TV journalist preserves positive family memories

In the last weeks of her father’s life, Barbara Altounyan had a strong desire to record his life story. After all, her father, Roger Altounyan, had many remarkable memories to recount. Growing up in Syria, he went on to pioneer a drug to treat asthma and served as the inspiration for a character in the children’s book ‘Swallaws and Amazons’. 

As her father neared the end of his life, Barbara’s family were at first strongly opposed to the idea of her interviewing him and nosing into his memories. But she persisted, even postponing journalism training at the BBC to spend time learning about her father’s past.

“He died two weeks after I finished and all my family and siblings wanted a copy of the audio recording,” Barbara recalled. “Since then I’ve been on telly and made films. People recognise me and ask me if I’m the woman who does recordings about life stories.”

Recording her father’s story led her to consider the value of doing so for others. She created a charity dedicated to the cause, called The Hospice Biographers, as well as a more recent project, Family-Talk which offers a therapeutic experience for those at the end of their lives, recounting their memories to family members.

The charity has listeners across the country and offers end of life comfort for people around the world wanting their families and others to remember their life stories.

“For the patients, it gives them joy,” she said. “You might have a big wealth of property but everyone would like to leave something to be remembered by and the most valuable thing of all can be their voice. It is a form of talking therapy. People always feel better afterwards. They remember happier more colourful days when they were having fun and had independence.”

She added: “For the families, it gives them a lasting memory and, in the world of the media, audio is more powerful than pictures.” 


Help to preserve family memories

To get involved with Family-Talk and record your family member’s stories, get in touch via the Family-Talk website here.

To help cover the cost of recording these precious memories, donate to Family Talk or Hospice Biographers.


Top 5 spring fundraising events to drive positive change

As spring approaches the weather is improving, offering the perfect opportunity to get outside and brighten people’s lives to match the brightening weather by fundraising for charity. Here is our selection of charitable events in aid of a variety of causes supporting good health and wellbeing. Participate in these challenges to lift your mood and improve others’ lives as we come out of the Covid-19 lockdown.


Promote charitable work with a parkland run

Taking place on 11th April, the Royal Parks Half Marathon still has charity places available. The central London route will take participants past some of the capital’s most famous landmarks and four of its royal parks: Hyde Park, The Green Park, St James’s Park and Kensington Gardens. To participate, get in touch with the charity of your choice from the list available here.


Step up to a challenge for Bowel Cancer Awareness Month this April

Every 15 minutes someone is diagnosed with bowel cancer. But with the help of fundraisers, the charity Bowel Cancer UK, offers health advice and leads research projects to support people diagnosed with the disease. You can help the charity continue its vital work by joining their Step up for 30 challenge this April. This is a flexible event that simply involves doing exercise on a daily basis while getting friends and family to sponsor you. Sign up here.


A lunge for young people with cancer

The Teenage Cancer Trust is inviting supporters to take on the challenge of doing 5,000 lunges in April. Funds raised for the event will help support young people to fight cancer with emotional and practical support as well as lobbying policymakers and advancing service provision. Sign up to participate in the challenge here.


Marvel at Britain’s coastline for a good cause

For the Jurassic Coast Challenge on 15th – 16th May, walking enthusiasts are invited to cover 25, 50 or 100km along a scenic route taking in views of England’s coastline. Participants will pass the ruins of Corfe Castle in Dorset, the natural stone arches of Durdle Door and West Bay’s remarkable ridged cliffs. The event’s charity partners span a large range of causes, including mental and physical health. To sign up as a charity fundraising team, contact the charity directly. Find a list of participating organisations here.


Run around London’s greenest borough

Join London’s flattest and most scenic marathon, the Richmond Marathon, to fundraise for the charity that most interests you. Falling on 16th May, the marathon will lead runners through London’s greenest borough, Richmond, which is home to Kew Gardens, Richmond Bridge and the Tow Path. Find a list of charities and their contact details to organise your sponsored run here.


