Final ACT Community Grants of 2023 sees £65,000+ awarded to causes around the world
Throughout the year, The Ardonagh Group’s independent charity, ACT, supports causes special to Ardonagh colleagues through its Community Grant programme – which provides the opportunity for people across the Group to apply for up to £5,000 (or equivalent currency) towards a chosen charity.
Today, we share the 14 charities from around the world being supported by a bumper round of grants to conclude the year – totalling £66,000.
This means that over 2023, more than £200,000 in funding awarded to charities through ACT’s grant programme, surpassing 2022’s total of £155,000 – and all going towards causes nominated by colleagues. Since ACT’s inception, over £825,000 in Community grants has been awarded to over 190 charities.
Read the stories behind each of the causes that have successfully received funding and why our colleagues nominated them.
Enabling disadvantaged and disabled children to experience the freedom to travel
The Irish Pilgrimage Trust
Nominated by Mark Brennan – Ardonagh Analytics Lab, Group Functions
The Irish Pilgrimage Trust brings children and young people with special needs on a week-long Pilgrimage Holiday to Lourdes each Easter. Each year, 400 young people with additional needs are invited as guests, these needs range from people who come from a disadvantaged background, have disabilities, to people with lifelong illnesses – and is a unique and often life enhancing experience for all those involved. Thanks to fundraising by the trust’s volunteers, the trip is free to guests. There are 46 groups in Ireland, which each comprise of 15 volunteer carers and 10 guests, depending on a group’s overall needs. The week in Lourdes starts and ends with signing and dancing, and the main focus of the group is to bring joy and enable new experiences.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will be used to fund part of this year trip for the Longford/Westmeath group. Considering the costs for the average trip to bring 10 guests and their medical equipment, each group is tasked with raising €14,000 a year. This supports travel costs, accommodation food and weekly activities for the guests. A significant cost is bore by the organisation to ensure that guests needs are met both through transport and the support, medical equipment needed for the week.
Mark (right) on a trip with The Irish Pilgrimage Trust as a volunteer.
“The Irish Pilgrimage Trust brings children and young people from a range of circumstances and backgrounds, with disabilities or lifelong illnesses on a once in a lifetime trip each Easter. 400 young people from across Ireland are invited as guests each year. I’ve travelled with the Longford & Westmeath group in a range of capacities since 2010, which has involved organizing trips and travelling with the group to support guests’ needs. I will continue to give my time to this incredible charity and thank ACT for fantastic support of this cause.” Mark Brennan – Ardonagh Analytics Lab, Group Functions
Training teachers to provide emotional support to young people
Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP)
Nominated by Lisa Renton – Atlanta, Ardonagh Retail
Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) is a charity and community of educators united in their commitment to the wellbeing of children and young people, as well as the adults caring for them. To date, the charity has trained more than 11,000 teachers across the UK.
In February this year, Warrington teen Brianna Ghey was murdered, aged just 16. Brianna was a transgender girl who suffered the ultimate injustice. The traumatic impact was so deep, Brianna’s mother wanted to make a difference to ensure no other teen had to feel this way – launching the Peace in Mind campaign in support of MiSP.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will fund the training of seven teachers in the Warrington area, so they can provide wellbeing support and also enable the young people in their school to develop their own tools to look after their emotional health.
“This cause is means so much to me as Brianna lived in my community and therefore her death has affected us all in some way. I have been a long-standing member of our Atlanta Ally community, attending all Pride events, standing with all our LGBTQ+ colleagues. I believe that this grant could extend our commitment to the cause of solidarity into the wider community helping to shape the minds of our future.” Lisa Renton – Atlanta, Ardonagh Retail
Establishing a new beach soccer centre to offer free sports for young people
Instituto Grão de Areia
Nominated by Jorge Ribeiro – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Grão de Areia is a socio-sporting project that has been offering free beach football classes since December 2021 for young people and children aged 7 to 14 (boys and girls) in five municipalities in Rio de Janeiro. The Grão de Areia Project wants to increase the number of beach soccer practitioners on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, carrying out social work, since most of the existing schools are not free – and the project wants to ensure all children can access sports.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will enable the charity to set up a new beach football club at Copacabana beach, an area surrounded by disadvantaged communities. The funding will pay for the structure, lesson resources and the team leading sessions, so that students can access the classed for free.
