AS CHRISTMAS approaches, the Independent has, for the third time, relaxed its rule on editorial control and opened its pages to charities.

Last month the paper invited organisations to write their own copy, in 150 words, for publication in this special report. The aim is to allow charities to speak for themselves and, we hope, more directly to those who will help. This year we have printed a contact telephone number at the end of each charity's article.

Each submission was judged on the basis of editorial value, originality and available space. The selection panel, chaired by Sir Gordon Downey, the Independent Readers' Representative, sorted through hundreds of entries; the high quality of submissions made the final choice extremely difficult.

The selection was made without knowledge of which charities were advertising.

Those articles not chosen will be considered for the regular charity column edited by Joanna Gibbon and published each Saturday on the Gazette page.


JACKIE, who had been married for 19 years, had three children and a comfortable lifestyle - until two years ago. Her life was transformed when her husband abandoned her, leaving the family without money, under threat of losing their home and facing mounting bills, poverty, insecurity and loneliness.

Jackie became one of more than 1 million lone parents caring for more than 2 million children in Britain today.

We give practical advice, information and training to those with the challenge of bringing up children alone. The charity is committed to providing the support and help that lone parents need to survive, become independent and make plans for the future. (Tel: 071-267 1361)

The Council for Music in Hospitals

LIGHT classics, jazz, flamenco, old-time music hall - such concerts are given each day by the musicians working for the Council of Music in Hospitals. This year, 3,000 performances, including 400 Christmas concerts, have taken place in hospitals, homes and hospices in Britain.

One hospital commented: 'When you think of sitting all day, every day surrounded by the four walls of a hospital ward, the enjoyment of a concert is beyond words.' A patient wrote: 'The artists made each patient feel special and they took me back to bygone days.' Please help us to provide more of these events. (Tel: 0932-252809)


JUST one small book giving vital medical and health knowledge can save more lives than several tons of food aid. This is the experience of TALC (Teaching Aids at Low Cost), which supplies books and health equipment to developing countries. Books such as the best-selling Where there is no Doctor are renowned in the developing world for the help they have given health workers desperately looking for a cure and unable to make a diagnosis.

TALC is also a leader in the fight against Aids, particularly in Africa, and distributes a wide range of material which promotes informed positive thinking and practical action by all sections of society in dealing with Aids. (Tel: 0727-53869)


IMPRESARIOS, anxious to put bums on West End seats, would probably not look to a group which is both a charity and a theatre company, writing and composing its own productions and including in its membership those with disabilities. A worthy cause but not one worthy of their support, they might conclude.

Yet an oddly titled, little-known north London theatre company is challenging successful mainstream theatre and sending West End audiences queueing round the block. Chicken Shed believes the secret of its popular appeal is that it is not a caring group but a theatre company that cares - about its members, its audience and the future of mainstream theatre.

A worthy cause? Or rather, a cause worth seeing? Book one of the few remaining tickets for The Night Before Christmas showing at the Place Theatre (15-19 December) and see for yourself. Tel: 081-364-4699


WE ARE the major national organisation offering a care attendant service in the home. The charity provides 20,000 families with regular help, relieving those who provide long-term care, sometimes round the clock, for disabled or elderly relatives. By easing some of the pressure, Crossroads helps people to stay with their families and in the community.

One in seven adults looks after a relative who is disabled. But not all carers are adults. Stephen is 10 and cares for his mother who has multiple sclerosis. He has little contact with his father, who has moved away. He helps his mum to do most things. He does the cooking. He does his homework during school breaks. Because he doesn't have time for play, his school mates think he is 'a bit peculiar'. (Tel: 0788 573653)


'UNTIL he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.' (Albert Schweitzer) The Athene Trust is the educational wing of Compassion in World Farming. Our aim is to promote concern for the welfare of farm animals.

The advent of factory farming in the past 40 years has led to animals being reared in huge concentrations indoors. Today most farm animals are housed either in appallingly overcrowded conditions, as with battery hens, or in stalls so narrow that they cannot even turn round, as with pregnant sows.

