What is this?

On the first working Monday of every month (Monday is one of my busiest days) I will donate the daily income of Chocolate Tortoise to a selected charity, and post to this blog detailing the charity chosen. This blog is not intended to tell the world how generous I am. I am less generous than many people. The blog is intended to firstly log who I have donated to, and secondly to hopefully inspire others to do the same, or similar. For more information, see my first post.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

December 2015 - Contact the Elderly

The chosen charity for December 2015 is, once again, Contact the Elderly.

Although I try to choose new charities each month to donate to, with Christmas coming up we are reminded of the loneliness of some elderly people (a reminder that has also been nudged by this year's John Lewis advert!), and Contact the Elderly is a nice, small charity that actively helps lonely older people by arranging regular tea 'parties' and gatherings.

I donated to this charity in May 2014. It's about time they got a little more money from me for their good work. It also happens to be their 50th anniversary this year.

Supported by a network of volunteers, Contact the Elderly organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people aged 75 and over, who live alone, offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.

November 2015 - Moor House School, Surrey

The Donate a Day charity for November 2015 is Moor House School in Hurst Green, where I live.

This school specialises in the education of children and young people with speech and language difficulties.

Introduction to Moor HouseMoor House provides specialist schooling and therapy for children with speech and language difficulties and draws upon over 60 years of experience. The school was believed to be the first of it’s kind, has provided inspiration for other schools internationally, and continues to lead in areas of specialist education, therapy and research. Moor House shares it’s expertise and research findings to support children in the wider community.

October 2015 - Monkey World, Dorset UK

The chosen charity for Donate a Day in October 2015 is Monkey World Ape Rescue centre in Dorset, England.

Monkey World assists governments around the world to stop the smuggling of primates from the wild.

At the Centre, refugees of this illegal trade as well as those that have suffered abuse or neglect are rehabilitated into natural living groups.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

September 2015 - Asian Turtle Program

The chosen charity for September 2015 is the Turtle Conservation Centre in Cuc Phuong National Park in Vietnam, which is part of the Asian Turtle Program.

I was looking through some old documents the other day and found a spreadsheet containing loads of stuff from our travels in Asia in 2010. Included in this were some notes on charities that we would like to donate to, relating to things we had seen. Most of these we have already donated to, but I realised we hadn't yet given to the Turtle Conservation Centre.

Whilst in Vietnam we spent a couple of nights in the middle of a national park, Cuc Phuong. The park was lovely, the hut we stayed in was basic, and a day trip to a conservation centre that had apes and monkeys in one part, and turtles in another. Both were very good, and the turtle centre had an excellent research and conservation program. Despite the fact that they probably don't receive all that many visitors (we were the only ones there at the time), the place was very welcoming and well presented.

Turtles are not very well looked after in Asia. They are regularly kept in monasteries, restaurants and even homes, and usually many tens or even hundreds are kept in the same small ponds. It's good to see places that strive to help them.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

August 2015 - The Born Free Foundation

The chosen charity for August 2015 is the Born Free Foundation. My original intention was to donate to Care For The Wild International, but this year they merged with the Born Free Foundation, and are now under the single banner.

The merger seems a sensible idea - they have very similar goals, are both based in Horsham and have had close links in the past.

I first came across Care for the Wild International while travelling. We were looking into the local wildlife 'attractions' to visit when in Thailand (Kanchanaburi, to be exact, on the river Kwai), and came across the Tiger Temple, which is a very popular attraction with tourists.

Before deciding to visit it, we did some research on how much of a 'sanctuary' is was for the tigers, and what its animal care credentials were, and came across the Care for the Wild report into the temple:

Which effectively says "don't go there!" as the tigers are very poorly treated and even drugged in order to make them docile for the tourists.

Of course, I didn't just take the report on face value - but it made me do some more investigations and digging online and what I found backed up the findings in the report.

We didn't visit the temple.

