This year’s Christmas Challenge raised a staggering £3.1 million for 182 small and local charities. Being part of the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign offers charities the chance to take part in a national campaign with visibility that is far greater than they might achieve alone. In celebration of #LocalCharitiesDay, we are recognising their achievements today.

Alex Day, Director at the Big Give commented:

“The Christmas Challenge is our flagship match funding campaign and is open to charities of all sizes. We’re delighted that this year has been so successful for small and local charities who can sometimes struggle to have their voices heard in such a competitive fundraising landscape. These charities have a rich understanding of their local context and close relationships with their beneficiaries allowing them to provide bespoke solutions for the communities they work with. We believe in the importance of grassroots organisations and are delighted that the Christmas Challenge has helped them to raise the vital funds they need to continue.”

This year, North & South London Cares were just one of the 182 small and local charities to take part in the Challenge. Here is their story:

What do they do?

North London Cares and South London Cares are community networks of young professionals and older neighbours, hanging out and helping one another. Through their social clubs and Love Your Neighbour programme (one to one match), neighbours share conversation, company, laughter, skills and ultimately, friendship.

Another project they run is called Winter Wellbeing, which is a huge, community led outreach effort to ensure that older neighbours in their boroughs are staying warm, well and connected during the cold, harsh months. The team strike up conversations with their older neighbours to see if winter can be made easier by delivering scarves, gloves and blankets and/or a fuel grant. At the same time, they also help people to access healthcare services and invite them along to their social clubs.

Why are they ‘local’?

North London Cares and South London Cares operate within four boroughs of London; Camden and Islington, and Southwark and Lambeth. They bring together older neighbours – who have lived in these areas for 60, 70, even 80 years – with their younger counterparts to share time, laughter and companionship.

These connections take place in community centres, at local businesses and even within the homes of neighbours. By breaking down generational, attitudinal, digital and cultural barriers, isolation and loneliness is tackled at the root.

Lambeth and Southwark are two of the most isolating parts of south London with both boroughs in the top 12 most deprived in London, experiencing extreme health inequalities which are exacerbated by winter. Similarly, Camden and Islington are two of the most isolating parts of north London. Rapid change resulting from globalisation and gentrification has left many of the older people behind in all four boroughs, and created divides between the younger and older populations.

Volunteer Patrick is in his twenties, and says “Over my time in London, I’ve realised that my generation has become detached and separated from the rest of this city. The older neighbours I’ve met through South London Cares have seen their city change beyond all recognition and they’ve made me realise that when a new high rise set of flats goes up, it has replaced not just an old shop or pub, but a landmark that was once held dear by the people in that community. Being around the older neighbours, discussing the trials and successes of their lives has both touched and inspired me. The advice and words shared by the neighbours in my time at South London Cares has kept me grounded, made me more self aware and mindful about using my life and treasuring my youth.”

Christmas Challenge total raised: £11,455

Emily Clarke (Head of Development) from North London Cares and South London Cares commented: “Not only did we exceed our target and raise over £5k in just one week, but we used this as an opportunity to reach out in a new way to our community network. We were chuffed by the response; 160 people donated to our campaign, and we’ll be able to help ensure hundreds of our older neighbours remain warm, well and connected. We’re incredibly thankful to everyone who supported us including the People’s Postcode Lottery who provided some of our match funding.’