5 Suffolk charities which need your support this Christmas

A family of three, featuring a mother, a father and their small son holding both of their hands

Home-Start in Suffolk provides care for families struggling across the county - Credit: Home-Start in Suffolk

With charities across Suffolk keeping the local community afloat and working incredibly hard behind the scenes, some of them need your help more than ever right now. From groups combating loneliness, to refugee support groups - here are just some of the organisations that need your help this winter and beyond.

Home-Start in Suffolk  

With over 250 active volunteers, Home-Start in Suffolk is the county’s largest early intervention family support provider, and specialises in supporting struggling families as they deal with circumstances such as mental health problems, disability, long-term or terminal illness, bereavement, domestic abuse, behavioural issues, isolation and more. 

Since the pandemic, referrals for help have been increasing rapidly – and so has the need to recruit and train new volunteers. The charity says around nine in 10 parents have become more anxious as a result of Covid-19 and lockdown, and 60% have shared significant concerns about their mental health.

 

A mother is at the park, holding her small child. They are looking at the swing set and have winter coats on

Home-Start in Suffolk works closely with families who suffer from issues such as mental health problems, isolation and bereavement - Credit: Home-Start in Suffolk

With the charity unable to host its usual fundraising events this year due to lockdown, Home-Start in Suffolk has been left with a £75,000 fundraising deficit ahead of Christmas.  

To help combat this, the team have come up with a handful of fundraising initiatives, including releasing its own range of Home-Start Christmas Cards. With the help of Kesgrave Arts’ Theronda Hoffman - who designed the original artwork - the cards feature Suffolk-based designs and are available to purchase through the charity’s website.  


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Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk, says: “The added financial pressures, the highlighted isolation and loneliness against continual media showing perfection can make Christmas a very challenging time for many of the families that Home-Start in Suffolk supports. Having consistent, caring, genuine support from a volunteer during the festive period can be a lifeline for a parent or carer who would otherwise be alone or struggling silently.”  

Suffolk Animal Rescue 

Established in 1997, the long-standing Suffolk Animal Rescue has been striving to help a variety of animals in need - and finds itself rescuing more animals than ever before due to the pandemic.  

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Founder Jayne Roberts says: “We take dogs from all situations, with many having numerous medical needs and treatment. Many older dogs are finding themselves homeless at the moment, due to the current climate, as well as lack of money and the ability to care of their pets. Many of the dogs we have taken in are unlikely to be taken in by many of the bigger rescues. 

“Trapping feral cats is also a huge part of what we do. We do not neuter and return to site, but bring them in for rehab to find them domestic homes, as few rescues will admit feral adult cats. Many cats, especially the unneutered toms, come to us with hideous injuries and needing urgent veterinary care. We also give priority to elderly cats, when their owners can no longer give them the required care, or when they find themselves homeless and out on the streets. We have a very strict non-destruction policy which we adhere to at all times.” 

A black rescue cat sitting on a sofa in his new home, after being saved by the Suffolk Animal Rescue

Suffolk Animal Rescue helps save and care for a number of cats, dogs and rabbits. Rossini was rescued from Ipswich with fight injuries - he's now happy in his new home - Credit: Suffolk Animal Rescue

With limited fundraising opportunities this year, it is essential that Jayne and the Suffolk Animal Rescue can continue giving Suffolk's animals a second chance. This year, the charity will be raising money through online events such as raffles, and selling stock over eBay. In addition, Colchester-based business TopDog Harnesses has launched a new dog harness collection, with £1 from every purchase going to Suffolk Animal Rescue.  

“Donations will be very gratefully received, and goods to our charity shop are always needed. Foster homes for our dogs and feral cats are always needed too, just to lighten our load.” 

Suffolk Refugee Support  

Suffolk Refugee Support works with refugees and asylum seekers across the county to help them rebuild their lives and integrate into their new communities. Its staff and volunteers work hard to provide advice, employment support, English classes, youth work, support for vulnerable women and families, and specialist refugee resettlement casework. 

To giving back to the community that has helped them, some of those who have used the Suffolk Refugee Support are making masks for key workers and those in need locally. In addition, the charity is also selling a variety of digital Christmas cards, featuring artwork designed by local refugees.  

A young child is smiling, holding a sign that says Thank You on it

Those who have benefitted from the help that Suffolk Refugee Support provides who would like to say thank you and give back this year - by making face masks for key workers - Credit: Suffolk Refugee Support

Rebecca Crerar, charity manager at Suffolk Refugee Support, says: “Christmas can be a difficult time for refugees, who are often far from home and their loved ones, and particularly this year with all the worry and uncertainty of Covid-19. Our support can be a real lifeline, and together we will make sure some of the most vulnerable in our society are looked after through the current crisis and beyond.”  

ActivLives 

ActivLives is a small grassroots charity that provides a wide range of opportunities for younger people, people with disabilities, adults with anxiety and depression, and older people aged 60 years and over.  

Working throughout Suffolk for the past 14 years, its aim is to support people improve their physical and mental health and general wellbeing. It does this by keeping people connected with their communities in order to reduce social isolation and loneliness. ActivLives also provides access to learning, training and volunteering opportunities to enable people to gain skills and employment. 

A group of elderly women are sat around on chairs, guided by a fitness instructor during a chair exercise class

Prior to lockdown, ActivLives would host a number of events and classes that would help keep people both social and active - Credit: ActivLives

Due to lockdown, the majority of the work the charity does had to be put on hold, including its community gardening sessions, various physical activities and classes, and its Friday Friends Hub which provides specialist support for carers and cared for - particularly those living with dementia. However, the charity was able to quickly adapt, organising many of these sessions and activities over Zoom, ensuring people have still been able to see a few friendly (and socially-distanced) faces. 

CEO Julie Stokes says: “Christmas generally can be a lonely time for people, but we hope that by attending our sessions and services, this will help people to make friends and build support networks outside of the activity and we have certainly seen evidence of this throughout both lockdowns. We are trying to restart some of our sessions safely before the Christmas period to give people a boost before the holidays, and then to resume further activities as soon as we can, in the New Year.” 

In the meantime, to help support the work ActivLives does, why not adopt a bee? For £5, you can gift someone (or yourself) an ‘Adopt a Bee’ kit, which includes a certificate of adoption, a badge and sticker and an A-to-Bee guide all about bees.

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