How writing is healing in the North East

After spending all her life in social care and charity work, Helen Aitchison couldn’t get away from her need to help others.

Even during the Covid-19 pandemic – when the social care sector was pushed to its limits and Helen turned to writing to process the grief and burnout she felt – she knew this was something that could help others, too.

“I started writing this book as an escapism from my day job,” explains Helen, of her first novel, The Dinner Club. “I worked all through Covid, we set up new services during Covid. It was such a horrendous time for everyone. And I wanted something for me because I just felt depleted.

“I began writing as a stress release, and it became something quite sacred.”

It was this escape into writing that led Helen to set up Write on the Tyne, a CIC designed to help people from marginalised communities find their voices and give people an outlet for their emotions. Studies have shown that writing is great for your mental health, whatever form it comes in, and it’s this that Helen is trying to encourage within the people come to her. 

“Write on the Tyne is all about getting people’s voices heard and stories told,” explains Helen. “It’s very much focused on people who may struggle or may not feel comfortable going to an educational institution like a college or university.

“For me, it was about the marginalised voices, getting people to express themselves, and understanding that we’ve all got a narrative and our narrative is important.”

As well as mentoring people from marginalised communities and helping them to succeed and improve their wellness, Helen helps to record stories of other communities too.

“In November 2022, I wrote my first commissioned piece which was a book of local veterans’ stories,” says Helen, who collaborated with CIC Operation Veteran on the project. “The profits of the book go back into Write on the Tyne and Operation Veteran and it’s just been a wonderful legacy for some of these people who have never spoken about their time.”

From recording the voices of women in deprived communities, to working with recovery charities to document stories of recovery from addiction, Helen is determined to shine a light on the stories of people that are often forgotten.

Write on the Tyne runs a range of sessions available for people to take; but perhaps the most important one is the Writing for Wellbeing course. Thanks to her work in the social care sector, Helen is DBT (dialectial behaviour therapy) trained, something she uses in her sessions to help people use their writing as a way to process their emotions in a productive way.

“In these techniques that people use, like journalling and using a diary … it works really well for people to acknowledge that they’re going in the right direction,” Helen explains. “So it’s a very, very positive form of expression. But also, it’s something for that person that can complement any medication, any actual therapies or counselling services. It can work really well.

“There’s a real empowerment with writing, sharing and supporting one another and connecting as a community group as well.”

Helen’s writing courses are designed to help people blossom and grow, helping them to feel more confident, more capable, and more comfortable in their own skin. 

When writing became an outlet for her own grief and frustration, she knew that she could share that with other people – especially those who may not have access to resources like college or university courses, or even therapy.

“I want these groups in society to be able to talk and to share and to inspire.”

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


Clover Hogan: Let’s empower people to step up in the face of the climate crisis

Climate change is something that affects us all. Sometimes in small, yet noticeable, changes to our everyday lives. Other times we may not notice those changes at all, or they feel a little far away from home.

Statistically, 70% of young people experience eco-anxiety – while 56% believe humanity is doomed. Though these statistics might seem scary, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope – just that we need to keep looking for it.

Clover Hogan is a 23-year-old climate activist who runs Force of Nature – a non-profit that helps young people turn their eco-anxiety into action. Clover’s passion for the environment began age 11 and, by the time she was 16, she was a student activist at COP21 in Paris.

She walked into COP21 full of hope that the leaders of the world would solve the climate crisis once and for all. Yet, she left disappointed and more fearful than ever.

“I remember feeling, for the first time in my activism, a deep sense of powerlessness,” Clover tells Smiley News, “and a feeling like perhaps the system is too broken and perhaps I am too small to do anything about it.

“It was in those feelings that my teacher introduced me to a word that would completely change the course of my activism and was the seed for Force of Nature. My teacher sat me down and said, ‘Have you have you ever heard of the word eco-phobia?’”

A lightbulb moment

First coined in 1988 by George F. Will as “the fear that the planet is increasingly inhospitable”, David Sobel has since given the term its more well-known meaning – ​​”a helpless sense of dread about the future”. 

“This was like a lightbulb moment for me,” says Clover, “because, while COP21 showed me we’ve had the technology, resources and ingenuity to solve the climate crisis for decades, critically, we’ve lacked mindset. And until we empower people to step up in the face of the climate crisis, we won’t solve this problem.”

Despite the statistics, there really is hope for the future. Clover, and her team at Force of Nature, truly believe young people – Millennials, Gen-Z, Gen-Alpha – are that hope.

