Charities in the spotlight


small charity week 13 - 18 June 2016

During Small Charity Week we are taking the opportunity to celebrate the brilliant work that small charities do. Small charities - with under £1 million in income - make up 97% of the charity sector. But they face challenges from lack of awareness -including raising funds and getting the right skills.

Each day we will be highlighting one brilliant small charity which makes up the diverse range of organisations across the sector. In doing so, we will be exploring how larger organisations work with small charities to support them to overcome challenges and thrive despite the odds.

  • click-here for I Love Small Charities
  • click-here for Big Advice Day
  • click-here for Policy Day
  • click-here for Fundraising Day
  • click-here for Volunteering Day

Chester Voluntary Action

CVA team photo

Chester Voluntary Action (CVA) brings people together to solve problems, address root causes, and inspire each other.  Established in 1914, for over 100 years it aim has been to promote and support voluntary action.  The current staff team has collectively over 50 years experience of working in the voluntary sector. CVA supports community, voluntary and faith groups in the Cheshire West area from starting up to becoming established and taking on staff and/or premises. 

This support can include choosing the most appropriate legal structure, recruiting and training trustees/committee members, recruiting volunteers, accessing funding, linking in to local events and training, supporting the development of partnerships or consortiums, and accessing support from business professionals through our SkillShare project. Through it's work it supports members to address some of the most significant problems facing our communities today.

3rd Space is a volunteer-led arts for wellbeing project in Chester. 3rd Space is a cafe with a listening ear, prayer & reflection, therapeutic arts & crafts, creative writing, reading club, building community in the city. They receive referrals from statutory agencies in mental health and learning disabilities as well as self-referrals from people with a wide range of health conditions.

"CVA has been a great support to 3rd Space pretty much from the start, 3 years ago, they've helped us by providing volunteers, training, policies & best practice advice and with grant awards and most recently have even been alongside us as we gain confidence in the minefield of writing funding applications!!! CVA has certainly played a big part in the success of 3rd Space and we love working with them."  - Val Horbaczewski, 3rd Space Co-ordinator.


Photo from Borderline

Borderline was formed in 1990 to support homeless and insecurely housed Scots in London, continuing the work of its predecessor, The Church of Scotland London Advisory Service (COSLAS).

It's aim is to help vulnerable Scots in London to establish a secure tenancy and lead a healthy, independent life. Borderline works to reduce homelessness and prevent rough sleeping and homelessness wherever possible. They also give access to a wide range of accommodation options for their clients and ensure clients have access to appropriate specialist help.

Borderline works to help people in Scotland, those with Scottish born parents, widows/widowers, or surviving members of civil partnerships with a person born in Scotland. It also supports those living within a 35 mile radius of Charing Cross.

Having worked for more than 20 years, Glenn was a successful and carefree young man. In 2002, Glenn was hit by a period of severe clinical depression, which then led to alcohol problems and his weight almost doubling within a few years. As his life spiralled down, Glenn found himself homeless in 2012.

For months he lived on the streets, slept in hostel dormitories, various parks and even Terminal 3 at Heathrow Airport. Then one day, Glenn discovered a leaflet at the public library, which contained Borderline’s details. He called the number to arrange an appointment with Borderline. Glenn began to feel more positive as he entered the YMCA in Waltham Forest and began to receive the help and support he had needed.

Since then, Glenn has moved into a Housing Association flat and volunteered on the reception with Borderline for nearly two years, as well as regularly helping the charity with admin and at events. He has also been supported by one of Borderline’s Career’s Advisers.

JAGS Foundation

Photo from JAGS Foundation

JAGS Foundation, an acronym of James Andre Godfrey Smartt-Ford, was set up as a not-for-profit community interest company as a lasting tribute to James who was tragically murdered inside Streatham Ice Rink in 2007. The foundation aims to raise awareness of youth on youth violence by providing services and safe spaces for healing, education and restoration. We also provide peer-to-peer support for other family members and friends who have been bereaved by youth violence.

At the heart of the organisation is the recognition that young women and girls are not to be overlooked as they too provide critical insights into the social issues faced in local communities. JAGS Foundation delivers and drives social action to make affected communities safer places to live.

Earlier this year we were put into contact with Carole, who lost her son in November 2014. There are not many services available to support mothers who have lost their children to violence, so Tracey was able to provide a safe space for Carole to speak in a comfortable setting, and provide ongoing support. Carole was also part of our ‘flowers for mum’ campaign earlier this year, where we donated flower bouquets to mothers bereaved by youth violence.

'I just want to thank Tracey Ford, for her time, ears, words, and not forgetting that inspiring smile. I left the office feeling so much better. Thanks!’ Carole Small

Team Kenya

Photo: Meryl

Team Kenya was established in 2008, after it’s founding members had spent almost 10 years volunteering in the rural community of Ndhiwa, western Kenya.