Through its educational work in schools, in the academic world and among the general public, the Trust seeks to increase awareness of farm animal welfare concerns. (Tel: 0730-268070)


WE ARE a small national charity, established in 1985. The need for counselling to be made available to the Asian community is of paramount importance as Asian marriages are cracking under the stress of adapting to Western models of marital life. Young Asian women suffer from a conflict of cultures: family pressure to accept the traditional 'arranged' marriage and the desire to follow their own inclinations. In desperation they often run away and, ill-equipped to look after themselves, they land in trouble.

We need to train and pay for more counsellors and to rent proper premises. The organisation is competing for funds with long-established charities working in the marriage counselling field. Without a royal patron, or influential friends who would help to attract government or private funds, we are not likely to survive. (Tel: 081-997 5749)


IMAGINE that the most basic necessity of life and health - water - is a muddy hole in a dried up river bed, and is also contaminated. For 2 billion people - half the world's population - there is no need to imagine. Polluted water is their only choice. Every three seconds a child dies from a water-related disease.

WaterAid - an independent charity created by the British water industry - helps communities in Africa and Asia to build their own safe water sources. We've supplied the tools and know-how to sink tube wells in Kenya, install hand-pumps in India and provide storage tanks in Sierra Leone. Already 1.5 million people have improved their water supplies. Many more are waiting for the opportunity. (Tel: 071-233 3157)


A LIFETIME in an institution without heat or running water, staffed by unqualified nurses - or survival, somehow, in a community which does not understand special needs. Until now, there has been no other option for Albanians with learning difficulties. The East European Partnership, set up two years ago by Voluntary Service Overseas, and Mencap is this year providing Albania with the first long-term development aid the country has seen.

Eight volunteers flew out in September build a mental health care programme. Special-needs teachers and social workers are fostering the voluntary sector and devising a staff training programme for institutional care - in orphanages, psychiatric hospitals and old people's homes. They are helping people to help themselves. (Tel: 081-780 2266)


MOST museums are not designed for children. They contain exhibits in glass cases and signs that say 'Don't Touch'. The Discovery Factory will take the opposite approach. It will contain only things for children to touch, explore and try out for themselves. Children will be able to learn about communication from hieroglyphics to fax machines, explore a fire engine complete with greasy pole and firemen's boots or check-out groceries in a scaled-down supermarket.

The Discovery Factory is a non-profit-making charitable company. It is is seeking premises in London and funding for individual exhibits. (Tel: 071-229-0070)


IT'S three o'clock on a sunny afternoon and I'm about to go diving at Nailsea, near Bristol. Have I remembered my knitting? Intrigued? Step inside the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre where daily activities are underway .

The physiotherapists are retraining wasted muscles, the dietician is advising on diet 'high in polyunsaturates', the Welfare Officer is talking about Mobility Allowance. My group is about to dive - or, rather, to undergo Hyperbaric Oxygen treatment - in a pressurised diving bell breathing pure oxygen for an hour. In the lounge 12 visitors are sharing experiences and discussing ways of raising funds to keep the Centre going, until a cure is discovered. Another day ends and we go home feeling better for the treatment. It must go on, and the money must keep coming. (Tel: 0275-858806)


THIS month, most parents will embark on shopping sprees for Christmas. However, Julie, one of many mothers living on benefits, sees the festive season as a time of guilt and worry. After years surviving on benefits, she watches in despair as her four children write lists of presents they have no hope of receiving. She misses meals three days a week to save money and buy the children second-hand gifts.

'I hate this time of year,' she says. 'The kids start making up their presents lists. They say 'We know we can't have them, Mum, but we can dream'.'