“We’ve grown up as the climate generation – we’ve recognised that the climate crisis is not something to be pushed on to another generation,” says Clover. “We have the most vested interest in solving this problem. And the flip side of that is I think young people really possess the creativity and ingenuity to solve the climate crisis … young people are inherently disruptive and really capable of seeing outside of the system and have a natural tendency to ask ‘why?’”

The next logical question, then, is if there really is hope, how do you get rid of eco-anxiety? How do you end that feeling of hopelessness? Trying to push down and deny that fear may be exactly what you shouldn’t do, says Clover.

“Eco-anxiety is a very rational, healthy response,” she says. “In fact, many climate psychologists we’ve spoken to have said the problem isn’t that young people are eco-anxious, but that people in positions of power are not.”

Turn your eco-anxiety into something positive

Rather than pushing away your fears, research by Force of Nature recommends the best thing you can do is to harness them – take that eco-anxiety and turn it into something productive. How exactly do you do that when you’re just one person?

“One of the most important ways to start channelling that eco-anxiety into other feelings like agency and contribution and community is to … to talk to other people about it,” explains Clover.  “That’s what’s so beautiful about the Force of Nature community. It’s a really diverse group of young people who come together around that shared experience.”

Force of Nature is dedicated to connecting young people with the same anxieties, and the same dreams, to give them the tools they need to channel their anxiety into action.

One of the main ways they’re doing that is through their ‘climate cafes’ – safe spaces for people to come and talk through their anxieties about climate change. Here, they’re given tools and resources aimed to help them turn that anxiety into power, and that power into action. 

[Read more about climate cafes and how to get involved]

“We found that year on year around COP, search results for eco-anxiety skyrocket,” says Clover. “Because it’s front and centre and because it’s in the media all the time, it inadvertently can cause a lot of those difficult feelings. So it was from that place that the climate cafes were born.”

By giving young people a safe place to talk about their big, and often very complex, feelings regarding the environment, you’re also giving them room to get creative – to think of ways they can make a change in the world. But, most importantly, you’re giving them a team to do it with; people who understand them and support them.

“I feel very grateful to have a community in Force of Nature,” says Clover. “My immediate team, but also the wider community. It just makes you feel less alone – and experiences which by yourself would feel really shitty, you can laugh about.

“These difficult emotions, anxiety, frustration, anger are so important to catalyse us to action, but ultimately, the feelings that sustain our activism are feelings like community and connection and contribution.”

If you’re interested in attending or hosting your own climate cafe, you can do so on the Force of Nature website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Giving women a face in the courtroom

Women have come a long way in all different industries and facets of life, but there is still a lot of room to grow. Take the realm of law for example. According to the Florida Bar women make up around 38% of Bar membership but are nowhere near proportionately represented in law firm partnerships, judgeships, or law school deans.

This is something that the two women behind Themis: Trial By Women wanted to address. 

Themis is a trial group under the law firm Hale & Monico that is the world’s first women-founded, women-led trial attorney group and was founded by Allyson West and Kelly Olivier. 

“Women attorneys are uniquely suited to serve as trial lawyers, applying empathy, humility, focus, dedication, and a deep understanding of client needs,” Allyson tells Smiley News. “We noticed that in Chicagoland, and throughout other communities in the United States there is a lack of legal representation for women, by women.”

They came up with the idea last year. It was a way for them to continue working at Hale & Monico while being able to work on a project that they were very passionate about. 

“It speaks to our passions and is kind of similar to what Smiley Movement is all about – we want to make a little change in our area of the universe, which is to hopefully creates a safe space for women, both attorneys, and clients,” Kelly tells Smiley News.

Kelly and Allyson are both already trial lawyers who take cases through litigation and other legal processes but through Themis, they, among other associates, would be taking a specific focus on cases involving women.

“This specialty group would be a focused group where we represent female clients or individuals bringing in action on behalf of another woman and we would take that case through litigation from start to finish,” Allyson says. “And if a trial is where it goes, that’s where we would take it.”

The pair have been working together for over a decade, and even though they’re veteran trial lawyers, at this point they still felt like they didn’t get the respect they deserve in the courtroom, and in came the idea for Themis.

“We just started talking about how we were getting we’re feeling really tired and really rundown and as we started talking, we realized that even though we’ve been practicing lawyers, trial lawyers, specifically in the courtroom for over 10 years, we still sometimes will get confused for the court reporter,” Kelly says. “We often were only the women in the room frequently and we wanted to change that.”

Kelly explains how she and her male counterpart were in a trial together on a medical malpractice lawsuit case involving a woman losing her baby.

