Get inspiration for parents!
Subscribe for parenting tips, family money advice, baby names and more
The UK is home to hundreds of children’s charities. We’ve all heard of the good work done by the bigger organisations like Bernado’s, Mencap, Great Ormond Street and Save The Children -- and these charities do, of course, deserve our continued support. But what of the smaller charities?
Small charities are facing a particularly difficult time right now. Coronavirus may have diverted both attention and funding away from their good cause, right at the time when more people are turning to charities for help.
Small charities need all the help they can get, and that’s where you come in.
To launch an occasional series, we’re highlighting the work of five lesser-known charities. This month’s focus is on organisations who help children with serious illnesses. If you can donate just £5 to one of them, this would make a tangible difference to somebody’s wellbeing.
Spread A Smile
In a nutshell: Charity bringing a smile to kids stuck in hospital.
What they do: We’ve all felt a little confined this year, with prolonged lockdown and social isolation. But lIfe can be particularly tough for children facing a long hospital stay. Spread A Smile live up to their name by bringing “joy and laughter to seriously and terminally ill children and their families during intensive treatment and extended hospital stays”. They send professional entertainers into hospitals -- including musicians, magicians and even fairies -- and also arrange outings, events and craft activities. You can get a taster by clicking on the Smile TV page, which is filled with short videos guaranteed to make you at least snigger. I had a genuine LOL moment on Ping Pong Egg.
Learn more or donate: Spread A Smile Website
Something else you can do: Try the Family Challenge Bingo Card, created by Spread A Smile and Kidadl -- a great way to get the kids up to all kinds of fun challenges.
Image © Kidadl
Make A Wish UK
In a nutshell: If a seriously ill child has a wish, these folks make it happen.
What they do: Founded in 1986, Make A Wish has brought joy to thousands of children. Their simple idea is to act like a fairy godmother and grant the wishes of young people with life-threatening conditions. Meet a celebrity, become a head chef for the day, train as a ninja or commentate at a WWE match… all are real examples. Children who are successfully nominated get visited by “volunteer Wish Visitors who delve into the child’s imagination to discover their One True Wish. The captured wish is carefully handed to a team of Wishgranters who work with the child and their family to turn their wish into a life-changing reality – unique only to them.” Brilliant, brilliant stuff.
In a nutshell: “Our vision is that every baby born premature or sick in the UK has the best chance of survival and quality of life.”
What they do: One of the larger charities on this list, Bliss has been around since 1979. The organisation campaigns for better resources and information to help families with premature or seriously ill newborns. The charity not only offers support to parents, but also lobbies for change, funds training, and pays for vital research into neonatal care.
Learn more or donate: Bliss website
Something else you can do: Become a Bliss Champion. After receiving training, you’ll be able to offer support, reassurance and practical information to parents with a sick child via video calls.
Zoë's Place Baby Hospice
In a nutshell: Hospice care for children under six who have life-threatening or life-limiting conditions.
What they do: Based in three hospices in Coventry, Liverpool and Middlesbrough, Zoë’s Place provides compassionate care to young children who are seriously ill. Each hospice is set up more like a nursery than a hospital to give the children a comfortable and fun place of respite. The hospice also gives parents the chance to get a few days’ rest (and a good night’s sleep) each month when children stay overnight. The charity has celebrity support, with paralympic athlete Tanni Grey-Thompson, football manager Joe Royle and comedian Patrick Monahan as patrons.
Learn more or donate: Zoë’s Place website
Something else you can do: The Liverpool hospice is running a canoe challenge along the Leeds to Liverpool Canal in September 2020. Can you paddle the full 20 miles while raising money for the hospice?
Children’s HIV Association
In a nutshell: “CHIVA’s mission is to ensure that children, young people and families living with HIV become healthier, happier and more in control of their own futures.”
What they do: HIV is often thought of as an adult’s disease, but it also affects children -- usually passed down from mother to child in the womb, during birth or breastfeeding. The Children’s HIV Association supports families in the UK and Ireland living with HIV, through events, support camps, fighting the stigma attached to HIV, and providing education about the disease. The charity received a fillip in 2018 when it was chosen by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle as one of their good causes for wedding donations.
Learn more or donate: Children’s HIV Association
Something else you can do: Watch Life Growing Up, the charity’s award-winning short film about growing up with HIV, available on the website.
This article has only covered five of the 2,000 or so children’s charities in the UK. We hope to run further articles highlighting the work of others. Please contact [email protected] if you have a recommendation for a children’s charity doing amazing work in the UK.
Although originally from the Midlands, and trained as a biochemist, Matt has somehow found himself writing about London for a living. He's a former editor and long-time contributor to Londonist.com and has written several books about the capital. He's also the father of two preschoolers.