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Easter in Ukraine

This Easter, our thoughts and prayers are with Ukraine.

At Just Helpers we are working to support our Helper Olia, who is from Ukraine, at this very difficult time. I asked Olia how her family would usually be celebrating Easter.

“Easter in Ukraine is a very big celebration, second only to Christmas. In Ukrainian we call Easter ‘Velykden’ which means ‘Great Day’. We celebrate Easter in the Julian Calendar, so it will be the 24th April in Ukraine. As I now live in London, I celebrate Easter twice!

Many of the traditions around Easter in Ukraine as the same as Christian traditions in other parts of the world, but we have some which are particular to our folklore.

Easter Preparations

We start preparing the week before Easter, in Holy Week, which is the week following Palm Sunday. The Thursday of Holy Week is called “Clean Thursday” where we clean the house inside and out. We go to the cemetery to clean the graves of our loved ones, and to plant flowers. We also make painted, decorated eggs called Pysanka.

The Food

We prepare the special food which we will eat at Easter. Food is a very important part of our celebrations. We bake a sweet bread called “Paska” which is similar to panattone. This is part of our Easter basket, along with eggs, butter cheese and salt The contents of the Easter basket is different depending on the traditions of the village where you live.

Food is particularly important at Easter in Ukraine because traditionally people fast during Lent. Nowadays, for many people that might mean giving up meat, but in the past they would also have avoided eating eggs and cheese as well.

On Good Friday, many people will fast all day. They will go to church, read the Bible and pray.

On Saturday, everyone takes their Easter basket to the church to be blessed, but we can’t start eating it until Sunday!

On Easter Sunday, the whole family go to Mass together. We greet each other with “Christ is Risen!” and we will use this greeting when we meet friends and family for a month after Easter.

After church we have a big family feast and we are finally able to enjoy the treats in our Easter basket.

Spring Games

Children will get together in the church yard to play Spring games, such as Hide and Seek. They have “egg battles”, knocking their painted eggs together until they break. The last egg to break is the winner!

The Monday after Easter is a day for remembering family and friends who have died, with a special service in church. This day is also known as “Wet Monday” when children pour water over each other and themselves . In the cities, there are organised events so that children can have fun with water games, and the adults can stay dry!

Easter in London

I have lived in London since August 2020, and I follow many of these traditions with my family here. We make an Easter basket, and take it to be blessed in church. The children have egg battles and throw water around on Wet Monday – fortunately many of our neighbours are Ukrainian so they understand!

My family in Ukraine

This Easter of course I will be thinking of my family back home. My family are safe for now, but the war is getting closer. They live in Western Ukraine, not far from the border with Poland. Recently an empty factory just 7 kilometres was hit by a missile.

We feel very helpless so far away, but we need to stay strong, and provide support in whatever way we can.

We are very grateful for the help being offered by the British people, and we are praying that the war will end soon, and Ukraine will be able to rebuild.”

Olia’s charity of choice is UNICEF.

What the Venus Award Means to Just Helpers – from our Founder Antoinette Daniel

“Just Doing the Right Thing” is at the heart of what Just Helpers is all about.

So when I was recognised as Employer of the Year in London, in the Venus Awards, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

What are the Venus Awards?

The Venus Awards have been called “The working women’s Oscars”. They recognise the achievements of hard-working women, and female-friendly businesses, across the country. I was lucky enough to be nominated for the award by a Just Helpers customer. From 45 nominations, I made it down to the shortlist of 4. Then, at a glamour-filled ceremony at the Waldorf Hotel in London, I was announced as the winner! For me, the award is a recognition of the achievements of the whole team at Just Helpers.

Values

I founded Just Helpers out of a passion for justice, fair pay and decent working conditions. Inspired by my charity work with an anti human-trafficking organisation, I placed these values at the heart of the business.

In our cities, vulnerable migrant workers, and particularly women, are often exploited by unscrupulous employers with poor pay and working conditions.  I saw this injustice first hand, and so I decided to begin my own business to provide an alternative – providing domestic and commercial cleaning services.