It's work like this that directly helps people make ethical decisions while on holiday.

Of course, both charities do excellent work in other areas, but it is good to support one that we have had some direct contact with, however tenuous!

Now I must go back and watch the Born Free film again.....

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

July 2015 - Orangutan Land Trust

The chosen charity for July 2015 is the Orangutan Land Trust

A friend of mine is mad about apes and monkeys. We are rather partial to them too, especially after having volunteered at a gibbon sanctuary in Thailand for a month in 2010. We have also spent an afternoon amongst orangutans in the wild in Indonesia and had them wander around us in a very playful and non-threatening way.

They are fascinating creatures and spending even a short time among them really drives home how close they are to humans. Their faces show emotions, they are very curious and show a level of intelligence that you generally don't see in the animals you see day to day.

And yet we are wiping them out.

Orangutans need forests to live in. They live in treetops, and range a long way each day. Deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations not only destroys the places they live and sleep, but also cuts off their ability to roam, which reduces their ability to find mates and to forage for food. So they die out. Their entire species is endangered (Bornean orangutan) or critically endangered (Sumatran orangutan).

The Orangutan Land Trust (http://www.forests4orangutans.org/) works to purchase and protect land to retain the habitat of the orangutan, which in turn also helps to protect other species.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

June 2015 - Big Brother Mouse

The chosen charity for June 2015 is Big Brother Mouse.

During our travels in 2010 we loved pretty much every country we visited. I especially liked Laos. Possibly partly due to the fact that we were able to spend a month looking after bears at a sanctuary there, but also because of the very friendly people and the laid back way of life. Luang Prabang was a lovely town that we got to know well, as it was there that we looked after the bears for a month. There was also a charity based there called Big Brother Mouse, which aims to get more kids in Laos able to read, and enthusiastic about reading. We spent an enjoyable morning helping some Lao kids read English and really liked the ethos of the charity.

Since our return I have kept in touch with what the charity is doing, and they have been great about keeping me informed, without pressure for continued donations. I really like what the charity is doing, and their approach. I try to give them some money each year when I can and thought it was about time they appeared on my Donate a Day radar, so they get this month's donation.

They spend their money visiting schools and holding "Book Parties" where kids get to look through some of the very basic, but fun books that they bring along, and as well as books left for the school, each kid gets to take a book home to own - which is a big thing for them. The charity is also very active in trying out new methods to encourage the kids, and more importantly the schools and teachers, to hold reading sessions where they can improve their reading. The project manager in me likes the fact that they try things out, then test to see if it has worked, and adapt accordingly.

They also publish their own books, since there are so few books in the Lao language aimed at getting kids to read. A previous donation of ours has helped to publish a couple of books which they kindly sent me and sit proudly on our bookshelf. I can't understand a word of them!

Oh, and I love their logo and their name! As the owner of "Chocolate Tortoise" I like companies (and charities) with original names :-)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

May 2015 - Sense About Science

One of the benefits that comes with donating regularly to different charities is that you can choose a variety of different types of cause without feeling that 'more worthy' causes are missing out. Donating to an educational cause, or pressure group, is not something that would be a first choice of mine, but is still something I would like to do on occasion, so this month my chosen charity is Sense About Science.

I am very disappointed with the British media. They are far too powerful, far too believed by the people and have too strong agendas. The shambolic outcome of the Leveson enquiry only goes to show how much power they have and how much disregard they show for.... well.... anything or anyone else. I stopped reading newspapers years ago for this reason - I am not sure whether to believe anything that is written.

I have a background in science. I know a little about it. I can see when the media are trying to drive an agenda or just to drive up sales using false or manipulated scientific statements or uneducated hyperbole. Unfortunately the general public do not always see this happening. Sense About Science aims to educate, to correct misinformation and to promote good scientific thinking and methods. Dr Ben Goldacre is a hero of mine and a personified example of all that Sense About Science stands for (he is also a great supporter and fundraiser for them). I have great respect for Dr Simon Singh, a victim of the terrible libel laws this country has, who is on the board of this orgaisation (they are also pushing for libel law reform). I am very happy to help out such a cause.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

April 2015 - Missing People

The chosen donate a day charity for April 2015 is Missing People.