The Children's Society tries to alleviate the problems of poverty and isolation that struggling families face through 47 centres in England and Wales. 'They get a present each from The Children's Society. They really look forward to that. They know it's brand new.' (Tel: 071-837-4299)


MENTAL illness destroys human lives. It kills four times as many people as road accidents each year. For millions of others it causes pain, misery, confusion and isolation destroying relationships, careers, and self respect, leaving people in utter despair. One in 10 people are affected every year: six million men and women, children. It is the biggest single health problem faing society and yet it remains the least funded and the least understood.

The Mental Health Foundation is dedicated to finding solutions, to raising awareness and increasing the money available for medical research and community initiatives - research into Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia; projects to tackle homelessness, to provide employment opportunities, to understand eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. (Tel: 071-580-0145)


HE WAS a fine boy. Friendly, full of fun, adventurous - suddenly believed he could fly. Of course he was out of his mind. It was the solvent. He tried it for a laugh. His mates were doing it - gave them a real buzz. Plenty of solvent things around the house - didn't even have to buy it. He was dead on arrival at hospital - one of the three young people who die every week from sniffing solvents.

Re-Solv, the only national charity concerned solely with solvent abuse, works through an educational project for adults and young people. Nearly half the deaths were at home - their parents unaware. Re-Solv believes increased awareness saves lives. (Tel: 0785-817885)


WHEN H G Wells was President of International PEN he wrote: 'PEN, in its own fashion, maintains the concept of an intellectual and aesthetic world republic; it asserts the faith in the ultimate triumph of the true brotherhood of man.'

The International PEN Foundation supports the aims of the organisation founded in London in 1921. These are to aid writers to meet freely to discuss their work and to exchange ideas; to promote the translation of contemporary literature from minority languages into world languages; and to provide moral and financial support for writers imprisoned or harassed in their own countries because of their writing. (Tel: 071-253-4308)


TO BE disowned by your parents is to suffer a special kind of hurt. Although most parents manage to cope with learning that a daughter is lesbian, or that a son is gay, fear and ignorance drive some to reject their children.

The streets are no place for anyone to live, least of all vulnerable, often suicidal, youngsters grieving the loss of the most important relationship in their lives. The Albert Kennedy Trust helps teenagers who become homeless because they are lesbian or gay. We find them a safe place to stay with older lesbians and gay men who can use their own experience to help heal the hurt of rejection. Then we try to reconcile parents with children so that they can return home. We save lives - and families. (Tel: 061-953-4059)


EVERY child dreams of a special Christmas gift - a mountain bike, video game . . . But there will also be children whose only dream is for the hurt and pain to go away. Like Steven, whose arm was broken because he cried too much, Hilary, traumatised by years of sexual abuse, and Suzette, who spent Christmas alone without heat, light or food.

The NSPCC helps these dreams come true. Our staff work with children and their families, to protect children and prevent abuse and neglect. And we help them overcome their ordeal. Abused children are fearful, suspicious and depressed. Our staff help them to make sense of what has happened, to realise it is not their fault and help rebuild their lives. If you have concerns about a child's safety call our Helpline on 0800 800 500.


GREY autumn afternoon. Tracey puts together a fund-raising package to help the Trust in the recession. Jo rings schools about the Woodland Festival, offering reduced rates to schools in disadvantaged areas.

In the Conservation Section, Helen talks to local residents. Jan on the phone: 'Well, badgers are now fully protected under recent law . . .' Doors bang, noise and bustle, the Woodspring Team blow in looking damp. Heads jerk up - someone's making tea. Downstairs, visitors browse in the exhibition, and in the shop Shirley sells a china badger to a child.

Back in Marketing, a shout across the room: 'Does anyone know anything about swans?' Suzi and Steve discuss the direct membership drive while Jo calculates numbers of children and how to fit them all in . . . (Tel: 0272-268018/265490)


IN 1854 in Liverpool a young Catholic priest, Father James Nugent, succeeded, in a city notorious for its political and religious divisions, in uniting Catholic and Protestant, Whig and Tory, in a campaign to overcome child homelessness. At the time, 20,000 children under the age of 12 lived on the streets. By the time he died in 1905, by setting up homes and training schools, Father Nugent had given a good start in life to thousands of such children.

