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For more than a century, The Telegraph has run charity appeals at Christmas, inviting readers to get into the festive spirit by helping those in need. One of the first such fundraising campaigns, during the First World War, helped supply troops with Christmas puddings.
Last year, readers dug deep to support three worthy causes that help vulnerable children, lonely older people and sufferers of leukaemia, raising just under £600,000, with an astonishing £101,000 donated on our annual phone-in day, when readers were able to call in to speak to Telegraph writers and editors and donate to our charities.
This Christmas, we are supporting four amazing charities that, in different ways, are helping those suffering from knock-on effects of Covid-19.
And today, December 13, our journalists will once again be manning the phones. We're inviting you, our generous readers, to call us for a chat and to make a donation to one of our charities. All you have to do is call our special number, 0800 117 118, between 10.30am and 2.30pm.
Among those waiting for your call will be our cartoonist Matt, columnists Allison Pearson, Judith Woods, Camilla Tominey, Philip Johnston, Sherelle Jacobs, Liam Halligan, Michael Deacon and Richard Madeley, as well as editor Chris Evans, Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath, Head of Fashion Lisa Armstrong, sports writers Oliver Brown, Sam Wallace and Jason Burt, and culture critics Robbie Collin and Dominic Cavendish.
Our 2020 charities
The first charity we have chosen to support in our 2020 appeal is Cruse Bereavement Care, which provides help and counselling for people struggling to cope with loss. Cut off from friends and family by the pandemic, the bereaved are turning more than ever to Cruse for help.
Our second chosen charity is Macmillan Cancer Support, which looks after people suffering from what has become “the forgotten C”. This year has been particularly difficult to have cancer: diagnoses are down, treatments are delayed or cancelled, and patients have been left to face the hardest moments of their life in isolation. Macmillan provides emotional, medical and financial support to make it a little easier.
We are also supporting Refuge, which helps around 6,500 women who experience domestic abuse every day. The pandemic has had an enormous effect on abuse victims, many of whom have found themselves locked down with their abusers. Accordingly, Refuge has seen a sharp increase in demand for its services this year.
Finally, we have also picked Carers UK, which exists to make things a little easier for people who care for others, whether full or part time. Non-professional carers have been severely affected by Covid-19, often juggling demanding working lives made more precarious by the pandemic and the need to shield with their charges, with the demands of looking after ill or disabled loved ones when access to respite services are limited by lockdowns. Unsurprisingly, calls to the Carers UK helpline have quadrupled this year.
How your donations make a difference
Since the Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal took on its current form in 1986, it has made a real and lasting difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, many of whose stories have been told in the pages of the paper. During last year’s appeal, the total amount raised by reader donations passed the £25 million mark.
In 2019, the first charity supported was The Silver Line, which provides a telephone friendship service for isolated older people. It also runs a helpline, which older people can call for conversation, information and advice.
Donations from our readers funded 49,000 phone calls to older people, which, in a year that the over-70s were ordered to shield from coronavirus, provided a lifeline to those stuck at home with no one else to talk to. Demand for The Silver Line’s services were higher than ever during the first lockdown, with calls to its helpline (0800 4 70 80 90) up by 30 per cent.
Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of The Silver Line, thanked The Telegraph’s readers for their huge donation, saying: “Covid-19 has caused so much distress and anxiety, especially for older people living on their own, for those who are caring for partners and those who have loved ones in care homes. Thanks to support like The Telegraph’s, we’ve been able to continue offering friendship and a listening ear to those who need us the most during these challenging times.”
The second charity supported by last year’s appeal was Leukaemia Care, which provides emotional and financial support to those affected by blood cancer. The past 12 months have been particularly difficult for people with leukaemia. Many have had to shield due to risk of Covid-19 complications.
The Telegraph’s appeal raised £188,000 for the charity, which was enough to reach 10 million people with information about how to spot the signs of the cancer. Given that leukaemia is generally diagnosed late, this initiative has the potential to save many lives.
Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, CEO of Leukaemia Care, said: “While the world had to temporarily pause, we’ve had to work harder than ever to ensure that the most vulnerable people are the best supported. We’ve continued all of our services during this time, which we have to thank Telegraph readers for.”
Finally, our readers supported Wooden Spoon, a grant-giving charity started by rugby-loving families that supports children living in deprivation or with disabilities. With money from Telegraph readers, Wooden Spoon gave funds to 76 charitable UK organisations that were struggling to run essential services because of the drop in income caused by Covid-19.
Sarah Webb, Wooden Spoon CEO, said: “We are delighted to have helped so many charities through such a difficult time. Vulnerable children and young people need our help more than ever. Thanks to the support of The Telegraph readers we have been able to make a significant impact on charities supporting children with disabilities and living in disadvantage at a time when they were struggling the most.”
Earlier this year, for our Coronavirus Charity Appeal, we asked our readers to donate to Turn2Us, a nationwide poverty charity which provides emergency financial aid to those in need.