Young people enjoying the benefits of free beach soccer sessions!
“I have known the creator of the Project, Marcelo Mendes, for more than 40 years. The Grão de Areia Project is 100% social initiative, which takes approximately 500 needy children to practice the sport in five different areas of Rio. I have followed this wonderful project closely since the beginning and everything is done with great care and dedication, generating satisfactory results for the socio-emotional development of the children and consequently with their families.” Jorge Ribeiro – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Enabling older people to maintain independence and confidence
Nominated by Nigel Harrison – Dawson Whyte, Ardonagh Advisory
CLARE CIC is based in North Belfast and supports older people experiencing health and wellbeing challenges so that they can remain in their homes and active members of their communities for as long as possible. In their one to one work, CLARE identified that many older people struggle with rapidly changing technology, affecting all parts of their lives and independence – from medical support to finances and simply communicating with family.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will enable over 20 older people to receive a suite of 1:1 technology sessions, plus group sessions for 60 people. Through these, CLARE will help people maintain their independence and gain confidence – whether it’s using the National Health Service App, managing money, or getting on platforms like Zoom. Ultimately this aids not just the older person themselves but also the loved ones around them.
“I was made aware of CLARE CIC post COVID, in a time where I felt I wanted to invest in the community around me. I now volunteer for CLARE CIC as a driver, transporting their service users to and from appointments, outings and groups. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time volunteering– the team are inspirational, and the service users are full of life and you can tell how much they benefit from the service. CLARE is very much a lifeline to folks that can be and are being so easily forgotten about or overlooked.” Nigel Harrison – Dawson Whyte, Ardonagh Advisory
Renovating a girl’s football club house in Ghana
Miss Ghana UK Foundation (MGUKF)
Nominated by Francis J’Appiah – IT, Ardonagh Specialty
Specialty colleague Francis has a uniquely personal connection to Miss Ghana UK Foundation – being one of the original founder members of Miss Ghana UK, of which the foundation is the charitable arm of. Over the past 17 years, MGUKF has made a difference in both the UK and Ghana in a host of ways, including period product campaigns and a girls footballing initiative.
Not just this, Francis has the incredible role of being King in the region of Ghana where his family is from, meaning his is hugely embedded in the local community there. Francis has been involved in the establishment of a local football team to support young people’s growth and development.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will go towards a girl’s football project in Ghana, in the community where Francis is King. The funds will enable the club house to be redeveloped and to construct a training pitch – as well as ensure there are facilities to support female training, including the provision of period products.
“My role as King has had a profound impact on my personal growth. I am now responsible for the lives of others and have had to mature quickly. It has provided me with all sorts of leadership skills that I never knew I possessed, and I’m determined to enact numerous improvements in the community. The organisation is dearest to my heart and one of the best initiatives I have ever established. I would love to see it grow bigger and better.” Francis J’Appiah – IT, Ardonagh Specialty
Providing summer kits to homeless people in Brazil
Somando Mais Ações
Nominated by Rayssa Alves – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Somando Mais Ações has existed for 23 years and is present in 54 cities across Brazil – supporting thousands of homeless people, thanks to its 4,000 volunteers. Each project within Samando Maid Ações has its own coordinators and leaders, and there are project embassies in several cities in Brazil. Donations are collected every day and used for the week's actions, or a major event already planned for the month, with volunteers signing up online to turn the plans into a reality.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will go towards the projects ‘summer action’ – providing vital supplies in the form of ‘summer kits’ to homeless people. The kits consist of water, a cap, sandals and fruit, which are all much needed in the heat for those without shelter. The kit also includes basic medical provisions and food. As a volunteer herself, Rayssa has seen the impact that these supplies have on those who need them.
Volunteers in action at Somando Mais Ações.
