Categories
Wellbeing

Volunteer letter writers spread festive cheer


Writing a letter or card to someone you don’t know might sound like an unusual concept – but it’s one that really does spread cheer far and wide.

That’s why Give…A Few Words – a Huddersfield-born nonprofit organisation – wants to encourage volunteers to sign up.

“We post letters out all year round but Christmas can be a really difficult time for many,” says founder Sharron Wilkinson.

“Whilst many people are enjoying the festivities, others are
spending it alone or having a difficult time. Our letters go out to anyone who needs a bit of cheer.”

Sharron set up Give…A Few Words in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, knowing local care home residents were unable to see their family and friends.

Now, she sends not just the gift of letters to organisations, but also runs pop-up positive events in the community – all with a view of bringing people together and improving social connections.

Letters for Christmas

The ‘Letters for Christmas‘ campaign is now in its third year. “We have hundreds of volunteers busy writing personalised and general letters, cards, drawings, for many others in care homes, charities or for people alone (or who need a bit of cheer) across our community,” says Sharron.

“Our volunteers are amazing. They are compassionate, kind and
genuinely lovely people who go out of their way to help others.

“They write about all sorts of things, such as theatre, astronomy, outdoors, history, sport, animals, films, art, knitting, musicals.

“People who receive our letters are astounded that a stranger has taken time out of their busy lives to write to them.”

Want to become a volunteer letter writer?

You don’t need fancy stationery – you can write on anything or, if preferable, email your letter though and Give… A Few Words will print it.

Last year, one person receiving a letter at Christmas told the organisation: “The letters made my year, I don’t see many people over the festive period, so knowing other people had gone out of their way to write to a stranger, meant so much.”

Sharron adds: “We need as many people as possible to pen a few
words or draw a picture to spread some much needed smiles this Christmas.”

If you’re interested, visit www.thegive.co.uk and they’ll send you a name of someone who needs a letter – or you can pop a general message or card to their Po Box or by email hello@thegive.co.uk.

The deadline for letters, cards or emails to be posted back is
Wednesday 7th December to allow enough time to check everything before their post heads out.

Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

Categories
Planet

The TikTok group with one goal: to save the planet

18 creators. 18 different backgrounds. 1 goal: to save the planet.

Let’s be honest, your thoughts about TikTok are most likely to be about the collective hours you’ve wasted, rather than about how you could potentially use it to change the world. 

But Sabrina Pare, 29, a founding member of EcoTok, wants to prove otherwise. 

Cast your minds back to March 2020, when Covid took hold. With a lot of free time, Sabrina, from Detroit, started to get into sustainable living, sharing her finds on TikTok. “I made videos on sustainable swaps, living more sustainably, and people seemed to like them,” she tells us. “A couple went viral, so I continued, and really enjoyed making them.”

There were only a handful of environmentalists on TikTok at the time, says Sabrina, and they all knew each other, forming a group chat.

In June of the same year, the group – Abbie Richards, Alaina Wood, Alex Silva, and Sabrina Pare – came up with the idea of starting a group page on TikTok  The name? EcoTok.

EcoTok is a collective of environmental educators and activists who use TikTok as a platform for good. They see climate change for what it is, a crisis, and they hope to empower younger generations to do something about it by teaching them about science, activism, and ways to make changes in their life.

At the time, there were 10 members. Now, there’s 18. Among them, you’ll find scientists, students, activists, environmental educators, and civil servants. 

The group has gained traction on the platform, garnering nearly 120,000 followers and having more than two million likes on their videos. They range from anecdotal stories, responses to the news, life hacks to live better, the science behind the climate, and shine a light on the optimism we can hope for. 

“In the last couple of years, there has been a lot of climate doom and people putting out negative, fear-driven messages,” says Sabrina, speaking about the need for EcoTok. “We are passionate about being more positive, spreading climate optimism. 

“We tell people there is still hope and time to combat climate change – and I think that’s why people resonate with us.”

Their mission, she says, is quite simple: to educate and inspire people to take climate action.

