8 ways to give back this Christmas

PUBLISHED: 13:22 29 November 2016 | UPDATED: 13:22 29 November 2016




Lauren Godfrey discovers how you can give back this Christmas


The festive period is a season of excess for many. We over-indulge on delicious foods and pull out all the stops to ensure our loved ones are laden with beautiful gifts. But what about donating to charity? We caught up with eight Essex-based charities to find out how we can help this Christmas – ‘tis the season to be giving after all…

Guide Dogs

Helping to look after the blind and partially sighted to ensure they can enjoy the same freedom of movement as everyone else, Guide Dogs has helped provide more than 4,950 people with guide dogs in the UK.


‘Every hour another person goes blind,’ explains Tina Boreham, Guide Dogs community fundraising development office for Essex. Guide Dogs is here to make sure they do not lose their independence as well as their sight. The lifetime cost of a guide dog is £55,000, so the charity is in desperate need of vital funds to help it continue with its wonderful work. Christmas is a magical time and our wish would be to be able to provide a guide dog for every person on our waiting list so they can enjoy mobility and independence this festive season and beyond – something which many people take for granted,’ says Tina. From donations to fund raising events and even sponsoring and naming a puppy, find out how you can help at guidedogs.org.uk



ELHAP is a magical and pioneering charity that works with children and young people with disabilities in the North East of London and Essex. Its centre, based in Woodford, is set in two acres of land and includes a vast adventure playground and nature reserve to help children and young people develop confidence, life skills and the resilience needed to flourish by giving them the opportunity to explore, be creative and take risks.

‘We all need access to nature and the freedom to roam for our well-being and development and this is especially true for children. Children with disabilities often struggle to access the outdoors with their parents concerned that they may hurt themselves or upset other children,’ describes Rachel Joseph, head of development at ELHAP. ‘At ELHAP, children can run wild within the safe boundaries of our adventure playground and woodland reserve. What’s more, they get to do all the stuff which kids love to do.


From covering themselves in powder paint and sitting in baths of gunge, to making music, cooking, growing vegetables and building dens.’ As part of its 40th anniversary celebration, ELHAP wish to build a lodge in its nature reserve to form a base for activities, and also a sensory room, but the charity need our help. Receiving more than 8,500 visits each year and with demands constantly rising, help this wonderful centre continue to make children and young people with disabilities happy by donating at


Dogs Trust


RSPCA statistics revealed there was a link between animal abuse and domestic violence in the UK. Police statistics revealed a 32 percent increase in domestic abuse crimes between 2013 and 2015 with a huge 34,720 domestic abuse investigations carried out between August 2015 and August 2016 alone.

These facts have led the Dogs Trust to bring the Freedom Project, a scheme which places at-risk dogs with volunteer foster families until they can be safely returned to their owners, to the Essex region, and it needs our help! ‘We have been running the Freedom Project in Greater London, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire for 12 years and during that time we have helped 1,500 pets and 1,100 families to flee domestic abuse,’ says Carlie Mesquitta, communications officer at the charity. ‘Perpetrators of domestic abuse often threaten to harm or even kill beloved pets in order to intimidate their partner into obedience and silence. Many pet owners stay in violent domestic situations simply through fear of what might happen to their pet if they flee without it.’

Due to the high demand of the charity’s services, it is asking for volunteers with experience in caring for dogs that are at home during the day and can look after a dog for an average of six months. All the pooch’s expenses are covered by Dogs Trust. To find out more about volunteering to be a canine foster family, visit dogstrustfreedomproject.org.uk or call 0800 298 9199.

Celia Hammond Animal Trust

Rescuing cats and kittens for 30 years, Celia Hammond Animal Trust provides care and refuge for federal and domestic felines, offering sanctuary both long and short term as well as a re-homing structure.

The trust has a strict non-destruction policy unless animals are suffering with a terminal illness or are hopelessly injured and beyond any veterinary help, however its amazing services come at a cost. ‘Unlike other businesses, the more people we see, the more money we lose,’ explains Celia Hammond, founder trustee. ‘We help so many people treat their animals and although we do ask for owners to cover the cost as best they can, we would never send people away and see an animal suffer,’ she adds.

The Trust have recently built a beautiful new cattery but unfortunately ran out of funds before completion so its one wish this Christmas is to raise more money to be able to finish the new kitten ward. ‘We don’t concentrate on people’s financial situations. If they can’t afford for any reason to pay for their cat’s treatment we help them,’ Celia states. Do you want to help this wonderful charity help others?

Visit celiahammond.org or call

0207 474 8811.

