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It's beginning to look a lot like….

The 2018 Team Hope Shoebox Appeal was officially launched this week.

Today FM’s Alison Curtis has joined forces with Team Hope this year to encourage families, friends, schools, community groups and businesses across Ireland to champion the annual Appeal and donate gift-filled shoeboxes to children from some of the poorest regions in the world by 9th November.

After smashing last year’s target and delivering more than 264,000 shoeboxes, Team Hope wants to exceed all expectations and deliver 280,000 shoeboxes this year. Every single shoebox donated is delivered directly into the hands of a child in need, so every shoebox counts.

Team Hope is asking people to champion the Appeal in their own schools, communities, businesses and among their family and friends.

"By encouraging as many people as possible to take part, even more children will experience the joy of receiving a Shoebox. For most of these children, it is the only present they will receive all year, turning an ordinary day into a day filled with smiles, excitement and laughter," said Peter Heaney, Chief Executive Officer of Team Hope.

How do I get involved? 

Getting involved is simple. All you have to do is find an empty shoebox, wrap it in Christmas paper and fill it with gifts for a boy or girl aged between 2 and 14 years old, attach €4 and bring it to a local drop off point before Friday, November 9th.

When considering items that are best to gift, think of the 4W’s:

·      Write – pen, pencil, copybook, paper, colouring book, felt pens, sharpener, eraser, solar calculator (these children have no access to batteries).

·      Wash – toothbrush and toothpaste, soap (wrapped), facecloth, hairbrush, comb.

·      Wear – a hat, scarf, gloves, socks or underwear.

·      Wow – sunglasses, games, small Irish gift, a photo of yourself, sweets (must be in date until at least April 2019), make up, a small musical instrument, toys like a doll, a car, cuddly toy, skipping rope, yo-yo or finger puppet.

There are 400 drop off points nationwide, including all Axa, FastFit/FirstStop branches and Toymaster stores. 

To find your nearest drop-off point or for more information about the Team Hope Christmas Shoebox Appeal visit: www.teamhope.ie

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By Ariana Dunne

Ten years ago a green and white envelope arrived through my letterbox.

Aged 26 I was happy and grateful for what I had and was looking for ways I could give back and help others in need so I signed up to Childfund Ireland requesting to sponsor a child. When I opened the envelope and a picture of a dark skinned, brown eyed, dimple cheeked three year old boy fell into my lap, a big smile spread across my face.

‘We are delighted to introduce you to Shaban, your sponsored child’ the accompanying letter warmly informed me. Shaban was from Uganda, a country I had tenuous ties with as my brother's best friend was from there, but other than that I was unfamiliar with the small African country dubbed the Pearl of Africa.

The information pack informed me that Shaban was from one of the poorest areas in the country, and for just €22.00 per month my sponsorship would help to fund his vaccinations, healthcare, and education. My sponsorship would benefit his whole family, and indeed the whole community in some ways.

For the price of four cups of coffee a month, a boy’s life was being made better. Though thousands of miles away I already felt a connection to this little boy and felt thankful that I was fortunate enough to be able to help him.

A few months after receiving my intro pack another letter arrived through the door, it was the first of what would be many letters I received from Shaban. His early letters were update reports, no doubt written by a community member updating me on his progress accompanied by little childish drawings of colourful balls and scribbles.

As time went on these letters were written by Shaban himself, his English and handwriting improving with every year that passed. I learned he loved football, his favourite colour was red, he helped his mother fetch water after school and he loved his brothers and sisters.

Occasionally I would write back but not as often as he did. Perhaps the cynic in me thought he wouldn’t receive the letters. Perhaps I felt embarrassed about my seemingly privileged westernised life. Perhaps I was just lazy. I should have written more.

Over the years I moved job, moved house, moved country several times but I always maintained my sponsorship of Shaban. I made sure to update Childfund of my change of address so I would continue to receive his letters, each one allowing me to get a glimpse into the happy young man he was becoming.

When my brother's best friend invited me to his wedding I was thrilled to find out it was in Uganda. I immediately contacted Childfund to see if I could arrange a sponsor visit.

The Dublin office were as excited as I was, and couldn’t have been more helpful scheduling my meeting with Shaban and his family. Of course, Childfund go to great lengths to protect the children, meaning I underwent Garda vetting and various forms needed to be filled out, but it was an otherwise seamless process.