The Just Helpers Approach

Being an ethical, professional business which nurtures and supports women is central to the Just Helpers Approach.

  • Paying the London Living Wage – a good day’s work for a good day’s pay
  • Developing People – mentoring our Helpers to improve their confidence and communication
  • Professionalism –through our process of vetting, hands on interview and shared standards, we ensure your Helper is right for you
  • Pride – Our Helper of the Month Award, nominated by our clients, rewards a job well done
  • Recognising Potential – where we can, we grow our Helpers into Managers

Campaigning

Campaigning is a big part of who I am. The award has been a great opportunity to encourage people to follow the Just Helper’s approach. In my acceptance speech I said: “Please make sure you know how much you pay your cleaner and if you are going to use an agency, make sure they are ethical. A good day’s work for a good day’s pay – everyone deserves that.

A good day’s work for a good day’s pay – everyone deserves that.

Just Helpers is affiliated to the Living Wage Foundation. This organisation campaigns for workers to be paid fair wages which reflects actual living costs in the capital, and across the nation.

Expertise

In further recognition of what we have achieved at Just Helpers, I am excited to have been asked to be a Champion for the London Mayor’s “Good Work Standard”. This initiative aims to bring together the best employment practices in London. It will work to raise standards for workers across the city, through educating employers and informing government policy. I’m looking forward to sharing my expertise and working alongside them to ensure a robust and fair policy for all sizes of businesses.

The Future

The Venus Award has been a wonderful opportunity to celebrate and to reflect on all that we have achieved so far at Just Helpers. The positive validation from someone outside the agency has encouraged us to punch bigger and higher. Our greater passion has now become to end exploitation within the UK cleaning agency. Watch this space!

Over the coming months, Just Helpers will continue to grow, with a new Just Helpers App, an exciting new rebrand and new services such as Lifestyle Support for people in retirement.

A Christmas Message from Antoinette the Founder

Merry Christmas from Just Helpers!

As an office team, we want to take this opportunity to say thank you for trusting us to find great cleaning colleagues who match your home and office spaces over this past year. This year has been a big year of growth for us, which has been exciting and has kept us all very busy. We are excited about the creation of our new App which will be launched in the first quarter of next year. This will help to ease communication, allow you and your Helper to keep up with your cleaning schedules, give you an easy platform to make comments and allow you to connect with the team more readily.

It was thrilling to have our 3 babies in the manager’s team and the arrival of baby Matthew to Monika in September has been wonderful – more on that in January!

Empowering Women

Being nominated by one of you for a Venus award this year was also very humbling, and much more making it through to the final 4 and a ‘juoozy’ awards evening at the Waldorf with the team on the 3rd as an Employer of the year has been an interesting journey. We look forward to announcing the results.

Spreading Christmas Cheer

Many of you ask me about potential gifts for your Helper. For all of the team, the very best thing for them is a monetary tip as they are often trying to support family still located in their countries of origin. I will leave this between you and your cleaner, but please do be mindful of your last cleaning day before Christmas with your regular Helper. I would suggest just leaving a card etc, in a prominent place where she is likely to find it. Last year I can honestly say that most of my team were moved to tears because of your generosity. Thank you in advance.

Our Christmas Charity Appeal

We are supporting two charities this year:

The first is Bulgarian charity spearheaded by Olga one of our cleaning colleagues. She and a group of friends organise a busload of items to be delivered to a charity that cares for Children in the care system in Bulgaria. There is a desperate need for items of clothing, toiletries, stationery and toys. As many of our team are Bulgarian, we want to get behind this in two ways:

Our team will rally together to donate various second-hand items from their family. Secondly, any money raised by the team for both this and our UK charity below will be matched by the agency. We will divide the money and have a day as a team in the spring where we create as many gift-boxes as we can to send with the next bus that Olga and her friends will organise. We would LOVE it if you could consider donating some money towards this.

