress.  An extra bonus was the animal joke book found by James, so we could open with some delightful jokes such as “How do we know vultures are religious?” “ Because they are birds of prey” Bazinga!


The ancient Woodland

We then went for an exploration around the ancient woodland , we improved our tree Id skills along the way (What leaf can you high five? A sycamore).Half way around we escaped the rain by sheltering in the bird hide, a perfect place for a photo opportunity of the local wildlife and to jump out and scare the living daylights out of our fellow VPA colleges .

We arrived back the visitor centre felling refreshed and full of inspiration for local events, then, it was time for lunch followed by nice browse around the shop, full of interesting nature related goodies.

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Summit  Site

On Friday with limited numbers (get well soon team) we made another visit to Summit Site to do some more clearing.  We cut back the shrubs around the path at the entrance and made a start clearing the car park. We made some excellent progress as the photos show. There is something strangely satisfying about lopping trees and pulling up weeds. We had dinner around a camp fire courtesy of Jo, with some nice hot drinks and delicious vegan blueberry cakes baked by Karen.

Path afterwards

Path before we started work

Week Three

Week three saw all of us getting stuck into our projects for the first time. Creativity was flowing, and lots of fun was had! Between us, we’re tackling quite a diverse range of projects:

Rachel and Sarah are working on the Operation Groundwork project at Boarshaw Clough, planning conservation and community engagement events. They’re especially excited about their upcoming Hallowe’en event!

James and Tawanda are working on the Warmer Home project, visiting local homes to provide advice about energy-efficiency measures to help householders to save money and energy.

Liz and Stephen are working on Shaw and Crompton Sundays, preparing a presentation for local schools and community groups to inform them of upcoming events. Their first event, Family Fun in the Woods, is taking place this Sunday.

Marc is working with the Rochdale Boroughwide Housing Group on a range of activities. He will be undertaking marketing and bid-writing tasks, and working on a community garden project.

Sharaz is working on a project designed to encourage younger people to engage with their community using digital means. He’s planning the development of an app which will allow young people to report sightings of instances such as anti-social behaviour.

Karen is working with the architecture team, working on construction drawings for a stone bridge which will form part of a natural play park. She is also helping to Photoshop a construction drawing for a BMX site at Mandale Park.

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to one of our VPA team during Week Three, as Sabrina left us to begin her Masters degree at Lancaster University. Best of luck, Sabrina, we’ll miss you!

On Thursday, the VPAs had their weekly meeting, with cake kindly supplied by Tawanda. We shared details of our new projects, discussed our Community Volunteering coursework and, perhaps most excitedly, planned our team trip to Brockholes nature reserve next week! We spent the rest of the morning learning about project planning, and in the afternoon, we had digital photography training, and learnt to use photo editing software.


One of James’ photos from the digital photography session

One of Sarah’s photos from the digital photography session


On Friday, we carried out conservation work at the Summit nature site, pruning, coppicing, and felling hazel trees. It’s satisfying work; we’re already starting to see a huge difference in the site after just two weeks! Tired but happy, we arrived back at Groundwork looking forward to another great week on the VPA scheme.

Week two

Monday 24/09/12

It was with no doubt a week  full of  ”discovery ”.  A tour round the building showed us how big actually Groundwork Oldham and Rochdale is, full of offices, kitchens and important people. We had the chance of meeting all the Team which were glad and happy to receive us and we even tasted some hilarious cakes offered by the Princes Trust team. The famous tour round the building had It’s climax when an amazing feeling of fun and happiness rushed in to our hearts as we  discovered the pool table yeahhhh ¡¡¡¡

………and yes the question I am asking myself right now is  ” Will  Marc ever loose a game  ¡¡¡¡???? ”

Leaving aside the fun, we had to settle down seriously for some important and useful training, equality and diversity is something crucial for  Volunteering in a social environment, Mrs Clare Young  started the class with  a very peculiar and  kind of obscure way: We were all oblige to say something secret about ourselves who no one would no in a first interaction…… Woooooo really amazing stuff came out, meeting Melanie Griffith ????, Coronation Street ???, David Attenborough ???, Under water sports ????

Tuesday 25/09/12

Early that week we were discovering with enthusiasm our brand new business office for the VPA students yeahhhh ¡¡¡¡¡¡ The computers were awesome, very quick and easy to manage…and for the first time we were using our personal Groundwork email, yes we were definitely part of the organization.