Many of my friends and family donated clothes, toys and money so that I could bring three large suitcases filled with presents for Shaban, his family and the wider community. I even brought him a book about Ireland, along with a red Liverpool jersey with his name emblazoned on the back. 

On August 15th this year, my brother and I were driven the five hours from Kampala by the lovely Childfund Uganda staff members. When we arrived all the women from the community, dressed in their finest colourful dresses, greeted us with chants and hollers, singing to us as we emerged from the car.

Shaban was there to greet me, a dark skinned, dark eyed, dimple cheeked 13 year old, who gave me the warmest hug and the biggest smile. His mother, father, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters all greeted me with love and hugs and immense warmth and gratitude that I had come to visit them.

Shaban was my ‘sponsored’ child but there was no denying they made me feel part of the family. We spent five short hours in one another’s company but it is five hours I will never forget. My brother and I were shown around the community, introduced to each member of Shaban’s family, had songs and dances performed for us, a humble but delicious meal was prepared and we exchanged gifts after having greeted the excitable and giggling school children all vying to catch a glimpse of the pale skinned westerners.

We took pictures, including ones with a Fuji Instax that developed like magic before their eyes meaning they had instant keepsakes of our visit. Though poor, and there was no denying the poverty, the community were rich in smiles and laughter.

The cynic in me was abated. There was no denying that my sponsorship was benefiting Shaban and his family. There was no doubt that my connection with him was real.

Through Childfund I have the option of sponsoring him until he is 24 and has completed his education, an option I will most likely take. He could become a doctor, a lawyer, a local farmer, a famous footballer, or he may fall in love, start a family and live a happy and contented life like his father before him in the community where he was born.

I’m grateful that for the sacrifice of four cups of coffee, or two overpriced gin and tonics, I was able to meet a wonderful little boy and his happy family thousands of miles away from Dublin and feel like I had made a small difference in the world.

To sign up to Childfund Ireland and sponsor a child today Click here.

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We are always in awe of the incredible work Pieta House do. The charity has helped so many people cope with their mental health disorders and overcome some of the darkest moments in their lives.

In October, the charity will run one of it’s greatest campaigns to date. Feel Good Week will bring people together to remind themselves of how good they can feel and raise vital funds.

Feel Good Week will take place from October 20 to 27.

The aim is to help people #FindtheFeeling through a nationwide campaign of wellness, mindfulness, active, social and fun events. All you have to do is get together with your nearest and dearest and spread positive vibes by hosting a Feel Good event.

There are so many different things you can do during Feel Good Week, but we decided to conjure up the top five things that always lift our spirits.

1: Dance it out: Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang shared this wonderful piece of advice with us on Grey’s Anatomy. If you’re feeling a bit low or sluggish and need to lift your spirits then stick on ABBA or Taylor Swift or whatever cheesy music tickles your fancy and just dance away the negativity with your sisters or your co-workers. 

2: Breakfast morning: There’s nothing we love more than breakfast food. Seeing a table full of strawberries, croissants, yoghurts, grapes, and pain au chocolat is our idea of heaven. Host a breakfast morning at your office and encourage your colleagues to step away from their desk for even ten minutes and natter to one another over a cup of coffee instead of through email.

3: Embrace the nostalgia: Something as simple as watching The Little Mermaid can spark positive memories so go back in time and curl up on the sofa with a cup of tea and your favourite Disney film playing on the TV. Studies claim nostalgia is good for the mind because it can boost both your energy and spirit.

4: Get outside: The last thing you want to do after a draining day at work is to go outside and be at one with nature, we’d much rather be at one with Netflix. However, even our lazy, sloth-like selves know just how good you feel after spending some time outside. 

It can help you unwind and let go of the stress of the day. Why don’t you call up your old school friends and go for a walk along the pier?

5: Host a mystery book swap: It’s like going on a blind date, but with books. Call up your fellow bookworms and exchange your favourite book- but there’s a twist. Participants need to wrap up their books so the cover is hidden.

Think of it as Secret Santa for book lovers. The mystery element helps make it that little bit more exciting.

Are you ready to #FindTheFeeling? It’s easy to take part. You can register your fundraiser FREE on www.pieta.ie/feelgood.

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“There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a phrase we mutter far too often. It feels like we are busier than ever and the pressure to have a lively social life can sometimes take over, resulting in you attending every social event you’re invited to.