Cancer survivor raises nearly £7K for Cancer Research UK

Despite having an injured foot, cancer survivor Jayne Davies has walked over 780,000 steps accompanied by her dog, Teddy, to fundraise for Cancer Research UK. After she successfully recovered from ovarian cancer, followed by breast cancer, Jayne decided to raise money for a charity to which she feels she owes her life.

“I’m in absolute agony but I’m smiling and I’m alive. If it wasn’t for Cancer Research UK looking for treatments I probably wouldn’t be alive today,” Jayne said.

After getting the all-clear from the doctors in February, she was sitting in her living room with her family when she decided to take on the challenge of walking 10,000 steps a day for Walk All Over Cancer this March. 

This target would have got her to around 310,000 steps in one month. Instead, she has reached over double this goal and raised nearly £7,000.

“My partner said I couldn’t because I’d only just been through treatment,” she said. The treatment had somehow damaged a nerve in her foot so she also had difficulty walking. As soon as she returns from her walks, she has to put on gel socks and alternate between a hot compress and ice cubes to calm the swelling.

Regardless of the pain it causes her, Jayne insisted on fundraising, knowing that her struggle would only prompt more people to donate to the cause.

“I think because people know how poorly I’ve been it’s gone a long way to people saying they want to sponsor me,” she said.

Fast approaching her fundraising target of £10,000, she has received donations of all kinds. Three local builders donated £100 each and one retired local gave over £500, a whole month’s worth of their pension. 

People around the world have sent messages of support through online communities she joined as a Liverpool football fan. Fellow supporters living as far as Canada and Hong Kong have been following Jayne’s cancer journey from the start as she posted updates on social media.


Support life-saving research

Cancer Research UK funds research projects into treatments and cures for a whole range of different cancers. Their research began in 1902 and since then their achievements include pioneering research into radiation as a form of treatment as well as helping to develop the modern form of radiotherapy.

To support their work finding life-saving cures, donate here.


Meet the prison inmate fundraising for homeless people

Along with his fellow inmates in HMP Leeds, Joe Outlaw hopes to turn his life around by fundraising for charity through their own organisation, System Grown. Together they raised £100 for homeless people’s charity Simon on the Streets and collected food to help 50 people sleeping rough in Leeds. 

As IPP (Imprisonment for Public Protection) prisoners, many of them have been kept locked up longer than their original sentences and charity work is one way they can build back their credibility and self-respect.

Joe explained: “The fundraising gave me and the lads something positive to work towards. It really made a big difference for us. Even though in the grand scheme of things, the effort was quite minimal, it makes a difference if you have aspirations. 

“Being in the papers was amazing for everyone and the feeling that I got from the positive comments was brilliant. As prisoners, we always feel like we’ve just made loads of mistakes. But the lads involved with the fundraising felt that no matter their mistakes, they could tell their families that they were in the papers for having done something good.”

Homelessness, mental health problems and drug addiction affect many ex-prisoners, so Joe and the other inmates decided that these would be appropriate issues to help tackle. Recently they reached out to offer their support to mental health charity Mind as well as Criminon, a charity that helps prisoners and ex-offenders with drugs awareness programmes and educational support.

Growing up away from his parents, being passed from one care home to another, Joe has experienced homelessness himself. He often preferred to sleep in doorways and garden sheds rather than being shuffled around a system in which he didn’t feel comfortable. 

“I have spent all my life in absolute chaos,” he said. “I got put into care at the age of three, had been through 22 children’s homes by age 11. My mum is a manic depressive, my father was absent. Growing up in that environment teaches you bad behaviour. Even if you know it’s not right, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive. I’m 34 now and it’s time for me to make a change.”

Organising a fundraiser from behind bars

Unsurprisingly, organising a fundraiser from inside prison is no easy feat. But despite the lengthy bureaucracy to go through and despite having so little to give to charity, the inmates persisted. 

