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Meet our Trustee Hugo Sintes

With experience of supporting communities all around the world, Hugo joined us in 2021 and sits on our Grants & Partnership Committee.

Trustee of Hammersmith United Charities, Hugo Sintes, is currently Director of Corporate Partnerships at The Big Issue Foundation. He has 20 years of experience supporting small businesses and local communities in different parts of the world from Africa to Latin America. 

As well as being a trustee, what do you currently do? 

I have spent the last 20 years or so supporting small businesses and local communities in different parts of the world, first with Oxfam in Africa and Latin America, and most recently with various housing associations in different parts of the UK. My current job is with The Big Issue Foundation. As their Director of Corporate Partnerships, I work with companies that will support our mission, which is to enable vendors, typically people who have experienced homelessness, rebuild their lives by selling the magazine and developing new skills and local connections.  

What is your connection to Hammersmith?  

I grew up in Spain, but came to the UK to study in 2001 and have lived in Shepherd’s Bush for most of that time since. My partner and I love it here, and we connect with our community in different ways, through the local schools that our kids attend, local associations, sports, and restaurants! We love the buzz and diversity that Hammersmith offers.  

Can you tell us why you decided to become a trustee in your local area?  

I wanted to know more about my community and try to use my experience and skills to give something back. It’s also an opportunity to gain new skills and grow professionally. 

Since joining Hammersmith United Charities, what’s something you found out about the area? 

I’ve loved visiting and meeting residents in our two almshouses. More generally, I’ve been impressed with how many people and organisations try to support Hammersmith to be a vibrant and inclusive place to live.  

What do you see in the future for the Hammersmith community? 

I love it when communities build links and bridges, and businesses and people with different talents join in to help. There’s a lot of that in Hammersmith, and since joining HUC, I’ve seen a lot more than I knew existed! This gives me hope we have strong values and skills at hand. The expert advice provided by organisations such as H&F Law Centre, Citizens Advice or Crosslight is essential, and initiatives such as Barons Court Project and the Upper Room key for people at risk of homelessness. Also, H&F Giving is helping build even stronger connections and support in our community. There’s a long way to go still, but I think Hammersmith can become an example for London and the whole country, and I’m proud to be part of Hammersmith United Charities as we try to do our bit.  

What do you like to do when you’re not working? 

When the working day is over, I spend time with my kids, but I would not call that relaxing! When I am on holidays, I love listening to the sound of the sea. I’d advise anyone to sit in a garden or park nearby and watch and listen to nature. At Hammersmith United Charities, we believe the gardens in our almshouses are very important to our residents.  My two boys and I love playing football. They train on Saturday with a club in White City and you’ll see us often in any of the local parks kicking a ball. I grew up in Minorca, and we also love going back whenever it’s possible to see my family.  

What is your favourite book or film? 

I’ll watch any James Bond movie and re-read Tintin and Asterix comics in any new language I’m trying to learn! I also enjoy listening to music.  

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to become a trustee for a local organisation? 

My advice is that you research organisations which work on topics that matter to you, then  write to them to ask how you can help, it might be as a trustee, or in other ways.   


Find out more 

Opening our doors to older people in need of a home

We're inviting older people on a low income who need an affordable new home to tour our almshouses.

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Graphic saying In May 2024 we awarded £99,285 to 12 organisations supporting our local community!

May 2024 Community Grants announced

£99,285 to 12 organisations!

Every year, Hammersmith United Charities provides £400,000 to local groups that are creating positive change in our area of benefit. Our most recent grant round in May 2024 saw grants awarded to 12 groups, ranging from £300 to £14,990 and totalling £99,285.

The organisations receiving funding include This New Ground CIC, who are using their grant to support people with learning disabilities to move towards employment. Participants will benefit from weekly art sessions, a peer-led singing group and individual mentoring.  

Other grant-holders include the Mother and Child Welfare Organisation, who are using their grant to expand health equity projects, and Hikayetna, who are planning to create a series of short Arabic videos to improve access to mental health services. 

This New Ground CIC  

£14,990 towards the cost of providing 12 months of art workshops, a singing group and mentoring for more than 40 people with a learning disability. 

Women Aid and Empowerment CIC 

£14,950 to fund low-intensity exercise classes, such as chair-based yoga, mainly for people from a global majority background and those on a low income. 

The Reanella Trust 

£14,000 to provide counselling, mentoring and group activities for 50 young people who have disabilities. Mother and Child Welfare Organisation 

£12,000 to expand health equity projects for 380 people in Shepherds Bush, Wormholt and White City, focusing on building people’s confidence. 

Western Ballers Ltd 

£10,000 to fund parenting workshops for 150 parents and carers, many of whom are refugees or immigrants. 

Our Lady of Fatima Church 

£8,700 to support its food hub and activities such as chair-based exercise classes and sewing groups for up to 500 local people. Doorstep Library 

£6,000 to support the costs of up to 10 volunteer readers and to buy 40 children’s books. 

