It takes passion to bring natural beauty back to Loch Ness

Through the Aviva Community Fund, The Boleskine House Foundation raised over £22,000 to re-establish Loch Ness’s historic wildflower meadows to support pollinators and boost carbon capture. 

Colourful wildflower meadows were once a very common sight across Britain’s countryside. But experts say that we’ve lost 97% of the nation’s meadows since the 1930s, leaving many native plant species and the biodiversity they support in peril. It’s one of the big reasons populations of vital pollinators such as bees have seen such a dramatic decline.

Spurred on by this worrying trend, The Boleskine House Foundation is dedicated to restoring five acres of their land to its former glory. By cultivating a new wildflower meadow on land that looks out across the shores of Loch Ness, they’ll bring a rich burst of colour and life back to the landscape.

Funds will be used to sow hundreds of thousands of native Scottish wildflower seeds, as well as investing in machinery and tools to both maintain the meadow and gather clippings that enable wildflowers to be sown in new locations.

The Foundation is also building pathways and benches through the meadow so that visitors will be able to experience the meadow and enjoy the breath-taking views without causing harm to bees, bugs and the flowers themselves. 

“We are passionate about conserving our built heritage and preserving and enhancing our natural environment” says Foundation Chair Keith Readdy. “One of the largest things the community wanted was to preserve the environment around us. We want to make the largest wildflower meadow around Loch Ness. It’s going to lower our carbon footprint, but also help facilitate biodiversity.”

In addition to restoring vital ecosystems for bees, bugs and insects, the Grasslands Trust estimate that tree planting can store up to 1.4 tonnes of carbon per hectare and wildflower meadows up to three tonnes. Which makes wildflower meadows an excellent way to combat the climate emergency. 

It’s a project that’s already caught the imagination of the local community, who have pitched in with gusto. And Keith’s just as focused on spreading the word about the benefits of wildflower meadows beyond the Loch Ness area: “We want to educate visitors and tourists on how to create small meadows at home so that together we can reverse the decline.”

“We’re absolutely over the moon with the success we’ve been able to accomplish with Aviva from the donations we’ve received” says Keith. For the Loch Ness landscape, a brighter future is already on the horizon. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

To follow the progress of the wildflower meadow project, visit the Boleskine Foundation Facebook page. Sowing the seeds of something beautiful yourself? Apply to the Aviva Community Fund today.

It takes vision to see the hidden potential of seagrass

Did you know seagrass is one of our best defences against climate change? One of our inspiring climate-focused Aviva Community Fund causes, Project Seagrass knows this all too well.

So, to show our support we’ve given them a boost and helped them raise over £19,000 towards their exploration into seagrass restoration across the UK. 

For centuries, coastal seagrass meadows provided communities with livelihoods, food security and medicines. They produce oxygen, clean our coastal water, absorb CO2 and help to keep our ocean healthy which stabilises the climate —both global and local. Not to mention, seagrass provides habitat and feeding grounds for thousands of species of fish, invertebrates, birds, reptiles and mammals.

The forgotten hero of carbon sequestration, you may be shocked to learn despite covering only 0.1% of the seafloor, seagrass is responsible for more than 10% of the organic carbon buried in the ocean. Which makes this next stat even more shocking: we have lost 35% of our seagrass globally since 1980. In the UK, we have lost at least 50% and as much as 92% in the last century.

That’s where Project Seagrass come in. Their mission is to replant and restore large areas of seagrass meadows that have been lost or damaged. This is done through collecting, processing and replanting seeds in viable areas, using a large-scale seagrass nursery to cultivate and harvest the seeds.

The Aviva funding is being used to grow and develop the seagrass nursery, running trials to refine the team’s approach to seagrass restoration. As seagrass aquarist, Elise de Tourtoulon-Adams, explains, “the nursery is allowing us to upscale and hopefully we can grow, cultivate and harvest seagrass seeds that are then used in our restoration projects.”

“This seagrass nursery is the first of its kind in the UK. A successful and productive nursery would allow us to cultivate and harvest seeds for our restoration projects on a much larger scale. The development and management of a nursery would allow the genetic diversity of seeds to be carefully planned and monitored, would significantly reduce the cost of seed collection, and would reduce the health and safety risks of current collection techniques. All of this will help Project Seagrass to reach the ambitious goal of restoring 2,500 hectares of UK by 2050.”