A female juror approached Kelly when the trial concluded and shared that at one point during the trial she had been upset because she felt she was being mansplained about the female body during the male lawyer’s examination of a male expert witness. After that experience, Kelly went back to Allyson and that’s when they started talking more about how women attorneys should be representing female clients.

“After I had that experience, I had a lightbulb click because Allyson and I had already been having these conversations,” Kelly says. “I went back to Allyson and I said, ‘you know women attorneys should be representing female clients.’”

Through Themis, the pair just wants to help women find a way to be represented in trials and the courtroom.

“I think that this is important because while women are making up 50% or more of law students becoming or wanting to become a lawyer, the number goes down and down and down as it gets to litigation as it gets to trial attorneys,” Allyson says.

A safe space for representation

With that, they also want to create a safe space where people can feel represented, and understood with a level of care and empathy that might not be readily available with other trial groups. 

“Who’s to say that there’s not a woman somewhere else saying I have something that I need help with? I have a lawsuit that I can bring but I’m too afraid to reach out or speak out because I don’t see myself represented,” Allyson says. “I don’t see a face in that room that I think I can connect with.

“So I think back to the safe space.”

Themis is open to all types of gender identities including trans-women and non-binary or gender-nonconforming individuals. They just want to serve as a space where people can be represented.

The women are taking up their first case under Themis in the coming summer.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Gender Equality. ¨

Equality Planet

Project Petals: on green space and youth climate leaders

One of the most prominent landmarks in of New York City is Central Park, a well-regarded green space in the United States. The problem is, a lot of that funding is centralized and outer boroughs don’t see as much attention… like the same green ‘pop’.

This is something that Alicia White, the founder of Project Petals, wanted to change. 

Being from Queens herself, she witnessed a lot of the underfunding of green spaces in her community firsthand. In 2015, Alicia started the organization in an area formerly known as Railroad Park.

She had no idea the project would explode as it did. 

“I got a bunch of neighbors and volunteers together to clean up this one park,” Alicia tells Smiley News. “I connected with local council people and senators in the area to try to get funding.”

People started reaching out more, asking for help or even just advice on how to fix up and maintain green space in their community.

“From there, I thought, this would be a good organization to help other environmental leaders throughout New York City get the resources, tools, and education that they need to be able to have clean environments in their communities as well.”

Project Petals is made up of two primary programs. The first is the environmental green space program, where they go into underserved communities and help build green spaces.

The second is the youth builders program which highlights potential young climate leaders in the community and helps them with resources, a platform, and education so they can then share that with their community.

“We want to identify environmental leaders, so we can be able to give them the physical tools they need, like shovels, soil seeds, to be able to bring their idea of these environmental spaces into reality,” says Alicia.

“In the future, they’ll be the people who are the stewards of our planet.”

As Project Petals started expanding, communities started using it for different needs. Like one community may be addressing food scarcity, while another is focusing on clean spaces for kids to play. They’ve even been focusing on providing solar power to nearly every green space, and through that, they have things like community movie nights.  

And eventually, Alicia started having urban planners come out to speak with the kids to help educate them on everything that’s behind building and maintaining a community.

“The first meeting started with like about 10 or 15 young people,” Alicia says. “And now when we have these programs, it’s 100 young people. So it’s pretty cool.

“We’ve had students that have actually gone to college and gotten into college because of our mentorship program, majoring in urban planning and architecture and engineering as well.”

Project Petals has 15 green spaces that they help resource and maintain in New York City. Through the pandemic, they reached over 10,000 people, in whatever form that came. They’ve also started considering expanding outside of New York with calls for Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, and others. 

“If we all start within our own communities to try to improve the environment around us, then we can all make a ripple effect and some type of impact,” Alicia says.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land and Climate Action.


How a 12-year-old became a CEO with social impact

You can never be too young to do the right thing… right?

There are stories all over of kids dropping everything to help raise money for something that matters to them – whether that be a charity or for a loved one. With the drive that only kids have, they can take on seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Alejandro Buxton is another one of those kids, starting his business Smell of Love Candles in 6th grade, and now is the CEO of his own company at the age of 12. He started making candles himself at nine so his mother could have candles she liked.

‘She gave me the inspiration’

“My asthma started acting up and my mom was really sensitive to smell and would get migraines,” Alejandro tells Smiley News. “After a while, we found out the candles were causing us the issues.

“So my mom threw away all the candles and was disappointed. I didn’t like that so I made her one, called Jurassic orange, which was my first candle and is also my favorite.

