‘Little bags of hope’ help adults in need

The Lewis Foundation sources, packages and hand delivers gift packs for free to adult cancer patients in hospitals in the Midlands and the community every single week.

These are items that patients might find difficult to buy themselves or simply cannot afford – and that brings people happiness and comfort at a difficult time. For many people in hospital and the community, these volunteers are their only regular visitors. 

Lorraine and her husband Lee were so moved when Lee’s mum was hospitalised with cancer at Northampton General Hospital that it led them to set up a charity.

Recognising the fear, upset and loneliness faced by individuals undergoing cancer treatment and their loved ones, they were determined that our charity would make a real difference.

They sourced donations, packaged, and delivered gifts to patients on oncology wards. That was April 2016 – when The Lewis Foundation was born.

Today with a team of 50 volunteers and community supporters, The Lewis Foundation has grown from delivering 80 gift packs to one hospital, to delivering around 2000 gifts per month to 15 hospitals in the Midlands per month. Donate and support to the charity.

Watch the video with Lorraine speaking to Smiley News above, or head to YouTube to view more charity videos



How community energy builds local climate resilience

While delegates at COP26 discuss how to tackle climate change on a global level, everyday people are driving positive change closer to home. Community energy is a way small groups are strengthening local climate resilience. Journalist, author and off-grid energy specialist Nick Rosen tells Smiley News how this works.

“The most important way we can act locally is through the way we source energy. Because energy consumption and production makes up 73% of all greenhouse gas emissions. So the single most useful thing that we can do is create community energy production and consumption systems,” he explains.

Communities around the world have demonstrated the potential of community-owned energy. Projects in Germany, Spain and the UK, for example, show that local ownership ensures energy systems are most favourable to the needs of people and the planet. 

[Discover other great initiatives making affordable and clean energy available to all]

On this basis, Nick wants everyone to consider the benefits of putting power in the hands of the people – literally. He’s calling on UK citizens to sign a petition for funding for resident-owned renewable energy grids across the country.

“Locally-owned, locally-managed energy production and consumption is very achievable,” he adds. “It comes at a relatively low cost, compared to the trillions of pounds that are being bandied about for national energy projects. You’re still talking seven figures, but that kind of money should be available.”

From touring the UK, visiting eco-communities for his book, ‘How to live off-grid’, he is has witnessed first-hand what energy independence can be achieved. 

[Read more positive news about heroic individuals and organisations tackling the world’s biggest challenges]

From the many projects he visited, he was most impressed by two off-grid villages, Scoraig in Scotland and Machynlleth in Wales. 

“In Scoraig they’ve created a community where each of the households is self-sufficient for energy,” he says. “So they don’t have the problems of having to hold frequent meetings to decide who is responsible for running the energy system. 

“But while they’re all self-sufficient, they can also share the energy when one household’s supply runs out. Meanwhile, Macynleth has various centralised energy supplies and is successful in the sense that they’re growing.”

After seeing these communities thrive thanks to their independence from the national energy grid, he hopes to spread their learnings to other areas of the country.

To help him achieve this goal, sign the petition calling for local renewable energy micro-grids.


Freya Mavor: ‘Creativity offers a tonic for eco-anxiety’

For Skins actor and climate justice campaigner Freya Mavor, COP26 comes close to home. Born in Glasgow, the host city for the event, Freya felt driven to join celebrities, CEOs and climate activists to read letters to the Earth, encouraging ambitious action from delegates at the conference. 

In her letter, she writes: “We exist together, inevitably tethered to one another. So why don’t we try, together, to strive to be better? For in the darkest of hours we can still smell the flowers, connect with others, share bread, bring love into our beds, hold space for all revelations of grace, in all of life,  all manner of matters: we can change.”

Talking to Smiley News, she elaborates on these words. As a 28-year-old, she expresses the same eco-anxiety felt by many of her generation. “Climate change is itself such a vast ‘hyperobject’,” she says. “This is a term coined by the writer and philosopher Timothy Morton to describe climate change, the idea being that it’s something so big it’s almost impossible for us to comprehend its full reality and impact.”

As a result, she feels almost helpless in confronting climate change, saying, “There’s so much fear and anxiety nowadays.”