We work through a grassroots partner NGO, the Ndhiwa Community Empowerment and Development Project (NCEDP), which we helped to establish in 2007. With our support NCEDP has grown from a self-help group to a Community Based Organisation and now, to an NGO. Many of NCEDP’s employees and volunteers are previous beneficiaries.

Until September 2015, Team Kenya was fully run by Trustees and volunteers, now, one of our original founding members is our full time Development Manager, ensuring we can continue to bring in income and change girls’ lives in rural Kenya.

We work in close partnership with NCEDP to transform communities in rural Kenya through educating girls and empowering women. We work to remove barriers to girls’ education, including work around reducing school related gender based violence, boosting self-esteem and confidence of adolescent girls, providing education scholarships and engaging the whole community in gender equality education.

We met Meryl in 2006 when she was ten years old – it was before we were even registered as a charity in the UK. She was very small for her age and looked more like six or seven. Meryl was malnourished and living in extreme poverty, sometimes going days without a decent meal. She lived in a small mud house with her mother, father and five siblings. She would soon finish primary school and told us her parents couldn’t keep her in school. We started supporting Meryl through our Girls Support Group, she joined the Guides, took part in drama, sports and computer training.

Despite living in such challenging circumstances, Meryl was always very friendly, talkative and outgoing. We supported Meryl to go to secondary school and she is now studying Agricultural Economics at university. Her father made and sold ropes to contribute to her fees. She told us “With this degree I would like to work with the government in the Agricultural department to help them utilise the land well to reduce food poverty in my community.”

Meryl is now an educated, confident women who is able to support herself, the rest of her family and her community.

Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL)

Picture from Action for Refugees in Lewisham

Action for Refugees in Lewisham relieves poverty and social isolation amongst refugees and asylum seekers in Lewisham. Every week, AFRIL helps adults and children in the community learn valuable life skills and integrate successfully into the community.

Regular services include English (ESOL) classes, support for destitute families, a professional advice service and The Rainbow Club.

The Rainbow Club is a supplementary school for children aged 4—11 and includes numeracy, literacy, music (in partnership with Fairbeats), art and sport. It is attended by up to 60 children on a regular basis, including many that have struggled with significant barriers to inclusion such as speech delays, poverty and homelessness.

AFRIL’s English classes promote community cohesion amongst adult refugees, relieving isolation and improving access to employment. A monthly Sunday Tea also enables adults to practice and improve their written and spoken English in a more informal setting. Both services have a crèche attached to enable increased participation.

Find out more about AFRIL or get involved through their website, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

NOW Foundation

Image from Now Foundation

NOW Foundation is a new UK Charity Organisation that is dedicated to providing life-saving intervention to some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and the rest of the world. We are committed to improving the well-being of disadvantaged adults and children through the provision of emergency water aid, sustainable water solutions, as well as food through agricultural programs.

We provide more than just temporary relief, and work tirelessly to find long-term solutions for communities that are desperately in need. The people in many of the communities we work in are in desperate situations and face multiple barriers to secure even the most essential elements for life – food and water. 

We are currently responding to the immediacy of these crises with the aim of saving lives now without delay. We are already overwhelmed with the need for aid in the areas we currently work in. The NOW Foundation is currently working with a small community village Nassarawa Kuki located in Kano State, Nigeria. It has a population of approximately 50000 people, of which 5000 are children.

The community’s inhabitants also rely solely on faming for their livelihoods, but in this village where there are prolonged droughts and scarce water sources, there is a constant threat to the sustainability of food, farming and crops. NOW Foundation is currently dealing with these issues this village face.

Ellie’s Friends – a new initiative for UK adults living with cancer

Photo: Anouska & Russell Brand

Ellie’s Friends enables adults living with cancer to find freebies such as theatre tickets, hotel breaks and massages to help offset the financial and psychological impact of a cancer diagnosis.

Ellie Jeffery died of secondary breast cancer in 2012 aged just 28. Inspired by Ellie’s belief that people living with cancer could have a relatively normal, if not fabulous life, Ellie’s fiancé Tom Thostrup launched the charity.

Anouska, who won tickets to Russell Brand's Messiah Complex said

“I was recently diagnosed with a secondary brain tumour and had just finished a course of whole brain radiotherapy. A good laugh was something I was definitely in need of.

It was great for my son and I to have an evening together, doing something so fun; away from cancer, hospital & treatment. The last few months have just been about me being ill so a fun night out together was just what we needed. I cannot thank The Eleanor Rose Foundation enough for such a great evening, full of laughter (and a cuddle from the man himself!!).

