Betterverse: the charity-focused metaverse

By now, we’ve all heard of Meta… the “next evolution of social connection”. Well, how about if we told you there was also a “Betterverse” out there – one focused solely on charity?

The soon-to-be launched Betterverse is a virtual world to save our own, where you can donate to charities with the power of blockchain and get a picture of the good you do.

“It will bring charitable giving into the future of Web 3,” they say. “The service will ultimately allow people to donate to any cause, and in return receive a unique NFT that captures and visualises the real world impact. It will provide multiple-level transparency and offer donors a range of additional rewards and entertainment.” 

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Betterverse has been created with an international team of more than 15 technologists, creatives and advisors in 7 different countries across 5 continents. It is built on Polygon, a layer 2 protocol, close to the Ethereum blockchain but with low gas fees (operational fees). Polygon are working towards becoming the first carbon negative blockchain this year. 

It will feature a rich variety of NFT tree species, fungi and flora across four unique and fully explorable Biomes. In addition to this, the virtual world will also include exclusive tree collections from guest artists across the environmental, music, entertainment and art world.

How does it work?

For their first season – Trees – initial charity partners include some of the most-established names in the space, including, One Tree Planted, THG more:trees  and Tree-Nation.

People can donate to these charities in either traditional or crypto currencies, and will receive an NFT sapling that can continue to grow and give over time.

The donation’s full distribution details will be transparent, as will the impact made, from its contribution to biodiversity, to how much carbon is removed from the atmosphere. Every time the NFT is sold, additional funds are generated for the original charity.

The platform will be launching in late May 2022 and the fully interactive 3D metaverse will be available to explore by the end of 2022.

Inspired to act?

GET INVOLVED: Head to Betterverse’s website to find out more details about its launch



Artistic campaign tackles breastfeeding stigma

To overcome barriers to public breastfeeding, the Rotherham 0-19 Infant Feeding Team is launching a creative initiative across the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham. 

This summer, Rotherham Backs Breastfeeding will kick off to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and to make feeding in public easier for new parents. 

Led by The Rotherham NHS Foundation Trust, it will use work from local artists to confront the stigma around public breastfeeding.

“We want our campaign to be eye-catching, memorable and special,” Vicky Wilkinson, a Community Infant Feeding Co-ordinator who is running the campaign.

“There are many talented artists, crafters and creators in Rotherham that we would love to involve in the campaign. We are asking for a variety of art and craft donations, a unique piece of art or craft for inclusion in an exhibition to run in conjunction with the campaign,” she added.

The campaign came about after local parents were photographed feeding their babies in a number of iconic spots around the town. The photos will go on posters and bus adverts to promote the campaign. Additionally, hand-knitted, crocheted and sewn items donated to the initiative will get distributed during the campaign.

Behind the campaign is an understanding that anxiety around feeding in public often prevents new parents from breastfeeding, with knock-on effects on their babies.

“For breastfeeding to be successful it is necessary for babies to feed regularly to maintain an adequate milk supply and to prevent discomfort for the person breastfeeding,” she elaborated.

To overcome this, the campaign aims to help them feel comfortable feeding their babies in public spaces. 

Vicky explained: “We want to create a culture of encouragement and support for breastfeeding across Rotherham so that everyone feels comfortable to feed their babies wherever they are.”

The campaigners are asking for local artists to submit small and medium-size artwork that celebrates babies being breastfed or expresses important messages in favour of public breastfeeding. 

Inspired to act?

SUPPORT: To send artworks to the campaign, find out more about Rotherham Backs Breastfeeding.

DONATE: Help Rotherham Hospital care for patients, their families and carers. Donate to Rotherham Hospital and Community Charity.


Culture Equality

New Down’s syndrome charity launches

Lockdown gave some people to sit down and reflect on their lives and where they wanted to go.

And for Jo Aiyathurai, it gave her the beginnings of a brand-new charity supporting those with Down’s syndrome: Learn and Thrive.

