People Profile: Community Cares!

Natasha Lorraine Victor, Director & Founder of The Social Heritage Project Ltd

Having moved to Godalming in 2018 to work for BAE Systems Digital Intelligence as a Project Manager on The Intelligence Network, I quickly grew to love the beautiful community spirit that exists in rural Surrey. I was delighted to find that Cranleigh shared the same values when I moved here in 2020.

I grew up in Maida Vale, central London and spent my school holidays travelling around the world and visiting my grandparents in South America every year.

Me and my mum, Indrani

My ancestors came from various parts of the world, from Europe and the Commonwealth including Indian and Nepalese on my maternal side and Jewish, Maltese, French, Italian and Afro-Caribbean in my paternal lineage. With a multi-cultural background, I have always been fascinated at humanity’s ability to find more that unites us than divides with respect to love, family and social unity. 

Many of the experiences I have encountered at home and abroad have given me insight into understanding the human psyche and our ability to listen to the angels of our better nature. 

My grandfather invested time and money on philanthropic ventures around the globe and as an avid historian, I inherited his propensity to help others and use our collective knowledge of our past to influence and elevate our present; for the greater good of all people. 

Career History

I began my career journey as an undergraduate at the University of London, where I majored in BA History and Journalism. After writing an article on the war in Iraq in 2003, I was awarded the Socrates Scholarship to study Broadcast Journalism in Toronto, Canada on exchange and also worked as a freelance journalist at the Government Information News Agency at The Office of the President, in Georgetown, Guyana, during a gap year. I completed various internships at the BBC, London Tonight, Channel 4 News and ITN to name a few. 

In uniform as a reservist for 3MI (Military Intelligence) with Wally Harris, who received the Military Medal for Bravery during WWII.

Despite the tragic attacks in central London on 7th July 2005, I attended my graduation the same day at Queen Mary’s. I subsequently worked for Deutsche Bank for a few years, before taking a law conversion course at BPP University of Law and training as an accredited Legal Mediator at Regent’s College, London. During this period I began working part-time for the Honourable  Company as a Recruitment Coordinator and continued working with the organisation in both a civilian and military capacity as an Army Reservist. 

After working at the HAC for seven years, I embarked on postgraduate studies in Diplomatic Studies at Practice at SOAS and transferred to University College London in 2017, where I specialised in Cybersecurity, Counter-terrorism and International Relations at the School of Public Policy and the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science. It was through this avenue that I was recruited by BAE Systems Digital Intelligence. Once I had settled in Surrey, I had a change of heart about my career path and felt more inclined to working on projects directly related to caring for the community, as opposed to corporate life.  

Charity run with HAC recruits

In 2023, I was offered a place to complete a Masters in Social Innovation at Judge Business School, Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge. However, I opted to complete two shorter courses at the University of Oxford (online) and became more proactive with social innovation in my home village, Cranleigh. 

This is when The Social Heritage Project was born and began to initiate project collaborations with various members of our community to help increase social cohesion through innovation, technology, and partnerships . 

Community Work

Prior to the inception of The Social Heritage Project, I had completed various charitable endeavours at home and abroad. 

As a qualified mediator, I led conflict resolutions as a civilian for Tri-Services within the military and mitigated the risk of litigation by reducing potential escalation of employment disputes. As the student Director for Mediation at BPP Law School’s Pro Bono Centre, I trained many students in alternative dispute resolution skills and facilitated the provision of volunteers to various community groups such as The Damilola Taylor Centre, The StreetLaw initiative, The Residential Property Tribunal Service, LawWorks and local councils. 

The Ice Maidens, making their record breaking journey

Additionally, after ghost-writing the winning advocacy at The Civil Mediation Council for compulsory mediation within English courts and judiciary, I gained the support of former barrister and High Court Judge, Sir Henry Brooke, who attended many of the events and workshops I hosted for students on campus. 

Internationally, I coordinated the construction of an orphanage in South America with funding received from my grandfather and the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, for indigenous Amerindian children living in Amazonian habitats. I also worked in compounds and schools in poor areas of The Gambia and felt so fulfilled to see the positive impact charitable work can have in helping those less fortunate around the world. 

Working with school children in The Gambia

In recent years, I trained as a ‘Greyshirt’ Domestic Ops Volunteer with other military veterans as part of Team Rubicon UK, now called Re:Act, and volunteered as an online specialist teacher for Year 11 students during the Covid-19 Lockdown through The Diana Award Charity. 

Whilst a volunteer in the British Armed Forces, I spent a great deal of time recruiting, training, and coaching civilians before they joined the HAC regiment and one of my former recruits, Sophie Montagne, became one of the Ice Maidens and a world record holder as part of the first female team to ski across Antarctica. I have continued my voluntary work in elevating women and changing social norms by attending The Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, as a specialist cybersecurity representative at STEM conferences in recent years, to encourage young girls to embark on a career in this field.

The Social Heritage Project

With all of my academic, social, and personal experiences I finally put this knowledge to good use and created The Social Heritage Project in 2023. 

As people may be aware through our involvement with other social innovation groups in our community, we carried the torch lit by Cranleigh Baptist Church and St Nicolas Church, to design and deliver Christmas Day lunch in December 2023. 

Jeremy Hunt talking with individuals

It came to my attention in mid-December that the annual Christmas lunch had been cancelled due to a lack of volunteers. This would have meant many elderly people and those without friends or families in Surrey, facing isolation on this festive day.  So we quickly created a project plan to mitigate these circumstances by collaborating with other local organisations.