“In that, she gave me inspiration and start Smell of Love Candles and I really took a step from there.”

His mom, Patricia Buxton, experimented with making candles in the past and Alejandro wanted to learn from her. Candles were a kind of connective tissue for him and his mom. “We both really loved candles. It was a nighttime thing because we used to light a candle when we would read a bedtime story when I was younger,” Alejandro says.

Candles for the planet

Alejandro wanted to make sure the candles he made were all-natural, vegan, and hand-poured – that are ideally a lot better for you than standard mass-produced ones. “[They] are good for you, good for the environment and are socially responsible,” they write on their website.

The 12-year-old believes that we are “stronger when we take care of each other” so his company donates a portion of all its profits to charity every month – around 10% – with the goal of doing good with the good things that have come their way.

“I’m very proud of him,” his mum, Patricia, tells Smiley News.


Woman’s journey to reducing excessive waste

By Tom Barwell-Best

A budding project in southwest England aims to reduce hospitality waste by 40% in the Falmouth area, through training and bespoke bins.

The brains behind Waste Warrior Solutions is eco warrior, Tegan Allen, a Geography graduate, who focused on sustainability and the environment during her studies.

She has always been connected to nature through surfing – and seen the damage to the environment caused by plastic – but it was when she went sailing reality struck.

Tegan found plastic from all over the world in obscure places as far as the Caribbean, which prompted her to set up her TikTok channel “I thought, I’ve got to go back and change it before the climate clock runs out,” she says.

She did her dissertation on improving waste management systems in bars and restaurants, with a focus on changing human behaviour. “I realised there’s no training for staff in hospitality on environmental aspects, that are going to be beneficial to the environment in terms of waste management,” she tells Smiley News.

From her research, she found the “short-term brain focus” was one of the key areas that needed to be addressed in hospitality’s fast-paced environment. With the help of a friend, designer Chris Humphrey, she created a set of custom-built bins that will make it easier for staff to engage with recycling.

“If you don’t have a bin that’s close to you or properly separated, then you’re not going to recycle properly when you’re rushing especially at peak service hours,” she says.

Tegan is working with the help of a group of friends to launch the bins within the hospitality industry. She’s actively searching for collaborators who share her altruistic and environmentally-focused motives.

If you’d like to support her or her work or get involved, get in touch on social media: @wastewarriorsolutions and

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Your monthly instalment of volunteering opportunities

Welcome to our first instalment of monthly volunteering opportunities by Smiley News.

This is where, on the first of every month, we’ll post a number of volunteering opportunities from across the UK.

This will include everything from in-person opportunities to remote work and micro-volunteering, to ensure there’s something that suits everyone. So, if you’re looking for a new way to give back – we’ve got you covered.

And if you’re a charity that has a volunteering opportunity or two to share, or if you have any questions, get in touch with us via email – [email protected]

In-Person Volunteering.

Guide Dogs UK – Guide Dogs UK is looking for foster carers for the guide dogs of the future. If you’re a dog lover but don’t have the free time for a pet, fostering a guide dog on evenings and weekends could be a good fit. Plus, Guide Dogs UK will pay for everything from food to vet bills – so you don’t have to spend a penny.

To apply for the role, visit the Guide Dogs UK website.

Festability – Kent’s accessible music festival is looking for volunteers to help the day run smoothly – a registered CIC run by three mums of disabled kids, Festability is sorely in need of volunteers. Any help you can give to make sure music is available to all will be greatly appreciated!

To apply as a volunteer, visit the Festability website and fill out the form so that someone can contact you further.

Young Lives vs Cancer – YLVC is looking for a number of in-person volunteers. From volunteering in their charity shops or lending your support at fundraising events, to helping at their Homes from Home where cancer patients and their families stay during treatment.

To apply for any of these roles, visit the Young Lives vs Cancer website, or email [email protected].  

Battersea – Battersea is looking for volunteers to become foster carers for dogs and cats who are currently living in their facilities, and help them to find a new, permanent home. The charity looking for applicants that live near one of its three centres in Battersea (London), Old Windsor (Berkshire) and Brands Hatch (Kent), or one of its community locations in Basingstoke, Guildford and Ashford.

Adult foster cats can be left for a working day. For kittens, no more than four hours daily. Time alone for foster dogs needs to be kept to a minimum. At the beginning of the foster period, dogs cannot be left at all, and the maximum daily leave time once settled is no more than four hours.

To apply to become a foster carer, or for another in-person role, visit the Battersea website.