A client of mine, Ross, who has a lovely cat called Tinx, works for this charity and was being sponsored for their "Miles for Missing People 2015" run in May - an ideal opportunity for my donate a day charity in April.

Missing People is an independent charity, funded by donations, who search for missing people on behalf of the people they leave behind - offering help and support for all parties.

From their website https://www.missingpeople.org.uk:
Missing People is the only charity in the UK which specialises in, and is dedicated to, bringing missing children and adults back together with their families. Some missing people you will have heard of, but many more you won’t. For their families, life without them can be a desperate and unbearable struggle. We are there for them 24 hours a day, every day of the year, at the end of a phone, text or email, ready to use every means possible to search for and find their missing loved ones and to provide vital on-going support to families where the agonising wait turns into years, not just days.

Monday, 2 March 2015

March 2015 - Kent, Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance

The chosen Donate A Day charity for March 2015 is the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance.

The charity exists to relieve sick and injured people in South East England and surrounding areas by providing a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) and Air Ambulance Service for the benefit of the community.

A friend of mine used to work for their local Air Ambulance service and suggested them as a worthy cause to receive a donation. Although I am lucky enough to never have to use their services, and I don't know anyone who has, we all know what a valuable service they provide. What I didn't know is that they are a registered charity and rely solely on donations - they are not funded by the government.

I'm fortunate enough to have managed to drive many miles, and ride a motorbike for many years, without having a serious accident. If I ever did have a bad accident on the road, I would be glad to have such a service available if I, or anyone else, needed it.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

February 2015 - Foal Farm Animal Rescue Centre

The chosen charity for February 2015 is Foal Farm.

This is a local rescue centre to me. I don't know very much about it other than the fact that I often pass their van when it is parked outside the vets in Westerham, but it looks a well run place with a great heart. I like the fact that their website looks nice and most importantly is kept up to date!


After my donation, I did get a nice 'thank you' email which had a bit more info on the place, reproduced here for anyone looking to find out more:

The animals here are kept on a 26 acre farm where they are neutered, micro chipped, vaccinated and given any other medical assistance necessary.  Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other small animals are then placed in secure and loving vetted homes.


Horses, donkeys, cows, pigs, sheep, goats, chickens, ducks and geese spend their natural lives at Foal Farm and no healthy animal is ever destroyed.  If no home can be found the animal becomes a resident for the rest of its life.


Foal Farm relies entirely on voluntary contributions, legacies and money made from fundraising

Sunday, 11 January 2015

January 2015–The Farm Animal Sanctuary

The Donate a Day charity for January 2015 is The Farm Animal Sanctuary.

I think this passage from their website says it all really:

Why we are here..

Farm animals are global. They are not endangered, exotic or wild. They are animals who are born and raised for their meat and milk, and throughout the world very often do this with a minimum of care.
Care costs time and money, and they’re not considered to be worth either. They are just another product, although unlike other food products such as grains, fruits and vegetables, they bleed when they are injured. They die from fear and stress. They suffer distress when their young are taken away from them. They can be kept until they are too old to stand as long as they can still produce milk or offspring. They can then be travelled hundreds of miles, enduring awful conditions, to be slaughtered without pre-stunning.
There are very few places throughout the world where farm animals can find sanctuary to be able to live out their lives in peace, to be treated with kindness and respect. We watch these animals become comfortable and confident. We see their characters develop. We admire their intelligence and the way they embrace their peaceful surroundings. We watch them begin to play and finally become content.
They form close companionships and soon recognise the people who care for them and look after them. They ask for very little. For us it’s a pleasure and a privilege to be part of their daily lives.
This is why we are here.