“It came from an idea in lockdown when children were missing Early Years settings and school,” says Jo. “A local Down’s syndrome charity in Kent, 21 Together and specialist Down’s syndrome education provider Inclusively Down came together with the idea of producing educational videos for children at home.

“They were so popular that people all over the country were requesting them and funding was received to set up a national charity.”

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Learn and Thrive offers the first free educational online platform for young people with Down’s syndrome aged 0-18 with a key focus on building healthy relationships and life skills.

“We are so excited that we can now offer these bespoke free resources to all young people in the UK,” said Jo. “Our vision is that every child and young person, regardless of background, income, or family situation deserves access to education materials that meet their needs. For too long access has mainly been available to those that can pay for it.”

The charity’s success and quick growth is down to generous donations from its many supporters, a National Lottery Community Fund grant and corporate backing from Quality Compliance Systems (QCS).

Nikki Walker, CEO of QCS and Chair of Trustees for Learn and Thrive said: “When I first met with Jo and her team, what really shone through was a passion and determination to make this game-changing learning resource universally available to every young person with Down’s syndrome. I’m extremely proud to chair a dedicated team of trustees who all want to help empower the Down’s syndrome community.”

A library of free educational resources

The website contains a library of free educational resources. There are two projects, one for both early years and key stage 1 called Teach Me Too and the second for primary and secondary called Learning for Life which are created by the charity and their highly specialist partners.

They are designed to be used either in schools or at home and contain teaching videos and resource packs to assist learning.

Sheryl, who previewed the resources with her son Jake, aged 16, who has Down’s syndrome, said: “The ‘Growing Up and Keeping Safe’ videos and resources are absolutely brilliant. They are really high-quality and so engaging.

“My son Jake and I enjoyed watching them together and the content really clicked with him. The resources are very visual and presented in a clear and straightforward way, making them accessible to young people with Down’s syndrome.”

Inspired to act?

DONATE: You can support Learn and Thrive and donate through their website

GET INVOLVED: Find out more about Learn and Thrive’s work and see how you can get involved.


Sunshine ice cream promotes kids’ wellbeing

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in the United States when campaigners educate the public and advocate for positive change around mental illness. Stepping up to support the event, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is using its tasty treats to promote good wellbeing among children.

The company introduced a new ice cream created especially to highlight mental health issues faced by children. 

“It looks as muted grey as a rain cloud but tastes like a ray of sunshine,” the company, founded by Jeni Britton Bauer, says. “A fun play on the mind and a pleasant reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.”

They will also help distribute ‘Kindness Kits’ to 30,000 school pupils around the country with a donation of $25,000. Inside each kit children will find resources and activities teaching them about practising kindness. 

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Jeni’s is also encouraging its customers to make donations in support of On Our Sleeves, the group distributing the kits.

“Even before the pandemic, we were seeing alarming trends in children’s mental health,” said Dr Ariana Hoet, a pediatric psychologist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and clinical director of On Our Sleeves. 

“This is why it’s important to provide parents, caretakers and teachers with resources and information to better understand the children in their lives,” she added.

She hopes the resources will help build children’s understanding of mental health challenges and help them confront them.

“By having important conversations and building daily check-in habits, we’re equipping kids with the resources they need to build their mental wellness and feel comfortable seeking help when they need it,” she said.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: To support young people overcome mental health challenges, donate to On Our Sleeves.



This rare woodpecker is back from the brink

A threatened woodpecker has been sighted for the first time in decades, causing conservationists to celebrate. Since 1944, a grainy black and white photo was thought to be all that remained of the ivory-billed woodpecker. This was till researchers spotted it in the forests of Louisiana earlier this month.

Director of conservation at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh Steve Latta was with the party who spotted the bird. 

“You realise you’ve seen something special that very few people had the opportunity to see,” he told The Guardian.

