Giving back to Hackney: where to volunteer

Hackney has always combined a warm heart with a rebel spirit. Diverse but largely harmonious, the borough has an inspiring sense of community. We’ve found just some of the many great organisations where you can volunteer your time, hone your skills and get involved with those around you.

Posh Club

A loud, energetic, joyous romp of an afternoon tea, held in the sumptuously decked-out church hall of St Paul’s West Hackney in Stoke Newington. Volunteers dress-up, get down and help entertain the over-60s and those with Alzheimer’s.

Bags of Taste

Cooking classes for Hackney residents on a low budget. Alicia Weston of the Parkholme Supper Club and her team teach people how to create tasty and nutritious meals which cost less than £1 each. Volunteer to help pack ingredients, or to assist with the classes.

East London Food Access

A brilliantly simple idea: ELFA staff head to New Spitalfields Market in Leyton to buy bargain fruit and vegetables, which they then sell at cost price on Hackney estates and at primary schools. Volunteer stallholders, delivery people and drivers are welcome.

Hackney Migrant Centre

This small charity continues Hackney’s centuries-old tradition of welcoming people from around the world; they offer legal support, friendship and food to vulnerable migrants. Volunteers help prepare the weekly lunch, or are trained in advocacy and advisory skills. Speaking another language is a bonus but not essential.

Hackney Pirates

A truly imaginative literacy programme, with one-to-one lessons held in a Kingsland Road building kitted out like a galleon. Volunteers – who receive a 3hr training session – read with kids and help with publishing projects; goals are to promote literacy, confidence and perseverance. You can also support the project by buying gifts from the shop.

Hackney Winter Night Shelter

From January to March, this wonderful project provides beds for the homeless, as church halls around the borough take it in turn to feed and host people for a night. Volunteers work in shifts, either cooking, setting up, welcoming guests and eating with them, staying overnight or clearing up in the morning.

Headway East London

A canalside day centre for people with acquired brain injuries. Service users come from fourteen boroughs to cook and eat, socialise, garden, receive physical therapy, make art and tell their stories with the help of a writer in residence. You can volunteer with no specific skills if you’d like to find out more about brain injury, or use your abilities to help with particular aspects of nurture and care.

Hoxton Trust

Established 33 years ago to help regenerate the bomb-damaged area, the Trust offers free legal advice (for everything except immigration) and horticultural courses, which qualify you for unsupervised gardening work. Volunteer lawyers who can commit for two days a week are welcome.

Ministry of Stories

With founders including the writer Nick Hornby, the Ministry is a creative writing and literacy centre in Hoxton which brings together Hackney’s artistic professionals with local children (aged 8–18). Volunteer-led workshops and writing projects aim to set imaginations free, and boost confidence and communication. A wacky monster-themed store helps fund the project.

North London Action for the Homeless

An excellent small charity that feeds the homeless and vulnerable twice a week – Monday lunch and Wednesday dinner – at St Paul’s West Hackney church hall. Food comes from donations and from the kitchen garden, which is tended by service users. Volunteers help to prepare food, serve meals, eat and talk with service users, and wash and clear up.

Tree Musketeers

Award-winning grassroots network of volunteers who look after Hackney’s trees, planting, watering, mulching and propping them up. TMs also run guided tree walks, help manage the Hackney Community Tree Nursery on Hackney Marsh, and publish the Hackney Tree Calendar. Events are free and open to everyone.

There are also great volunteering opportunities for the green-fingered at the borough’s many community gardens.