Hikayetna 

£6,000 to fund short educational videos for Arabic speakers to help them access mental health support. 

The Bush Theatre 

£5,000 to fund drama workshops and free theatre tickets for children and young people. Nourish Hub 

£5,000 towards the cost of providing community meals for 1,500 people in Hammersmith and Fulham, including staff costs. 

Old Oak Resident Association 

£2,345 towards weekly Zumba classes, a coach trip and meals for people in College Park and Old Oak, many of whom are on a very low income. 

The Grove Neighbourhood Centre  

£300 to subsidise a coach trip to Brighton for 30 people in Hammersmith and Fulham.

How to apply for a HUC Community Grant 

We hold three grant rounds each year and are particularly keen to hear from smaller, local organisations with a strong connection to their community and a working knowledge of the local area. Your project can be a one-off or ongoing. What interests us most is the difference you’ll make to the local people most in need. 

Please complete our Eligibility Quiz before applying, and then contact us at  grants@hamunitedcharities.com to tell us about your project. We like to talk to applicants before you apply so that we can get a better understanding of what you’re doing and answer any questions you may have. 

Find out more 

 

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Sign saying volunteers needed

How to find (and keep) volunteers

HUC grant-holders share their top tips.

Volunteers are at the heart of most local charities and community groups. According to the Government’s Community Life Survey, 16% of people volunteer in a formal capacity (e.g. through an organisation) at least once a month. While this figure seems high, the reality on the ground is that organisations across London are struggling to find volunteers.

Numerous reasons were discussed for this at a recent HUC grant-holders meeting. According to the group, a key challenge is finding volunteers who have the necessary skills, confidence and time to give. A lack of staff and resources to recruit, train and supervise volunteers was also raised.

Retaining volunteers is also a challenge. People often have to give up volunteering or reduce their hours when they find paid work, for example. This has become an increasing issue due to the cost-of-living crisis, with more people needing to work extra paid hours to make ends meet.

On a brighter note, the grant-holders had plenty of tried and tested ideas to share. These include:

Publicise opportunities

  • Make a short video to give potential volunteers a sense of what volunteering will be like.
  • Advertise in community spaces, e.g. churches, schools, doctors’ surgeries and libraries.
  • Make it very clear what the volunteer role is, including any specific skills that are needed.
  • Showcase existing volunteers who reflect your target communities.
  • Organise one-off events and small projects to give people a taste of volunteering.
  • Follow up with volunteers who’ve not helped out for a while.
  • Keep a list of people who’ve expressed an interest in your organisation to contact when you need volunteers (as long as you have their permission to do so).

    Photo of Doorstep Library volunteer with children
    Volunteering with Doorstep Library

Create a welcoming environment

  • Create a safe and inclusive environment.
  • Provide a good induction, along with training and ongoing supervision and/or mentoring.
  • Make people feel valued and invest in them.

Build a network

  • Build partnerships with relevant organisations, e.g. partner with colleges and universities to offer work-experience placements to students.
  • Ask other community groups and organisations to publicise your activities and volunteer vacancies, in exchange for publicising theirs to your audiences.

Other ideas

  • Make sure the first contact – whether in person or online – makes potential volunteers think “Wow, I want to be part of this.”
  • Create micro-jobs for people with limited time or capacity.
  • Enable an overlap between front-line volunteers and trustees.

Volunteering resources

If you’re keen to attract and keep volunteers, the following websites will be of interest:

Networking meetings

The grant-holders were attending a networking event at Sycamore House. 13 charities and community organisations were joined by HUC staff and a guest from the H+F Volunteer Centre. If you’re a HUC grant-holder, we’ll email you details of our next networking event nearer the time.

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Woman dressed in beekeeping outfit

Bees and Refugees

Find out how one CIC is helping refugees to rebuild their lives, while protecting a rare British bee.

Ali AlzeinBees and refugees may seem like very different target groups, but for Ali Alzein the pairing makes complete sense: “Bees are very important for our ecosystem, for our survival as humans, but it’s a difficult environment and they’re in real danger. Refugees are also facing a hostile environment. The establishment has not only turned its back on refugees, it’s actively punishing them for seeking safety.”

Ali was introduced to beekeeping in Damascus by his grandfather. He shares, “I had to leave Syria so applied for asylum in the UK in 2014. I’d been working in the luxury fashion industry, so continued with that, but the disparity between people who could spend £1000 on an item of clothing on the one hand, and people living in refugee camps on the other hand, was difficult to cope with. I was struggling with my mental health. My grandpa suggested I start keeping bees. They were delivered on a rainy, foggy day, but they soon filled the garden with life. I found it so calming, so grounding.”

That experience prompted Ali to launch a community interest company (CIC) – Bees and Refugees. He decided to focus on the native British black bee, which until recently was thought to be extinct.

