Discover the people and schemes that are making a difference in the world around us

From the organisations determined to tackle some of the biggest problems our society faces, to the researchers who are encouraging us to take care of our wellbeing, discover four good news stories this month.

Rail firms call in VR to tackle sexual harassment

Every day, technology is changing our lives in new and exciting ways and, now, it could help us to address some of the biggest challenges we face in our society.

Sexual harassment on public transport is, unfortunately, a real problem experienced by many. According to a survey commissioned by UN Women UK, 71% of women in the UK have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space. And many bystanders feel unable to intervene – while others are not able to identify some of the most frequent forms of sexual harassment, including sexual comments, intrusive staring, and persistent questioning.

In a bid to make the rail lines a safer space for all, Rail Delivery Group and the British Transport Police created a new VR experience, trialled at Waterloo Station, London, in April. It aimed to tackle sexual harassment by teaching people to recognise how these situations can occur, and to empower them to intervene in a safe way.

“Knowing what to do is a big motivator for bystanders, as harmful acts are witnessed every day,” says Graham Goulden, bystander intervention expert, and ex-criminal chief investigating officer for Police Scotland. “Some people don’t realise that harm is taking place, whereas others, rightly so, fear for their own safety. Not only do we help people see the harm in the likes of language and other behaviours, but we also provide them with tools to act. One person can make a difference, so it’s important that people believe that they can help.”

To report sexual harassment on public transport, text 61016, download the Railway Guardian app, or call 0800 40 50 40

Sisters ensure hardship won’t cost kids their childhood

For those families who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the cost of living crisis, it can be incredibly difficult to provide the basic necessities for their children, let alone new toys. But, despite these challenges, there are people who have stepped up to help those in need, including two children who wanted to make a difference.

The kind-hearted sisters from Chesterfield, Sage (12) and Erin (8) first began collecting cereal, tinned food, and selection boxes to give to Chesterfield Food Bank over the Christmas holidays, and it was this selfless act of kindness that encouraged them to collect toys and clothes for the children in Derbyshire who would otherwise have gone without.

They began collecting bags full of donated items, which quickly became enough to fill the bathtub at their family home. Their mother, Mel Stubbs, said: “I’m really proud of them. It’s lovely that they’re giving back to charity, because they are aware we are going through the crisis, and a lot of families are struggling because of the rising cost of living.”

And the kindness didn’t stop there. Both Erin and Sage attend separate schools, which are a part of the Cavendish Learning Trust, which recently raised more than £12,000 for the community by organising a comedy evening hosted by husband and wife duo, comedians Jon Richardson and Lucy Beaumont.

It turns out, even if you’re little, you can still do a lot.

‘Adopt a Grandparent’ charity secures fundraising support

Sipping tea, while listening to stories from our elders, really helps to combat loneliness – so it’s no surprise that independent charity Adopt a Grandparent is winning support. Working with care homes across the UK, Adopt a Grandparent has nearly 100,000 volunteers signed up to ‘adopt’ an elderly person in need of a regular, friendly chat.

But, the charity needs funds in order to continue. And, now, named one of Co-op’s charities of the year, Adopt a Grandparent will benefit financially from shoppers who choose to support them via Co-op’s Local Community Fund – as the Co-op donates 1p of every £1 spent on selected products/services via this fund to a range of local causes.

Speaking about the work they do, founder of Adopt a Grandparent, Shaleeza Hasham, explains how the pandemic had an impact on older people.

Loneliness became a huge crisis during the pandemic. The health risks related to loneliness include a higher risk of mental and physical conditions, including heart disease, depression, anxiety, dementia, and premature death. By helping volunteers to virtually ‘adopt’ a grandparent, we hope to alleviate loneliness and generate companionship in as many communities as possible, with both parties benefiting from the enriching relationships.”

If you want to donate to the charity through the initiative (running until October 2023) you’ll need to become a Co-op member, which costs £1. And, if you fancy ‘adopting’ a grandparent, visit So, put the kettle on, it’s time to chat.

A little bit of mindfulness can go a long way

Who’s guilty of not making time for self-care? It’s something we know we should do, but the weeks fly by and we can easily get lost on the conveyor belt of life. That said, we might be more tempted to steal some more mindful minutes if we knew how quickly we could see results.

In fact, practising mindfulness just once a week for eight weeks helped graduate students feel significantly more positive and focused, according to a new study carried out by the University of Wisconsin.

The research, published in the science journal PLOS ONE, which included two studies involving 215 students across six academic terms, showed consistently positive results. The mindfulness participants reported fewer negative emotions, and improved emotional wellbeing, after training in healthy coping strategies, brain neuroplasticity, mindfulness meditation, and cognitive exercises, in just a few weeks.

Susan Hagness, study co-author and professor of computer engineering, said: “How do we help our students develop resiliency and a really robust toolbox to flourish in an environment where there’s inevitably going to be stress? Small investments in self-care can have long-term rewards.”

So next time you put off taking a little ‘me-time’, just remember how even making even a small effort can go a long way.