Joe says he is much indebted to Leeds HMP Custodial Manager, Sean Kelly, who helped him and the other inmates organise the fundraiser after Joe asked him what he could do to give back.

Sean commented: “We asked him to take on the role of a peer support worker to support all 145 inmates in the wing and he has thrived in communicating with fellow prisoners, providing support and resource packs. His workload is immense. Joe comes up with lots of ideas, one of which was prior to Christmas to work with a designated charity to offer food and donations from the ISFL wing via the design of a Christmas jumper competition.”

With the help of another inmate, Luke, Joe initially wrote a letter to Simon on the Streets explaining his idea to them.

Natalie Moran, the CEO of Simon on the Streets, said: “We were surprised to receive a letter from Leeds prisoners but gladly welcomed Joe, Luke and the other inmates support for our cause. A prison may seem like an unlikely place to receive charitable support, but they have been amazing in helping us to feed a further 50 people across the streets of Leeds. Joe has been keeping us updated with further fundraising plans, as well as spreading the word about Simon on the Streets to fellow inmates who may need our help.”

After the charity sent promotional flyers to the prison, the inmates set about raising money. They received donations of seedlings and seeds which they sold to prisoners and donated the proceeds to charity. Their charitable efforts included collecting snacks and packaged food to donate to Simon on the Streets as well as an art competition for which competitors donated £1 to enter.

Simon on the Streets operates in West Yorkshire, offering emotional and practical support to homeless people. In 2020 alone they helped people find a bed for the night 449 times and organised permanent housing for 53 homeless people.

To follow Joe’s example and support their work, donate here.


Tesco sets out its climate “manifesto” ahead of COP26

Acknowledging the role our food system plays in the climate crisis, Tesco has identified five key areas where it can positively contribute to climate action. These include cutting emissions from energy, supporting the UK’s transition to electric vehicles, tackling food waste, supporting sustainable food production, and helping customers eat more sustainable diets.

Setting out these aims at The Grocer Conference last week, Tesco CEO, Ken Murphy stressed the need to improve efficiency with cutting-edge innovation if the retailer, and the food industry as a whole, is to meet its climate targets. In 2017, Tesco committed to help reduce emissions to keep warming below 1.5-degrees. The supermarket aims to reach net-zero emissions in the UK by 2035, fifteen years earlier than originally planned.

Putting the food industry on a path to zero emissions

Through better efficiency and innovation, Tesco reduced its absolute emissions by 50 per cent last year compared to 2015, beating its 2020 target of 35 per cent.

At The Grocer Conference Murphy called on the whole of the food industry to increase its efforts to meet the UK’s climate ambitions: “In this critical decade for tackling climate change, it’s vital we challenge ourselves to be more ambitious in our aims and accelerate progress against them. At Tesco, we’re playing our part by creating a better basket for our customers and the planet.

“No one business can tackle these challenges alone. We must take collective action as a food industry to drive the transformational changes necessary to meet the UK’s climate commitments.”

Murphy’s mobilisation efforts build on the supermarket’s previous work for the environment. In 2018, Tesco launched a partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to halve the environmental impact of food and tackle some of the biggest issues connected to food production, including the climate crisis.

Commenting on Tesco’s efforts, Tanya Steele, CEO of WWF said: “Our global food and farming systems are a major cause of nature’s decline. Retailers and their supply chains have a critical role to play in tackling the climate crisis by reducing emissions and ensuring the food on our plates doesn’t drive nature loss at home and overseas.

If we are to safeguard our future and limit warming to 1.5 degrees, we must transform the way we produce and consume food.  This new manifesto from Tesco, outlining the actions it is taking to address these systemic issues, is a positive step towards the UK’s transition to a net-zero future.”

The role of the food industry in ending climate chaos

Food systems currently produce up to 37 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and significantly contribute to deforestation, declining water supplies and biodiversity loss. So their role in radically altering the way they produce is integral to diverting the catastrophes we will otherwise face.