[Discover more stories of hope for successful climate action around the world]

But her words, spoken from the literary sanctuary of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, also offer a source of comfort. Because thankfully, she has discovered an effective coping mechanism. She says: “When addressing the reality of the climate crisis, I find that being able to respond creatively offers a tool to deal with emotions that come up around climate change, whatever medium you choose. To approach it creatively can introduce hope and tenderness.”

She believes in the power of such art to trigger positive discussions, adding: “I’m under no illusions that people responding creatively to the climate crisis will solve anything. But stories and narration are vastly important because it’s how we understand things as human beings. So I think it has an incredibly important place in shifting the conversation.”

A wish for the world

With global delegates flocking to her birthplace for COP26, Freya is intensely aware of the event’s significance. “It is a vastly important event and I suppose there has to be a level of hope, albeit naive hope, that it will succeed,” she says.

But what does success mean to her? “Ideally, this event will lead to conversations about how climate justice is interlinked with social and racial justice and substantive action towards the kind of change that’s required in order to address climate change,” she explains.

To achieve this, her primary wish is that the conference will lead to systemic change. It’s no easy task and she knows it. “Tackling climate change involves creating an entirely new world. It means building an anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchal society, which is by no means a small feat.”

Hope in collective action

Having participated in climate action with groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Freya puts her hope in the power of everyday people united as one. 

“There’s a lot of onus put on individual actions when I think we actually need global, institutional and societal change on a mass scale, so inevitably we need collective action,” she says. 

“But individual and collective action are two sides of the same coin. Individual action helps people learn about the tools to move towards a sustainable, greener world with less suffering, even though we’re locked into a certain amount of warming, regardless of what we do.”

[Read positive news about the individuals and groups working to build a better world]

In her everyday life, she attempts to adopt more sustainable habits herself, changing her diet, routines and means of transport to lower her impact on the climate. But she’s not one to blow her own trumpet and she adds: “I’m reluctant to do any back-patting or virtue signalling myself because I realise I’m in an incredibly privileged minority. Living in the UK, we are so much more responsible for taking the action that is required than those who are marginalised or those in the Global South, where people are least responsible for this crisis.”

To follow Freya’s advice, unleash the power of creativity to tackle the climate crisis by donating to the arts charity Letters to the Earth here.



3 natural climate solutions that don’t cost the Earth

While technological fixes to climate change are exciting, there’s a much simpler (albeit, less futuristic) solution: nature. As the environmental nonprofit, The Nature Conservancy explained in a video ahead of COP26, electric cars, renewable energy and phasing out fossil fuels are vital steps. But they’re not enough. 

To overcome this crisis, we need nature, which the organisation describes as: “The most sophisticated system for processing greenhouse gases in the universe, which only has hundreds of millions of years on us.” 

[Read more positive news stories about the individuals and groups driving climate action]

To demonstrate nature’s force, here are just a few examples of how it would help keep global warming well below 2℃ over pre-industrial levels, as aimed for by COP21’s 2015 Paris Agreement.

1. Preserve what we have

By ending the destruction of existing forests, grasslands and wetlands, we could remove around 3.9 billion metric tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Biodiverse habitats such as these absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) through a process known as photosynthesis. Plant cells transform CO2 and water into glucose, which provides the energy for growth. This is also how marine algae absorb CO2, making their coral reef habitats particularly valuable too. With all the work plants are doing to protect our planet, we can’t cope without them.

2. Restore what we’ve lost

In light of these benefits, we should also restore the forests and wetlands we’ve lost. Plenty of organisations have already started this work, including The Woodland Trust and WWF. Carefully reintroducing native species and managing their growth, their skilled staff are building back these vital carbon sinks.

3. Learn from traditional land management

On top of these first two options, if societies adopt more sustainable farming and forestry techniques we could cut another 5.1 billion tonnes of CO2 from our emissions. This could involve using organic farming practices, crop rotation, and leaving tracts of land to grow into wildlife habitats.

Together, these natural solutions could remove 11 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere, the equivalent of a line of SUVs from Earth to the moon 56 times over. It’s no small contribution. In fact, it would cover a third of necessary emission reductions. 

To get behind some of this vital work, support The Nature Conservancy here.


Celebrate 90 years of Guide Dogs

Guide Dogs is asking supporters to join people up and down the country taking part in the Guide Dogs 90 Appeal.

