The Spectator

But if you’re still feeling philanthropic...

If you’re disheartened by the politicisation of big charities, here’s a selection of smaller charities recommended by Spectator staff.

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If you’re disheartened by the politicisation of big charities, here’s a selection of smaller charities recommended by Spectator staff.

If you’re disheartened by the politicisation of big charities, here’s a selection of smaller charities recommended by Spectator staff.

For Dementia

Living with someone who has dementia is very hard. The person you knew slowly disappears and you are left with a stranger who has changed almost beyond recognition. A sense of isolation descends, along with the feeling that no one quite understands what you — the carer — are going through. Which is where the charity For Dementia comes in. It was started 14 years ago by a family (one of whom had Alzheimer’s) who found that there was a lack of specialised help both for those with dementia and for their carers. They set up the charity to give professional advice through its Admiral Nurse network of mental health nurses who specialise in dementia care. No matter how understanding one’s family and friends try to be, a professional who gives practical and especially emotional support to sufferer and carer is invaluable. I know that if I hadn’t been able to see an Admiral Nurse when I lived with someone with Alzheimer’s, I would have been unable to cope. The nurse quite simply kept me sane. There are now about 700,000 people in the UK with dementia, and with an ageing population this is set to increase. But throughout the country there are only around 70 Admiral Nurses. And it is because of the rising number of enquiries and the inability of many carers to plug into the Admiral Nurse network that For Dementia has also set up a telephone information and support line (and email) staffed by Admiral Nurses.

Liz Anderson

Admiral Nursing Direct: 0845 257 9406;;

The Robyn Higgins Appeal

I give to a couple of biggish charities via direct debit because if I didn’t I’d give nothing at all, as I almost never feel charitable towards anything or anyone. Stuff like Red Nose Day and Children In Need actually has the effect of making me want to bomb Africa or thump a child: I don’t know why this is. But then I am at best inconsistent and at worst paradoxical in my giving; I donate a bit of dosh from time to time to a friend who runs a cat sanctuary in Malaysia, despite the fact that I loathe cats. But she looks so upset when she is confronted by a cat which someone has beaten, or tried to eat. The more particular the charity, the better. I don’t know how anyone could resist giving to the Robyn Higgins Appeal, which is to raise money for expensive operations for a lovely little girl called Robyn stricken with a rare form of cancer. Her mum and dad need to raise £300,000 but they have no big media machine behind them, no famous slebs on their case — just desperation and persistence.

Rod Liddle

The Tigray Trust

High on the picturesque northern Ethiopian plateau of Gheralta lies the village of Are Bahri. Its people live in about 100 farmsteads, eking out a living from subsistence farming. Neither last year nor this did the spring rains come. Seven people based in London have set about finding ways to make the villagers’ lives sustainable in the face of extreme poverty, drought and the threat of famine. I heard about the Tigray Trust from the splendid Janet Slee, known to many Spectator readers as the widow of David Austin the cartoonist. The Trust has benefited from the expertise and energy of Louise Schofield, a former curator at the British Museum.

Food security for villages like Are Bahri depends on crop diversification, and the Trust is providing the seeds and the necessary training to manage them. It is also working on an extensive re-forestation project to help combat erosion and produce a fruit crop. Another source of income for local people is the careful promotion of the region’s extraordinary cultural heritage. The Tigray Trust shows how a handful of people can begin to make a difference by keeping close contact with a project in Africa.

Christopher Howse

The Tigray Trust, c/o 306 Liverpool Road, London N7 8PU. Tel: 077408 35593;

Combat Stress

If you’ve ever been depressed, you will know what an overwhelming nightmare it can be. Not receiving the right help can be catastrophic. Being a depressed ex-soldier must be even worse, because they’ve been taught to tough it out. Combat Stress is an excellent charity dedicated to giving professional help to veterans who have been traumatised by their experiences in the army. There are 4,000 veterans in the charity’s care, including 300 from recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, who would benefit enormously from clinical treatment or community outreach. Combat Stress provides both; I urge you to donate.

Michael Heath

St Michael’s Hospice

In our local community, we direct all our charitable efforts towards St Michael’s Hospice. A lot of their fundraising is done locally, which makes sense because the organisation very much serves its community. Every area should have a St Michael’s Hospice, especially given the woeful service provided to the elderly and the long-term sick by the NHS. St Michael’s provides a beacon of light and hope in this sector. It is a great tribute to the organisation that the humanity and love which it shows its patients has a transforming and life-enhancing effect on the survivors, one not readily forgotten.

Clarke Hayes

The Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund

After his untimely death in 2002, Henry’s parents, Alex and Claire, set up the Henry van Straubenzee Memorial Fund to keep his memory alive. This is a small non-governmental UK-registered charity, which aims to lift Ugandan children out of poverty through education. It started as a one-off donation to a school in Uganda where Henry was destined to teach and has grown into projects in 14 other schools. It is committed to ensuring that every penny donated makes a lasting difference in that country. The fund forms partnerships with schools to help them become centres for excellence and to ensure that even the poorest children have access to good education. Unlike many larger charities, it does not have office rent to pay or large staff overheads. Instead it is run by a dedicated team of volunteers in England and Uganda. They are currently helping more than 10,000 children.

Melissa McAdden


I’m reading my son A Christmas Carol at bedtime in the run-up to Christmas. There’s a scene at the start where two gentlemen walk into Scrooge’s office: ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?’ Scrooge kicks the ‘well-meaning fellows’ out.

The gentlemen’s intentions remind me of Spires, a charity set up in Streatham in 1989 to provide comfort for the homeless at Christmas. It started as a joint venture between two local churches (one Catholic and one Anglican), and has developed into a fully staffed charity offering a wide variety of services to homeless and disadvantaged people, as well as to women who work on the street. It has developed services that help people achieve long-term solutions to their problems. This includes addressing drug and alcohol issues, supporting people so they can live independently in the community, and offering a range of training activities. Volunteers continue to play a vital role.

Stephen Rand

020 8696 0943;