More than just a platform to share ways people can take action, EcoTok has created real, in-person friendships.

“We’re all good friends!” says Sabrina, beaming. A lot of us met this summer, at the Hollywood Climate Summit – it was really cool to finally meet in person after two years. We’ve become really close, and we FaceTime each other!”

For the majority of the content creators, EcoTok is a passion project. A side hustle they do because they love inspiring the next generation. While some are still students in college, others – like Sabrina – do it alongside full-time jobs. 

“It’s a lot of work,” she says, “making videos, doing emails, having meetings. It’s another 10 hours a week on top of my full-time role.” Outside of TikTok, Sabrina works as a benefits and wellness specialist. 

But there are big plans for EcoTok. They currently have an executive board of four members, and are working on transforming it into a nonprofit. The extra workload is worth it, says Sabrina.

“Being a part of this, it’s really boosted my mood around the planet,” she says. “A lot of our members come from a science background, and I find it so helpful to get information from them. It’s a super helpful support group, and I’m so focused on being climate positive.”

Sabrina’s advice for those suffering from climate anxiety – something increasing numbers of Gen-Zers are feeling – is to follow more positive accounts. “Don’t get stuck doom scrolling,” she says, “seek out more positive information instead.

“Also, getting involved in your community and seeing how you can support it can really help. There are so many great organisations out there putting in the work that you can join. 

“We all have what it takes to make real change.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

Categories
Wellbeing

The 10 happiest places to live in Britain

We love to hear news about positivity, optimism and hope – so it’s always interesting to hear where the happiest places to live are.

Every year, RightMove asks people in Great Britain to tell them how they feel about where they live. “We ask people what they love about their local areas, and what makes a place really feel like home,” they say.  

The annual survey is now in its 11th year, and this year they heard from more than 21,000 people living in towns, cities and villages up and down the nation.  

Residents score their local areas on things like community spirit, and how much access they have to nature and green spaces, as well as artistic and cultural activities. 

“Our Happy at Home survey really shows that the things that make people happy to live in their area are not so much the physical aspects of that area but more the personal aspects, such as our sense of belonging, the community and the people,” says our property expert, Tim Bannister.  

“The last few months have undoubtedly been difficult for many, and as we learned during another difficult period in 2020, this is often when we look to our local area and community for support and happiness,” he adds. 

So, which locations in Great Britain have been voted the happiest by the people that live in them?

1. St Ives, South West

2. Galashiels, Scotland

3. Woodbridge, East of England

4. Hexham, North East

5. Perth, Scotland

6. Harrogate, Yorkshire and The Humber

7. Anglesey, Wales

8. Bury St Edmunds, East of England

9. Stirling, Scotland

10. Cirencester, South West

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

Categories
Planet

These reusable crackers support charity, too

There’s no denying the festive season is full of products and single-use buys that aren’t exactly great for the planet… but the magic these bring can sometimes be hard to resist.

Take crackers, for example. The gorgeous-looking table decoration, the joy when you pull it alongside your loved ones, wearing the paper hats… it’s a staple festive tradition.

Lucy Ewles wanted to keep that tradition alive – but make it better for the planet. In 2020, she created Kaneo: beautiful, eco, reusable crackers for Christmas.

Named after the village she married her husband, Lucy came up with the business idea after Christmas 2019. “I had a big do and did fill-your-own crackers,” she says. “We had 22 people, I personalised them all and it was such a hit, but after, I felt awful.

“We had nearly 3 bin bags full of this rubbish. I wanted something that looks lovely on the table, but for it to go straight in the bin or recycling felt a bit wrong.”

Lucy started searching for reusable crackers that still had that “snap”, but couldn’t find any. So she tried herself. “I’m a crafty person, so I do enjoy things like that,” she says.

Working full-time as a teacher, she spent her evenings and weekends with her sewing machine and making prototypes. She managed to create crackers that were reusable, could “snap” when pulled, and looked good, too. Her friends loved them – and it spiralled from there.

Lucy found a manufacturer and decided to turn her reusable crafty crackers into a business, with 2021 being her first year of trading. She did a Hatch Enterprise cause that year for entrepreneurs who are looking to give back through their business idea – because she wanted to make sure they were crackers who did more. 

“I always wanted to do something good with these,” says Lucy, “giving back is the side that is really interesting to me. 

“I wanted it to be embedded within what the crackers were about. When I was looking at charities, the most iconic Christmas charity is the Salvation Army – they do so much around helping people with homelessness, providing hot dinners and places for people to stay.”

Lucy approached them and they agreed to be a partner. Now, 10% of all sales go to the charity. 

You can buy a box of six crackers, which come with 18 sticky snap sticks for three parties – and refills are sold, too. “These are special snap sticks I invented,” says Lucy. “They’ve got a sticky bit at both ends, the cracker has got two tubes, and they slide apart when you pull. The snap goes around the outside once you’ve put gifts in.”

Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN Responsible Consumption and Production.

Categories
Wellbeing

The World Cup Experience that’s way more than just football

The world has their eyes glued to screens right now to watch the World Cup… football, that is.

But there’s a different World Cup Experience that has a sole aim of doing good in our world: The Beder World Cup.

The Beder World Cup Experience is an exhibition and experience, harnessing the power of football during the World Cup to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention.

What is Beder?

Beder is a charity taking a unique approach to raising awareness around mental health and suicide prevention through exciting events and initiatives.

It founded in November 2019 by Razzak Mirjan and his family following the loss of Beder Mirjan who sadly took his own life at the age of 18 in April 2017. 

Beder FC is a football club open to all and one which intends to raise awareness around mental health and suicide prevention through playing football. It has grown quickly, despite only playing its first fixture in April 2021, and it has secured the support of leading players such as Harry Kane, Jack Grealish, Bruno Fernandes, Jordan Henderson, David De Gea, Wilfred Zaha and many more in addition to Nike and Pro Direct. 

So, tell me about this ‘World Cup’ experience

The Beder World Cup Experience brings together the “beautiful” side of the game through The Beder FC Hall of Fame, The Beder Boot Room, The Beder Bar and Beder Fan Zone where you can watch the knockout stages of the World Cup live.

It’s held between 6-18 December 2022, at Noho Showrooms, 67 Great Titchfield Street, London.

The Beder FC Hall of Fame displays signed shirts by some of the world’s leading footballers who are supporting Beder FC in its work, through football, to keep opening up the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention. 

The Beder Boot Room in partnership with Sokito contains hand painted football boots by leading artists with each piece of artwork inspired by the topics of mental health and suicide prevention.

There is also an auction, with all proceeds going to Beder.

You can find out more about the experience on Beder’s website – or follow @beder_uk on social media for more information. 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.

Categories
Culture

This ‘alternative workforce’ aims to do social good this winter

They say collective action makes a real difference – and we couldn’t agree more. Which is why one Brighton-based social impact business is swooping in to make that a reality.

The Social Society has launched a new campaign, alongside branding agency Each To Their Own, ‘Unleashing your workforce superheroes’, with the aim of bringing in businesses across the UK to use the skills of their employees to support, charities, and communities in need.

Founder Toni Finnimore says she is recruiting an “alternative workforce” to support communities affected by the cost of living crisis. Communities need long-term support, rather than just one-offs now more than ever, says Toni.

So, how do you sign up?

The Social Society is taking applications from organisations around the UK for their employees to become part of a nationwide team plugging gaping holes in government support.

This alternative to CSR models matches the skills of employees with charities and community groups doing the work that matters most in our crisis-stricken society.

“Unfortunately the crisis has been looming for some time,” says Toni Finnimore. “Charities have been plugging the gaps in communities where governments should have been offering support for years.

“It’s time to take the reins and create independent ways of giving back. By using already skilled employees from businesses nationwide, we are able to address issues affecting communities in a way that is responsive to their needs in real-time.

“We need to connect with the people in our communities now more than ever; human connection and kindness should be at the heart of all we do.”

Find out more

The Social Society is a ‘social club for social good’, which started as a meet-up group in 2015, running social events to connect local people and support local charities and communities.

In 2018, it began formally connecting people and businesses with charities that need help. It has also hosted a number of unique live and in-person events from acoustic music, pop-ups and festivals to charity events and supper clubs.

Find out more about how to become part of The Social Society here: www.thesocialsociety.org.uk.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.

Categories
Planet

Make a difference with a climate café

Have you ever thought about hosting your own climate café?

In a bid to combat the increasing rates of eco-anxiety, Force of Nature – a nonprofit that aims to mobilise mindsets for climate action – is hosting climate cafés: safe spaces to navigate difficult conversations, and turn eco-anxiety into action.

Founded by Clover Hogan, Force of Nature wants to enable young people to take action in their own ways. With research by the nonprofit showing that 70% of young people are eco-anxious and 56% feel that humanity is doomed, they believe climate cafés can be a tool to help people navigate this fear. 

So what actually is a climate café?

They’re community-organised spaces for people to have open yet structured conversations about how to navigate difficult climate emotions, and translate these feelings into action.

Force of Nature has launched a free resource to help people host their own climate café; featuring a step-by-step plan.

They’re looking for young people to host these cafés. “We will provide you with an instruction guide on setting up a café, and support bringing it to life,” they say. 

What’s needed for a climate café?

  • A venue to host the climate café (this could be an existing café, shop, community space, or even someone’s living room).
  • Seats and tables.
  • Hot drinks and snacks (e.g. biscuits).
  • Clarity on who you want to participate in your climate café. This could be friends or strangers off the street; other young people or an intergenerational audience.
  • A readiness to facilitate climate conversations. It’s up to you how long you run the café for; it could be one day or it could be for two weeks.

How are they helping?

Force of Nature is also offering micro grants to young people who want to host a climate café but face financial barriers. 

“The micro-grants are up to £150 and will prioritise cafés that are reaching groups often left out of climate conversations and for those who are most affected by the climate crisis,” they say.  

You will receive more information about the grants and how to apply once you’ve submitted your interest to host a café.

To find out more information about holding a climate café, visit: forceofnature.xyz/climate-cafe

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.

Categories
Equality

More than just pretty metals, this jewellery gives back

Pivot is a jewellery shop with a difference.

Much more than just pretty metals, Pivot works with people who are experiencing homelessness and living in hostels, providing them with training on how to make, and sell, jewellery.

“I always say to people, jewellery is really just the pilot,” explains Alice Moxley, founder and CEO. “You could apply this theory to so many different types of products.”

Pivot truly began when Alice spent five months working in a YMCA in North London. Her experiences opened her eyes to the issues facing people experiencing homelessness, including the barriers to employment that exist when living in temporary housing. From not having a permanent address, to having to work in specific, restrictive hours, it isn’t easy to get a job – and without a job, there’s no money for food or housing… and so the cycle continues.

“You get into these really vicious cycles and people get so demotivated – I’m being very general here,” she says. “It’s very hard to get out of this rut. And so the idea was, if you can’t leave the hostel, how about I bring work to you?”

Many people experiencing homelessness also suffer with mental health issues; it becomes a vicious cycle that can prevent many people from finding a job, or leaving temporary accommodation. A 2014 study by the Mental Health Foundation found 80% of homeless people in England reported that they had mental health issues, with 45% having been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

By bringing work to the hostel, Alice and her colleagues at Pivot give people experiencing homelessness the opportunity to engage with other people, and provide them with a creative outlet that is not only fulfilling, but provides them with a usable, profitable skill.

Over the course of 12 weeks, Pivot holds weekly, four-hour sessions in hostels that consist of training people to make jewellery. Pivot provides financial support for these individuals over the course of the 12 weeks, gives them one-to-one coaching and support, and provides them with the information and tools they need to design, market and sell their creations.

“We create jewellery that we can make in a safe way, a hostel environment. So it’s very specifically designed to be made by people who don’t have any prior skill,” says Alice. “It’s quite simple, but it’s not over simplistic. You get … satisfaction from making it.”

At the end of the 12-week course, the participants are taken to a market where they can sell what they have made for a profit – all done with the intention of offering them employment at Pivot afterwards.

“On our payroll, two out of five of our employees have come out of the hostel,” explains Alice. Even those who don’t go on to be employed by Pivot, who are still a small company, now have new skills that they can take elsewhere.

Trained as an architect, Alice initially used jewellery making as a creative outlet in her own life, before coming up with the concept for Pivot. Getting off the ground just 49 days before the first UK COVID-19 lockdown, it truly has been a trial by fire.

Today, Pivot sells the jewellery made by employees who were in temporary accommodation on their website and at market stalls across London. 

By providing training and one-to-one support for those experiencing homelessness and living in temporary accommodation, they are giving people the tools that they need to move forward – one step at a time.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities and No Poverty.

Categories
Planet

These two friends created paint banks to give back

“There’s a lot of unused paint out there that could be put to good use.”

Nearly 100 million gallons of paint is wasted each year. Not only that, but leftover paint is considered hazardous waste because it contains chemicals that can harm human health and the environment. If paint ends up in a landfill, it can leak hard metals and toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil and water sources.

And that’s how Cat Hyde and Kate Moree’s blossoming passion for the planet really started making a difference. 

The pair, from Leeds, met in 2000. Knowing their values aligned, they wanted to do something to give back: to recycle, to create jobs for themselves and others in need, and to treasure our environment. “One man’s rubbish is another’s gold, we felt,” Cat tells Smiley News.

The pair spent time talking to the council waste department, and looking at how they could help, when someone suggested they recycle paint. “We thought, why not?” says Cat, 43. “The rest is history.” Seagulls Reuse was born.

Starting with paint banks

Cat and Kate have paint banks: big shipping containers on council sites across Leeds, where people can go with their paint to dispose of, rather than chucking it in the general waste bin.

They collect it all, bring it back to their base, open every single tin to see if it’s “good” or “bad” paint, and go from there. “We collect, on average, 300 tonnes per year – and out of that, 60% is reusable and 40% not,” says Cat.

Bad paint is paint that simply has been sat around for too long – it may change composition, or get bits in it, says Cat. It’s unusable. If the paint is bad, it’s disposed of in the right way and the tins are correctly recycled. 

If it’s good, they remix it and reblend it with other similar paints, then put the full tins on their shelves – for a fraction of the price you’d find in a shop. For example, says Cat, if you were to buy 2.5L of emulsion, it’ll be just over a fiver. In shops, you could pay up to £80. 

“We’ve diverted 4 million litres of paint away from landfill since we started,” Cat tells me. “This would’ve caused 11.4 million tonnes of carbon – and you would need to plant 68 million trees to offset that amount of carbon.”

To make it a success, the pair knew they needed to make it as easy as possible for people to buy it. “We needed to give people what they wanted,” says Cat, “so we learned how to blend and mix paint together to make certain colours – we do all that by eye with our expert team.”

But the friends always had a dual mission with Seagulls: social and environmental. The environmental mission was easy – but it went hand-in-hand with social justice.

“We both volunteered when we were setting it up,” says Cat. “Historically, our team is made up of people who come and volunteer, come from open prison on day release, or perhaps they’re socially isolated. It could be someone who has been long-term unemployed, or lives with poor mental health.”

Ultimately, as a social enterprise, they want to support those from minority backgrounds. “Any profits we make goe straight back into our volunteer programme and social aims,” says Cat.

“We get a lot of customers,” says Cat, “and all our business has been built on word of mouth. We’d love to take it further afield.”

So what can you do? If you live nearby, donate paint. If you want to know more, get in touch. “The more people talking about paint the better,” says Cat, “it’s such a waste of a really valuable, useful resource.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Responsible Consumption and Production.

Categories
Planet

Behind the scenes at ‘Glastonbury for Good’

Find out more about Anthropy and its mission.