This year – 2021 – marks 90 years since the first guide dog partnerships were formed by Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond. These pioneering women started training dogs to support servicemen who had lost their sight in WW1 – and the impact was immediate.

Guide Dogs officially celebrates its birthday in October, but people can hold a fundraiser any time, as the charity is encouraging people to do whatever they love best. Whether that be baking 90 cakes, walking 90 minutes or knitting 90 things – this support will mean Guide Dogs can help people with sight loss now, and for the next 90 years.

[Read more about fundraising charity news on Smiley News]

Peter Osborne, director of operations at Guide Dogs, said: “In 2021, just under 100,000 people will be told they are losing their sight. Our expert staff, volunteers and life-changing dogs will be there to support them. As sight loss increases, we need to step up to double the number of times we provide support people.

“To celebrate our anniversary and to help Guide Dogs be there for the next 90 years, please get involved and choose any 90-themed activity you like. If you are having fun and raising life-changing funds, then anything goes!”

Fundraising ideas include:

· Bake 90 – Host a bake sale, offer doorstep delivery, or go all out with your own bake-off challenge.

· Walk 90 – Whether you’re a regular rambler or more of an ambler, raise funds at your own pace by walking 90km throughout the month of October.

· Swim 90 – Lengths, hours, or km. Goggles at the ready and hit the pool or head outdoors for a wild swim.

· 90s Karaoke competition – Break out the mics and sell tickets for your musical team night. Pick your judge and rate the best performances.

· Give it up for 90 days – Sugar or takeaways? Skip the snacks and get sponsored for not giving into temptation.

The charity impact

Guide Dogs has been there for people with sight loss and those around them – every day and every step of the way for 90 years.

Today, Guide Dogs leads the world in breeding and training working dogs, creating unique and carefully matched partnerships that provide life changing support. Guide Dogs is working to give more people with sight loss the confidence and skills they need to live the life they choose.

To find out how you can get involved in the Guide Dogs 90 Appeal, visit


5 small actions that can boost your wellbeing

Our brains are often hardwired to focus on what’s wrong in our lives. But we can change that. Vanessa King, head of workplaces and positive psychology at Action for Happiness, says there are lots of small actions we can make in our days that can make us feel happier – they are simple, and take little time. 

Here are five things you can do. 

[Read about the 10 keys to happier living]

Catch yourself doing things right.

We are super harsh with ourselves, says Vanessa. In fact, stats show we are 75% harsher on ourselves than we are on other people if they mess up. So we’re just creating stress and unhappiness for ourselves internally. We have to accept everyone is a mix of good – and less good. “You could ask, ‘what did I do well today? What was good enough? What am I proud of today? Or what strengths did I use today?” Nurture those good qualities, rather than focusing on the negative. 

“When we’re harshly critical, it triggers our threat system and that stops us from exploring and connecting with others,” she says. “Everyone messes up! Be a bit more compassionate to yourself and ask yourself what you can learn from this experience instead. Turn your inner critic into an inner coach!”

Be mindful of time on your phone

“A lot of us think we’re crazy busy, but if you look at data, we’ve got a lot more time,” says Vanessa. “But now, our attention is split. Our phones drive a shorter attention span and our brains don’t multitask well. It makes us inefficient.” 

The healthiest way to be, she says, is to allow yourself allocated time on your phone, such as half an hour at lunch and then in the evening. “Limit your time on it,” she says, “get rid of your alerts – it’s controlling, and you should be controlling it.” But also, she adds, check in with how you feel after being on Instagram or a social media app. Do you feel better, or happier? Take a note of how it makes you feel. 

Noticing our breathing patterns

Different emotions are associated with different breathing patterns, explains Vanessa. We tend to have short, shallow breaths when we are anxious. But, if we breathe in different ways, we can help trigger different emotions. “Deliberate deep breathing, from the belly and slow on the out breath, can instigate a feeling of calm,” she says. It will give you a little nudge towards being able to cope better. 

[Discover more positive stories on Smiley News’ homepage]

Importance of downtime

We all live busy lives, so taking time out to do something good for ourselves is restorative in itself, says Vanessa. Think of the type of downtime activity you’d enjoy – we all love vegging in front of the sofa, but what could you do that’d help instil a sense of calm?