Finding the perfect balance is tricky, but it can be worth it and extremely necessary. One thing we should all try to do more of is volunteering.

Volunteering is the perfect way of giving back to those in need. The Me Too movement showed us just how many women suffer from sexual assault on a daily basis. As women we should try to support one another in whatever way we can.

If you’re hoping to volunteer then one very important Irish charity could do with a helping hand. The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre have issued a call for volunteers.

They need people, who are over the age of 25, to help with their 24-hour helpline. They are also looking for people to assist victims on visits to court, Garda stations and hospitals.

The Dublin Rape Crisis Centre explained that volunteers are extremely valuable to their service. In 2016, their 99 volunteers accompanied over 260 survivors of sexual violence to sexual assault treatment units, to court and Garda stations.

Volunteers will be given extensive training by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre team.

If you want to find out more about volunteering you can call 01 6614911 or email the organisation.

Visit their website for more information on how you can donate and support the hard-working organisation.

 

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The Beckham family has been vacationing in style, staying in posh hotels with infinity pools and soaking up the Indonesian sun on tropical beaches. #holidaygoals

The family has been staying in the gorgeous country for the past few weeks, and their Instagram posts have been giving us major FOMO.

They are having the time of their lives, learning how to crack coconuts, swimming in an infinity pool, and paddle boarding together.

And Victoria has been sure to document it all for us peasants, constantly posting photos and videos of her children and husband David on her Insta story.

 

Love my babies kisses from us all x VB

A post shared by Victoria Beckham (@victoriabeckham) on

But amidst all the fun and laughter, the Beckhams made sure to set aside time for an important cause that is close to the former Spice Girl's heart.

The family visited young kids at The Sumba Foundation, an organisation dedicated to helping underprivileged, Sumbanese children have access to life essentials like clean water and medical treatment.

The foundation also enrols students in classes, giving them the educational tools they will need for their futures, as well as incorporating local culture and traditions into their daily lives.

Victoria shared photos of her family spending time with the children, teaching them English and playing games together.

Her husband even started up a game of footie with the eager youths.

The retired footballer and his wife parent four kids: Brooklyn, 19, Romeo, 15, Cruz, 13, and Harper, 7.

The Beckham clan loved interacting with the happy students and having a good time together.

“Special day with the inspiring students in Sumba. We loved hanging out helping to teach English and play games!” the mum posted.

Charity has always been one of Victoria’s passions.

She is an International Goodwill Ambassador for UNAIDS and actively supports Save the Children.

It is nice to see the celebrities not only enjoying their holidays but prioritising charitable endeavours as well.

We are delighted that the children at The Sumba Foundation are getting the support they need and that this celeb family is taking the time to try and brighten their day.

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Heartthrob Tom Hardy recently spilled about him and Prince Harry's total bromance, and it is actually adorable.

Tom and Harry have been seen in public before on several occasions and have also been known to do some charity work together.

The English actor has been an acting ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, which helps disadvantaged people aged 14 to 30 overcome obstacles and transition into work, education, or training.

His passion may be based on his own troublesome past, as Tom is no stranger to surviving life’s darkest depths as a youth.

 

A post shared by Tom Hardy (@tomhardy) on

He told The Daily Mail that he used to struggle with drug addiction himself and has now been sober for over a decade.

“The only thing that saved me through that dark time was acting,” he divulged.

Everyone needs a purpose or a passion to push them through the ups and downs that this world throws their way.

Tom and Harry understand that without this focus, it can be easy to lose sight of our goals and let the hard parts of life drown out our potential.

 

Chasing Fonzo

A post shared by Tom Hardy (@tomhardy) on

Despite the obstacles thrown his way, Tom has survived into fame and success through his love of acting. “I found that I was good at it, I wanted to make the effort to invest time and effort into doing it.

“These days, I’m lucky enough to do it for a living; and I love it and I learn from it every day.”

It is this same driven outlook that he hopes to share with troubled youth in the Prince’s charity.

Perhaps it is this shared interest for disadvantaged youths that Prince Harry and Tom share.

In May, Tom made sure to attend the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's royal wedding with his wife Charlotte Riley.

At the time, the actor had been filming Fonzo, in which he plays the iconic role of Al Capone.

And after six weeks of 19 hour days, he flew home the morning of the Prince’s wedding day.

He would never miss the most important day of his friend's life. #bros4life

 

Boss

A post shared by Tom Hardy (@tomhardy) on

When Esquire asked Tom about his relationship with Harry, all he would say is that it was ‘deeply private’ and ‘Harry is a f****** legend.’

