Fundraising: Me and my charity - Helen Elster-Jones

Helen Elster-Jones, who works in the fashion industry, lives on a boat with her husband on the canal near King's Cross. She has volunteered for two years as a canal keeper with Thames 21, a charity aiming to improve Londoners' local environments.

How did you become involved with Thames 21? Living on a boat is very different from living in a house. Partitions are made of wood and you can hear everything that happens outside - people being attacked, for instance. I have always done wildlife rescue work on the canal or taken part in campaigns against vandalism and was keen to join Thames 21's canal keeper scheme when I heard about it.

What do you like about it? It is good to be part of a group rather than operate on my own. With my husband, I am the only canal keeper in the immediate area. There is usually one keeper per group of boats on the canal. There has been a sense of community in King's Cross for a long time, and I feel very much part of it. We had to face drug and prostitution-related crime for years, and now that the area is going upmarket because of its redevelopment some people are being evicted from their homes.

What do you do to help? I pick up litter, help the occasional canal walker and report any crime to Thames 21. It has all the contacts for the police or British Waterways and deals with problems immediately.

It recently responded very quickly to stop a small gang that was killing wildlife around the canal - it would have taken me a whole day to get in touch with the relevant person. When I go out I wear a uniform with a badge and a whistle. I am a visible presence. People feel more secure if someone is around.

How many hours a week do you volunteer? A couple of hours, when I take the dog for a walk, go jogging or go for a walk with my husband.

Do you give money as well? Not to Thames 21, but I have been a member of the RSPB for four years and make occasional donations on top of my membership fee. I also give money to the Swan Sanctuary and take injured birds there with my husband. We give around £250 a year to charity.

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