The second is Children with Cancer UK. This was the charity that is close to our manager Yana Yaneva’s heart and won the team’s vote too. Already as a team, we have raised over £600. This will be matched pound for pound by the agency. Could you join us in donating to this charity too? Find out more at https://www.childrenwithcancer.org.uk

Christmas Festivities near you

We currently clean for 9 great churches and their clergy around London. I know that they will be busily planning their Christmas services now. If the thought of Carols by Candlelight, Alfrescosinging, festive wreath making, midnight mass, an evening of carols at your local jazz bar, Children’s Nativity service, a Christmas market or the chance to find out what Christmas is really all about beyond the trees, carols, Santa and gifts piques your interest, why not drop into one of their services or a church more local to you. See below for details of our connections:

Streatham Central Church
Dundonald Church Wimbledon
Hornsey Parish Church
St Michael’s Battersea
St Thomas More Swiss Cottage
St Peter’s Bethnal Green
St Andrew’s Chelsea
The Bridge Battersea Community Church
St Mary Abbots Parish Church Kensington

Christmas and New Year often provide a time and space for us to reboot, rethink and in some cases change direction. I pray for safety and well-being for each and every one of you as you pause, reflect, spend time with family and friends and enter into a new year.

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!
Warmest wishes,
Antoinette, Lydia, Monika, Vivian, Vanya, Yana, Yana, and the Just Helpers Team

Just Helpers Journey – by Antoinette Daniel

Just Helpers Journey – The Reason

I started the company in 2013 when I landed an amazing part-time job working for an anti-human trafficking organisation.

Having loved being a secondary school teacher for 12 years, the cut in salary to pursue something that I am so passionate about was tricky. I have always loved cleaning for friends and family and took pride in seeing peoples faces after my efforts. Coming home after a long day of work and knowing that your home space is serene, organised and clean is a joy to behold. Ensuring that “wow” and “ahhhh” feeling when clients get home still gives me the same satisfaction today. This motivation was key in inspiring and brainstorming business ideas to help support my charity work. So through my love of cleaning and hard work a business was born.

Small Beginnings

Consequently, through friends at church, I was connected to my first amazing client (Eve, how apt!) and the cleaning agency has rapidly grown from there.  My passion for justice, fair pay and working conditions was at the core of the business from the very beginning. As I received more and more referrals the business grew and gradually evolved through word of mouth recommendations. From a one-woman business to appointing my first colleagues Barbara and Yana Yaneva along the way, to what you see today – Just Helpers.

It was clear by 2015 that my role should evolve more strategically and I should continue to combine my two passions:

Cleaning and Empowering Women

Unfortunately, through my anti-trafficking work, I saw first hand the exploitation that happens in all communities even those right on our doorsteps. In our UK neighbourhoods, vulnerable people are taken advantage of and not given the opportunities, rights and kindnesses that every person should be afforded. I knew early on that If I could provide an alternative career, where women were nurtured and encouraged to build their own businesses: then my vision would help many individuals in their own journeys.

Fair pay and good working conditions are rare in the cleaning industry

I decided that this ethic should underpin everything that we do. So “Just doing the right thing’ became our motto. Just Helpers from its very inception have been proud affiliates of the London Living Wage Foundation. An organisation campaigning tirelessly to ensure fair pay is awarded to workers and help highlight the poverty crisis in the UK (please find out more here). Just Helpers supports your cleaner by ensuring they receive an equitable wage from their clients but my conscience pushed that we go way beyond that. Just Helpers is my family and I instil pride and enthusiasm in all of my teammates from the very start. With a team of great in-house, ‘home-grown’ managers, we mentor your Helper to improve their confidence and assist them in their communication with their clients.  Where we see Helpers with the potential for growth beyond cleaning, we promote them to be a manager at the earliest opportunity.

Ethics are central to our company operations and we employ this internally within our office team and in our interactions with you and your cleaner.

We have grown to be a management agency providing London cleaning services for both domestic and commercial clients. We act on behalf of professional, affordable and conscientious cleaners (we prefer the term ‘Helpers’), who will love your home like their own. Our experience in the industry enables us to help you and your Helper develop a strong, solid relationship.

