153. Faye Shields
A 34 year old from Hither Green set up a social enterprise that has run thousands of unique walking tours around London led by homeless people.
Faye Shields created Unseen Tours with fellow volunteer Lidija Mavra in 2010 to give homeless, ex-homeless, and vulnerably housed Londoners the opportunity to get into paid work by leading tours of London. Over the last four years 13 guides have led tours around areas such as Covent Garden, Shoreditch, and Camden. These tours help to show London’s historical and cultural locations, while providing a regular income for the guides who lead them, many of whom have difficulty keeping regular work.
Unseen Tours run 365 days a year and 60% of ticket revenues are paid directly to the guides with the remainder of the money used for essential operational expenses. Thousands of tourists from across the world have appreciated the new perspectives that the tour guides give on London, whilst knowing that they are also helping the guides to live and work in the city that they love.
Faye was inspired to start Unseen Tours after volunteering for 10 years with the Sock Mob, a volunteer network that has now grown to over 1,000 people. Teams go out on weekly walks to speak to homeless people on the streets of London and provide them with socks, sandwiches and thermos flasks of tea as well as a friendly face to talk to. Sock Mob walks help the volunteers to form genuine friendships with people on the streets, and Faye and Lidija came up with the idea of Unseen Tours to continue to support some of the people they met. Today, Unseen Tours is a separate social enterprise that remains closely affiliated with the Sock Mob. It continues to take forward the ethos of connecting people from all walks of life in whilst breaking down prejudices and strengthening the bonds between people who share the same streets.
As part of her ongoing work to help the homeless of London, Faye also continues to volunteer with the Sock Mob and recently helped to start a Sock Mob in Chicago, USA, spreading the message of friendship to those who are homeless in one of America’s largest cities.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
“Faye’s Unseen Tours is a unique social enterprise that is doing its bit to help people get back on their feet through paid work. Over the last four years her tour guides have led thousands of walking tours around London, connecting people from all walks of life. I’m pleased to name Faye the UK’s 153rd Point of Light.”
“I was very surprised to be nominated and am honoured to win a Points of Light Award. I’m so grateful to have worked with so many wonderful people who have been a part of the tours throughout the years. Winning this award is testament to their incredibly hard work and absolute dedication to Unseen Tours, and I’m sure we’ll go from strength to strength!”