If you are interested in encouraging corporations in the food industry to undo the damaging impact they’re having on the environment, join the WWF’s action centre to support their campaigns for a greener food system.

You can also support the WWF’s work reforming the food industry by making a donation to the WWF.


Top charities advancing the 17 UN goals

Established in 2015, the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious set of targets meant to offer the world a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all,” as stated by the UN General Assembly. Across the globe, organisations have mobilised to support these goals which they hope to achieve by 2030. 

To celebrate their successes so far, we’ve put together this list of some of the top international and UK charities driving progress towards the 17 UN goals. 


1. No poverty

Working across about 70 different countries, Oxfam is one of the largest charities tackling the interconnected issues of poverty and inequality. Together with thousands of partners and ally organisations, they are fund concrete changes that tackle the symptoms of poverty, while campaigning for broader changes. 


Their work includes investing in fair taxation, monitoring public finances and supporting campaigns that prioritise women and girls. Support their work by donating here.


2. Zero hunger

For 40 years, Action Against Hunger has been working towards the UN goal of zero hunger, promoting good nutrition, food security, successful livelihoods and sanitation across nearly 50 different countries. Last year alone, the charity served more than 17 million people in 46 countries, supporting malnourished children and ensuring access to clean water, food, training and healthcare. Further their mission by donating.


3. Good health and wellbeing

Health issues are tackled by a huge range of charities across the world that mainly focus on specific diseases or conditions. Among those based in the UK, The British Heart Foundation channels an impressive £100 million into research annually for heart and circulatory related diseases and their causes, making it the largest funder of cardiovascular research. To help fund this life-saving research donate here.


As mental health becomes an increasing concern due to the pandemic, services from mental health charities like Mind become progressively more vital to support people’s wellbeing. In the space of a year, Mind answered over 119,000 calls from people needing information and support and over 120,000 people benefitted from their online support communities, promoting the UN goal of good wellbeing. To help more people struggling with their mental health, donate here.


4. Quality education

In 2019 alone Save the Children reached 7.7 million children through their education programmes. Their efforts focus on children in disaster-stricken countries such as Rwanda and Syria, as well as deprived children struggling at school in the UK. To support children across the world, in their education as well as a wide range of other important areas of life, donate to Save the Children.


5. Gender equality

Helping women globally, Womankind Worldwide promotes economic opportunities for women, tackles gendered violence, and strengthens their ability to lead. Their work spans Africa and Asia, with particular attention paid to less developed countries such as Ethiopia and Nepal. Help drive the changes needed to create gender equality by donating here.


6. Clean water and sanitation

Since its launch, WaterAid has gained access to clean water for millions of people across the world. They support those struggling to reach this basic necessity by installing taps and toilets in some of the most hostile environments. On a broader scale, they lobby governments to design policies around people’s needs, driving lasting change across the world and supporting the UN goal of clean water and sanitation. To ensure more people have access to essential water donate to them here.


7. Affordable and clean energy

Among the organisations supporting the transition to greener energy is The Renewable Energy Foundation. The charity works globally to promote public awareness and debate around the necessity of energy conservation and clean energy. To support their work donate to the foundation. 


8. Decent work and economic growth

For the eighth UN goal of promoting sustainable growth and good economic opportunities, Village Enterprise, is one of the charities making a significant impact in this area. Their teams work with entrepreneurs in rural Africa to help generate more income from small businesses. They’ve set themselves the ambitious goal of lifting 20 million people out of extreme poverty by 2030 and have so far transformed over one million people’s lives through business support.


9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure

This UN goal focuses on building strong infrastructure, supporting industry and fostering innovation. The last of these is integral to the work of Nesta, a charity that describes itself as “The UK’s innovation agency for social good”. Their 10-year strategy aims to promote a fairer start in life, good health, and a sustainable future. They support specialist enterprises to pursue positive social change and have worked with government agencies to reshape public services to meet communities’ needs. 