Chickenshed – This inclusive theatre charity based in north London is looking for a myriad of volunteers, including front-of-house staff, admin roles, and assisting with sewing and other duties in wardrobe. Additionally, during the lead-up to Christmas, they’ll be looking for more volunteers backstage to help with the large Christmas show.

To apply for any of these roles, download the application form from the volunteer section on the Chickenshed website and send the completed application to [email protected].

Casualties Union – A charity dedicated to simulating casualty situations to provide emergency services and other organisations with the training they need, is looking for volunteers. If you’re into the arts, love acting, or just want to try out some gnarly stage makeup, this unique and, frankly, pretty fun volunteering opportunity is for you. 

There is no minimum requirement in terms of time commitment, though there are regular training sessions for volunteers that are helpful to attend.

To apply, you can email [email protected] or visit the Casualties Union website and use the contact form.

London LGBTQ+ Centre – The London LGBTQ+ Centre is looking for an information and resources volunteer to connect with different resources and groups and build a bank of relevant resources for the LGBTQ+ community. This can be done from home, or in person at the London LGBTQ+ Centre, and has no fixed hours, but is completely flexible based on the workload and needs of each volunteer.

To apply, visit the link on the London LGBTQ+ Centre website and fill out the form. If you have any questions, email them at [email protected]

The Lewis Foundation – This charity sources, packages and hand delivers gift packs for free to adult cancer patients. They are currently looking for a number of roles including an event photographer, a graphic designer and a video producer. The graphic design role can also be done remotely, while the others are only in person.

To apply, visit the Lewis Foundation website and fill out this form

Action Tutoring – Action Tutoring is an education charity helping disadvantaged young people improve their academic knowledge, grades, and confidence. They are looking for in-person and online tutors – in-school opportunities are available in Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, London, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Sussex. You will need to be available for one hour per week at the same time for around 10-20 weeks, to help your student keep up with their studies. 

To apply, visit the Action Tutoring website and fill out the online form. You will then be contacted for training and a DBS check.

Nottinghamshire Hospice – Nottinghamshire Hospice is a charity hospice looking to fill a number of volunteering roles. These are all in-person, and include a gardener, a retail assistant, and a trustee, as well as a whole load of other interesting roles.

To apply for any of these roles, visit the Nottinghamshire Hospice website, phone 0115 910 1008 and select option 4 or email [email protected]. To apply for the trustee role, email [email protected]

Rural Mental Health MattersRMHM is looking for a number of online and in-person volunteers, including fundraisers, bookkeepers, researchers and more. The roles have a lot of flexibility, with many only needing around an hour per week of work, or just helping out at irregular events.

To apply for any roles with Rural Mental Health Matters contact Melanie at [email protected]

Cats ProtectionCats Protection is looking for a number of different volunteers, though mainly they are in need of foster carers for the cats currently living in their centres. Cats Protection will pay for everything – all you need is room for a furry friend and some love to give. Other than that, they’re looking for volunteers in their shops, in branches and centres and across the UK.

Plus, they’re also looking for people to go out into schools and the local community and educate people about cats and their needs.

To apply for any roles with Cats Protection, visit this link to their volunteer page.

Integrate UKIntegrate UK are a Bristol-based youth charity that tackles many issues on gender and racism in schools and universities through workshops, talks, conferences and music videos/short films. They are looking for fundraising volunteers, both in person and online, to find people who are interested in donating to their charity.

To find out more about fundraising for Integrate UK, email [email protected] or call +44 (0) 117 907 2998.

EmmausEmmaus is looking for a large number of in-person volunteers, as well as those who can donate their time remotely. From trustees to retail volunteers, and gardeners to community cooks, there really is a role that applies to everyone’s skillset. So, if Emmaus is a charity you feel passionately about, take a look at their website and see which roles you are most suited to.

To apply for a role with Emmaus, visit this link to the volunteer page on their website.

PRIME Cymru for those based in Wales, this one is for you. PRIME Cymru is recruiting volunteer mentors to help support people aged 50+ to move closer to the world of work. They are looking for people who can use their own professional knowledge and experience to support others in employment or self-employment.

To apply for a mentor role, email [email protected] or telephone 01550 721813.

Carib EatsCarib Eats is a social enterprise that delivers Caribbean food to people in need across Hackney. Many of their recipients are lonely or isolated, so they also provide a regular friendly face and stop to talk and get to know those they work with. They are looking for people who can deliver food, as well as those who are happy to get stuck in with the cooking.

To apply for volunteer roles with Carib Eats, fill out this Google form and wait for a response.

