Have you heard of Thankmas? It’s back – with big ambitions

Content creator and YouTube star Sean “JackSepticEye” McLoughlin is hosting his fourth annual Thankmas event, with all proceeds going to the World Central Kitchen.

What is ‘Thankmas’?

Well, in short, it’s a digital festive fundraising event to help people over the Christmas period.

It’s the brains of Sean McLoughlin – and it originates from the idea that people are in a thankful mood around Christmas. To get it going, Sean organises people in the gaming community to use their platforms to raise funds for charity by playing selected video games.

He’s teamed up with crowdfunding platform Tiltify to collect money from the causes this year. Basically, ‘Thankmas’ will encourage viewers to donate during the live gaming stream.

YouTube star Sean “JackSepticEye” McLoughlin

Initially, it started on Sean’s own livestreams – to which he has over 28 million subscribers – but with Tiltify it expanded so that any streamer or content creator could participate.

“I think what makes Thankmas unique is that it’s putting everybody on a level playing field. I think that’s become the vibe of Thankmas — we’re all doing this together,” Tiltify CEO Michael Wasserman said.

“Other major creators get involved, and literally thousands of people across all platforms. I think the idea that everybody feels like they’re impactful and working together … really, the idea is that we’re all linked together and it’s a massive group effort, which is something relatively new in the creator space.”

And what is it supporting in 2022?

World Central Kitchen is an organization that goes into disaster zones to provide food for people that need it, most recently going to the west coast of Florida after hurricane Ian.

“The mission of World Central Kitchen resonated with me and aligns with the goals of Thankmas; giving back on a global scale,” said Sean.

“Tiltify’s built-in milestone and engagement tools have helped us reach more communities and break records for Thankmas three years in a row. I’m excited to be partnering with them again this year to hopefully raise the most money to date for an organization that is doing so much for those impacted by these devastating disasters.”

Last year the event raised around $7.6 million.

The main event will take place on December 10th with McCloughlin’s livestream. Find out more.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Zero Hunger.


John Lewis Christmas advert has a heartwarming purpose

The Christmas season has officially arrived. Why? Because the famous John Lewis advert is here… awaited for by many as the festive season approaches.

But more than just getting us into the Christmas spirit, the advert has an important message behind it – highlighting the number of children in care each year, and their commitment to support happier futures for children.

Want to watch?

The advert follows a foster dad, as he prepares to learn skateboarding – a hobby of his soon-to-be foster daughter.

At the end of the advert, John Lewis writes: “Over 108,000 children in the UK are in the care system.

“We’re making a long-term commitment to support the futures of young people from care.”

The advert ends with a nod to their charity partners: Action for Children and Who Cares? Scotland.

The Christmas advert is more than just an advert, as it builds and promotes John Lewis’ Building Happier Futures charity partnership.

What’s the partnership?

“We are partnering with Action for Children to develop UK-wide bespoke employability support for young people who’ve experienced care,” they say .

“Our partnership will ensure they have the tools and confidence to build their experience and careers. Care experienced young people will participate in developing this support which has the potential to impact hundreds of young people across the UK.”

In addition to providing employability support across the UK, the funds will support Action for Children to provide wraparound placement support to help vulnerable children and young people who are being fostered where their placements are at risk of breaking down.

“We will also establish a Building Happier Futures fund to support projects from organisations that are working to build happier futures for children in care and those who are care experienced,” they say.

A Christmas advert with a purpose: now this is something we can get on board with.

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


The top 10 most generous cities in the UK

Oxfam has revealed which cities in the UK are the most generous – and it might surprise you!

Go on, then – tell us.

The global charity found that Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Plymouth are the top three most generous cities in the UK, donating both time and money to helping others.

Not only that, but they have found out which generations are the most generous.

And what’s the answer?

Based on research, they found Gen-Z are most generous with their time, quickly followed by millennials.

Almost two-thirds of respondents up to the age of 25 said they have volunteered for charity compared to 55% of millennial respondents, 39% of Gen X respondents and 28% of baby boomers.

Wow, that’s a big difference!

It really is! But Oxfam also found that we, the UK, are a truly generous nation. The study found that, on average, two in five Brits have volunteered their time to support charities in some way, with a quarter of that volunteering taking place in a charity shop.

Do we know why the numbers are so high?