Telegraph readers gave more than a million pounds, which covered most of the charity’s £1.3 million coronavirus programme. The money supported 2,400 people in extreme need, helping to pay for funerals, rent and food.
A Turn2Us spokesman said it is “hard to describe” the difference Telegraph readers made to these people’s lives.
With this year’s Telegraph Christmas Charity Appeal, we will continue the theme of supporting those who have been particularly badly affected by this year’s unprecedented events.
Why this year's charities need your help
Cruse Bereavement Care
Holly Neill was only 25 when her mother died suddenly in a car accident.
Following her death, Holly’s friends and family came together to support her and her father and brother, who were all hit hard by her mother’s passing. Her mother had been a high school teacher and a big part of her local church, so they were also supported by the local community.
They kept their door open for months afterwards to anyone who wanted to come round. “People brought food and cards, and came and made tea and coffee for us,” says Holly. “While it was so horrific, you really felt you were being carried.”
But several months after her mother’s death, Holly felt that her grieving was not finished. However kind her friends and boyfriend were, she worried that she was being a “burden” when she tried to talk about her mum.
Holly contacted Cruse Bereavement Care, and arranged one-to-one help with a volunteer counsellor, who took her through a six-week course. These sessions were invaluable, says Holly: “If you wanted to cry for the whole session or you want to be angry, it’s fine. There’s no judgment.”
Around a year after her first course of counselling, she realised she was still struggling, so got in contact with Cruse again.
“Even now, it’s reassuring that if I still need support I could reach out to them,” says Holly. “There is no expiry date to grief.”
Macmillan Cancer Support
Even before Covid, cancer patients had to be careful with social contact because chemotherapy weakens the immune system, making them vulnerable to a common cold. This year has been even tougher, with cancer sufferers urged to shield for months, and keep themselves in gruelling isolation for months on end.
Jo Woodman was just 30 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. She says it has been the most emotionally challenging time of her life, particularly going through chemotherapy – which she had to face alone due to Covid-19.
This has had a huge toll on her mental health. However, Macmillan stepped in to help, providing her with telephone counselling since the spring.
Macmillan was even there to help Jo on what she describes as “the absolute worst day”: working from home in March and seeing her hair fall out in clumps as the second round of chemotherapy took hold.
Alone in her home in Cheltenham, Jo was “the most distraught I have ever been in my life”. The moment seemed to prove to her that her life was going to change dramatically as she went through cancer, and there was little she could do about it.
She was completely upset, but wasn’t sure who to talk to. “It was the middle of the day, I didn’t want to call up my family at work crying down the phone, so I called the helpline,” she says.
“I spoke to someone there who was amazing and super calm and just talked me through everything. It was only a 15-minute conversation, but it helped me get myself together.”
Norman Phillips knows first-hand the toll that caring can take on a person. Just over a decade ago, after years of holding down a full-time job while caring for his wife Rosamund, who has multiple sclerosis, he collapsed of exhaustion.
At that moment, Norman, now 68, decided that something had to change. He left his job as an IT programme manager, and took early retirement to look after his wife. This was all right at first – until he realised that, without a salary, he would struggle to pay the mortgage. He needed more support, so got in touch with Carers UK: “I thought I just couldn’t go on.”
“I had a good, long chat with them,” he says. The charity helped him sort the practical side of becoming a full-time carer, such as getting the payments he was entitled to. “They do a lot to help carers cope.”
During the pandemic, things have only got tougher for Norman. At the start of lockdown, his 91-year-old mother moved in with him as he realised that her dementia meant she wouldn’t be able to look after herself in isolation.
Since Rosamund now too has dementia, brought on by her MS, this meant he was caring for and living with two people with memory issues. He has to be strict about social contact, since his wife is in the high-risk category, which means he was facing a very isolated time during lockdown.
“It can be lonely when you’re with people with dementia,” he says. “You can have a chat then two minutes later they will be asking the same questions.”
Carers UK were there again for him, setting up “Care for a Cuppa” Zoom meetings with other people in similar situations. “It’s just a release, knowing you’re not on your own,” he says.
Lockdown has been a terrifying time for women and children who live with their tormentor. Domestic abuse often follows a pattern: perpetrators will gradually isolate victims from friends and family, until they are the only influence in their life. The pandemic has fast-tracked this process, says Lisa King, director of communications at the charity – and, for many, made their home situations significantly worse. “Lockdown has been a great way for a perpetrator to intensify ways of control,” she says.
Refuge supports women and children going through all sorts of domestic abuse. It could be violent, but it isn’t always: it might be sexual abuse, where there is pressure to be intimate; financial, which restricts access to money and resources; or psychological, which are long campaigns of controlling behaviour.
Although often hidden, domestic abuse is a huge issue. One in five children experience it, and two women are killed by their current or former partners every week.
Refuge helps women rebuild their lives after abuse. They run refuges, which house women and children fleeing from abusive partners, offer legal advice as women bring their abusers to justice, and support with education and employment afterwards.
“We describe domestic abuse as a life and death issue,” says King. “But there is a life after domestic abuse.”