“There are all sorts of hobbies, such as more people took up baking during lockdown,” she says. “These are good for our psychological wellbeing.”

Think about what you can do for someone else

The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up, says Vanessa. “When we help other people, it’s not only nice for them, but it activates the reward centre in our own brains to make us feel good.”

Connecting with others is also great for our wellbeing. And it doesn’t need to be something big. Giving a friend a call. “Think to yourself: what’s the smallest thing you can do to make the biggest difference?”

Find out more at Action for Happiness, the movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. Visit their Instagram to find out more, too. And donate here


3 ways you can train yourself to be happier

Physical fitness is a part of many people’s lives – but many argue that mental fitness is just as important. We move and train our bodies to stay healthy, so why don’t we do the same for our minds?

In our latest inspiring Smiley Talk, we spoke to wellness coach Josephine McGrail, life coach Leanne Evans, and mental fitness coach Sally May for an insightful discussion on why our brains are trained to have automatic negative thoughts, and the tools and techniques we can use to change this.

During the one-hour discussion, we talked about whether it’s possible to retrain our brains to not always focus on the negative, how we can do this, and how to create healthier routines that help us cultivate gratitude.

Here are three important takeaways from the talk.

1. Establishing routine is important

Leanne shared that bringing awareness into your daily lives and becoming curious about the thoughts you’re having and your habits, as well as how your life is looking, is a good way to establish a healthy mindset.

“Start to take control of your routine,” she says. “Consider mornings and evenings, and introduce little steps that can bring positivity into your day before you start, and before you go to bed, as this is where our mind is most at rest.’

2. PQ reps can help you de-stress in the momentand build your mental muscles

Sally shared a short exercise you can do if you’re feeling overwhelmed in the moment.

“Notice how you’re sitting, relax a bit, and breathe,” she says. “Lower your shoulders, and make sure your feet are flat on the floor. Then take your finger and your thumb and gently rub them against each other, feel all the ridges. Do that from time to time if you’re getting stressed by something.”

It’s called a PQ rep – where PQ stands for positive intelligence. If you do short bursts of PQ reps several times a day, you’ll build up your mental muscles, which helps you respond to challenges in a more resourceful way.  

3. Everyone is prone to negativity bias (you’re not alone) 

Josephine spoke about the negativity bias. “Science has proven, since the beginning of our time, that life was tough,” she said. “Challenges and danger was very real, so that meant our ancestors – because they were experiencing these high risks – created a thought pattern that was on the lookout for danger. We don’t experience this same danger, but we still have these thought patterns.”

Want to find out more?

Watch the full live stream on YouTube or Twitter

You can order Leanne’s book, ‘Lifted Spirits: A Manifestation Journal Which Will Change Your Life’ on Amazon. Josephine also has a book called The Morning Miracle, and you can find out more about Sally’s work on her website


‘Grief Kind’ campaign helps the bereaved

‘Grief Kind’ is the name of a new campaign by leading bereavement charity, Sue Ryder, to help people feeling alone in their grief.  

Famous faces, including Lottie Tomlinson, Malin Andersson, TV presenter Richard Arnold and actress Davinia Taylor have shared personal accounts of grief in support of the Grief Kind campaign to help the nation better support loved ones through a bereavement.

The campaign comes after a survey by Sue Ryder revealed 86% of people who have experienced a bereavement in the UK felt alone in their grief, with the primary reason being that those around them didn’t know what to say or do to help them (81%).

Grief is something we will all have to go through, yet over two fifths (44%) of the British public admit that they have felt unsure of what to say when someone tells them a close relative or friend has died.

[Read more stories about kindness and positivity here]                                                    

Recognising it can be a difficult to know how to support a loved one, Sue Ryder launched the campaign to equip people with the know-how and confidence to support friends and family through a bereavement, so that no one has to go through grief alone.

Heidi Travis, chief executive officer of Sue Ryder says: “Sadly, as a society we are experiencing a moment in time where many of us will want to be there to support a grieving loved one. However, when it comes to something as tough as grief, it can be hard to know what to say or do that might help.

“People who have been bereaved have told us that all too often their loved ones and their support networks are so scared of getting it wrong that they do nothing at all. This is leaving many people feeling isolated in their grief. 

