Something I've mentioned here from time to time is my volunteering with the Junior League of London. A women's volunteer organisation here in London, we work to target the poverty that is spread throughout the capital (the most recent stats in 2015 have it as 27% of the population living in poverty here in the capital; amongst under-16s that percentage rises to 37%), as well as promoting voluntarism and cultivating the skills and talents of our members. In the US most cities and lots of towns have a League chapter of their own, and there are Junior Leagues in Mexico & Canada too. Here in London, we're the European section!
I've been a member for over four years now, and JLL has brought a wealth of experiences to my life, wonderful women who I've befriended, myriad chances to give back and countless memorable moments. A few of these include:
- Impressing no child (ever) with my craft skills, but getting max points for effort! And glitter on my clothing that has lingered for days.
- Learning a lot about parts of the city, and parts of life itself, that I might never have encountered otherwise. The workers and volunteers we partner with are so amazing, and I never fail to leave a volunteering shift without feeling uplifted.
- Leading a very upbeat dance off at many a kid's party...and having been summarily defeated on the dance floor several times over.
- Helping with the yearly filling of hundreds of hampers each winter for families and individuals in need, in a chilly warehouse, often wearing antlers, along with dozens of other red-teeshirt sporting Junior Leaguers. And reading the incredible thank you notes each January.
- Washing dishes for hours at a soup kitchen, or sorting suits at a donation drive, or stacking cans at a food bank, with bankers and students and homemakers and lawyers and financial whizzes and more besides; the women I volunteer alongside are so interesting.
- Donating clothes and toys and books and toiletries if and when I can. I love how the League makes me appreciate what I have, and also how much it inspires me to contribute. Through the JLL I've truly seen how every donation, no matter how small you may think it is, can make a big difference. It's also impressed on me how important a kind word, a gentle touch, a cup of tea and a giggle can be. These human moments are so important for us all.
During my time in the League it has made me braver, kinder, harder-working, and more flexible. Much more flexible. I've heard amazing people speak, learned from some wonderful folk, and made some dear, dear friends.
By this point you're probably wondering why I'm writing about this now.
Truth be told, it's because I need your help. Next week (February 22nd-26th) is one of the League's big fundraisers, The Little Black Dress Initiative (LBDI). This is the third year we've done this fundraiser, raising a lot of money which we can then use to fund our projects and help our partners.
The premise is simple, but first a little backstory.
Two of our JLL partners are the amazing charities Smartworks and Suited and Booted, both of which help people who are looking for work. They help candidates with their CVs, interview prep, and more besides. As well as this, both of these brilliant charities also help their clients to find a smart, neat, confidence-boosting outfit for their job interviews. Many people living in poverty looking for work can struggle to find the cash to fund a brand new outfit for interviews - these charities take that pressure away so their clients can focus on the job in hand!
During the Little Black Dress Initiative (#theLBDI), each member pledges to wear the same outfit (a little black dress) for a workweek. We're doing it next week to coincide with London Fashion Week, a time when clothes are front and centre in the conversation. During the week we each hope to raise awareness, through limiting our own options a little, of the many limitations faced by those living in poverty (healthy food, educational opportunities, travel, etc. etc.). We also ask friends and family to sponsor us as we do so.
On a charity level, I'm hoping that I'll garner enough support to help make this a success...
...on a personal level I'm already dreading how many spills and mishaps I'm sure to have in the course of the week. So clumsy, so sorry.
As well as the sponsored event, we also have a poverty panel next week where we'll be discussing how best to help the people we serve, and the current landscape in London for the charities targeting this area. And in early March we'll be toasting our campaign and having a collection of work-appropriate clothes and accessories for both Smartworks and Suited & Booted - if you know me and are in London and fancy joing in, let me know. It's a busy, exciting time, and I truly feel priveleged to be able to help in any small way. We've been working towards next week for months; now it's time to double down and try to make a difference!
Links for you:
If you'd like to sponsor me (please), my page.
The wider LBDI page, where you can see all the people taking part.
To learn more about JLL, our site is here.
Please do also check out our #theLBDI hashtag on instagram, twitter, and facebook. And thank you in advance for any/all support you might be able to give.