10. Reduced inequalities

Building a social movement to advance social and economic equality in the UK, The Equality Trust is leading a number of campaigns towards this aim. These include initiatives to promote equality through employee ownership, government action, progressive taxation, education and partnerships with like-minded organisations. To support their drive towards a fairer economy and society in the UK donate here.


11. Sustainable cities and communities

Educational charity the Landscape Institute has a mission bound up in the 11th UN goal of creating sustainable cities and communities. Through connecting members of the landscape profession, this UK charity aims to keep the natural and built environment in the service of the public, regenerating urban areas to support good health, local culture and the environment. For information about how to support their work email [email protected]


12. Responsible consumption and production

By empowering small-scale farmers, marginalised from trade, the Fairtrade Foundation supports this 12th UN goal. Its Fairtrade Standards promote safe working conditions, fair wages and environmental sustainability, offering consumers more ethical product options. To support small business owners across the world, struggling to compete with multinationals, donate here.


13. Climate action

Over the next nine years, we need to make dramatic changes to everything from our economy to our food systems and our energy sources in order to avoid the worst of climate collapse. The civil rights movement in the US, the suffragettes, national independence movements and the AIDS recognition movement: all these historic examples show that non-violent direct action is one of the most effective ways to achieve the broad societal changes we need. To support a selection of top contemporary environmental groups driving such change, donate to the Climate Emergency Fund.


14. Life below water

With a vision of eradicating pollution and rubbish from our oceans, the Marine Conservation Society is the leading UK charity protecting sea life. The organisation conducts research, organises volunteering programmes and campaigns to clean up the oceans and support biodiversity in the ocean. To help them advance their mission, donate here.


15. Life on land

To support the 15th UN goal of supporting life on land, the World Wildlife Fund tackles the major issues facing our planet’s biodiversity. These include our food system and the climate crisis. The charity collaborates with governments, institutions and other organisations to ensure nature is prioritised and that we reform human systems around its needs. To further their mission, donate to the WWF.


16. Peace, justice and strong institutions 

Amnesty International is the leading charity protecting human rights around the world. The organisation campaigns, petitions and files legal suits to put pressure on governments who have neglected their duty to protect their citizens. To help them fight injustice and human rights abuses give to them here.


17. Partnerships for the goals

Where would charities be without volunteers? NVCO supports 16,000 charities, community groups and volunteer organisations by connecting them with people who want to help. Their members range from health-focused organisations to animal rights charities. Sign up as a volunteer or member organisation via the NVCO website.


Tiba + Marl adds fashion appeal to bags for life

When entrepreneurs Anna Tizard and Lydia Barron became new mums back in 2015, they couldn’t find maternity bags to fit both their aesthetic preferences and the hoards of baby gear they needed to lug around. 

Both had an eye for fashion trends, with Anna working as a bag buyer for Topshop and Urban Outfitters, and Lydia as a designer for brands such as Zara, Jaeger and Sigerson Morrison.

So together they decided to put their skills to good use and answer the calling for functional bags that would be appealing enough for parents to want to keep them well beyond their baby-rearing days. 

“We knew we were on to something when before we even launched we were featured in Grazia magazine and had a waiting list of over 1,000 people,” said Anna.

Hence their idea quickly materialised into Tiba + Marl, a thriving business with the capacity to contribute substantially to social and environmental causes.

Giving bags of joy

On 24th March 2021, the designers will launch a new collection of Smiley™ bags bedecked in the iconic smiley face. With every purchase, they will send a copy of the Happy Newspaper to the buyer as well as pupils returning to school post-lockdown. 

“We both have two school-aged children so we know first-hand how hard the pandemic and lockdown has been on the younger generation’s mental health,” explained Anna.

“We hope that by focussing on good news and setting a positive example we can encourage kids to read The Happy Newspaper and go some small way to make them feel a little bit more positive about things.”

A sustainable venture

From the off, Tiba + Marl has committed to supporting communities and environmental causes. 