According to the study, 70% of respondents volunteered seeking friendship and social interaction, and to tackle feelings of loneliness. Over two in five volunteers also said giving up their time to a charity can help to keep them active and help with mental health and wellbeing.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the first UK Oxfam shop opening in 1947 in Broad Street, believed to be one of the first charity shops in the world. There are now over 500 Oxfam shops operating across the UK, supported by generous volunteers.

So, what other UK cities are generous?

The full breakdown of generous UK cities, ranked by the percentage of people who have volunteered to charity, includes:

1.      Belfast (77%)

2.      Edinburgh (75%)

3.      Glasgow / Plymouth (73%)

4.      Bristol (68%)

5.      London (66%)

6.      Birmingham/ Southampton (64%)

7.      Liverpool (63%)

8.      Leeds (59%)

9.      Manchester / Norwich / Nottingham – (58%)

10.  Cardiff / Sheffield (57%)

11.  Swansea (53%)

12.  Newcastle (52%)

13.  Brighton (47%)

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


Schools tackle sexist behaviour thanks to charity initiative

London schools will now teach children to recognise (and address) sexist behaviour.

Sounds great! How does it work?

It’s all part of a new initiative with Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, who is investing £1million into an education toolkit designed to address violence against women and girls. He’s working with Tender, a charity that fights against domestic abuse and sexual violence through creative projects and education.

What does the programme look like?

Called ‘allyship training’, the educational toolkit focuses on teaching kids in the classroom, especially boys, how to recognise misogynistic behaviour in themselves and others, and then how to address it. The programme is all about building positive relationships with women and girls in their lives, preventing violence in the first place, as well as teaching people how to recognise and address the behaviours in others.

The new toolkit will be delivered by teachers and supported by trained workshop leaders from Tender, including online and in-person advice.

It sounds pretty progressive!

It is – schools are a great way for children and teenagers to learn how to interact with people in the wider world. Implementing these lessons in schools will, hopefully, allow kids to learn how to prevent violence against women and girls from an early age.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality.


Could this be the solution to breaking the cycle of poverty?

The Big Issue charity is launching an amazing new campaign calling for affordable housing, the end of in-work poverty and millions of green jobs. 

Great! How does it work?

The campaign, known as ‘Big Futures’, is backed by former prime minister Gordon Brown, activist and rapper Akala and the UK Metro Mayors. They have all signed an open letter to the government with three key points: create decent and affordable homes for all, end the low-wage economy and invest in young people, and build a greener economy and create millions of well-paid green jobs. 

Sounds reasonable! 

Exactly; the campaign has asked the government to commit to building tens of thousands of more affordable homes every year, as well as requesting a reform to the planning legislation that would mean unused buildings must be used for residential purposes.

Great, what else?

The campaign is pushing for better renters’ rights, including rent caps, an end to unfair evictions and more. This is in addition to pushing plans for a £15/hr minimum wage for everyone over the age of 18, and a call to invest in training young people in need of new jobs or job improvement.

What about the green economy?

Big Futures is urging the government to invest in green energy practices and the care economy, which would help create millions of jobs in the green sector. This would be a huge win, not just for the environment, but for the UK economy as well.

You can sign the open letter to the government on the Big Issue Website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty and Climate Action.


The inspiring rise of this cookie shop, set apart from the rest

Everyone faces struggles throughout their lives. And for some people, it makes them fight even harder.

Collette Divitto has Down’s syndrome, and never let it change how she navigated life. After high school she went to Clemson University, but years later hit a wall when she started applying for jobs.

She’d get interviews, but every one ended in a similar way: “It was great to meet you, Collette, but at this time we feel you are not a good fit for our company.”

Let down, she decided to lean back on a passion that she developed during high school: baking. She moved to Boston, took her cookies to a pop-up market… and the rest, as they say, is history.

“[People] always told me to sell my cookies and when I finally did they sold out very quickly and [someone] wanted an order of 100 by the end of the week,” Collette tells Smiley News.

“Whoa, Collete, you have to make a lot of cookies!”

Collette’s mom, Rosemary Alfredo, was there every step of the way. 

“When she came home and said, ‘Oh, they want 100 packages by Friday’, I was like, ‘Whoa, Collette you have to make a lot of cookies,’, says Rosemary. “[And I told her] you need to have a logo, a sticker label on the bag, insurance and a business that exists. So we spent the next seven days cramming together.”

After that week Collettey’s Cookies was born.

A market owner allowed Collette and her mother to use their restaurant kitchen, since they didn’t have the resources to make cookies in bulk. It took a little trial and error to begin with.