Aurora Metro Arts and MediaAurora Metro Arts and Media is a charity based in Richmond-upon-Thames that champions diversity and equality through arts and educational projects. They are looking for volunteers for reading scripts, archive and cataloguing material, video editors for a range of projects, and general admin and bookkeeping. Some, though not all, of these roles can be filled remotely.

To apply for any of these roles, please email your CV to [email protected]

The Sheffield Cats Centre – one of the oldest surviving animal charities in the UK, the Sheffield Cats Centre is currently looking for volunteers for their at Ecclesall Road and Hillsborough Barracks. They are also looking for events and fundraising volunteers to represent the charity at events across the city.

To apply for any of these roles, send an email to [email protected]

Dementia Carers CountDCC is a charity that helps to support dementia carers across the UK, providing them with education and resources. They are looking for people to fundraise, deliver leaflets, share their stories with groups and the media, and campaign in person and online. The roles are varied, but all go towards supporting the charity.

To apply for any of these roles, go to this link on the Dementia Carers Count website and fill out the form.

WORTH – Based in Derbyshire, WORTH is a domestic abuse support charity providing provides long-term wellbeing and therapeutic support for women and their children. Though they are looking for a few other roles, they are mainly looking for ‘befrienders’ – someone who walks alongside a woman on her healing journey. Full in-house training will be provided for this.

To apply for any roles with WORTH, visit their website for more details, and then send your CV and a covering letter to [email protected]

Farm Africa Farm Africa is a charity reducing poverty by helping farmers in eastern Africa to grow more, sell more and sell for more. They are looking for volunteers to be Farm Africa’s cheer squad at the TCS London Marathon on Sunday 23 April. They’re seeking smiley, happy people with a good eye to spot runners in a crowd! This is only a four-hour, one-time commitment, plus a fun day out for the kids.

To apply, visit the Farm Africa website at this link and fill out the form.

Remote Volunteering.

Sense – Sense is looking for Virtual Buddies; volunteers who can meet online with disabled people once a week to chat and help combat loneliness. This is a completely remote position you can do from anywhere, as long as you can make a meeting once a week. Once you apply, Sense will match you with someone who has similar interests and give you some training.

To apply to be a Virtual Buddy visit the page on the Sense website or email [email protected]. This role requires an internet connection and one hour of your time per week.

Young Lives vs Cancer – there are plenty of remote opportunities with Young Lives vs Cancer available right now. They are looking for a fundraising researcher, to help create partnerships between YLvC and other organisations, a digital challenge champion.

To apply for any of these roles, visit the Young Lives vs Cancer website, or email [email protected] 

London LGBTQ Centre – The London LGBTQ centre is looking for an online events volunteer to help organise and run online groups and events based on their skills and interests. This can be done from home or remotely. The workload is flexible based on the needs of each volunteer, though they ask that you do a minimum of two hours per month.

To apply, visit this link on the London LGBTQ Centre website and fill out the form. If you have any questions, email them at [email protected]

Action Tutoring – Action Tutoring is looking for online and in-person tutors. You will need to be available for one hour per week at the same time for around 10-20 weeks, to help your student keep up with their studies. 

To apply, visit the Action Tutoring website and fill out the online form. You will then be contacted for training and a DBS check.

Rural Mental Health MattersRMHM is looking for a number of online and in-person volunteers, including fundraisers, bookkeepers, researchers and more! The roles have a lot of flexibility, with many only needing around an hour per week of work, or just helping out at irregular events.

To apply for any roles with Rural Mental Health Matters contact Melanie at [email protected]

Birth Trauma AssociationThe Birth Trauma Association is a charity which specifically offers support to parents who have a traumatic birthing experience. They are looking for people to take on the role of peer supporters. If anyone has recovered from the experience of a traumatic birth and would like to help others recover emotionally, the Birth Trauma Association would love to have your experience to help support people for 2-3 hours per week.

To apply for a peer support role, or find out about more ways you can help the Birth Trauma Association, email [email protected]

See Around BritainSee Around Britain is a nationwide, fully inclusive and interactive multilingual photographic app helping everyone to decide if a venue is suitable for their needs. They’re in need of remote volunteers around the country to take pictures of venues and their access facilities so people can decide if the venue is suitable to visit. They also need people to write venue descriptions, and volunteer their time for online and editorial support.

If you’re interested in helping See Around Britain, visit their website at this link to apply for any of the roles.

EmmausEmmaus is looking for a large number of remote volunteers, as well as standard in person roles. They are currently looking for online retail volunteers – think eBay style! – as well as online support, both of which can be done remotely.