All of our Helpers providing cleaning services in London are vetted and put through three hands-on cleaning interviews to make sure that they are the right Helper for you.  We want to know that they subscribe to a shared standard that they have agreed upon as a collective over time. This is ever-changing, especially as new Helpers join the ranks and share their expertise. We have learnt how to spot a great ‘Helper’ through our robust interview process and are regularly approached by women wanting to join Just Helpers as our honest, fair and empowering reputation spreads across communities both here and abroad. I am so proud and delighted to advocate and administrate for such a committed team of colleagues.

So that is the Just Helpers Journey so far. What’s next?

The Future

Being a South Londoner, London has always been my home but since childhood, I have had a love of the sea. In my younger years as a teacher, I taught both in the UK and in Africa and have been fortunate enough to travel broadly.  Even with experiencing many countries, I love nothing more than coming home. This summer I took the first step in making my longer-term dream come true. I moved to live by the sea. Just Helpers now has a team of Operations Managers and over 40 Helpers providing high quality, reliable and efficient cleaning. My aim is to eventually own my own home by the sea and help raise teenagers through fostering.

This is my 5-year plan

Professionally, Just Helpers must continue to grow and I have some great people supporting me in navigating the next exciting phase of growth. I have also been privileged to have been invited to contribute to the Mayor of London’s ‘Good Work Standard’ initiative as a Champion.  The aim of this initiative is to promote equitable and nurturing working standards in London businesses. This exciting committee should help to educate and inform other businesses and government policy in this sector. Ensuring working conditions improve for all is the focus for the future.

I am also extremely excited to have been nominated for the Venus Women’s Awards (by one of our clients) in the category of ‘Employer of the Year – London’. This team effort is a great recognition of how far we have come. We are thrilled to have just found out we are Finalists. The whole management team will attend a lovely event in December to find out if we win. Regardless of the outcome I am so proud of everyone and cannot wait to celebrate!

Who knows what the future holds after that, Homecare and Life Administration is another string to our bow coming soon to London’s postcodes. A new system and App to streamline our communication between Helpers, Clients and the office team,  Just Helpers in another part of the UK…Watch this space!

For now though lets ‘Just’ take one step at a time!  And thank-you to all of those who have journeyed with us along the way.

Room by room by Antoinette – Entrance Hall

Room by room by Antoinette – Entrance Hall

The Entrance Hall in your home is often the first space that your guests will see. Taking time to ensure that this room is clean and clutter-free will enable both you and your guests to feel relaxed as soon as you come through the door.

With so many elements making up an Entrance Hall it is often overlooked as it can be tricky.

Here are my top tips on how to achieve the best for your Entrance Hall. It is the window into your home after all.

