The LOTI Heroes Campaign
Being obsessed with all things London, we try to experience as much of the city as possible, from eating out at new openings to visiting the latest exhibitions or heading down to whatever crazy event or festival is taking place. Along the way, we meet so many amazing, inspiring Londoners, those creative individuals who contribute to making this city the best in the world. While we have been celebrating our favourite people for years now, in our weekly LDNERS interviews (and soon to be podcast), this week we’re launching a brand new campaign, LOTI Heroes, to highlight those extra-specially brilliant Londoners who are striving to make London and the world a better place, through charity, social enterprises, ethical fashion and sustainable living.
Each day this week we’ll be bringing you five Londoners in five different categories that we think are truly inspirational. Today is all about Local Heroes, the people that have found innovative ways to help the less fortunate, whether that’s through helping the elderly with daily tasks or providing employment opportunities to refugees. We think the five below are doing great things and we hope you enjoy reading their stories.
We Want YOUR nominations
But that’s not all – we want to hear your suggestions too. If you know a Londoner that has a positive impact on local communities and should be on our list please let us know by using the form at the end of this article. We’ll add the best to our own to create a list of our favourite Londoners championing change for the better and announce the full LOTI Heroes list in early July.
Alex Head | Social Pantry
Social Pantry is an events and catering company that’s worked with the likes of Alexander McQueen, H&M, Adidas, Harvey Nichols, Rihanna and Gigi Hadid. Food-wise, there’s a focus on fresh, seasonal grub and root-to-stem cookery and in terms of personnel, over 10% of the workforce are ex-offenders. Alex goes into London prisons herself and recruits behind bars ahead of, as well as on, release. Offering opportunity and supporting these employees has and will continue to change lives. She recruits through Novus and charities such as Switchback and Key4Life who are all doing great work too. Commenting on the scheme Alex says: “I’m so proud to employ ex-offenders as they are ambitious, hardworking, trusted and talented and are a great addition to the team.”
Clerkenwell Boy | #CookForSyria
For the past 5 years, Clerkernwell Boy has been eating his way around London (and the world) sharing amazing pics of all the food you wish you were eating. If you have even the slightest interest in restaurants (and being a LOTI reader we know you do), chances are you’ve been following him for a long time already. While for some, being one of London’s top social media stars would be more than enough, Clerkernwell Boy is not one to rest on his laurels and in 2016 he founded #CookForSyria along with Serena Guen of Suitcase Magazine.
#CookForSyria first started as a simple supper club, where a group of foodie friends came together to celebrate Syrian cuisine and raise money to help Unicef protect Syrian children. Now it’s a global movement with two best-selling cookbooks, an Observer Food Monthly Award and supperclubs and events continuing to take place around the world, with the help of the world’s top chefs, restaurants and volunteers. The campaign has so far raised over £700,000 to help UNICEF’s vital work in Syria, an amazing achievement that’s been down to the hard work and dedication of one of our favouite Londoners. We’re looking forward to seeing what he does next.
Mursal Hedayat | Chatterbox
The best way to learn a new language is to practice with a native speaker, but imagine if you could do that and change someone else’s life at the same time? Chatterbox, which was founded by Mursal Hedayat in London, trains and employs refugees to teach language courses, meaning they are able to put their talent to good use whilst helping others out at the same time.
As Mursal explains: “I started Chatterbox because I was a bit fed up with the misperception of refugees as a threat or a burden. Like many other talented members of our community, my mum faced significant challenge finding work that made use of her ample talent. She used her language skills to become a language teacher here in the UK, so I pinched the idea from her and am using it to unleash this huge wealth of talent in the refugee community”.
The beauty of this solution is that it provides meaningful employment for refugees whilst plugging the language skills shortage estimated to cost the UK economy about 3.5% of GDP. Even if learning or teaching isn’t your thing, you can still gift a course to someone who might need one through their website, allowing us all to do our bit.
Ivo Gormley | Good Gym
Combining regular exercise with community work? Good Gym, which was founded by Ivo Gormley in London in 2010, is the very definition of a win-win situation. Building on the idea that working out in a gym is a waste of energy when you could be putting that energy towards helping someone (and helping yourself at the same time) Good Gym has grown to not only have a presence across London but all over the UK too.
Once you sign up there are three types of run you might go on: 1) a solo run to help someone with a one off task they can no longer do alone (think gardening or changing a light bulb); 2) a run to make a social visit to an elderly person that may be battling loneliness – over 1 million people aged over 65 admit to feeling lonely or isolated; and 3) a group run with a trainer to do physical tasks for community organisations, such as sorting cans for the food bank or planting trees in the park. An incredible idea that started with one person in London and is now influencing lives for the better all across the country. Hats off to Ivo.
Varun Bhanot & Anisha Seth | UNHOUSED
The number of people sleeping rough in London accounts for almost a quarter of the entire homeless population of the UK, so it’s clear that more needs to be done to help. And that’s exactly what Varun and Anisha are doing with Unhoused.org, a non-profit online shop where for every item you purchase, another of the same is delivered to someone homeless.
The first Unhoused project they’ve launched is StreetWear – the UK’s First Online Shop for the Homeless. The idea is that people can buy their basic winter clothing on the site, and for every item bought, an equivalent is donated to the homeless. It’s a simple so far it’s been extremely effective, with an average spend of £23. If you think how rare it would be to give someone £20 on the street it’s clear that this has the potential to have a massive impact. What we really love is that they also send a photo or video of the donation so the giver sees the final result of their “purchase”.