Some Marketing  training with Andrew Fowler really gave a background about the themes related to the organization and encouraged us ‘’ please do not lose an opportunity to get involved and  gain any more experiences  you would desire to obtain ‘’

Later date afternoon an amusing class on bid writing with Mr Howes showed us the importance of shifting the verbal structure of phrases/words/ideas we commonly use in order to appear  much more persuasive, incredible and almost magic techniques  to engage…….

wednesday 26/09/12

By Wednesday we were already starting to get ready for our working placement by just going directly to our office, computers on ¡¡¡ and filling the exercises, work book and sorting out our folders which were pretty much in a mess…Sorry Jo ¡¡¡¡¡¡. Victoria Martin gave us a small background to the ” complex ” financial system held at Groundwork.  Maybe a bit more playful and interesting was Jo’s  training on Safeguarding and Child protection where we made teams in order to work in group and later discovering what kind of learning method we personally have  (Visual, audio or Kinesthetic) I am Kinesthetic !!!!!

Thursday 27/09/12

Mr ” Magic ” Beere delighted  us with some magical cards and coins that James Miguel (myself ) is still trying to figure out….. Mike Beere gave us a real solid background on Environmental Standards and how Groundwork Oldham and Rochdale is committed to the  ISO 14001 environmental management.

On Thursday we also had an intense morning and afternoon on one of the most important issues at groundwork ‘’ the health and safety rules and risk assesment‘’ . Mr Holloway  communicated to us with efficient and engagement helping us to understand the importance of  providing  training and equipment to Volunteers and how these could compromise to the organization.

Friday 28/09/12

                               The Summit Nature Site’s sign (nearly hiding away)

On Friday we were once again prepared for a wonderful morning out at the Summit Nature Park, it was so sunny and the birds were singing… ( well that was actually our most desirable dream ). Fortunately we had equipment as it is followed in the health and safety rules . Incredible  Dene gave  James Miguel (myself again) medical assistance since he had a bump to the head…. Thanks for saving my life Dene ¡¡¡¡¡ next time I will ask the the door frame to move on a little….!

Walking in the rain through the still wild countryside of Littleborough was indeed exciting and I say ‘’still’’ because the VPA is   already  organizing projects, risk assessments and actions to make it a much better place…

With Kindness,

                  James Miguel

Branch in middle of the path. (important for risk assesment)

Photograph revealing the wild nature

Sept-Dec (2012) VPA Week 1!


Hi everyone, we’re the new VPA team! Here is a picture of our beautiful faces….


From Left to Right we are: Steven, Karen, Tawanda, James Miguel, Liz, Tayo, Marc, Sarah, Sharaz, Sabrina and Rachel.


Our first day was a whirlwind of paperwork, pictures and ice breaker games as we started our ‘induction’. Day two was very much the same, with the addition of recipes and planning for our residential!


On Wednesday we set off to Brunt’s Barn in the Peak District for two days of conservation work with the Peak District National Park Authority. The rest of Wednesday was spent ‘balsalm bashing’ to remove the invasive himalayan balsalm which grows EVERYWHERE, outcompeting native species and removing water from the soil. The picture below shows Rachel and Sabrina in action (they are smiling so this was definately taken before the novelty wore off!)Image

After several hours we returned to the barn for hot showers and a meal cooked by team ‘A’. We feasted on roasted vegetables, hummus, falafel, chicken and potato wedges, followed by chocolate cake! The rest of the evening was spent playing games including the hilarious picture consequences.

The next morning we had breakfast and set off to build steps on a stretch of woodland path. As well as steps, drainage channels had to be placed in order to drain water off the path and keep it from turning into a muddy sludge. It rained most of the day which didn’t make the task any easier, and by the end everybody was covered in mud and sliding down the hill! We did however successfully get some steps built and everybody learnt something new!

Here is a picture of Steven digging a drainage channel…


and here’s one of Liz, Marc and James Miguel building a step……


For the last step we remembered to do a before and after shot to show how our step has helped improve the path….





Once it has stopped raining and some grass has grown on the edges of the path it will hopefully look a bit less like a building site! The picture below shows James Miguel and Tawanda showing off our efforts…


We returned to the Brunt’s Barn tired and covered in mud, eagerly awaiting team B’s chilli and apple pie! After dinner we played lots of crazy games including the celebrity game and empires, and were treated to some amusing, incredible and scary powerful magic tricks by James Miguel!

On Friday we returned home to finish a great first week of VPA.