“We want our Grief Kind campaign to provide people with advice, knowledge and confidence to help those close to them to navigate the toughest moments of their lives.”

[Brighten your day with positive news from Smiley Movement

Sue Ryder research shows the following are the most useful things that people can do to help someone who is grieving include:

1. Just being there without trying to ‘fix’ anything
2. Talking about memories of the person who died
3. Keeping in touch but not expecting a response 
4. Offering to spend time with doing things they enjoy

In addition, when it comes to words of comfort, the survey shone a light on the most helpful things people can say to a loved one to help them through a bereavement:

1. Thinking of you
2. I am here for you 
3. My favourite memory of them is…
4. I am just a phone call away

Sue Ryder provides a range of online bereavement support, including free video counselling delivered through trained bereavement counsellors; an online community forum offering 24-hour peer to peer support and a wide range of advice and resources for people who are grieving or supporting someone through bereavement.

For more information and expert advice from Sue Ryder’s trained bereavement counsellors, visit


Introducing the vegan cafe with a social purpose

In the heart of London’s lively borough of Brixton, Cafe Van Gogh is a community-driven business with a social purpose. Serving nutritious vegan food, the cafe is staffed by people experiencing additional challenges such as learning difficulties or mental health issues. 

The Community Interest Company (CIC) has joined forces with not-for-profit Toucan Employment who help people with learning difficulties or disabilities find work in the London boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Brent and Lewisham.

[Read more: 12-year-old disabled child saves activity centre]

With the non-profit’s help, Cafe Van Gogh discovered Michelle, who they brought on to work with employees. She ensures they get the most out of the training and go on to find long term work. 

“I coach people of all ages to undertake certain roles within the cafe,” she explains, “ensuring that the participants that take places here are happy and comfortable with what they are doing.”

Working as waiters there, Tiarma and Ehima have already settled in well. To encourage them to develop their hospitality skills, Michelle has set them both goals based on the areas in which they’re less confident. 

Michelle is already impressed by their progress, saying: “Tiarma has been taken on by Cafe Van Gogh. This is actually her first paid job and at the moment she does four hours a week. She did her first shift last Friday, and I’m very proud of her. It brings me to tears.”

[Read more: Inclusive choirs connect the world on Zero Discrimination Day]

From Tuesday to Friday, the cafe serves healthy vegan food with a zero waste policy, avoiding single use plastics entirely and opting instead for compostable alternatives. 

Additionally, they offer a pay-it-forward policy, whereby customers can buy credits to offer a free, non-alcoholic drink to others who can’t afford to pay.

Find Cafe Van Gogh at 88 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6BE.

For the menu, bookings and more, visit


This brand turns scrap fabric into beautiful accessories

Offcuts aren’t dirty fabrics. They’re just fabrics we can’t use.

Have you ever thought of what happens to the leftover fabrics after a T-shirt, dress, or shorts are made? Often, these scraps would just go straight to landfill, because many are too small to be re-used for clothing.

But Kapdaa wanted to change that, by creating sustainable, handcrafted stationery and accessories from these offcuts. Nishant Parekh, co-founder of Kapdaa, was inspired to start the brand after visiting his mum’s workshop in Mumbai – she’s a fashion designer.

Since launching in 2018, Kapdaa has stopped more than 10,000 metres of fabric going to landfill.

[Read More: The ‘slow fashion’ brand that helps Peruvian women]

Nishant saw the offcuts going to waste and wanted to do something about it, so originally came up with the idea of making fabric bookmarks. It was just an experiment, but it went down really well.

A month later, his mum called him when he was back in London and said a lot of people wanted to buy the bookmarks, so he started exploring more products he could make and launched Kapdaa. 

Now, Kapdaa – The Offcut Company, works with fashion and textile designers, who send them all their fabric offcuts. They make products and give them back to the brand – pens, card wallets, tote bags, for example, which the brand may use for limited edition pieces. “It shows their commitment to sustainability,” says Nishant. 

Every three days, Nishant says he’ll get an email from an individual or brand who just wants to donates fabrics. So they launched their business-to-consumer website, where people can buy products direct, made from these offcuts.

“We need to increase the life of offcuts,” says Nishant. “Only then people will accept they are still beautiful.”

Find out more about Kapdaa – The Offcut Company on its website and watch the video above.