The Chancellor of The Exchequer visited the event on 25th December 2023 at Cranleigh Village Hall to share festive wishes with individuals who would otherwise have been alone on Christmas Day. 

The Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt appeared at 12.45pm with his wife Lucia and three children, Jack, Anna and Ellie, to speak with the 50 guests and volunteers and present our first Social Heritage Project Recognition Award to Sheila Smith, 90, for her services to the community. 

Sheila Smith with Mrs Hunt and her 3 children

Mr Hunt kindly included the Chair of the Local Parish Council, Marc Scully, in the presentation to present the award and thank the volunteers for bringing the community together at short notice. He read a prayer for those experiencing conflict, loneliness and sickness around the world, with a focus on peace, health and prosperity for the New Year. 

7ft Christmas tree donated by Hans Christmas Andersen

We received over £1800 from St Nicolas Church in Cranleigh, under the provision of the Cannon, Rector Roy Woodhams and donations of more than £1,000 from the Cranleigh Rotary members, The Local Parish Council and Cranleigh and District Lions Club, as well as contributions from local and regional organisations. These included a free 7ft Christmas tree from Hans Christmas Anderson in Shamley Green, Christmas cakes from the local bakery, and a huge discount on front row tickets for the musical Mamma Mia as a gift to our recipient of the 2023 Recognition Award, Sheila Smith. 

Sheila Smith with her award
Sheila at the Mamma Mia musical

Sheila said she was ‘overwhelmed’ to receive the award for her services at St Nicolas Church Rooms for the past six years as a Community Team Leader, where she prepared weekly lunches for elderly residents nearby and hosted Christmas Day lunch during the Covid-19 Lockdowns. Due to poor health in 2023, she was unable to facilitate this as usual and sought the help of The Social Heritage Project. 

Sheila stated: “I was absolutely delighted that the Director was willing to take on this huge project at the last minute and with the wonderful award I received to acknowledge my efforts over the years. I have received much applause and commendation from this award which has given me the drive to continue my community work.”

Everyone was made to feel special on the day

Claire Carter, 79, expressed her pleasure at meeting Jeremy Hunt, informing him that she had known him as a young child when she was a tenant at a property owned by his parents in Shere. “He was a very gentle and kind individual and he took much time and pleasure in interacting with all of the guests and made everyone feel special on Christmas Day.” 

Fellow guest Anthony Harrow, 83, said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes! The Chancellor of Exchequer, No.2 in our Cabinet Office, had taken the time to visit our event and wish us all a Merry Christmas. It was such a great honour. An event I shall always remember with very fond memories.” 

David Jeacock, 78, a local resident said: “I was thrilled with my presents as they were the only ones I received at Christmas and included some lovely socks and cosy slippers. The turkey that was homecooked, was also the best I’ve ever had!”

Jeremy Hunt’s wife and children made the rounds serving canapés and drinks to guests at various tables and talking to the volunteers who included several people from Ukraine.

After lunch there was a standing ovation for the King’s Speech that was projected onto the mainstage at 3pm and focused on service to the community that resonated with everyone involved. 

In addition to working with the local community and volunteers such as Martin Baker, Michael Wild, Tracey and Kim Chappell, and Daniel Williams, we have already begun to branch into wider spheres of influence. 

Volunteers working hard in the kitchen, getting the food ready on time

The goal of this social enterprise is ultimately to ‘fill in the gaps’ in terms of boots on the ground and/or providing data, research and policy suggestions to those with the power and authority to make effective decisions that will help support people locally, regionally, and nationally. 

The Social Heritage Project was invited to The Office of Veteran Affairs annual conference in York at the end of last year and I was delighted by the encouragement received from The Rt Hon Johnny Mercer and The Rt Hon Tom Tugendhat at a RBLI meeting regarding female veterans who seek support after leaving the military. 

The Surrey Police and Crime Commissioner, Lisa Townsend, graced me with her insight and support during a meeting earlier this year, where we discussed how we can maintain safety and security on our rural streets and also help the PCC raise awareness about the resources readily available that can help protect vulnerable individuals from issues such as stalking, radicalisation and county-lines organised crime. With the next Surrey PCC election campaign in May 2024, we hope to shine a light on the excellent work she is doing and share experiences of local people through qualitative research as to areas for improvement following her tenure in office. 

I have also attended meetings with other community leaders with a view to collaborating on projects including Rosemary Hurtley, Director of Smart Cranleigh; Michael Wild, Director of Memory Lane, Trevor Dale, Director of Cranleigh Heritage Trust and the Leaders of the 1170 Project at St Nicolas Church who are seeking to fundraise £250,000 to make essential restorations to the 12th century building. 

Meeting with Johnny Mercer MP, (Minister of State for Veterans’ Affairs) at RBLI Village, Kent 2023, and Tom Tugendhat MP, Minister of State for Security.


We aim to inspire other local people to get involved in helping others by raising awareness about the fantastic work carried out by members of our current social group. In February 2024 Michael Wild was awarded our second Recognition Award for his dedication and service to Memory Lane, that supports local causes, and their carers who are suffering from the impact of dementia. 

In April 2024, we are extending this spotlight onto other individuals and organisations, giving awards to recognise their valuable contribution to the community of Cranleigh.

I look forward to working with my current partnerships and many more people in Cranleigh – in the hope that our example of community cohesion will have a domino effect on the rest of OUR country and inspire others to build back better in terms of manifesting a truly United Kingdom. 

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Cranleigh Magazine