If you’re an adult living with cancer or you have something to offer to brighten someone’s day you can contact the charity. Discover more about this cause.

Recycling Lives – David’s Story

David in his work uniform

David was 14 when he started smoking cannabis. As his problem worsened, he found himself in a rapid downward spiral under the control of a drug dealer. Over two years, David lost most of his friends and the dealer became increasingly controlling and violent. After spending time in prison and staying in a hostel, David’s situation became desperate when he lost his job and found himself sleeping rough.

Luckily, David found Recycling Lives. The Recycling Lives charity helps homeless and unemployed men to get back on their feet. Through a 6-stage process of work experience, training and support, charity Residents leave with a full-time job and a place to call home.

When David arrived at the charity aged 22, his self-confidence was low. After working hard at his placements, committing to the charity programme and taking on extra training, David moved out of the charity and into his flat in early 2015, having secured a full-time job.

David says: ‘I have a different mind-set now. I woke up every day and decided I wasn’t going back to how I was. I want to say thank you to Recycling Lives; I’ve made some mistakes, but people always deserve a second chance’.

Chester Adult Phab

Surrogate mother, parents and baby

Chester Adult Phab ​is a social group for people with and without disabilities. As part of small charities week, they would like to share the story of one of their members Caz, who decided to become a surrogate. She met Liz and Richard through a non-profit making surrogacy organisation. Liz and Richard faced barriers conceiving naturally due to Liz's medical condition - Larsen's Syndrome.

After just three months of getting to know the couple, Caz decided to become a surrogate for the first time.

In September 2014, Caz gave birth to a healthy baby girl named Alice, who she immediately passed into the loving arms of Liz and Richard. Caz is elated to have helped them achieve their dream of becoming a family. Caz is still going to be part of Alice’s life, with regular visits, photographs, emails and phone calls. She is also looking into becoming a surrogate for another couple and has donated her eggs to another couple longing for a child of their own.

Jesmond Community Forum

Jesmond Community Festival parade

Jesmond Community Forum is a Charitable Incorporated Company whose members are most of the voluntary and community groups operating in Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne. It was established in 2004 with the intention of bringing together the various community groups which already serve residents of the Jesmond suburb of Newcastle.

The Forum shares information and best practice amongst member organisations, and promotes joint initiatives, such as a proposal to develop Jesmond as a "dementia friendly community" and an annual Jesmond Community Festival. 

The 2015 Jesmond Community Festival included nearly 100 different events over a period of two and a half weeks, mostly run by different individual member organisations, and including concerts, lectures, open days, walks, a food fair, cycle tour and festival parade. If you would like to find out more about the forum or to join with their next event visit their FaceBook page.

Lewisham Opportunity Pre-School

Child in front of a computer

Lewisham Opportunity Pre-School are the only organisation in the borough of Lewisham that promote social integration in an Early Years setting, at their pre-school for children with and without Special Needs. Half their places are offered to children with special or additional needs that would not otherwise be catered for in mainstream pre-schools.

They operate a ‘drop-in’ service for children with special needs, their parents and their siblings. These ‘stay and play’ sessions are not only invaluable to the children but to the parents too. Advice, support and a cup of tea is often a lifeline for those who sometimes feel isolated or in need of additional support.

They have recently learnt that they will not be receiving government funding for the next academic year, so are well on their way to making the pre-school more financially independent. However, their application for a grant from OneFamily has also been accepted, and this comes down to public vote. If you would like to support their work, you can read their story and vote here.


Children smiling

T1International are a charity who work towards adequate access to insulin, diabetes supplies, medical care and education for everyone who has type 1 diabetes. They want to raise awareness and collaborate with existing initiatives that work to make life better for those with type 1 diabetes.

More than a quarter of a million people with diabetes live in developing countries with inadequate healthcare. This means there are likely hundreds of thousands of people facing death due to the lack of insulin.

Their friend Nasiru in Nigeria must pay more than $100USD per month on his diabetes supplies, but the average monthly salary for a middle-class Nigerian is only $480USD, which means that if he were employed, nearly 25% of his income would be spent on diabetes supplies. In other places supplies can cost as much as 75% of a family’s income. 

T1International is one of several organisations trying to raise this much-needed awareness. They want to inspire action, raise their voices and support those with type 1 diabetes that need their help. If you would like to join them, you can find out more about their projects here.

The Stuart Low Trust

Group photo

The Stuart Low Trust, founded in 1999, aims to create social therapeutic activities for vulnerable, local people. This followed the tragic death of Stuart Low, a young Islington man, in 1997. He was living with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and had failed to find the support he needed to cope. The Trust is run by a core group of 16 volunteers and 2 part-time staff.