It’s an ambition the community in and around Laugharne Wales are very invested in, with local schools and charity groups visiting the project to learn and lend a hand.

With Aviva funding, Elise is optimistic about the potential the Seagrass Project has to make a huge impact on how we address climate change. “I get so excited for every single step that we make. This is an opportunity to create a blueprint for UK seagrass restoration to ensure future efforts are even more successful. Without investments like this, seagrass restoration at scale would not be possible.”

“Together we make things happen and we’re really proud of everything everyone does.” Elise’s words are a powerful reminder of the brighter future that’s possible. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

You can dive into the details of Project Seagrass’s progress on their website. And if you have a project of your own that’s helping to transform our planet for the better, apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

It takes positive thinking to build a carbon negative community hall

Tulse Hill’s Straw Bale Build is a unique community centre, self-built by local residents and volunteers using a range of innovative green building techniques.

What started life as a plan for a new hall for Tulse Hill’s Holy Trinity Church evolved into something much more forward-thinking and community-centric when the team began to explore the idea of building with straw bales.

Says vicar, Richard Dormandy, “Our focus became much more on it being a hall for the community with hands-on ownership. We realised that this could be a project that was really inclusive – we’ve had children from primary school to community payback. We’ve had people in their 80s teaching people in their teens.”

In fact, over 500 people have put their hearts into this hugely ambitious project since the Tulse Hill team got the ball rolling five years ago. The idea was to actively combat climate change by creating a community hub that was not just carbon neutral, but carbon negative. That means using materials and techniques that store up CO2 rather than releasing it by choosing, among other things, sustainably forested timber for the building frame and straw-bales for the walls.  

Agricultural straw is used to make compressed bales – surprisingly both extremely strong and fire-resistant – which are plastered using clay dug from the project’s own foundations, and rendered on the outside with lime – a carbon-neutral product. And that’s just the start – solar panelled roofing will power the centre and church, while tyres saved from landfill provide an incredibly strong and stable building foundation. 

As the project nears completion, the Aviva funding will help towards the cost of the building’s heating, cooling and ventilation system, which uses an innovative Air Source Heat Pump to generate energy from shifts in air temperature.  

Once complete, the straw build centre is expected to be enjoyed by around 4,000 people a year. But what’s more, as Europe’s largest urban straw construction, it’s helping to change the way people think about construction in the light of climate change. Together, we can make a brighter future happen. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

You can keep up with the progress of the Tulse Hill Straw Bale Build on Facebook. And if you’ve got a project that’s building something special, apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

It takes channelling children’s eco-ambitions

The Final Straw Foundation helps educate and inspire our next generation of climate champions through their network of Youth Eco Clubs.

These hugely popular clubs run fun and innovative activities to make children aware of the issues facing our planet, and ways that we can combat them. From planting and pollinators to upcycling and composting, the children learn many different ways we can all help our environment and wildlife.

Director of Operations Lizzie Pollard says, We wanted to engage the younger generation to really think about the environment in their day-to-day lives, and give them ideas of what they could do on a personal level to help tackle the climate crisis.”

With a focus on education, the clubs also encourage kids to think of their own ideas to help their local environment – like what they can plant in their gardens and what changes they can make at home to help combat climate change.

“The things we do are not sit-down, paperwork activities – they’re real get-your-hands-dirty, get-in-there stuff,” explains the charity’s CEO and Founder, Bianca Carr. “The kids are really keen and they’ve been carrying on lots of the work at home.”

And it’s clear the message is hitting home, as nine-year-old Billy – an enthusiastic Eco Club participant – confirms: “We can’t just stand and watch what’s happening to our environment. We need to try and help our animals – and Eco Club has inspired me to do that.”

With the help of Aviva funding, The Final Straw Foundation can help educate and inspire even more children from all walks of life. Together, we can make a brighter future happen. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

Is your project creating change? Need support to make it happen?  Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today. 

You can follow The Final Straw Foundation to learn about their work on Facebook – or take a look at their website.

It takes fighting the rising tide of ocean plastic

[email protected] raised £5,000 to develop machines that will recycle ocean plastic picked up from local beaches and give it a second life.

Their Plastic Lab is developing machinery prototypes to make fence posts from waste plastic with the help of the Aviva Community Fund.

[email protected] cofounder Dr Joan D’Arcy says, “It’s important to give ocean plastic a second life because if we don’t recycle it, it ends up in landfill. We’re keeping what other people have thought of as waste and basically putting it back into circulation. When we recycle ocean plastic into a clock or a fence post, it’s something that’s going to be around for many, many more years.