Just last year, Tom co-sponsored a campaign with The Prince’s Trust called "Youth Can Do It," which helps build young people's self-esteem.

The pair has also been spotted attending the Audi Polo Challenge cup in London in 2016 and filming a cameo for Star Wars: The Last Jedi film.

The scene was later cut because Harry and his brother, Prince William, were too tall in comparison with the other stormtroopers.

It seems the pair has a bit of bromance brewing, whether this is based on the same charitable passions or a shared Star Wars fandom is hard to tell.

I guess we will just have to wait and see what the compassionate, bromantic duo do next.

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Most of us have experienced grief at some point in our lives, and it is hard to overcome. However, the lovely O'Toole family are here to help anyone who needs support during tragic times.

It is amazing how many lives that they have already changed!

Unfortunately, the O'Toole's have experienced their own heartbreak, losing three beloved family members way at young ages.

But they have not let this terrible grief keep them down forever. Instead, they have decided to give back and help others who are experiencing a similar situation.

The family lost 7-year-old Declan to a brain tumour, 30-year-old Jacinta to a brain aneurysm, and 32-year-old Fintan, who was closest to Declan.

In their honour, they started a charity that aims to provide grief-stricken children with a support network as well as an outlet to celebrate their own personal achievements and triumphs.

The charity is called Jacinta’s smile and has already been able to help children and young adults everywhere.

Now, the family is starting a new initiative and joining with other organisations to make counselling services available all throughout Ireland.

They will be offering mentoring services as well, where young members who have been helped by the charity will become a ‘Big Brother/Sister’ to new members.

The Big Brother program is a great way for children who have trouble talking to adults, to open up to and learn from children their age that have been where they are.

And right now, the O’Toole family wants you to be able to partake in their adventure.

All you have to do is send in a postcard. Easy enough, right?

Mail an anonymous postcard with a message to a loved one that you’ve lost. It could be one sentence or 100, depending what you can fit on there.

(Yes, we are talking about old school mailing in the post. The process of describing your feelings and sending it off to somewhere far is a great way to help you heal).

The message can be a photo, a story, or whatever you like.

It is a great way to purge yourself of any held back emotions or feelings of missing out on that one last thing you could’ve said to someone.

On this postcard, you write or draw whatever you want. Imagine you had one more postcard that you could send to someone …what would you say?

Please send postcards to the following address:

#Wish You Were Here
Jacinta’s Smile Headquarters
Vita House
Abbey Street
Roscommon Town
Co. Roscommon
Ireland
F42 N677

All the postcards will be uploaded to the Jacinta's Smile Facebook page

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The Irish Blood Transfusion Service has called on the public to donate blood this summer as these months can be some of the most challenging for the service.

They need at least 15,000 donors per month for the blood supply to remain at a steady level.

The service has specifically asked for people who are O positive, O negative, A positive and B negative to donate.

Operating Director of the IBTS Paul McKinney said: "The summer months are always a challenging time for blood donation – children are on holidays or doing exams, the evenings are long and fine, or there are other distractions such as the World Cup.”

He has asked people to donate before they go on their holidays.

By donating blood you can help people live happier and healthier lives. Thousands of people need blood in Ireland’s hospitals, especially those who are undergoing surgery, recovering from cancer or have been in a serious accident.

Visit www.giveblood.ie for more future clinic times/dates available.

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This May, TV presenter Lorraine Keane will host a unique fashion event to raise vital funds for the hunger crisis in East Africa and beyond.

Supported by some of the nation's best-loved brands and favourite fashion/lifestyle personalities, the event will combine a fashion show and designer auction with a public sale, selling a wide range of brand new and pre-loved designer and highstreet clothes, bags and accessories.

"For seven years now, I have been travelling to the developing world with various Irish NGOs – all of whom do remarkable work – so I've seen first-hand how peopel are struggling to survive on very little," Lorraine explains.

"Every time I come home, I realise how much stuff we have. We have too much. It doesn't feel right."

So in November, Lorraine decided to organise an event that would enable people to get rid of their unnecessary purchases while helping to raise money for the people who hardly have enough to survive. 

Talking about her reasons for the event, the former TV presenter continued: "Millions of people have already died and it is estimated another million people will die in the next twelve months unless we do something. 