Today The Nugent Care Society remains committed, in Father Nugent's words, to 'working with and for all people of goodwill', regardless of race, sex or creed. (Tel: 051-708-0566)


'WHEN I became disabled I thought that my useful life was finished. Then a wheelchair-user and virtually housebound, I found this loss of independence almost too much to bear. I didn't know where to go for information on getting out and about - the key to independence.

Then I discovered Tripscope - the charity which provides a travel and transport information service for disabled and elderly people. Thanks to their help I can now get out and about again.' (Tel: 081-994 9294)


THIS Special Report coincides with a birthday celebration. For, this week, the Solas Centre in Edinburgh is one year old. Solas is Scotland's only centre designed to meet the needs of people who are HIV-positive or who have Aids and also of their carers and families.

The Centre is of vital importance to an area which has the highest per capita rate of HIV infection and the highest number of women and children affected in the UK. 'Solas' is a Gaelic word meaning 'light and comfort'. The Centre offers a broad range of facilities and a positive approach to living well. Any birthday presents would be warmly welcomed and much appreciated. (Tel: 031-661-0982)


BILL and Joan had been married for 31 years when her dementia was recognised. Now she is doubly incontinent, no longer recognises her friends but is happy at home. Bill cares for all her needs, making ends meet with benefits. He would not want it any other way. But there is seldom sufficient to pay for half a day's relief care or the occasional uninterrupted night's sleep, let alone a few days respite. When the washing machine had to be replaced it was a major crisis. The Betty Rhodes Fund helped with a grant to buy a washing machine and is paying for enough care to give Bill a regular break - the difference between Joan staying at home or having to enter residential care. We could help many others if we had the funds. (Tel: 071-222-9011)


PRECOCIOUS for its age, Buskaid has an encouraging number of achievements to its credit since an initial fund-raising event on 6 March 1992. On this day thousands of commuters were serenaded by more than 100 leading professional classical musicians giving 18 simultaneous 'concerts' hosted by British Rail.

Inspired by an article in the Independent on Sunday these musicians were playing in support of Kolwane Mantu, a Sowetan violinist giving free lessons in a township to dozens of deprived black youngsters. Using the money raised on 6 March, Buskaid is sustaining Kolwane's project and has assisted in bringing over a young Sowetan violinist to study in Manchester. Buskaid is committed to musical educational projects to enhance the lives of these young township musicians. (Tel: 071-435-3040)


THERE'S something about a brightly coloured double-decker that puts a smile on people's faces. Buses were certainly important to my nephew Ben. For weeks it was the only word he could spell.

We see the smiles all the time. Playbuses offer a lifeline for communities in Britain which are otherwise untouched by health and social service provision. People will visit a bus - whether it's young parents isolated in flats, a teenager worried about HIV infection, or young people wanting somewhere to meet.

You may not have heard of us before. But you probably don't live in the inner city or an isolated rural area where most of our work is done. In which case you've missed a lot of smiles] (Tel: 0272 775375)


THINKING of buying a duvet for Christmas? Find out the facts behind the feathers first. Would you sleep as soundly knowing that your pillows and duvet were filled with feathers and down that had been ripped from live geese? In Hungary, China and Poland factory-farmed geese are plucked live to provide feathers and down for the lucrative bedding market. Once the feathers have regrown, the process is repeated. Live-plucking is thus more profitable than waiting until the bird is slaughtered. The charity has campaigned for more than 30 years to publicise the cruelty involved in fashion products such as down, fur, cosmetics, exotic skins, silk and bristle, and to promote cruelty-free alternatives. (Tel: 071-254-2929)


THE recession is damaging families. Mr J had a small business. It went bankrupt and his home was repossessed. Mr and Mrs J and their three children moved to cramped emergency accommodation. Mr J could not cope - he swung between silent despair and violent rages. One day he hit the kids, and Mrs J had him thrown out. So there he was: homeless, no work, no family. There was Mrs J: no husband, no security and very scared for the future. And there were the kid: no dad, frightened and confused.