Before the sighting in Louisiana, the woodpecker was registered as extinct by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. This was despite one report that it was seen in the Big Woods of eastern Arkansas in 2004.

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Once the species was relatively common. But their numbers started declining rapidly in the 19th century due to human activities their habitat and overhunting. 

To make things worse, hunters started targeting them because their rarity made them valuable collectors’ items. Poor communities also hunted the birds as a cheap source of food.

The species is distinguishable by the white edges of its wings, a call like a “tin trumpet” and the double tapping sound it makes when pecking trees. 

Understandably, the bird has become wary of humans, making it increasingly difficult to find.

“No one has held a camera and got a picture of one in years because it’s a scarce bird in tough swampy habitat and they don’t want people close to them because they’ve been shot at for 150 years,” a biologist at Auburn University, Geoffrey Hill, told The Guardian.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: Help conservationists do more to protect bird populations. Donate to the RSPB.

TAKE ACTION: Volunteer or support campaigns to support birdlife around the UK by getting involved with the RSPB.



Marcus Rashford launches ‘Thrive’ for kids

Marcus Rashford is known for his tireless work supporting those with food insecurities – and now he’s upping his efforts to teach kids about money, too.

Along with Natwest and the National Youth Agency, he has launched the Thrive Programme – a new programme being trialled at youth community centres across England to help address the lack of financial confidence and concerns that young people face today.

Thrive is being launched as a pilot across three youth community centres in Manchester, London and Sunderland this week, with plans to scale across the summer.  

With 67% of young people worrying about money, and only 8% of financial education coming from the classroom, NatWest, Marcus Rashford and the National Youth Agency have collaborated to create a programme that offers some much-needed support and guidance for young people to develop a positive mindset around money and help champion their potential.

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Led by inspirational youth workers, the content of the programme has been tailored to make the financial messages and guidance practical and relevant, suiting the learning-styles of different young people, promoting discussion with real-life examples.

Some of the topics covered in the programme will include:

Money Mindset: Developing an awareness of their (young peoples’) own beliefs about money, and the potential for beliefs to limit actions that could improve financial wellbeing.
Money Talks: Busting myths when talking about money and outlining ways to have conversations about money in close relationships.
Own Your Vision: Setting goals for life achievements and effectively planning age-appropriate ways to reach them

In partnership with the National Youth Agency, the professional, statutory and regulatory body for youth work in England who sets and validates the national standards for youth work qualifications, the programme will equip youth workers with a series of workshops and activities designed to speak to young people on their terms and in a way that they can relate to.

‘I know so many people who could benefit’

Marcus Rashford, MBE, said: “A lot of kids are scared to go to a bank, and that’s not surprising because they don’t teach you about money mindset at school. For those who grew up in the sort of area that I did, it’s about what you don’t have, rather than what you could achieve. The positive and empowering element doesn’t register in their heads.

“It’s not hard to reverse that, but not many people are trying to change that. It’s why I’m proud to work with NatWest on the Thrive Programme. I know so many talented young people who could really benefit from a program like this, who could actually propel themselves into something much bigger and achieving their goals… I’m really excited to be involved and to help shape the program.”

NatWest Group CEO Alison Rose commented: “Helping young people – no matter what their background – to thrive and develop a positive money mindset is core to our purpose and what I want us to achieve as a bank. We know education through inspiring relationships can have a big impact on young people, that’s why with the Thrive Programme we’ll be working with local and relatable people within the community to help young people reach their potential.

“Co-creating this programme with Marcus has helped us to better tailor our content to the real-life experiences of young people, and has only reinforced the amazing impact that positive role-models and peers can have in helping to develop an understanding of money and goal-setting.”

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5 steps to switch to an eco-friendly workday

Your career can take up a significant amount of time, with thousands of days spent at work by the average person in the UK. So for all those eco-conscious professionals, an environmentally-friendly work routine should be a priority.

To minimise your climate impact, here are five steps you can take to keep your keep carbon emissions low throughout your daily work routine.

