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Our story

This year we're marking a decade of impactful work in raising awareness about loneliness and fostering social connections.  

Virtual guest book
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The year it all began

As a health professional and volunteer, Amy Perrin knew how tough loneliness and social isolation can be. Through volunteering, Amy met 3 older people spending Christmas Day alone. Seeing the shortage of Christmas events in Bristol, she took them out herself. Amy was approached by GPs and even a local bank clerk asking if she could include more people, and soon 3 became 18! After Christmas, with a doormat piled high with thank you cards, Amy realised the importance of what had been achieved and Marmalade Trust was born.

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We’d better give this a name...

In 2014, Amy continued to set up Marmalade Trust. With the amazing support of more volunteers, we were able to take 30 people out on Christmas Day who would otherwise have spent the day alone. Marmalade Trust’s name was born, and was actually inspired by Paddington Bear! We admire the qualities of Paddington Bear: friendly, proactive and who has a smile and a hello for everyone. These are the pillars on which the charity is built (as well as the importance of a teddy bear and Amy’s fondness for getting people together over food).

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Live... BBC Breakfast TV!

We decided it was time to expand further into our community, and held a Christmas Day lunch in 3 locations across the city. With the support of volunteers in each local area, we brought companionship and joy to 60 people.

Still working as a full-time Occupational Therapist, Amy was certainly busy! We secured our first sponsorship, won an exciting award and we had a surprise call to be live on BBC Breakfast in front of 9 million people (a terrifying moment)! Suddenly, people all across the UK knew about little ‘ole Marmalade Trust.

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Sparking change

Amy joined the Entrepreneurial Spark business accelerator, and what a game-changer it was! With the support of mentors, we built a strategy and made a plan to create a society where we recognise that loneliness exists and support each other to find new social connections. Christmas continued to be our favourite time of year - bringing companionship and joy to those who would otherwise be alone. 81 members enjoyed Christmas Cheer across 6 venues, with so many amazing volunteers helping to make it happen.

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Hello Loneliness Awareness Week!

We pioneered the first-ever Loneliness Awareness Week (LAW) campaign to reduce the stigma of loneliness and to empower everyone to talk more openly about it. It took Amy and a couple of volunteers just 6 weeks to launch LAW from the initial idea. We initiated the ‘#LetsTalkLoneliness’ movement (since adopted by the government). We featured on BBC Points West, had a party in the Bear Pit and a film premiere of Lorna. We launched our first buddy scheme, training volunteers to help people find new social contacts. Christmas got even bigger, with 124 people attending across multiple venues.

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From Bristol to Japan

Japanese news channel, NHK, got in touch and flew especially from Tokyo to Marmalade HQ to interview Amy. Their programme aired to nearly 1 million households. Amy was included in the Independent Happy List, for outstanding people whose charity work or selflessness make Britain a happier place to live. We built on Loneliness Awareness Week and supported 252 events across the UK - from talks in businesses to group walks with dogs, it was incredible to see people get involved. In December, Orlando Weeks and Paul Whitehouse fundraised for us with Gritterman shows in London and Manchester.

We of course, also continued our Christmas Day events -supporting 151 people to attend across multiple pubs.

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Reaching millions

We kicked off with the launch of the #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign in collaboration with DCMS. On the first day of the campaign, conversations about loneliness took place every 5 seconds - our hashtag trended on Twitter too! Whilst we reached millions of people online, 800 events were taking place across the UK to encourage people to open up about loneliness and find friendships. At Christmas, 120 volunteers helped us take 150 members out for a festive lunch at 10 venues across the region, with hampers and cards for everyone. This was also the year Amy hung up her green OT trousers to concentrate on Marmalade full-time.

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Stepping up during the pandemic

What a year! When the pandemic hit, we called all 200+ members, helping everyone who needed it by sending emergency supplies across Bristol. We started a befriending project to keep members connected and helped co-found the Older People Support Hub. We took LAW virtual and reached 271 million people without leaving our homes! 20,000 organisations got involved, and we even had a tweet from the Royal Family! We also had a trending hashtag and a Royal Mail postmark. At Christmas, our wonderful members received a Connection Advent Calendar, a weekly chat, and a hamper and doorstep visit on Christmas Day. And of course, we also squeezed in another spot on BBC Breakfast with lovely Margaret!

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The importance of connection

Loneliness Awareness Week continued to grow in 2021, reducing stigma and raising awareness of loneliness by reaching millions of people and encouraging conversation. We also worked with Direct2Florist who put out 900 ‘lonely bouquets’ for people to collect across the UK. We held 2 wonderful garden parties for members and volunteers. We took part in the Month of Community with other incredible partners, such as The Eden Project and The Jo Cox Foundation. And of course, we helped 180 members feel less alone on Christmas Day with a Connection Advent Calendar, a hamper and a doorstep visit from our amazing volunteers.

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Celebrating togetherness

In 2022, our team were lucky enough to be invited to The Big Jubilee Lunch in London to celebrate our achievements alongside other charities driving togetherness within our communities. Loneliness Awareness Week continued to grow, and we noticed a positive shift in the way people talk about loneliness. With the help of our incredible volunteer family, we supported over 200 members through our Christmas Cheer project, from pre-Christmas visits and phone calls to doorstep visits and meal events across 10 venues on the big day. We also gifted 200 hampers full of treats.

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Going global

This year we were delighted to announce our partnership with Heineken UK! For LAW, face-to-face connection events returned with over 1,500 events organised across the country and around the world. 80% of people reported feeling happier and more connected following the campaign. Our hashtag trended on Twitter and we worked with leading national charities to release a call to action on loneliness. And we went global! Partners from loneliness organisations across the world joined the campaign, including an event at Capitol Hill. We hosted a joyous garden party with 45 guests. And just as Amy did 10 years ago, we’ll bring companionship and joy to some of the loneliest people across the region on Christmas Day.

What people say

“This was the first time in 16 years I was not alone on Christmas Day. I’ve got some lovely memories!"

Marmalade Member, Christmas Cheer

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