Majority of the Trust’s activities take place at evenings and weekends, which is often when people feel at their lowest. Its Friday Evening Socially Therapeutic Events run 52 weeks a year, including Christmas day and bank holidays, for between 70 and 100 participants attend each week. The events offer free refreshments and a presentation. Some presentations aim to inform on health issues, others offer self-help techniques or mindfulness meditation. They offer a respite from social isolation and give the participants the sense of being part of a community in a non-judgemental environment. One participant has said: “I love the sense of community. It’s such a crucial thing to our wellbeing”. You can read more about their work here.

“I arrived tentative but am leaving refreshed, hopeful, rejuvenated, deeply grateful and thankful" – Stuart Low Trust participant.

The Youth Adventure Trust

Child climbing a wall

The Youth Adventure Trust is a registered youth development charity working with vulnerable young people aged 11 to 14. It was established in 1992 by David Hempleman-Adams and Major Richard Mitchell, both well known for their record breaking Arctic, Antarctic and Mountain climbing expeditions. Their experiences showed them that challenging yourself can allow you to achieve more than you think and they wanted to bring this opportunity to young people, who often do not have the chance to start the ‘believe-achieve’ process.

The completely free programme offers a series of adventure camps and day activities, which include experiences such as caving, canoeing, climbing, archery, circus skills and many more. They are designed to be fun and to challenge those who take part. Their aim is to inspire young people to reach their full potential, learn valuable life skills, build confidence and self-esteem and to make a measurable difference to the lives of young people. You can find out how you can get involved here.

East-West Detox:  Drug Addiction Treatment Centre

Meditation workshop

East-West Detox is a charity that offers a range of holistic interventions for the prevention, treatment and recovery from addictions. The charity take drug addicts from the UK to a monastery in Thailand that runs what is considered by many to be the World's toughest drug rehab program.

The practical workshops help to deal with behavioural problems and relapsing conditions, such as stress, anxiety, anger, low self -esteem, pain, addiction and depression which can often lead to alcohol, illicit drug and medication dependency.

The charity also provide a range of preventative education services which benefit the mental health and well-being of children, adults and families, through training in meditation, mindfulness techniques and related practices. Our workshops have prevented many people over the years from both relapsing and re-offending.

Justice in Prisons

Justice in Prison: symbol statue

Justice in Prisons is a small, start-up organisation that was created following changes to Legal Aid which came into force in December 2012. Prior to this, prisoners were able to obtain the representation of solicitors for most 'prison law' matters. At present that is no longer the case. There are no established structures in custodial establishments to enable inmates to represent themselves. In short, the legal aid changes have created a serious gap in provision. 

To make matters worse, ongoing cutbacks have put severe pressure on other prison resources. Today the UK prison estate is witnessing unprecedented levels of unrest, suicide and self-harm. There is an increasing risk of prisons becoming separate from the justice system, rather than part of it.

Justice in Prisons aims to tackle these issues, by creating initiatives that allow prisoners to more effectively represent themselves and developing and strengthening restorative justice. We also seek to create a skills database for employers to link up with offenders, as well as referrals to organisations that provide voluntary work, mentorship and skills development. Effective reintegration of offenders into society still remains an all too neglected issue and is something that needs to be dealt with: that is where Justice in Prison plays an important role.


EHAP Team Member

ELHAP is an adventure playground for children and young people with special needs. ELHAP is all about adventure and risk taking opportunities, which are not always offered to special needs children. Often they are limited by what adults think they are capable of achieving. ELHAP is a place where adults take a back seat and the children are in charge of the fun! It relies heavily on voluntary help and our volunteer team is among the most dedicated you will find. 

One staff member shares his story - Sharif started volunteering at ELHAP after a talk at his school encouraging more young people to volunteer with special needs children. Since then he has moved on from volunteering to be a fully fledged staff member. It’s been a great journey so far, long may it continue! Read more of Sharif’s story here.

Community Network

CN Member

Community Network is a small, national charity tackling the devastating effects of loneliness and social isolation. We do this by bringing people together in groups on the phone and online to create Talking Communities. 

Loneliness, isolation and not feeling part of a community, group of friends or family can chip away at confidence and self-esteem. This makes it harder to talk to others, meet new people or attend social events. For some feelings of loneliness and isolation are part of their everyday lives; the television their only company from day to day. 

At the heart of our Talking Communities program are our Telephone Communities. By connecting older people up in groups on the phone we are able to provide safe platforms of peer support or more simply people helping other people. Our telephone groups reduce feelings of loneliness, improve confidence and mental well-being. 

“The group has helped my health, communications skills and help me make new friends who have had a positive impact in my life” - Member of the Community Network

We also provide peer support for adults of all ages via an online discussion space, The Loneliness Forum and via new Skype groups.

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