Hurricane of Hearts’ founder: “Volunteering is really good fun”
”Charity is my life,” says a smiling Dagmara Chmielewska while sipping on her coffee. She has her blonde hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and a professional black shirt but her printed trousers shows that she knows her fashion.
Dagmara left her life in Poland behind as she decided to move to London five and half years ago when she was 25.
“It wasn’t very easy because I didn’t know anybody here. I had a very good office job at Heathrow Airport so I could learn the language. It was a really good opportunity for me to improve my skills, not only for the English but also the event management.
“When I came here every single door was closed. Then I decided to do everything myself from scratch and obviously the easiest way for me was to do something for the Polish community.”
Dagmara (third from the left sitting down) with other members of Hurricane of Hearts. Photo: Monika Jakubowska
This was the birth of the charity Hurricane of Hearts which Dagmara today runs together with six other permanent staff, including her boyfriend, and 200 volunteers. The money they raise goes towards Polish and British children’s hospital equipment.
“If we help the children hopefully we will have better adults in the future.”
But getting the charity off the ground was a challenge.
“The first charity event was three years ago and it was a really difficult experience for me. We didn’t even have sponsors because nobody trusted us and I was new at this kind of event.
“Today it’s a lot better. We work with professional people and the public opinion is very good at the moment but we still don’t know everything.”
Dagmara speaking at a Hurricane of Hearts charity event. Photo: Marcin Rochu Roszko
Without the Hurricane of Hearts’ volunteers Dagmara says the charity would not survive.
“They’re the most important part. Without the volunteers we can do nothing because the most important thing for us is teamwork. We want to keep growing and growing and without the volunteers we are nothing.”
Before Dagmara decided to move to London she lived in the small town of Nidzica in the Warmia i Mazury region.
“For me it’s the most important place in my life. It’s really good fun during the summertime. We got a little house in the middle of the forest and only 100 meters to the lake.”
She studied drama at university but before that she was involved in organising all kinds of different events.
“I started doing my first event when I was seven but it was just a simple thing you know it was just a kid’s party but after that I thought of it like a serious job. I started to create and I never stopped.”
Instead of keeping a biology class in-doors, Dagmara decided that it would be much more useful for her and fellow classmates to go to a nearby park and study the life there.
“When I finished college I organised a lot of events for my uni but it wasn’t enough for me in my country. I wanted to do more and more and more.”
When Dagmara first came to London as a tourist ten years ago she instantly fell in love with the vibrant city. So after a university degree and travels around Europe she decided that London would become her new home.
Dagmara at Emirate Stadium. Photo: Marcin Rochu Roszko
Dagmara describes herself as a very creative person and she explains that is why she’s chosen the volunteering path.
“Sometimes of course you can find jobs that give you the support to create something but I think voluntary work is just creative, active, and really good fun.”
Many young people today are worried about money and even if people want to volunteer, perhaps it’s hard to look past the money issue. But as on so many other issues, Dagmara has a positive outlook on this as well.
“First find out what you want to do and try to find a charity and start working there for free. If you can live with your parents you can develop your skills, then you can decide if it’s for you or not. If you work hard for nothing later you can see the result of it and you can find a real job. You can find your passion and you can live for your passion.
“For me it’s really important to invest your time. What is quite strange for me it that young people sometimes think they will get some experience and get paid directly. I started when I was seven and got my first money when I was thirty. I know it was worth it because I never wasted my time.”