We helped in all sorts of ways: a grant to buy furniture; advice on getting a grant to retrain; social workers to help them plan their future. We can help families beat the recession. (Tel: 071-254 6251)


MOTORCYCLIST in 2am mercy dash to blood bank made another dash at 3am and turned up for the day job as usual. Service by Emergency Rider Volunteers (SERV) delivers to hospitals every night from 7pm to 6am and offers 24-hour cover over Christmas and New Year.

SERV is staffed by fully trained, unpaid riders and drivers using their own transport. We deliver urgent samples, blood, organs and medical supplies during the night at no cost to hospitals.

We may deliver an urgent blood sample to help your child or loved one tonight. Rain, sleet or snow, we'll be out there. We desperately need volunteers and hard cash. (Tel: 081-942-8070)


MUSIC for deaf children? To many people this idea seems incongruous. And yet music is vital to every deaf child. The Beethoven Fund is devoted to providing musical speech therapy to schools for the deaf in the UK. Special musical instruments are provided and their vibrations help hearing impaired children to reproduce the rhythm and melody of speech - the gateway to the hearing world.

We are currently funding centres all over Britain where deaf children can go for expert tuition in musical speech therapy. (tel 071-586-8107)


IF YOU walked the length of every footpath and bridleway in Britain, your journey would take you five times round the world - some 134,000 miles. But so many of our paths are impassable that you would hit a dead end shortly after Cairo on the fifth circuit, travelling east.

The Ramblers' Association wants to make all our paths usable again by the year 2000. This goal came a step closer on Forbidden Britain Day, when thousands of Ramblers tackled the everyday problems of illegally obstructed or diverted paths that so often spoil a country walk: barbed wire, broken stiles and Keep Out signs. And they met with stunning success, reporting that 50 per cent of the problems they took up were solved or are under negotiation. (Tel: 071-582-6878)


Green hair] Ghettoblaster] Safety pins] One boot] Hypodermic] Slammed doors] Drugs] Fear] Sex] No hair]

WHAT picture do these words create? Punks? Drug addicts? Moody adolescents? Possibly . but all can be associated with teenage cancer patients. When green hair highlights your 17-year-old identity, and chemotherapy robs you of your emerald tresses - who are you? A problem for 'Ron' - a patient in our Teenage Cancer Unit.

Sweet 16, and fixed to a drip - will your boyfriend still fancy you? How could 'Sally' handle that?

Cancer in adolescence is devastating. It undermines your developing confidence and independence, and can wreck your life. Help us prevent that by supporting us in the provision of specialist, regional teenage cancer units. (Tel: 071-436-2877)


THE Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (GTS) is a disorder with onset in childhood and characterised by nervous tics and the urge to make noises, including grunting or barking. Other symptoms may include swearing inappropriately, obsessive behaviours and hyperactivity. GTS is believed to be genetic and due to a subtle imbalance in brain chemistry.

The Tourette Syndrome Association helps sufferers and their families. Underdiagnosis and misdiagnosis often cause further suffering. The Association aims to undertake an awareness programme in schools and GP practices. A respite home has been established to enable GTS sufferers and their families to take a holiday. (Tel: 081-304-5446)

PLAN International UK

'IF I COULD, I would swallow my children back into my stomach so that I do not have to see them suffer in this way.' These are the words of Maria Munyangani struggling to keep her three children alive in Zimbabwe during the worst drought in living memory. She is one of thousands whose lives are threatened.

PLAN International has been running a feeding programme supplying more than 200,000 children in Zimbabwe with one meal a day. It has launched an Emergency Appeal for the Drought to continue this programme until the next crops are harvested. PLAN has stepped up its bore-hole programme to supply water, without which people like Maria have very little hope. (Tel: 0800 526848)

(Photograph omitted)