“I'm a volunteer at the NGO, Somando Mais Ações, acting as Reception Leader, which means I help to organize project’s events and actions on vulnerable communities, delivering food, clothes, medical and psychological care along with other volunteers. This grant will boost our impact that we have specially with homeless people. I’m proud to be part of an organization such as The Ardonagh Group who really support charity initiatives and believe how this can change people’s lives and improve our respect for our communities.” Rayssa Alves – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Establishing a new ballet project for young people in Rio
Projecto Social Luz e Paz
Nominated by Renan Carvalho – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Projecto Social Luz e Paz is a community-led organisation which supports more than 60 children and teenagers in Rio de Janeiro. The project aims to help young people access education, culture and sport and has a whole host of regular activities for young people to take part in, including Capoeira, theatre and choir – as well as a food bank and offering extra tuition to help with schooling.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will enable a new activity, ballet, to be added to the suite of sessions organised by the charity for young people to attend.
Children supported by Projecto Social Luz e Paz in Rio.
Providing a respite break to people affected by butterfly skin
Nominated by Rebecca Unsworth – Graduate, Geo Underwriting, Ardonagh Advisory
DEBRA UK supports sufferers of Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), the name for a group of life-changing and sometimes life-threatening skin conditions that cause the skin to become very fragile and tear or blister at the slightest touch, ‘butterfly skin’, as it is often termed.
The charity exists to provide care and support to improve quality of life for people living with EB, and to fund pioneering research to find effective treatments and, ultimately, a cure. For its community, DEBRA hosts annual meetups and heavily subsidised weekends away, offering a chance for sufferers to connect and seek emotional support from the people who really understand what it’s like to live with such an invasive condition.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will enable 25 people to have a weekend respite break with DEBRA, so that they too can connect with people who have real lived insight into EB, take part in workshops, and access support avenues they may not otherwise be aware of.
Enabling psychological support sessions for people affected by cancer
Solas Cancer Support Group
Nominated by Georgina Brennan – Arachas, Ardonagh International
Solas Cancer Support aids people affected by cancer, alongside their families and carers, in and around Waterford in Ireland. Their support services are varied and include counselling, relaxation therapies and group sessions – and all free to those who need them. The centre is able to operate thanks to the dedicated of over 70 volunteers and 30 counsellors and therapists who all give their time to provide these valuable services.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will fund 100 therapy sessions – ranging from music to art and counselling – supporting 10 people affected by cancer. These psychological sessions have a huge positive impact on people, supporting their emotional wellbeing through their journey with cancer.
“The Solas Centre has always been a charity which I have supported over the years, raising funds by participating in their fundraising walks and donating money to them every few months. It’s hard to describe the feeling I get when I think of the Solas Centre, I'm so proud of all who volunteer their time to help in the centre for cancer patients, children and families affected, it shows there is still good will in people.” Georgina Brennan – Arachas, Ardonagh International
Feeding a disadvantaged family for an entire year
Nominated by Lara Smith – Graduate, HR, Ardonagh Advisory
Sevenoaks Larder provides vital relief to people and families living in the Sevenoaks district in Kent, England. As well as donations, the larder works with local supermarkets to acquire excess products to reduce wastage and ensure supplies reach those who need them. The charity also provides emergency food cupboards to students and their families – as well as items to support school breakfasts and after school clubs for disadvantaged pupils.
The £1,000 grant from ACT will feed a family of four for an entire year with complete nutrition and fresh produce. Some of these fresh items are provided by Sevenoaks Gardeners Group – further illustrating the community effort behind this programme.
“My previous position was at a frozen food shop and during the pandemic, Sevenoaks Larder approached us to ask if we could spare some meals. We donated 30 meals a week and throughout the course of the pandemic, we donated a total of 10,000 meals to the Larder. I began to look forward to the days when the ladies would come to collect the food as they would tell us the difference our meals were making, and the positive feedback they were receiving about the work they were doing.” Lara Smith – Graduate, HR, Ardonagh Advisory
Transforming a room into a sensory space to support people with autism
The A Team Hub
Nominated by Rachel Maguire – Facilities, Ardonagh Advisory
The At Team hub, based in Wigan, England, supports children and young people with autism, or on the pathway to diagnosis. The centre is specifically designed and equipped to provide a safe and supportive space to help children and their families who may be experiencing challenges or simply connect. As well as a specially designed play area, the centre provides programmes to help children who may struggle with speech and language.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will enable the hub to transform one of the centres rooms into a dedicated sensory room, and which will connect to the sensory garden which already exists outside. The room will provide a calming environment for children with sensory needs and help with regulation, which is hugely important for many people with autism.
