One of the biggest stories of 2011 in the UK was surely this summer’s riots. Although they spanned just four days in August, the fallout is set to run and run, as people try to understand why these events happened.

The impact of the riots on young people across the UK has been particularly detrimental, leaving many feeling demonised by the media and blamed for the actions of a small minority. But for every young person involved in the riots, there are hundreds who are engaging in, learning from, contributing to, and changing their communities for the better.

This Christmas, the Guardian and Observer charity appeal is supporting eight charities working to give young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities they need to build a decent future. Launched last Friday, the appeal will run throughout December and January. Last year’s appeal raised over £400,000, split equally between ten charities.

Talking about the thinking behind the appeal, Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian’s Editor-in-Chief, explained last week “To engage and thrive, young people say they need resources and support to help them develop life skills and build confidence. They want to get a job, be offered alternatives to gangs or addiction. They want support for vulnerable families. They are hungry for training, education, youth clubs, arts and sports opportunities, and mentoring advice.”

The eight charities chosen have a proven track record of making a real difference to the lives of the young people they help. Their methods are varied—boxing, football, art, dance, and music all feature—but they have a common goal: to improve the lives and life chances of disadvantaged young people in the UK. Between them they work with a variety of people—rehabilitating ex-offenders, tackling gang violence, improving relations between the generations, helping people into work, supporting young people in trouble with the law, or helping youngsters at risk of exclusion from school.

Meet the charities

Magic Me provides inter-generational arts activities in London’s Tower Hamlets, bringing together young people and older people to help them learn from other generations.

Tomorrow’s People helps people to get, and importantly keep, a job, transforming the futures of those who may otherwise become long-term unemployed.

FARE (Family Action in Rogerfield and Easterhouse) works in Glasgow with local young people and families to tackle problems in the city, including gang violence.

St Giles Trust aims to break the cycle of offending, crime and disadvantage by helping ex-offenders to become trained professionals and turn their lives around.

The Boxing Academy works with young people in Tottenham and Hackney at risk of exclusion from school. It combines basic education and mentoring with the discipline and culture of sport to re-engage difficult-to-reach young people.

Just for Kids Law gives support, advice and representation to young people in difficulty through a variety of projects spanning education, homelessness and advocacy.

Street League engages young adults who are NEET in structured football and education programmes with a view to getting them into work, mainstream education or training.

Community Links works in Newham to support children, young people, adults and families. It shares lessons nationally with government and community groups to achieve social change.

To find out how to donate to the appeal, click here.

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