The Dream Factory

The Dream Factory has granted nearly 390 dreams for children and young adults with life-threatening illnesses and severe disabilities but with no government funding, the charity desperately needs more money to continue brightening young lives. ‘I started The Dream Factory in memory of my son, Oliver, who died from leukaemia at the age of nine,’ explains Avril Mills BEM, founder of The Dream Factory.

‘While Oliver was in hospital he said he would love to make a dream come true for someone else who was ill, so that became our vision.’ From trips to Disneyland to swimming with dolphins, iPads to shopping sprees and limo rides, the charity aims to grant as many dreams as possible, helping children and young people create happy memories in times of severe distress.

“The efforts of young individuals, such as 11-year-old Honey Fenton who is now an ambassador and has raised £4,000 in just two years, help make the charity work, bringing smiles and enjoyment to children, their families and carers,’ Avril adds. But the team of fabulous volunteers who work tirelessly to raise money is not always enough which is why this festive season, The Dream Factory are asking for donations, however big or small, to help make a difference to more young lives. To help or to find out more information, visit yourdreamfactory.org

RSPCA Essex South West

The South West Essex branch of the RSPCA is an entirely self-funded organisation run by a team of dedicated volunteers. ‘We take in many ‘difficult’, abused, neglected or sick dogs who arrive in our care either via RSPCA inspectors, the local dog warden, or some are signed over to us by their owners,’ explains Trish Smith, trustee and dog re-homing coordinator at RSPCA Essex South West branch. ‘Not all, but many, arrive in a bad way.’

With an aim to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home all of their visitors, this festive season the charity’s one wish would be to have a row of empty kennels knowing that their dogs had all found their forever homes. ‘Until this wish becomes a reality, we are running our ‘Pound for a Hound’ campaign,’ says Trish. ‘If everyone kindly donated just £1, it would help pay for kennelling, vets bills, hydrotherapy, equipment and toys – everything that makes the lives of our dogs so much brighter while they’re waiting patiently for their new families.’

If you wish to donate towards ‘Pound for a Hound’ you can send a cheque or postal order payable to RSPCA Essex South West Branch c/o Goddards Chingford Kennels, 160 Chingford Mount Road, Chingford E4 9BS. Alternatively, cash donations can be left in the charity box outside the kennels or at Funky Dogs groomers in Chingford. Finally you can text WOOF32 and the amount (e.g., £1, £2, £10) to 70070 then reply to the gift aid text to help the charity claim an extra 25 percent on your donation.

Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary

At present there is well in excess of 7,000 horses at risk in the UK and the welfare crisis is escalating which is why Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary in Ingatestone has launched a new appeal to help raise £2,500.

This money will help to feed their veterans and permanent residents at the sanctuary and those neglected and unloved, abandoned animals with no food or shelter. ‘We need to get food and water out to abandoned horses quickly and, with more than 40 veterans ourselves, we have decided to start a winter appeal,’ says Sue Burton, founder of the charity. ‘Every single donation, no matter how large or small, will be a huge benefit not only to our horses in the sanctuary, but to the starving animals that no-one cares for too.’

The Remus Memorial Horse Sanctuary provides rehabilitation and lifetime care for more than 200 horses, ponies, donkeys, cows, sheep, goats and cats. It is currently at capacity so they are in desperate need of funds to help look after the horses both in the stables and those abandoned. To join in the appeal, you can donate by texting FEED36 followed by the amount you would like to send (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10). Alternatively, visit the charity’s Just Giving page at justgiving.com/charity/rmhs/winterfeedappeal

Hopes and Dreams Children’s Charity

Helping to make wishes and dreams come true for hundreds of children, Hopes and Dreams Children’s Charity’s one wish for 2017 is for more people to come to their amazing fundraisers. ‘Every single penny we raise goes on making children’s dreams come true,’ explains Chairperson Ruth Salahi.

The completely non-profit organisation relies entirely on donations and volunteers who dedicate their time for free. ‘Charity is to give, not to take,’ adds Ruth. ‘From the bottom of my heart, and on behalf of everyone on the committee, every penny we raise is going to a better place.’ In 20 years, the charity has helped grant more than 850 dreams including trips to Disneyland and Legoland to helping a young girl meet the princess from Disney’s Frozen.

The charity’s most recent event, a quiz night held at the Prince Regent Hotel in Woodford Bridge, raised £5,000, and was attended by Mitch Winehouse, the mayor and around 260 more guests. It’s events like these which help raise vital funds which is why Hopes and Dreams Children’s Charity are asking for more people to attend its fundraisers with the next event, a dinner and dance, being held on January 22.

For more information visit

hopesdreams.org or call

0208 551 0092

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