"I am hoping that between us, in just one day, we can make a difference with FashionRelief – a public fashion sale of pre-loved or worn-once designer clothing and accessories.

"I think you’ll agree we all have too much stuff. Even one item can make a difference."

The event will be held from 11am to 5pm in the RDS on May 13 and will feature premium and designer bags, clothes, and accessories.

Besides Lorraine, there will be other high-profile attendees, some of whom will be manning their own stalls selling their personal pre-loved items.

There will also be three fashion shows featuring donations from retail outlets, celebrity supporters, and designers. We can't wait to see all of the fabulous wares and support this worthy cause!

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Christmas is a time for children worldwide. They majority of children will be lucky to be growing up in a loving family and spending these holidays doing simple holidays rituals. 

Sadly, other children will not be so lucky. We ask you to spare a thought for children still living in orphanages this Christmas. They don't have families to put toys under the tree, they don't have santa visits and they certainly don't have turkey dinners. 

Life in an orphanage is a little different, a skeletal staff will be on duty and there will be no one to ensure that you have a special day. 

Would you like to change that this year?

Would you like to send some Christmas love to Children and young adults with disability living in Hincesti orphanage in the Republic of Moldova? 

It is very simple…..sponsor them, spread the word and send on the love. 

For just €20 you can provide a child with an individualised gift, a Christmas dinner and a Christmas Concert with Santa and artists. 

For an extra €5 you can also pay for extra staff to be on duty to provide the necessary care that will not be available over the holidays. 

It's a no brainer in our eyes! 

Outreach Moldova is dedicated to providing human rights, medical care and social inclusion for children that have been abandoned or orphaned, children with special needs and children with terminal illnesses in the Republic of Moldova.

They do truly amazing work all year, but they're making a special appeal this Christmas – so that these children can experience a little magic. 

Head on over to Go Fund Me now, and donate what you can.

Merry Christmas to all of you! 

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Two of the music industry's best loved male performers could be teaming up to help a very deserving cause. 

In an effort to help those affected by the wildfires in Southern California, Justin Bieber and Niall Horan have both pledged their support, with the later suggesting that a charity single would be a "no brainer."

Speaking to Mirror Online, the Mullingar native explained that his house in LA is not too far from the location of the fires, and told how he was inspired to lend a hand when Justin released an Instagram video saying he would do whatever he could to restore the effected communities. 

 

A post shared by Justin Bieber (@justinbieber) on

"We both live in LA and that's not too far from my house really, where all those fires are kicking off, it's absolutely horrific," Niall said. 

"Three to four hundred homes destroyed and people's lives in tatters, so I thought about it when Justin reached out and sent that video."

In the video, Justin said: "I'm going to have a conversation with some people and we are going to get moving on a solution. Obviously I'm not a fireman but I can use my resources to figure out ways to get some sort of restoration in certain communities.

"Fundraisers or whatever we can do. I'm going to get on that and in the meantime all the families and everyone who are struggling, just know that everything is going to be OK."

Niall quickly responded, (in the most Irish way possible) letting the Despacito singer know that he was willing and able to help. 

"Good man. Give me a shout if ya need a hand," he wrote. 

It is not yet known what fundraising method the star will choose, though we're sure these guys will produce something really special. 

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Animal lovers, listen up! 

The ISPCA is bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase 'too cute for words' with the launch of its new Petmoji App.

Available for download on Apple iOS devices, this fun and exciting app allows users to support the charity's tremendous work by sharing a range of adorable Petmojis with their family and friends.

Developed in association with Banshee Apps, the ISPCA say they were delighted when the company's founder approached them with the idea.

Speaking about his desire to work with the charity, Adrian Parkes said: “With smartphones becoming almost universal and emoji’s becoming a second language, it’s very much part of our day-to-day digital conversations.  I admire the work of the ISPCA and I wanted to help out in a fun and creative way.”

ISPCA Ambassador Holly White and Fair City actress Aoibheann McCaul called on all animal lovers to support such a worthy cause.

The ISPCA rely heavily on fundraising to keep their services up and running, with 88 per cent of the charity's funding coming from public donations.

Banshee Apps hope to raise €10,000 for the ISPCA through 10,000 downloads of the Petmoji App.

The basic model will cost €1.99 per app downloaded and the ISPCA will receive €1 from every sale.

The app is now available for iOS users and can be downloaded from the link on the ISPCA online shop 

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