To apply for a role with Emmaus, visit this link to the volunteer page on their website.


Young Lives vs Cancer – Young Lives vs Cancer is also looking for volunteers to do smaller roles that can fit better into busy lives – for example, they need a collection tin coordinator to make and use connections in their area and help find new places for collection tins.

To apply for any of these roles, visit the Young Lives vs Cancer website, or email [email protected] 

PostPalsPostPals is a charity that delivers letters, postcards and gifts to sick children and their siblings, and they are always looking for more people to get involved! It doesn’t take long to write a letter or draw a picture for a child, and the gesture goes a long way.

To get involved with PostPals, email them at [email protected]

FreeRiceThis one is cheating a little, but that’s okay because it’s all for a good cause! FreeRice is a website associated with UNWFP that has an online English vocabulary test that you can take. For every question you get right, ten grains of rice are donated to those who are going hungry!

To test your vocab skills, and give back at the same time, visit the FreeRice website

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


Rainbow Migration: a lifeline for LGBTQ+ people seeking asylum

Moving countries is hard enough when you aren’t in imminent danger – but things get even more complicated when you identify as LGBTQIA+.

Many asylum seekers are fleeing a country with homophobic or transphobic laws and practices, and have often been forced to hide their identity for their own safety.

But there’s one charity doing its best to make the transition easier on LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers. Rainbow Migration supports members of the community as they seek refuge in the UK.

“Coming to the UK was an escape,” said Manono, one of the people Rainbow Migration has helped over the years. “I have been here for 18 years now. I am happy with my girlfriend here. We feel safe and can live openly. “

Rainbow Migration isn’t just there to offer legal and logistical help. They know how hard it can be to find confidence when you have spent so long having to hide a part of who you are.

“Our Support Workers work with LGBTQI+ people to improve their self-esteem and confidence, reduce isolation, and help them access health services and housing,” said a spokesperson from the charity.

“They also offer emotional and practical guidance to LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, and support them through the asylum process, which can take months or even years.”

Rainbow Migration also does everything they can to make sure LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers are placed with their partner, if they have one. The process of being granted asylum can be long and difficult, making it all the more important to have charities to lean on.

“To secure asylum, LGBTQI+ people must ‘prove’ their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to officials, and this can be very challenging,” said the spokesperson. “[The Home Office] want straightforward, traditional stories of ‘coming out’, but many of the LGBTQI+ people seeking safety here have had to live secret lives as they are fleeing dangerous and homophobic communities.”

30 years of supporting others

In 2023, Rainbow Migration celebrates its 30th year of supporting and protecting LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers.

“Our motivation is to ensure that all LGBTQI+ people, who are fleeing persecution in their home country, are treated with respect and integrity, feel safe, have the chance to meet new people and make friends, and have a sense of belonging here in the UK,” said the spokesperson.

“We want a world where there is equality and safety, for all people in the expression of their sexual orientation and gender identity. “

Most recently, Rainbow Migration has launched the No Pride in Detention appeal, in the hopes of preventing LGBTQIA+ people from ending up in detention centres in the UK. They also have a petition you can sign to help limit detention centres to holding people for a maximum of 28 days – and hopefully one-day end detention altogether.

Rainbow Migration is committed to training other organisations how to set up and run a service for LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, how mainstream services for people seeking asylum can better support LGBTQI+ and so much more.

Organisations they have supported include like Stonewall, Humanists UK, Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees, and Islington Mind.

If you feel inspired to help Rainbow Migration and all the good they do, you can donate here, and sign their petition to end detention here.

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


On rare disease day, let’s think about those fighting for others

By definition, rare diseases are not ones you may readily have heard of. Diseases like cancer all stick in our minds because most people know someone who has been affected by cancer (not that it makes it any less devastating when it happens) – but also because there are so many people trying to cure it.

Rare diseases, however, are less well known and therefore have less support. But Sophie Muir, chair and founder of the Timothy Syndrome Alliance, has never let that stop her.

Timothy Syndrome is caused by a mutation in the gene CACNA1C. The syndrome affects your child’s heart, physical appearance, and nervous and immune systems. More than just rare – this syndrome is known to affect less than 100 people worldwide.

Like a rare disease private investigator, Sophie has spent years tracking down other families who have children with the condition. Today, they have a Facebook support group, allowing them to stay connected, share tips together, and provide encouragement and support for parents and kids alike.

“We need to find more families – more research will give us more answers,” explains Sophie.

Though less than 100 people worldwide have been diagnosed with Timothy Syndrome, there may be so many more who are affected. Because of how rare Timothy Syndrome is, patients may struggle to get a diagnosis – simply because there is so little knowledge that it exists. 