Order

  • When cleaning your home a common mistake can be doing the hallways last.  If the floors need mopping you need to think this through, as the worst thing is mopping and then having to walk back over your hard work.  Consider doing the downstairs hallway before you go upstairs or vice versa depending on what order you have cleaned the rest of your house.  This gives your floors time to dry.
  • Vacuuming rugs and moving them out of the way is essential for a thorough clean.  Expensive and delicate rugs should be vacuumed carefully and then placed safely somewhere to air.
  • Bookshelves are often housed in hallways and can give a lovely aesthetic to this space. This feature is often neglected and can get very dusty. By using a  Feather Duster you can easily eliminate the dust. The much maligned feather duster is great for getting to the tops of books and into the edges of the bookshelf. I highly recommend an annual prune and spring clean where all the books come completely off of the shelves to prevent any stubborn marking on your selves.
  • Every home has it! The ‘Tidy Disaster Zone’. You know that drop zone by the front door. Shoes, scarves, jackets, scooters, shopping bags, Abel and Cole boxes… and anything else that randomly gets dumped there. Is it time to throw away the broken umbrella that’s been lurking there for 3 years? YES!
  • Entrance Halls are also notorious for cobwebs. Staircases are often the highest ceilings of the house, so by using a Telescopic-Static-Duster, you can dust high-level cobwebs with ease.
  • Light fittings and their bulbs show dust off when illuminated. So take time to dust light fittings and chandeliers.  If you do have chandeliers in your home be very careful when dismantling.  Allow an hour for this task and take a photo before you start from all angles! They are like a jigsaw puzzle, you do not want to be left with a random piece once you have carefully reassembled it.
  • Carefully dust tops of pictures. Be careful of precious artwork. I find an old-fashioned feather duster comes in handy here.
  • Polish mirrors using a special glass microfibre cloth for a sparkly, streak-free finish.
  • Dust Dado Rails and Skirting Boards.
  • Dust tops of light switches, then anti-bac wipe and polish them for a hygienic and sparkling finish.
  • Dust tops of plug sockets, anti-bac wipe and polish them to ensure no dirt accumulates.
  • Dust between the balusters (I bet you didn’t know that term!) for us common folk, they are the spindles or banister supports on your staircase.  If they are really dirty, use the damp cloth to give them all a thorough clean.
  • Hard to reach windows can be difficult and potentially dangerous to clean effectively. You may need specialist window cleaners. Please feel free to contact us for our recommended window cleaning partners should you require this service.
  • Vacuum the whole area including the stairs.  Don’t forget to do edges first with the corner nozzle attachment and then use the large attachments for each step. Ensure that you adjust for the correct floor setting for carpet, hardwood or other surfaces to do the landing areas.
  • Mop, make sure you always mop your way towards the next room you will clean.

Enjoy

Now you can fling open your front door with pride and let your Entrance Hall welcome guests in.  Think how proud (and shame free ;-)) you will feel the next time friends and family visit. Until next time. Happy Cleaning! Antoinette.

Room by Room by Antoinette – Bedroom 


Is your bedroom a place for relaxation and rejuvenating sleep?

In order for your brain to ‘switch off’ this room should be clutter-free and look and smell fresh and clean. Here is a helpful insight into how your Helper ensures that this is our priority in your home, enabling you to spring out of bed ready to rock with whatever your day has in store.

Having the correct toolkit for any job is essential for getting great results. Here is a list of the key ingredients to making your boudoir beautiful. Next, of course, is the method in which the magic happens. Follow this simple, yet highly effective order and I know you will be impressed with the outcome:

Order

1. First strip the bed linen and place it in the washing machine. If you are anything like me, the idea of getting two jobs done in one time slot is intensely satisfying.
2. Vacuum any rugs thoroughly and remove them to the landing outside the bedroom.
3. Make the bed with clean linen (It’s really important to do this now so that lint and fluff doesn’t land on your newly dusted surfaces)
4. Dust all available surfaces going from high to low. Don’t forget your window ledges, blinds and radiators.
5. Use this opportunity to declutter your room and arrange high traffic areas such as dressing tables and bedside cabinets so that things are relevant and easily accessible. This is the time to let your artistic flair shine!
6. Vacuum the floor. If you are a shredder and don’t have a fabulous Miele Hoover with it’s special hair grabbing head, then try using the brush function to loosen any hairs from the carpet.
7. I would suggest, that once a month if you store your life under the bed, pull it out and make sure the vacuum gets into all those nooks and crannies. Once a quarter pull your bed away from the wall and make sure you get to these areas too. Grossly, it’s renowned for dead skin cells, hairs, runaway tissues and all the other clutter you have dropped down the side during your nightly Netflix binge.
8. It’s likely that you have ruffled the bed. Make sure that one of your last actions is to give it that hotel feel. Pull the edges of the duvet out and smooth the duvet down from the middle to the edges using the flat palm of your hands.
9. If you have special items such as silver, gold or brass trinkets, take them out to the hallway and treat them using specialist cleaning solutions. Watch this space for our future blog on ‘The Lost Art of Polishing including Silverware’.
10. Return any rugs.