The CIC runs therapeutic beekeeping workshops for refugees, helping them to process the trauma they’ve experienced. Workshops are also available for children, charities and local businesses. Most of the workshops are held in London, but Bees and Refugees also has a farm in Otford, Kent, which the CIC has renovated and turned into a community space. Ali shares, “People spend the day here in a beautiful, safe space. We cook together and teach them all about bees.”

Woman dressed in beekeeping outfitThe CIC also raises awareness about the difficulties that refugees face, and it fundraises to support them. Ali shares, “Many of our community members come from Gaza. Some have lost more than 20 members of their family and have relatives who are stuck in Rafah. So, most of our work right now is focused on supporting this community.”

The CIC is making a real difference, both on bee numbers and on refugees. Ali, says, “It has a real impact on people. One man used to keep bees before he came to the UK. He said that working with bees again was the first time he’s felt at home since the day he left Syria seven years ago.”

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Our Home’, so we asked Ali what home means to him.

“The home I came from is still not a safe place for me to return to, but for me, home is about community. I have an amazing community here, which has become a second family. We’re like a colony of bees!”

Bees and Refugees has received grants from Hammersmith United Charities and other organisations but is mainly self-funded. It raises income by managing beehives and insect hotels for local businesses, and by hosting corporate away days. However, it couldn’t survive without the help of volunteers. Ali says, “Bees and Refugees is the result of the collective work of so many people, so many buzzing bees.”

Find out more

  • If you’re interested in supporting Bees and Refugees through volunteering, a corporate partnership or a donation, please visit their website.
  • You can also follow the CIC’s work on Instagram, X and Facebook.

Bee hotel

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People cooking together at West London Welcome

Welcoming refugees to West London

“As an asylum-seeking doctor, trapped in a [hotel] room with so little to do, West London Welcome revitalises my spirit.”

According to the UN, almost 100 million people have been forced out of their homes across the globe. The figure has more than doubled in just 10 years. Those who seek asylum in the UK are unable to work until they have been granted asylum, and receive just £8.86 a week of support, meaning that most have to rely on charities.

One of those charities is West London Welcome, which supported 492 asylum seekers, refugees and migrants last year. People visiting the charity’s community centre are able to get advice and support, learn English, take part in activities such as fitness classes and creative writing, and access essentials such as food and clothing. Perhaps most importantly, they’re welcomed into a supportive community where they can make friends to reduce their isolation.

Refugees cooking together at West London Welcome

Joanne MacInnes is the Founder and Director of West London Welcome. She explains, “We primarily exist to be a place of welcome for new people to the country – a place to get to know local people and to feel supported.”

Zainab is one such person. She says, “As an asylum-seeking doctor, trapped in a [hotel] room with so little to do, West London Welcome revitalises my spirit. It’s a haven where everyone comes together, sharing experiences and hardships, reminding me of the profound impact of compassion and care.”

Refugee Week is 17-23 June. West London Welcome are planning several events, including a big party for their members and a fundraising event.

The theme of this year’s Refugee Week is ‘Our home’. Everyone deserves a place to call home, one where they can feel safe and at peace. For migrants and refugees far from their old communities, that need is more important than ever. However, most asylum seekers are housed in hotels, where they have very little space and cannot cook their own meals or enjoy the downtime that many of us take for granted.

People from West London Welcome celebrating together

Once they’re granted asylum, refugees are given just 28 days to find new accommodation before they’re evicted from their hotel room. That would be difficult for most people, but for refugees the challenge is even greater, as Joanne explains:

“You haven’t got a deposit; you haven’t been allowed to work; you haven’t got a credit history; you’ve been infantilised and kept in destitution, and suddenly you’re thrown onto the open market, or you’re at the mercy of the council.

Finding homes for people has been our biggest challenge recently and is what keeps us awake at night. In the second half of last year, the Home Office tried to clear its backlog of asylum applications, which meant that many more people were granted refugee status in a short amount of time. Before that, we might celebrate five people a year walking in and saying that they’d been granted refugee status. That grew to five to 10 people a week.”

If refugees can’t find new accommodation, they can end up on the streets or sofa surfing. Thankfully, West London Welcome have been able to stop that from happening to the people they work with. Joanne says, “We call on the local community to see whether anyone knows of a flat to rent which is affordable and where the landlord will accept housing benefit rates. We also work closely with a wonderful charity called Refugees at Home, who can often offer temporary housing. However, at times we’ve had to pay for a hotel, or one of our 130 local volunteers will put the person up until more long-term accommodation can be found.

“We don’t view people as clients – we’re a community – so we cannot see people forced out onto the streets.”

Find out more

  • If you can offer a home to rent at the housing benefit rate, would like to volunteer, or need support, please contact West London Welcome.
  • Hammersmith & Fulham Council is holding lots of events for Refugee Week, from a gardening workshop to Saturday Fun Day. Find out what’s planned for Refugee Week here.
  • To show your support for refugees, visit the Refugee Week website to download resources, order a T-shirt and take part in a social media thunderclap.

 

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