Awaken to nature

Start your day on a high. From the moment you wake up, keep your impact low by opting for a bamboo toothbrush and other plastic-free toiletries. This reduction of plastic waste matters as it will help preserve nature, wildlife and ecosystems.

Brilliant breakfasts

Fancy a coffee? Pick organically-grown beans and plant-based milk such as oat milk, with a lower environmental impact. You might also consider eating vegan food and avoiding intensively produced animal products – one of the top ways we can lower our carbon footprints as individuals.

Switch on the eco-tech

It’s time to hit the keyboard! The type of device you use matters for the environment. Instead of buying new laptops, tablets or computers, try sourcing something second-hand. When browsing the internet, use less energy-intensive search engines such as Ecosia, and remember to save energy by switching off when you take a break or finish off.

A climate-friendly lunch

Say goodbye to sandwiches in packets and drinks in disposable plastic bottles. To make sure your lunch isn’t worsening the world’s plastic waste problem prepare your own packed lunches. If you travel to work, use a lunchbox or if working from home, there’s no excuse not to eat from a plate.

Sustainable stationery 

Sometimes it’s nice to work with good, old-fashioned pens and paper. Keep it ecological, by buying recycled notepads, refillable pens and upcycled stationery. You’ll only thank yourself for doing just that little bit to protect those marvellous trees that do so much for life on Earth.



The power of sport to empower women and girls

As you run, jump or move energetically, your body releases an unbeatable buzz of endorphins or happy hormones. It’s on this understanding that the charity, Women In Sport believes sport has the power to transform lives. The organisation hopes to harness this potential in order to overcome gender inequality. 

Shanika Flanore of Women In Sport tells Smiley News: “No one should be excluded from the joy, fulfilment and lifelong benefits that being active can provide.”

“Through sports, women and girls develop confidence, resilience and self-belief to feel strong, powerful, and happier and enable them to reach their full potential in every aspect of their lives,” she adds.

The broad-brush benefits of sport are proven by findings. One study found that 94% of women who hold senior executive positions in companies are former athletes. 

“Yet girls face numerous barriers to participation because of their gender from the moment they are born.,” says Shanika. 

By the time they reach adolescence, 43% of girls say they have lost the love of sport and are beginning to disengage from it. 

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“Gender stereotypes and institutional bias are holding women and girls back in life and sport,” she explains, then elaborates: “Imagine if we lived in a world where girls didn’t feel judged because of their body – crushing their self-confidence, they weren’t labelled a ‘tom boy’ for playing football or rugby and they were provided with numerous opportunities to participate and feel valued.”

The charity believes that an empowered society would involve far better education about women’s rights and health, better representation, and visibility in all areas of society. 

Shanika envisages: “They’d feel more empowered to take risks and are able to reach their full potential, without doubting their ability because that’s what they’ve been doing their whole life. No one is telling them they can’t do something because of their gender.”

To build a better understanding of how sport can empower women, the charity listens to thoughts, opinions, and views from women and girls on how to tackle the inequalities preventing so many of them from taking part in sport. 

Research conducted by the organisation examines the life stages at which this manifests – from primary, to teenage years, through to menopause and later life. 

“By truly understanding the barriers to participation we can campaign for change across the leisure, sport, and education sector so that all girls and women have the opportunity to participate in sport and they feel inspired to do so,” Shanika says.   

Inspired to act?

DONATE: To encourage more women and girls to gain confidence and life skills through sport, donate to Women In Sport.

JOIN: If you’re interested in supporting campaigns that use sport to tackle gender inequalities, get involved with Women In Sport.



Forward-thinking farms go eco for the planet

In the luscious green Surrey Hills, Marion McBurney runs an acreage known as Kingfisher Farm. Aside from a few small updates over the years, the farm is remarkable in that it fundamentally hasn’t changed much for decades. 