That’s just one of the reasons Sophie is so intent on raising awareness for the Timothy Syndrome Alliance and, in turn, Timothy Syndrome – so those who have the disease can get the answers they so desperately need.

“There are thousands of kids sitting in paediatricians’ offices [and] clinics all over the world but nobody has really been looking for CACNA1C,” explains Sophie. “[There are] so many questions, but because the gene is in the calcium channel and [it] goes through the whole body – it affects all cells.”

With the disease being as rare as it is, it’s so important to Sophie that families are found, contacted and get involved. The more people with Timothy Syndrome that the TSA knows about, the more research is able to be done – research that goes towards making the lives of everyone affected by Timothy Syndrome easier. 

“The more engagement [there is] with research, [the more] we’re able to feed back to the families some of the knowledge that we’re finding to be able to help,” says Sophie.

Working solo on a daily basis, other than help from her board of trustees, Sophie spends her whole day juggling being a mother, including one child who has Timothy Syndrome, partner and pet owner with championing support for this incredible charity.

While they have a few volunteers, Sophie is, primarily, the captain, first mate and sailor of the Timothy Syndrome Alliance. Between fundraising, raising awareness of the charity and running the day-to-day, 

“We’re so rare, people haven’t heard of us,” admits Sophie. “People tend to be more aware of the more common rare diseases and, as we are super small and super rare, it’s very difficult to get your voice heard.”

Rare Diseases Day occurs on the 28th Feb every year, and is meant to bring awareness and support to those who are affected by rare diseases or actively performing research into them. 

The Timothy Syndrome Alliance was set up in order to help fund research into Timothy Syndrome, as well as to provide support to families in the UK and worldwide who are affected by the disease. 

If you’re interested in supporting the Timothy Syndrome Alliance for Rare Disease Day, you can do so by donating through their website.

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


The powerful effect of the Climate Cardinals

No division of land or culture is invincible from the potential impacts that will come without climate action. 

Climate resources and information is spread far and wide, with global events like the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference dominating news cycles when it comes around. There’s one problem though, that most of those climate change resources come in just a few languages… usually English. 

That’s where the youth-led non-profit Climate Cardinals comes into view.

“The origins of the organization come from Sophia Kianni,” Climate Cardinals’ Partnerships Director, Hikaru Hayakawa, tells Smiley News. “When she was in middle school, she would go visit her family in Iran, and her family lives in Tehran, the Capitol, which at times is very polluted.

“Her family members didn’t necessarily have the language to speak about what was happening, so Sophia would translate climate and environmental research into Farsi so her relatives could understand. That’s where the idea of Climate Cardinals came from.”

Since its founding over three years ago, the organization – along with its over 9,000 volunteers – has helped translate climate research across 41 countries and has reached over 500,000 people with over 750, 000 words of climate information translated. They’ve translated climate information into over 100 languages.

They have taken translation requests from all over the world including the Italian government, several UN agencies, and more youth non-profits.

“We’re currently working on translating a UN general comment on the rights of children with respect to climate change too,” Hikaru says. 

Since most of their volunteers are US-based, they’ve had a much higher capacity for translation into languages common in the country, but they’re making active efforts to translate into minority and indigenous languages.

They particularly want to focus on these communities because they’ll be disproportionately affected by climate change.

“Immediately prior to my time at Climate Cardinals, I studied abroad in North Macedonia on a State Department scholarship, where there’s a very active environmental movement because the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje, is one of the most polluted cities in the world,” Hikaru says. “A lot of the information that youth were accessing was not in Macedonian or Albanian but in English.

“It’s less likely that they speak English, which means that this information isn’t accessible to a large section of the population If you think about that, in terms of a global context, there’s a massive amount of people we miss.”

One of the main ways they’ve been doing that is helping people set up Climate Cardinal chapters, so they can translate climate research in communities that the larger organization doesn’t have the manpower to reach. They host events, usually about specific topics that bring people together to focus on climate action in their communities.

“Last year we hosted an event with an international nonprofit on environmental justice and the impact of climate change on frontline communities, especially in the Pacific Islands,” Hikaru says. “A lot of our directors also speak at different events.”

In general, the organization just wants to make climate justice as accessible as possible.

“Through creating a more accessible movement, we’re able to make sure that there’s a broader coalition that’s able to work on these issues, and that there’s a more comprehensive understanding by the movement of how disadvantaged and underserved communities are impacted,” Hikaru says.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.