“I’m not a baker, I can’t bake for my life!” says Rosemary. “I went in there with Colette and I was like ‘How many cookies do you need, 1200?’ And I said ‘okay, then take your recipe and times that by 10.’ So we did that and it was horrible.” 

“Yeah, the cookies were so bad,” Collette adds. 

Once they perfected the recipe, they got to work and within one week they had an extra 4000 orders.

That was all in 2016 and since then the business has only grown. Collette now does over $500,000 a year in revenue. Collettey’s has even gotten to the point where Collette has been offering jobs to other people who have disabilities like herself. 

Of the 40 in her employ, at least 15 have a disability. 

The workers are split between two kitchens, one larger and one smaller, which produce over 80,000 and 3,000 cookies a day. 

Since starting her business, Collette has become completely independent, paying her own bills and living on her own. Rosemary spoke of her pride in Collette and how she thinks her story can speak to others.

“It’s very inspiring,” Rosemary says. “For someone to think that their child maybe one day could live independently, because when you have a baby, you have no idea. You have no idea if they’re capable unless you see other stories and see that they are capable.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.


‘Behind every great company is a team of women who hold it together’

Kiran Kaur and Amna Akhtar, from Birmingham, are business partners with a purpose – but they’ve been friends for a lot longer than that: nearly 20 years.

After college, Amna went to uni for a week and dropped out. Kiran was on a gap year, and supposed to become a dentist, she tells me. But during that time, something shifted.

“We had a profound conversation about what the future looks like, not just for us, but for young women of colour who have less access to opportunities,” says Kiran, speaking to Smiley News.

If there was more support to help these young women navigate that journey in life, thought Kiran and Amna, the results could be incredible.

“We didn’t have that, it wasn’t around, we couldn’t see it,” adds Kiran.

The pair decided to do away with their previous plan, and start volunteering and mentoring in secondary schools to support young girls of colour with their future aspirations.

The ‘spark moment’

“We had that moment,” says Kiran, “where we were like, ‘this is it’. We wanted to rewrite the rules and say we can be anything we want to be as long as we have access and support – we wanted to build that.”

GirlDreamer was born to give young women of colour a better shot at life. On a random day, says Kiran, they registered GirlDreamer with no knowledge about business or finance – but a strong vision.

That was six years ago. Now, GirlDreamer is a fully-fledged non-profit organisation that supports the personal, professional and communal development of young women of colour to pursue their dreams. Kiran and Amna used their lived experience and deep cultural understanding to create more pathways and access to opportunity.

How do they do it?

For the professional development, they fund mico-grants to other young women of colour-led organisations leading on social change (around five organisations per quarter), providing accelerator programmes and mentoring. The mentoring programmes last 6-12 months programme, where young women get paired with women in senior position in different industries.

And for the personal development, they create events, a wellbeing focus and community-led spaces to help people connect with themselves and others around them.

After launching in Birmingham in 2016, they decided to roll out their programme nationally in 2019 – and in 2020 everything went online. “Now, we get applications from young women of colour in South Africa, America, Middle East,” says Kiran.

During the first four years, GirlDreamer was supporting around 400 women a year – but now some of their resources are online, too, that’s gone into the 1000s.

Everything is free for women, and the aim is to get women of colour to be leading on social change. The impact has been incredibly encouraging for Kiran and Amna to see.

“We finished a programme on increasing the number of women of colour on boards,” says Kiran, “and we had three of them come back six months post-programme and they’re serving on boards of charities in the country.

“We remember interviewing them – and now they’re making a change. It’s amazing to see.”

They’ve also had people apply for their funds, who have then gone on to becoming social entrepreneurs with registered organisations within a year. “It’s really special,” says Kiran, “you get to see people at the beginning of what their idea and hope is – and then we see them come into fruition.”

Spreading the message

Kiran spoke at Anthropy on 3 November in a session, ‘You Can Be What You Can’t See’, which aimed to fire the starting gun for new social ventures that will help shape society in years to come.

“We all came from the version of what we wanted to be without that representation,” says Kiran, about the session. “We built it first so that others could benefit.

“I never knew anyone in this space – the social sector – who looked like me. I knew I was going to have to go out and make it myself.”

Kiran wanted to get across a message of hope for the next 30 years, but also the need for action. “At a lot of these events, we all talk a lot,” she says, “and for me, we need to go out and starting doing this stuff so we can eventually stop having these conversations.

“Eventually, I wanted to stop coming to these events, I don’t want it to be a problem anymore.”

