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  1. Five-ways-to-give-to-charity-blog-title

    I love supporting charities that I believe in.  I sponsor a dog with the Dogs Trust, support Cancer Research UK, and Save the Waterberg Rhino, a charity I helped to found in South Africa in 2012 as a response to the rhino poaching crisis.

    I am a particular fan of those smaller charities which do not have the marketing budgets to make a big song and dance about what they do, but work away genuinely helping people in need – sometimes the simplest ideas are the best.

    Having given up full-time employment to work for myself and build my business, I don’t have the disposable income required to make regular charitable donations (other than my sponsorship of a dog).  While I am building the business I do not have the time to commit to regular volunteering, so what can I do to help?  I have discovered some ways to help charities without spending any money (except perhaps a little postage).


    1.  De-clutter your House


    We all know that we can donate clothes to charity.  Many charities, from hospices to the Dogs Trust to Cancer Research UK have charity shops and welcome gifts of clothing, housewares and even furniture and old laptops.  Just think of the satisfaction of getting rid of all that clutter or clothes outgrown by your children, helping charity at the same time.

    I now take my old clothes along to TK Maxx, which is in the shopping centre opposite my local supermarket, and is a lot easier to park outside than many city centre charity shops.  They donate the clothes to Cancer Research UK for resale, particularly to support kids and teens.  Marks & Spencer supports Oxfam and you can claim a £5 voucher for donating your unwanted M & S clothes to them too.


    2,  Knit or Crochet



    There are lots of things you can knit or crochet for charity from hats, gloves, and socks to blankets and teddy bears, depending on your skills and enthusiasm.  If you can't keep those needles still, why not put your skills to good use.

    There are lots of homeless and refugee charities that accept donations of knitted  or crocheted goods and your knitting could make a real difference.  Why not try HiHFAD, which supports refugees in Syria.  Click here for details. 

    If you would rather support the elderly, I am a big fan of the Innocent Big Knit.  You knit mini hats for Innocent Smoothie bottles and for every one sold, they donate 25p to Age UK.  Click here for details.

    I have reluctantly admitted defeat on my knitting skills.  I decided that my best course of action was to donate my (rather large) stash of wool to my local church, so that the more skilled knitters there can turn them into hats, scarves and socks for refugees!

    3.  Collect stamps


    If you don't knit or crochet, how about simply collecting your stamps.  Again, there are a number of charities which accept stamps and manage to turn those donations into cash.  How about Macmillan Cancer Support?  Just cut out your stamps, leaving approximately one centimetre around the stamp and, when you have a good quantity, send them off.  Click here for details. 

    4.  Recycle your bras


    I recently discovered a charity which really appeals to me.  I have a connection to Africa in any case, but supporting girls and women in a small but practical way is a really lovely idea.  The charity is called Smalls for All and it gathers used bras and new knickers for girls in Africa.  Barely worn bras are sent out, but more worn ones are dismantled and recycled.

    Underwear is important to protect poor and vulnerable women :

    “underwear is also seen as a status symbol and offers a degree of security. Women who can afford underwear tend to be seen as having someone who cares for them – a husband, brother or father. They are not on their own so they are not seen as vulnerable.”

    So why not have a dig around in your drawers and pull out some of those bras you no longer wear.  I have been fluctuating in weight over the past few years and as a consequence have been hanging on to bras which don’t fit.  I managed to dig out 23 bras (am I some kind of hoarder?).  Many of them are barely worn.  Spread the word amongst your friends and see how many you can collect.  You can also send them new packs of knickers if you do have a few quid to spare. 

     Read more here.


    5. Get Fit


    If you have decided it is time to get fit, why not set yourself a target.  It might be running a 5 or 10km, like the Race for Life for Cancer Research UK, or the Moonwalk for Walk the Walk, which supports breast cancer support and research.  It is a great way to motivate yourself and have a goal to research and the charities they support mean that it shouldn't be too difficult to get sponsorship from friends and colleagues.


