Paws-a-While Garden

Located at Leicester Animal Aid, a rescue and re-homing Centre for cats and dogs based in Huncote, the garden was an overgrown and neglected corner of the site but has now been transformed into an oasis of peace and tranquillity thanks to Mars Petcare who funded and created the garden.

Last year more than 120 volunteers worked tirelessly to turn the unloved area into a haven for wildlife and a place for people to come to enjoy being close to nature.

The garden has a wildlife pond, bird hide, a woodland area with bench and totem pole, a gazebo and a bug hotel. The garden is bursting with life and colour and has attracted many different types of birds, one even nested in one of the bird boxes, and we have tadpoles in the wildlife pond.

The idea behind the garden was to create a space that, together with providing somewhere for people coming to the Centre to visit, could be used to bring people together and be used by different groups and organisations.

We want the space to be enjoyed and used.  If you know any groups who would benefit from visiting the garden – whether it’s just to come and sit for half-an-hour, look at the different wildlife habitats, fill up our bird feeders or do some light gardening tasks such as weeding – we’d love to hear from you. It could be a one-off visit or regular visits and if there was a specific project your group would like to do, such as growing vegetables in a raised bed, then we would happily try to apply for funding.

The entrance to the garden and gazebo is fully accessible but the rest of the garden has woodchip paths.  Your group would need its own transport, as the Centre is not on any public transport routes,

If you’d like to find out more please contact

Everybody’s Reading Festival

The festival is city-wide and last year saw more than 100 events take place at 40 venues throughout Leicester involving everyone from children to grandparents, including many events on the city’s estates.

This year, the event organised by De Montfort University has been extended from a nine-day festival to cover the whole month of October.
Community and voluntary groups are being invited to come forward with ideas for reading events and to apply for up to £200 in funding for their plans.

Event co-ordinator Jess Bogic said:
“The event’s aim is to take reading out to the wider community in Leicester so that children, parents, grandparents and the people of Leicester have an opportunity to come to events inspired by books, reading and words. But we also want council staff to play a leading role this year and would like as many people as possible to come forward with their event ideas to get everybody reading across the city.”

The festival started in 2010 and has hosted world-famous authors like Michael Rosen, Helen Skelton and Michael Morpurgo at events. Local writers and performers like poet Jess Green, writers Bali Rai and Rod Duncan and all-round wordsmith Carole Leeming have also made appearances.
In the last five years, more than 24,500 people have attended 580 events.

Those wishing to stage events for the Everybody’s Reading 2019 festival and apply for the £200 sponsorship should sign up at

Visit from NCVO

They first met with VAL support staff to get a sense of the unique issues facing local infrastructure.  Then a number of local organisations attended a working lunch to discuss issues facing Leicestershire based charities.  Attendees included representation from Trade Sexual Health, The Recovery Consultancy Limited, National Youth Agency, Home group limited, First Step Leicester Leicestershire and Rutland,  Enrych Leicestershire and Derbyshire, Focus  Charity, Leicester Mammas CIC, Rothley Community Library, Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan Trust,  and Leicester Ageing Together.

Some key points from the roundtable meeting included:

  • Challenges of constant reductions in funding. Meaning that medium and larger organisations are now applying for grants from sources typically used by small organisation, leading to increased competition across the board.
  • The need to change the perception of voluntary sector that we come for free
  • How can we move away from competitive tendering as the default funding option
  • Recognition from central government of the role and scope of the voluntary sector, especially at a local grassroots level
  • Stretched NHS organisations are referring clients to the local sector to meet the demand. However, the local sector is struggling to obtain grant funding to pay for these services.

NCVO is campaigning on some of these issues, having heard from their members in other parts of England as well.

In the afternoon, Lev and Roshni met with George Ballentyne, Leicester City Council’s Voluntary & Community Sector Engagement Manager to discuss the city council’s public sector membership of NCVO. There was an agreement for NCVO and VAL to look at jointly upskilling new councillors about the role of the local sector.  Mr Ballentyne also asked NCVO for help in ensuring that as many councillors and council staff as possible have access to the excellent resources on the NCVO Knowhow website.

Feedback from the event included:

A working lunch delegate – “VAL is very important to us: “We can’t lose VAL! – it’s my support mechanism.”

NCVO – “I’d just like to say a big public ‘thank you’ from Roshni and me to colleagues at VAL for hosting this very productive visit, and especially Helen for arranging the day and sending me very thorough information in advance. “

If you are a local VCSE organisation based in Leicester or Leicestershire, who are providing services to local residents in those areas, who is exploring collaborative opportunities, please consider using VAL’s sector support, activity referral service, to assist you with this. Requests for support can be sent to helpline 0116 257 5050 or

Celebrating Volunteers in Leicestershire

The first event was at the Leicester Riverside Festival, we engaged with over 120 people over the course of the weekend. Even with the rain we still managed to go on and speak to a number of people who were interested in volunteering.

On Monday 3 June, we held a Thank you event at our offices, where we celebrated in style with a lunch for our volunteers and trustees who work across for VAL. It was a great success and gave us a chance to celebrate the invaluable contribution volunteers make to our organisation.

On Tuesday 4 June, we held a ‘Speed Networking’ event at Braunstone Brite Centre in partnership with the Leicester Employment Hub. The floor was buzzing with over 140 attendees, along with stall holders from various organisations. It was an opportunity to give people a chance to meet a range of different organisations and to ask key questions. This event was also showcased in the news on Friday 7 June on ITV Central News.

On Wednesday 5 June we held a Volunteer Fair at Hinckley Library, which consisted of 9 organisations and 25 people who came to ask about volunteering, to find out more about the local opportunities which were available. It was also a chance for representatives from local charities and organisations to network with each other.

On Thursday 6 June we ran a Volunteer Celebration Event at John Storer House in Loughborough.  The event involved a speed networking session giving local volunteer co-ordinators, volunteers and members of the public a chance to meet a range of different organisations to ask some key questions and get a flavour of their work. This was a chance to bring together local voluntary organisations to celebrate the work of their volunteers.

We also held an Event at Hood Park Leisure Centre in Ashby, where 80 people came along from 30 organisations. The event was not only about volunteering but was open to the public, local groups, businesses and organisations to promote local services and to learn about what is on offer in and around Ashby, to encourage more people to volunteer and get involved in their local community.

VAL went ‘online’ – On Friday 7 June, to end our Volunteers Week we held an online drop in session for all, via our social media channels. Members of our team were available via Twitter, Facebook and an online chat forum to answer any questions, share comments or ideas related to volunteering and share feedback and learning.

Our Volunteers week does not end there, as we continue to help people change their lives for the better. Volunteering can help you gain valuable new skills and experiences, make new friends, build your CV and can help to boost your confidence.

If you’re interested in volunteering, find out more from