group of climbers celebrating

Charities tackling the summertime blues

The summer season is upon us. People are gearing up for exciting months ahead—for the well-heeled, that may involve the Chelsea Flower Show or centre court at Wimbledon, togging up for Glyndebourne or donning wellies for Glastonbury.

But summer brings its fair share of challenges, too. For the young, it is dominated by exam pressures, first sitting them and then agonising over the results. Parents face the everlasting conundrum of trying to manage childcare during the long summer holidays.

There are a range of great charities addressing these issues. Exam stress seems to be getting worse: the NSPCC recently found that academic worries were the biggest cause of stress in nearly 50% of children. Mental health charities are to be applauded for being on top of these problems: Mind, YoungMinds and the NSPCC themselves all provide information packs on where to find help—incredibly valuable to parents and children alike as the summer looms.

Other projects can help summer pass a bit more smoothly, sometimes in more than one way at the same time. Charities can be effective at getting kids active and out the house, for example, which has obvious benefits for them; but if children are occupied over the long holidays then pressure also eases on parents.

The Outward Bound Trust, for instance, runs outdoor learning programmes particularly focused on bringing positive experiences to adolescents from deprived backgrounds. The programmes have a decent record improving self-esteem (something we know in part from their use of NPC’s Well-being Measure).

Similarly, the Sutton Trust’s summer school programme allows bright students from non-privileged homes a taste of life at a leading university—85% of attendees will be the first generation in their family to attend university. Again, the results are great: three-quarters of summer school students go on to leading universities.

Meanwhile some of us, out and about at this summer’s events, will be working with organisations who are doing social good even if we don’t realise it. The outreach programmes of leading cultural institutions are well-known, but I was pleased to discover that Glyndebourne’s Education Department has partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society and Royal Academy of Music to run Raise Your Voice—an opera project for local people living with dementia, based around an opera from the season’s festival. The benefits of the arts on health outcomes are becoming increasingly well-documented, so it’s a creative approach to be welcomed.

But I didn’t get to thinking about all this because of opera and universities. My inspiration was actually toilets.

The company Loowatt, based in Brixton, aims to address a horrifying fact: over one billion people in the world have no toilet facilities at all. Loowatt have developed technology to create a high-standard sanitation toilet without the need for electricity or water, which at the same time generates clean-burning gas and fertiliser. Although these toilets are chiefly aimed at the developing world, this summer they can be found closer to home.

Loowatt have used the same technology to create luxury off-grid, chemical-free, energy-generating toilets for the UK festival circuit. The conveniences brought to you at Glastonbury may well be courtesy of the same people spreading better health around the world. Festival-goers, like so many of us, may reap the benefits of some very useful charities this summer.

A version of this blog was first published by Spears Magazine as part of our philanthropy series.