The room which is waiting to be transformed into a dedicated sensory space at the hub.
“My four-year-old daughter is diagnosed autistic and registered disabled. We face tough challenges daily and having a safe space to go to, where your children's needs are understood and catered too, makes a huge difference. The toys are all sensory related, which supports regulation and allows our children to play without becoming over stimulated like they would in a neurotypical play centre. The A team hub brings communities together and allows our children the opportunity to make friends and enjoy experiences they might not have had otherwise. Its also a great place for parents of neurodivergent children to come together to support each other.” Rachel Maguire – Head of Property, Facilities and Health & Safety, Ardonagh Advisory
Enabling a community centre to continue supporting homeless people
Amanhecer Esperança Association
Nominated by Carla Eugenio – MDS Portugal, Ardonagh International
Amanhecer Esperança Association supports people in and around Agualva-Cacém in Portugal. The charity provides as much as possible to support people who are struggling with homelessness or need basic aid – ranging from food to clothes and everything else that makes up a home. The centre also has an internet room, space to shower, and even a hairdresser to help people get back on their feet and find work.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will go towards the replacement of the roof where the charity operates. This is vital to ensure the association can continue to provide the vital services to those it helps. Simple things like a shower and a haircut are immensely valuable to people who use the centre, and these basic but essential provisions are only possible is the centre can remain functional and open.
The Association building, where people are offered a range of support.
“I was lucky enough to meet Nelson, the person who has been in charge of the organisation for nine years, and the passion with which he talks about the project and everything he does to provide well-being for people in need was something I fell in love with.” Carla Eugenio – MDS Portugal, Ardonagh International
Repairing a judo centre to expand to more young people
Projeto Impacto pela Associação Desportiva Santo André
Nominated by Cristina Goncalves – MDS Brazil, Ardonagh International
Projeto Impacto pela Associação Desportiva Santo André is a charity in the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil. The Impact Project, as its name implies, aims to impact children's lives on and off the mats – through the sport of judo. The area is underprivileged and there are many issues with drugs and crime. The project aims to give children a perspective of the future by teaching judo values of respect for others, humility and love.
The £5,000 grant from ACT will fund the structural renovation of the centre. At the moment, there is a waiting list of more than 40 children. By putting up a new aluminium shed to extend the space, the project will be able to serve twice as many students – offering sessions to 300 children.
A group of judo students at Projeto Impacto pela Associação Desportiva Santo André, with the space being extended thanks to ACT.
Funding eye devices to help people with visual impairments to communicate
APELA – Portuguese Association for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
Nominated by Liliana Baptista – MDS Portugal, Ardonagh International
APELA is a non-profit whose primary mission is to champion the needs of individuals and caregivers affected by Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). ALS is a neurological disorder that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement and breathing. ALS often begins with muscle twitching and weakness, trouble swallowing or slurred speech. Eventually ALS affects control of the muscles needed to move, speak, eat and breathe. More than 90% of patients lose verbal and oral communication capabilities throughout the course of their disease in ALS. Without assistance, this task becomes significantly challenging and restricts the patient and their caregivers.
APELA has an alternative communications project, which is working on a way to support people affected by ALS across Portugal to communicate in ways other than speech. The £5,000 grant from ACT will fund four eye devices, which are being used by the charity to establish a new technical aid to help patients through an eye-computer interface.
An ALS patient who has benefitted from the innovative communication technology.
“I've actively participated and volunteered in various events, including the impactful "Living with ALS" and "Decisions at the end of life" photovoice exhibitions. As a rare disease with minimal support from the state or private industry, particularly in the absence of current treatments, the association faces a scarcity of resources. An ACT grant would support the endeavours of this small-budget association, which champions a profound cause: enhancing the prospects of a better future for those who, despite being deprived of many things, retain the ability to communicate and interact even after losing their ability to speak.” Liliana Baptista – MDS Portugal, Ardonagh International
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