“As a brand, we are very socially conscious and work behind the scenes with charity donations all through the year, but we don’t really publicise these,” explained Lydia.

Each Christmas they donate £10 from every sale to Family Action as part of the charity’s Toy Appeal, buying Christmas presents for underprivileged children. In the days leading up to Christmas, they donate all profits to Crisis UK, to help fund Christmas meals for people sleeping rough.

To help protect the environment, a portion of the profits from each bag sold goes to three UK-based and international carbon reduction projects, improving biodiversity, air quality and the climate. Partnering with Carbon Footprint Ltd, they are supporting the UK-based environmental company to deliver solutions for carbon management and carbon offsetting across the world. 

Look out for their new Smiley™ collection on the Tiba + Marl website from 24th March 2021.


What is International Purple Day about?

Today, 26th March 2021 is Purple Day, when people around the world raise awareness about epilepsy. Created by a young girl with this central nervous system disorder, the awareness day is marked by charities and individuals worldwide. Supporters use the occasion to dispel myths about seizures and talk about the impact it has, all while wearing, baking and having fun with the colour purple. 

Eight-year-old Cassidy from Canada started Purple Day in 2008, a year after she was diagnosed with complex partial epilepsy. Affecting many areas of her life, from swimming lessons to walking to school, the disorder made her feel isolated and alone.

So, together with the help of her family, her teachers and the Epilepsy Association of Nova Scotia, she launched a day for people with epilepsy to feel supported and part of a community. She chose purple to mark the occasion because lavender is the international colour representing epilepsy. 

Digital fundraising lead at the UK-based charity, Young Epilepsy, Martha Knight, explained: “Days like Purple Day are fantastic for raising money, but more importantly it also starts a conversation and people who may have never heard of epilepsy can learn how much it affects someone’s life.”

Purple Day 2021 has kicked off to a good start, as Martha elaborated: “It’s been so busy online – but the best kind of busy; people have been sharing their stories of diagnosis, we’re getting pics from schools and colleges who are taking part, and everyone has been so generous with donations. 

“We’ll know the full extent next week when it’s all calmed down, but we are so humbled and appreciative of the lengths our supporters are going to.”

Dealing with epilepsy

Those with epilepsy often experience severe limitations in many areas of their life including education, mobility, relationships and employment. The disorder involves electrical bursts disrupting the brain and bringing on seizures. If not safely handled, these can restrict the person’s breathing and, in the worst instances, lead to death.

“Epilepsy is such a misunderstood condition,” Martha added. “It’s far more complex than you might realise, and being diagnosed can be the most terrifying experience, for both the child and their family.” 

How do people celebrate Purple Day?

This year, Young Epilepsy is inviting its supporters to #GoPurple, hosting a purple-themed house party, wearing purple or taking on a fitness challenge dressed in purple.

To help the charity support young people, children and their families deal with the impact of epilepsy, donate here.

Find more information about Purple Day on Young Epilepsy’s website.


Young Londoners gain life-changing training

Aimed at empowering young people in the south London town of Croydon, CHANGE campaign is offering young Londoners invaluable access to training, educational institutions and career coaching. The initiative is supported by TV star and vocal coach CeCe Sammy-Lightfoot and is driven by the founder of youth organisation Music Relief Foundation (MRF) who overcame significant challenges as a young person herself.

Launching on 30th March, the programme will unfold over four weeks and consists of emotional, wellbeing and goal-setting support, followed by skills training and career-oriented courses. Those who complete these initial steps will gain access to a scheme tailored to their personal aspirations that will lead on to apprenticeships, internships and work experience.

The brainchild of MRF’s inspirational founder, Magdalene Adenaike, this support for young people was made possible after she overcame significant obstacles to achieving her own dreams. 

As a lover of music and art, Magdalene set up the foundation after becoming a teenage mum in 1999. “I went through a harrowing experience of been ostracized from the church,” she explained, “and within my community, because I was told I had brought shame to my family because of the pregnancy. I tried aborting so that my parents never found out but could not go through with it.” 