As co-founder Julien Moreau explained, the intention of the project is to create value from waste. The organisation picks up between five and 10 tons of plastic waste from local beaches each year – and could pick up even more with additional helpers. Instead of just sending the waste plastic to landfill, for every fence post they make, the Plastic Lab could recycle around 16kg of ocean plastic. 

On top of reducing plastic pollution, products made from recycled plastic generally create up to 82% less carbon emissions than those made with virgin plastic. And [email protected] has a good market for the fence posts on their doorstep due to the farming community they are part of – keeping the carbon footprint even lower.

Importantly, by clearing plastic from local beaches, the team are also helping to prevent danger and death to wildlife and are playing a part in helping to prevent tiny plastic particles entering the food chain. So, with the help of Aviva’s funding, [email protected] can achieve more of their environmental aims. Together, we can make a brighter future happen. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

Have you got a smart thinking project that needs support?  Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today. 

You can follow [email protected] to learn about their work on Facebook or take a look at their website.

It takes fighting ecological collapse, one bee at a time

Pollenize raised over £8,000 to fund an artificial intelligence beehive project that has the potential to save Britain’s native bees.

These Artificial Intelligence (AI) beehives are the beginning of a pioneering research and conservation plan to understand how factors like weather and climate impact bee behaviour and populations. 

Pollenize co-founder, Matthew Elmes says: “The waggle dance is how one bee communicates to another bee where the best flowers are. It’s a bit like a bee GPS system. We’re working on decoding this dance to work out where the bees are going in real time.”

By kitting out beehives with cameras, accelerometers and other sensors that feed into a machine-learning computer, Pollenize will build up a picture of how bees respond to changes to their environmental conditions. Alongside genetic analysis of the pollen collected, this will help Pollenize better understand the foraging behaviour of our native honey bees  and inform climate-resilient planting. This strategy will protect and boost populations of bees and other wild pollinators for years to come.

Of particular focus for Pollenize is encouraging the UK’s native dark honey bees – a population that has seen steep decline over the course of the 20th century. “Traditionally, beekeepers have imported bees from around Europe and this has caused hybridisation amongst populations,” says Matthew. “The native honey bee is adapted to this local climate, therefore it’s the best one to use.”

With the help of Aviva funding, Pollenize will be able to equip two of their reserves with the AI technology and further boost the numbers of Britain’s humble bee.

With the help of Aviva funding, Pollenize will be able to equip two of their reserves with the AI technology and further boost the numbers of Britain’s humble bee. Together, we can make a brighter future happen. Getting there takes you. It takes Aviva.

Would your project benefit from funding or support with how to generate a local buzz? Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today. Follow Pollenize Cornwall to learn about their work on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

Ensuring blind children aren’t left out of the picture

The Aviva Community Fund helped Living Paintings raise £10,000 for their innovative project for a brighter future.

Living Paintings creates Touch to See books, which use raised images and immersive audio recordings to help blind and partially sighted people understand the world around them. Through their free postal library service, these unique books reach 15,500 people across the UK – including 8,000 children.

In their aim to help more people access their groundbreaking work, the charity recognised the potential for virtual reality to change the way blind and partially sighted people experience the visual world. With the right resources, they could develop VR technology in never-before-seen ways, taking the Touch to See experience into the future. But it would take funding and technical expertise to make it happen.

Living Paintings applied to the Aviva Community Fund – and raised £10,000.

30 years ago, we completely broke new ground in making it possible for blind and partially sighted people to see pictures,” explains Camilla Oldland, CEO at Living Paintings, “and now this project is looking at how we can take the next step. I believe that the use of virtual reality could really revolutionise the way that images can be made accessible to all blind and partially sighted people.”

With the funding secured, the charity is now working with Sky Arts and Factory42 to explore the possibilities of virtual reality sensory gloves.

The Aviva Community Fund has made it possible for us now to take this step into a whole new world, so it’s really exciting and we couldn’t do it without them,” Camilla says.

This ambitious project could help blind and partially sighted children and adults become more included in our visual world – an incredible vision for the future.

Do you need funding or support to see your project become a success? Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

Follow Living Paintings to learn about their work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Making kids’ first aid their first priority

Millie’s Trust raised over £10,000 through the Aviva Community Fund to provide mental health first aid training to people who work with children.