Smiley News is a media partner at Anthropy.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.


A £50m emergency fund will help families in need

The National Grid has created a £50 million emergency fund for households in need.

Okay, so what’s the emergency?

The emergency is the cost of living crisis in the UK, which experts believe will leave many households in fuel poverty this winter.

The cost of everything is increasing, leaving some families having to choose between food and heating. Not only that but there are fears that the grid will be overworked this year, potentially resulting in blackouts over winter.

That doesn’t sound good.

It’s not – but the good news is that organisations, like the National Grid, are stepping up to help out.

What are they doing to help?

The National Grid has pledged to donate £10m to the Fuel Bank Foundation, a charity offering financial support and advice to households who are struggling. An additional £10m will go to Citizens Advice, £1.5m to National Energy Action, £10m to Affordable Warmth Solutions, and £1m to the National Energy Foundation.

Wow, that’s a lot of money!

It is! Not only that, but the National Grid is moving to create a scheme that will pay households to use energy outside of peak hours.

By doing this, people will be given access to cheaper fuel and will encourage people not to overwork the grid during the day.

This article aligns with the UN SDG No Poverty.


NYC marathon will be the most inclusive yet

Marathons across the US are becoming more accessible, in great news for diversity and inclusion.

In 2021, the New York Road Runners (NYRR), the organization responsible for the New York City Marathon, became one of the first significant marathon organizations to include a non-binary racing category.

And now, the 2022 New York City Marathon has become the first world marathon to provide prizes to non-binary runners.

Great news! How else is it inclusive?

The 2022 New York Marathon is working to support breastfeeding people as well, providing more breastfeeding stations throughout the race trail.

They’re working in collaboration with a non-profit called &Mother to give the utilities needed.

“We wanted to make sure nothing was standing in the way of mothers being able to participate at their best and feeling confident they would have resources at the start, finish, and along the way to ensure they could have the most positive race experience,” Kerin Hempel, CEO of NYRR explains.

The NYRR is also revamping the course record award for the wheelchair division, setting it equally with other races at $50,000.

The New York City Marathon will be held on Sunday, November 6, with 50,000 runners expected.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.


With just over £5k, these kids’ lives changed forever

Four days, a little over £5k in donations, and a team hard at work – that’s exactly how these toilets and taps were transformed for kids in Nepal.

Let’s be honest, we don’t often see the direct impact our charity donations have had, but for the supporters of Child Rescue Nepal, it became super clear how needed the funds were.

The charity has worked in Nepal since 1999, Joanna Bega, the CEO in the UK tells me. All the staff are Nepalian, bar her and an assistant she has to help with the fundraising. 

So what do they actually do? 

Well, their aim is quite simple – and very powerful. “We rescue children who have been trafficked in Nepal,” says Joanna. “ We have a good track record of reuniting them with families and getting them back to school.”

A big part of their work is prevention, working in a Nepalian district prone to trafficking and sending staff on the ground into schools to do teacher training, renew school equipment, and give education boundaries.

“Every now and then, they’ll come back from a visit and say they’ve seen something quite shocking,” says Joanna. 

This is exactly what happened with the pictures above.

“They said the toilets were horrific, sent me a video, and it was just super grim – it was horrible,” says Jo.

Clean and viable toilets and taps are hugely important for children’s education. The charity’s wider work has shown having decent toilets with running water is a big factor in children attending school – and if they attend school, they’re less likely to be trafficked. “Some statistics we’ve had show running water at a school can increase attendance by 30%,” says Joanna. 

In hot countries like Nepal, schools without water suffer. Teachers spend half their time fetching water, and therefore not teaching. Water really can become a huge hindrance, as well as help, in terms of education. This is especially true for girls – if they don’t have decent toilets, they won’t come to school on their period, which is five days lost every single month. “Girls having an education is really important in Nepal in terms of their future employability,” adds Joanna. 

On 4 February, Child Rescue Nepal put out an appeal to raise £5,667 for the new toilet block and taps at this school. Children had been going to the toilets in bushes, not washing their hands, and getting sick as a result. By 8 February, their target had been reached. 

The team shared videos with their donors along the way of the progress – and the money was hugely well spent. “Donations we receive really go on things that make a difference,” says Joanna.

Their most recent appeal was for two new classrooms to be built – a project they’re underway with. 

If you want to do one small thing to help? Sign up to their newsletter, says Joanna, and be the first to hear about their appeals for support to truly make a difference. 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Clean Water and Sanitation and Quality Education.