Stand back and admire our handiwork, smug in the knowledge that you can look forward to a good night’s sleep in crisp fresh linen and a newly adjusted Feng Shui bedroom.

Rock a bye baby….

It’s worth noting that we would recommend minimal use of sprays and products in your baby’s bedroom. Dry dusting with microfibre cloths should be sufficient along with a good vacuum. At worst, an anti-bacterial spray could be used, though there is a school of thought that recommends no products so that your baby can build resilience to germs. I’ll leave that battle with you!  Don’t forget to do a regular dust between the struts of your baby’s cot too.

Sweet dreams, Antoinette.

Client Case Study: Charlotte & Family

We are often asking our Helper’s clients for feedback.

This helps us to improve our services and the services of our Helpers as well as offer any new clients the chance to find out what we are really like! The best way to find honest feedback straight from the clients themselves is to go to our Facebook review page. We’ve also decided now and again to publish a more thorough case study of a client journey with Just Helpers to give our readers a bigger picture, this time we’ve interviewed Charlotte, thanks Charlotte!

How long have you had a Helper with Just Helpers?

1 year exactly!

What made you decide to get a cleaner?

I’ve always thought a cleaner was a luxury we didn’t need. However, when I was pregnant I just couldn’t use any cleaning product without it making me sick so the flat was descending into chaos! I knew of Just Helpers and that they use experienced cleaners and pay the London living wage. So decided to go straight to them for a quote. I’m no longer pregnant, but the flat is so much nicer than when the cleaning was left to us… so we are still with them!

Describe your experience of the first home assessment and how it made you feel about Just Helpers

When Antoinette looked around our home I felt she quickly had a good idea of what we needed help with. She suggested that we needed a Helper in for 2.5hrs every fortnight for our space and needs. Initially I thought that was too much. Antoinette explained that she wanted to make sure we had a genuinely clean home after each visit and that things were kept on top of. After a year with regular fortnightly cleans I can say that Antoinette was completely right. If we ever miss a clean it makes a huge difference. I’m glad Antoinette helped us see what was best rather than just going with what I initially wanted.

How do you feel about using a cleaning agency as opposed to a private cleaner?

Very pleased. I wanted the accountability that an agency gives to check and train the cleaner coming into our home. I also like the fact that you can trust the agencies reputation to know that any replacement cleaners will be of the same standard.

Describe some of the experiences you have had with your helper directly

I often work from home or I am looking after my son so I’ve had lots of interactions with both of the Helpers I have had. They have both been friendly and diligent and always let me know if there is something particular they need. In particular, I find my helper is kind and patient even when we come back into our newly cleaned flat and she sees my 7 month old son throw his lunch over her beautifully mopped floor and she recently set up a selection of toys in his cot to play with when he got in, which he loved!

We had a misunderstanding with our first helper when we gave her a back door key but the following week she came in through the front door! We realised that she had picked up a set of spare keys and we hadn’t realised or wanted her to have them. But management were really helpful and sorted the misunderstanding out the same day and returned the keys. Our change in helper came about when our initial cleaner had to leave Just Helpers, one more reason that it is great to use an agency rather than a private individual!

You mentioned the London Living Wage. What does it mean to you that your Helper is paid the London Living Wage?

It’s so important that everyone in London is paid fairly. It seems quite common that those especially from overseas come to London to find work and are underpaid and exploited, which is dehumanising. So I’m happy to pay a bit more to value the excellent work that is done in my home and hopefully support someone working hard to provide for their family.

Need a hand cleaning your home?

Life in London is demanding and time is at a premium. Get some sparkle back into your life and home with one of our domestic cleaning packages.

Looking for commercial cleaning?

We provide a regular cleaning service for offices and commercial premises in the Greater London area, helping you maintain a professional, healthy and productive work and business environment.

We’d love to chat with you, see your space and walk you through our process.

Call us

020 3995 4810 - Clients
020 3995 4820 - Helpers

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info@justhelpers.co.uk

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Kings Parade, Lower Coombe Road, Croydon, CR0 1AA

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