Since playing on the farm in the 1970s, Marion has maintained an eco-friendly approach to agriculture that she believes could be the answer to climate-related challenges to agriculture. 

On Kingfisher Farm, workers grow rotational crops and use renewable energy, refills and local produce to remain as sustainable as possible. 

To collect and carry fruit and vegetables from the farm shop, customers can use paper bags, cardboard boxes or baskets woven by a local craftsperson.

Marion tells Smiley News: “Since my parents ran the farm in the ‘70s, it’s always been clear to us that we shouldn’t overbuy or overproduce and that we should always, wherever possible, reuse packaging.”

Initially prompted by her parents’ postwar attitude of ‘make-do and mend’, the business approach has gained legitimacy with time. 

As more people become environmentally aware, the need to remain sustainable becomes ever more apparent. Marion sees the evidence firsthand. Due to the climate crisis, she is experiencing more obstacles to farming, as is the case for many others like her. 

For over a century the farm has produced watercress. But with changing seasons, this has become increasingly difficult. The weather is less predictable, it is difficult to judge when to sew crops, and the watercress takes longer to grow. Other crops such as corn and potatoes are also affected.

“They call the period between last year’s harvest and the next harvest time ‘the hungry months’ and I think it’s only going to become more true to its name as time passes,” she says.

But to overcome these challenges, she believes her age-old approach to farming will outdo more intensive forms of agriculture. 

She explains: “With intensive monocropping, if something goes wrong it will impact your entire production system. Whereas if you’re just cultivating a small area with rotating crops, then a crop failure won’t have such a significant impact on your business – so you have more control.”

Additionally, she believes her approach is better for strengthening communities. 

“In smaller farm businesses, the focus on the local community is much greater. You’re feeding people you have regular contact with rather than people hundreds of miles away from where the food is produced.”

“With time I think small-scale farming is only going to become stronger,” she adds.

Inspired to act?

DONATE: To encourage more sustainable farming in the UK, donate to the Sustainable Food Trust.

TAKE ACTION: Add your voice to the growing call for sustainable food production. Get involved with the Sustainable Food Trust.



Project gives cash to rainforest communities

A lively new partnership is going to support communities living in the world’s biggest rainforests.

Appliance brand Haier and climate charity, Cool Earth, will work together to back people and local communities to protect the rainforests and contribute to the fight against the growing climate crisis. 

Cool Earth works with communities in some of the largest rainforests in the world including the Amazon, Congo and New Guinea. 

“We work with indigenous peoples and local communities whose ancestors have lived in rainforests for thousands of years – these people are the real rainforest experts,” says Lauren Vyvyan, Cool Earth’s Business Partnerships Manager. “They have the knowledge to help protect these precious environments.” 

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“Together, Cool Earth and Haier will champion the relationship between people, the rainforest, and the climate,” adds Lauren. “We are excited to be partnering with Haier, working together to back people and help fund projects that create choice, tackle the root causes of deforestation and protect vital carbon sinks over the long-term.”

Cool Earth provides cash directly to rainforest communities. A recent project in partnership with Fauna & Flora International (FFI) and local communities in the Cardamom Mountains, Cambodia is an example of what can be achieved:

:: 120,634 acres are being protected by the people living in the Cardamom Mountains.

:: 84 people were trained to start businesses raising chickens for food and for sale. 

:: 103 people were trained in adaptive farming.

:: 40 additional farmers were trained during the harvesting and planting seasons.

Lauren adds: “With our help, local communities will continue to adapt to the climate pressures to protect their home and their way of life. New approaches are needed to adapt to changing conditions and tackle food security, create sustainable incomes, provide better health care and resilience for communities.” 

Jim McEwan, Chief Commercial Officer UK & Ireland at Haier, adds: “This is an immensely important partnership for us. The protection of our rainforests is key to the fight against climate change. We are proud to announce our partnership with Cool Earth and look forward to funding projects in the local communities in the rainforest where most help is needed.”

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