  2. buy handmade title

    If you have liked my page on Facebook, you will have seen that I have recently been posting quotes about buying handmade and local this Christmas.  This is, perhaps, not surprising, given that I am a maker of products myself.  It is all very well posting these entreaties, but I also want to give a few pointers about how best to achieve this.

    Christmas, whether we like it or not, has become more and more commercial and we now have lots and lots of presents to buy.   However, we do all have a choice of where we buy our presents.  We can do the same thing we always do and head the well-trodden path to the high street or to the big internet stores (I don’t need to name names for you to know who I mean).  Alternatively we can choose to buy handmade and/or local.

     small business purchases

    Why bother?  Well your £20, £50 or £100 spend could make a BIG difference to the Christmas of the person you are buying from.  For multi-national companies that kind of spend is a drop in the ocean and they are not going to notice that you haven’t purchased from them.  For a local craftsperson, it could be the difference between a very low key Christmas and a great one for them and their family.  Many of the craftspeople I know are mothers who want to be at home but want to make a bit of money for family treats (or even necessities).  They are all independent, talented individuals making products which they are passionate about.

     What’s in it for you? A very good reason is that you will find something completely different and original which is going to be appreciated by the recipient of your gift.  It won’t be something they spotted on the shelf of the department store last week.  It will be something made with great care and attention to detail by a human being, not something churned out by a machine.

    cant buy love

    I am a realist.  If you have promised your child a PS4, handcrafted and local just isn’t going to cut it.  However, if you are also doing a stocking for them too, why not fill it with a few beautifully made products which are handmade; or choose handmade and local for your Mum and sister instead?


    Local craft fairs

    The best way to buy handmade AND local is to visit one or Christmas craft fairs in your area.  At this time of year there are plenty to choose from, varying from small events in school halls to huge ones held at stately homes.

    There is, however, no guarantee that everything at these fairs will be handmade.  I regularly attend a fair at Royston which only allows people who hand-make their own products, but I also attend other fairs which allow people who sell bought-in products.  The best thing to do, therefore, is to ask!  Crafters will be very happy to talk about their products and will be very proud to tell you they make their products themselves.

    christmas quote - buy local


    Local craft shops

    If you are lucky enough to have a local shop (like No3. Royston) which sells handmade products, start there.  They usually have a wide range of products, so you will find a very wide choice and are bound to find something you like, from home decor to teddy bears (ensure they are CE tested) to delicious foodie products.  The best thing about these products is that you would find the same thing all over the high street.

    Buying at craft fairs and in local shops selling handmade products gives you the opportunity to look closely before you buy and even to pick up and handle products to assure yourself of their quality.


    On the Internet

    Do you prefer to do your Christmas shopping online nowadays to avoid the crush in the shops?  Well, you don’t have to turn to the same old websites.  Those I am suggesting accept Paypal, so you don’t need to worry about security of your bank details either.

      why buy handmade

    Etsy (

    • Etsy is an international forum, so if you want to keep it local (and be sure it arrives before Christmas) make sure you check the seller is in the UK.
    • Etsy sells three categories of things (handmade, vintage and crafting products), but there has been criticism of late that not everything is handmade.  Just check the description to make sure it is what it appears to be (makers should be shouting about the fact their products are handmade).
    •  You will find beautiful and quirky things that you may not even have thought about.  I have not one but two different dachshund fans in my family and there is everything from pendants to rolling pins and even flip-flops with a dachshund theme.


    Folksy (

    • Folksy sells handcrafted items and craft supplies but, unlike, Etsy, is UK based with UK only sellers.  Don’t be put-off by the name, the products are not necessarily ‘folksy’ in design.
    • Like etsy you will find all sorts of beautiful and unusual products and will find something original and very personal for the special people in your life.

    Normally, if you buy from Etsy or Folksy you can return items, as long as they have not been custom made or personalised for you.  You can check out the returns policy on each listing to give you security to buy with confidence.

     So this Christmas, why not buy handmade and make everybody’s Christmas AMAZING!

    christmas gift image