Twelve years later, in 2011, she transformed this tumultuous period in her life into a motivator for helping others. 

“Upon completion of my first degree in Music Industry Management, I had an idea to work with teenage mums and somehow combine that work with music,” she said.

After several years of networking, delivering talks and workshops in schools and other organisations, Magdalene’s foundation supports young people aged 11 to 25 in the community. The foundation inspires, engages and motivates youths through music and the arts to help them reach their full potential.

Building a launchpad for young people

Today, the CHANGE campaign will help more young people facing adversity achieve their goals just like Magdalene herself managed to do.

Supporting the campaign, CeCe Sammy-Lightfoot, known for appearances on The X Factor and The Voice, is proud to be employing her celebrity profile to support others.

She said: “I am at a stage in my life when I want to give something meaningful to those who have not been as lucky as me. If I can use my platform to help even just one person to achieve more than they thought was possible, perhaps to build something lasting for their own family, it would mean the world to me.

“If the pandemic has taught us one thing, it is that by working together – creating strong communities – we can overcome tremendous challenges and achieve great things. Now feels like a time to put aside some of the more meaningless and ephemeral trappings of celebrity and focus on issues that really matter. Fame and achievement may give you a buzz and fuel pride but they do not bring peace, love or joy.  Supporting causes that may actually make a difference in people’s lives bring a sense of fulfilment that is unique.”

Find more information about the programme here.

To support the MRF’s work inspiring young people and building strong communities, donate here.

Culture Equality

Meet the entrepreneur sending craft boxes to deprived children

Some of the most deprived children across the UK have a treat in store, as, from 1st April, they will receive boxes of stickers, colouring materials and more, through their front doors. Joining forces with children’s charity Barnardo’s to organise this initiative, toucanBox founder Virginie Charles-Dear is offering disadvantaged children something to look forward to, with her children’s craft boxes.

Virginie initially started toucanBox as a solution to a common problem parents face: how to keep their children entertained away from screens. Today her boxes are helping tackle broader problems faced by society. She started to incorporate charitable donations into her work in 2018 after one of her employees donated a gift to the Met Police Christmas Gift Appeal.

“We felt that as a company we could make an even bigger impact,” she said, “especially as at toucanBox we want all kids to have the opportunity to play, discover and learn, regardless of their circumstances. That’s the reason we launched our charitable initiative Care for Kids.”

Since then, during children’s charity appeals, they have matched every box purchased with one donated to children in need. Their new partnership with Barnardo’s will offer children some solace while they go through the stressful experience of lockdown and catching up with school work. 

Play breaks in a pandemic

Since the pandemic hit the UK, many children have struggled, being stuck at home and isolated from their friends. But for deprived children, over a year spent in lockdown has been particularly difficult, facing food insecurity and more. 

“The last 12 months have been difficult for children everywhere,” said Virginie. “They’ve missed out on months of school and extracurricular activities; they’ve missed out on school trips and simply spending time with their friends. 

“I’ve seen firsthand the effect that the various lockdowns have had on the mental health of my own kids and I can only imagine the disproportionate impact this pandemic had on the most vulnerable and marginalised children.”

From surveying her own customers, Virginie found that 8 in 10 parents felt their children’s mental health was a top priority. Parents told toucanBox that giving children “something positive to look forward to” – in support of their children’s mental wellbeing – was their primary reason for buying a craft box.

Buy a box for a child in need

To cheer up children across the country in need of a nice surprise, buy a toucanBox after 1st April and your purchase will be matched with a box delivered by Barnardo’s to underprivileged children.

Barnardo’s supports children and young people, carers and their families who are facing insecurity. Last year the charity assisted more than 358,000 people through more than 800 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes. Their goal is to transform the lives of the UK’s most vulnerable children and every year we help thousands of families to improve their situations.

Visit to find out more. Donate to support their mission here.