Based in Cheadle Hulme, Millie’s Trust is a charity with a special purpose.

Our daughter Millie passed away when she choked in her nursery,” says Joanne Thompson, CEO of Millie’s Trust. “We decided that we wanted to do something in her memory and the only thing we could think about was that she needed first aid that day.”

Joanne and her husband Dan founded Millie’s Trust to provide paediatric first aid training to parents and people who work with children. The charity then expanded its scope to include first aid in the workplace, and recently, they’ve moved into another area: mental health.

Following the death of my daughter, I suffered a lot with mental health problems. Having those problems and getting through them made me want to help other people as well,” Joanne says.

Millie’s Trust decided to offer youth mental health first aid courses, which are designed to give people who work with children the knowledge to spot the signs of mental health problems. It can make all the difference to children who are suffering in silence, meaning they get the help they need at an early stage.

But the charity knew it would be difficult for many people to raise the money to attend. They wanted to subsidise as many places as possible – so they applied to the Aviva Community Fund.

Through Crowdfunder, Millie’s Trust hit their £10,000 target. It’s enough money to train 140 people in youth mental health first aid. That’s 140 more teachers, youth workers, and healthcare workers who can help children with mental health problems – and potentially hundreds of children’s lives changed for the better.

Can we aid your project with funding or support? Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

Follow Millie’s Trust to learn about their work on FacebookTwitterInstagram.

Creating a recipe for turning lives around

Through the Aviva Community Fund, The Feed raised over £10,000 to provide therapy for the people in Norwich who need it the most.

The Feed isn’t just a café – it’s a social enterprise. All of its profits go towards training and support for people facing barriers to employment. Based entirely in their café and catering business, The Feed’s four-week training course provides key skills for working in the hospitality industry, as well as a sense of achievement.

Four weeks doesn’t seem like a long time, but we see a lot of changes in the people that come through our training,” says the Feed’s General Manager Lucy Parish. “Somebody might come in on day one frightened, anxious, and unsure – but by being somewhere that’s welcoming and supportive, we see them become such a different person.”

After the course, trainees receive a further four weeks of work experience, helping them take their next steps towards work and volunteering opportunities.

If I apply for a catering job now, I’ve got this on the record and it will help me on my CV,” says one of The Feed’s graduates.

Many trainees have experienced homelessness, substance misuse, and mental health problems – complex issues that can have a significant impact on their self-esteem. The Feed realised that to reach their goal of long-term employment, these people would need therapy as well as training.

The Feed applied to the Aviva Community Fund to raise the money for a specialist Trauma Therapist and raised over £10,000.

It’s really exciting that we’ve been awarded this money, because we can now pay for the therapy that’s needed for quite a large percentage of our clients, so that they can move forward in their lives,” says Lucy.

The money from the Aviva Community Fund will cover therapeutic support for the next twelve months. It means The Feed can help more people overcome their challenges and move towards a more positive future – a real recipe for success.

Is your project hungry for funding or support? Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

Follow The Feed to learn about their work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.

Making opportunities accessible to all

Topcats raised over £11,000 towards the cost of a minibus to help young people with complex needs access more opportunities.

Topcats runs activity programmes for children and young people with complex needs in Lowestoft. It’s a deprived area, where specialist support and equipment are not always accessible – meaning these young people can often miss out on opportunities available to their peers.

By providing access to fun, fulfilling and accessible opportunities, Topcats aims to help young people develop their confidence and independence. The specially developed ‘Topcats diploma’ helps young people build the skills they need to live independently, such as cooking and first aid.

But the charity didn’t have the use of accessible transport. Staff had to use their cars to take young people to activities, which incurred significant costs in insurance and mileage. What’s more, some young people with mobility needs could not get to Topcats at all. The charity needed an adapted minibus.

In need of funding, Topcats applied to the Aviva Community Fund – and raised over £11,000.

The difference that this funding is going to make is that we can purchase our own bus,” says Topcats’ Service Manager Anne Marie Battrick. “It’s going to widen the opportunities for the young people that attend our service and enable them to access more facilities.”

With a bus that everyone can access, Topcats’ young people can go further than ever before. It’ll mean more opportunities to learn and develop, from accessing work experience to attending field trips.

Does your project need funding or support to go the distance? Apply for the Aviva Community Fund today.

Follow Topcats to learn about their work on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram.