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Your Later Life Q4 2020

Get active and learn new skills at the Virtual Village Hall

Image provided by Royal Voluntary Service

Sam Ward

Director of Services and Deputy CEO, Royal Voluntary Service

Virtual Village Hall offers a wide range of activities to take part in online, promoting wellbeing and keeping people active and occupied through the pandemic.


We’ve seen first-hand how people’s health and wellbeing is suffering due to the pandemic and have been carefully adapting our services so that we can continue to offer vital support. 

In normal times, our volunteers would run hundreds of exercise and activity clubs up and down the country, providing people with the opportunity to stay active, socialise and try something new.

Research earlier this year identified that almost three in 10 (29%) over 50s had been unable to do any of the things they used to enjoy.

Creating a virtual community

Knowing how important these groups are to participants, earlier this year we built a Virtual Village Hall. From Bollywood dancing to laughter yoga, and baking to Pilates, people can join in at home and also meet friends and share feedback on the sessions they take part in. 

Sessions are led by expert tutors and you’ll even spot the odd TV and radio personality, like actress, singer and broadcaster Elaine Paige OBE, MasterChef winner Irini Tzortzoglou and BBC Radio 2’s allotment gardener, Terry Walton, who have all hosted Q&A’s or tutorials.

The COVID-19 pandemic has touched all of our lives and resulted in countless changes in our daily behaviour. Many of us feel that our old life has been put on hold, and that we can’t do the things that kept us active and connected to others. In fact, our research earlier this year identified that almost three in 10 (29%) over 50s* had been unable to do any of the things they used to enjoy. 

We hope that the Virtual Village Hall can help keep our bodies and minds active, and fill the gap left by the closure of so many clubs and groups. People can watch or take part in live sessions or catch up with a pre-recorded session at a time that is convenient to them.

Activities take place daily in the hall and are easy to search by theme, like health and wellbeing, exercise and dance, music and singing and gardening and nature. There aren’t many online resources where you can try learning to play ukulele, try a beginners’ ballets class or make a delicious meatball dish all in one place!

Getting immersed in learning a new skill can be good for mental health and reducing anxiety, and with many of us spending a lot of time cooped up inside, it’s never been more important to prioritise wellbeing. 

The Virtual Village Hall was designed by the Royal Voluntary Service, with generous support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery and offers over 150 fun and interesting activities to keep people active and occupied through the pandemic.

To find out more visit: www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/virtual-village-hall

*Statistics source: Royal Voluntary Service research in October 2020 of 2,724 respondents aged 50+ in the UK

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A toddler’s journey to recovery

Jenny Kronbergs

Head of Gifts in Wills, Unicef UK

How including a gift in your Will to Unicef UK can help save children’s lives in South Sudan with therapeutic food.


In the city of Aweil, South Sudan, Akot stirs an enormous pot filled with peeled peanuts.

Nowadays, the world is an exciting place for Akot. Every flower can be sniffed, and every leaf is a potential toy – his world has no boundaries.

Just eight weeks ago, things were very different. For months, Akot had a raging fever and was impossible to comfort. His mother, Anyang, was already struggling to afford food for her family. Now she could no longer work.

Anyang’s family used to own a patch of land where they grew vegetables. The conflict in South Sudan forced them to move. No longer self-sufficient, the family needed more income to survive.

“To get my child porridge I have to go to the market to earn a living. However, I have not been able to do this recently because of my child’s illness. As a result, I have not been able to buy food for my children.”

Click here to join the Unicef UK community
© Unicef/Wilson

Helping to tackle malnutrition   

Concerned for Akot’s life, his mother took him to a nutrition centre, supported by Unicef. There he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.

Severe acute malnutrition is a serious condition which often leads to death. In South Sudan, over 250,000 children under the age of five suffered from the condition in 2019. The prolonged food insecurity in South Sudan now means that more than six million people have no idea when or where their next meal will come from.

For children like Akot to grow and develop, they need food with the right mix of nutrients. But when food insecurity is high, you eat what you can get.

Akot was given antibiotics for his infections and special therapeutic food to treat the malnutrition. In just eight weeks, his weight increased from 6.3 kg to 7.3 kg.

The therapeutic food Akot received is designed to treat acute malnutrition among children. It’s based on peanuts which are turned into a paste and enriched with dried skimmed milk, oil, sugar, and a combination of vitamins and minerals. The sugar, as well as adding calories, makes it appealing for children who’ve lost their appetite, which often happens when severely malnourished. With this treatment, children usually bounce back to a healthy weight in six to eight weeks.

Click here to join the Unicef UK community
© Unicef/Wilson

Empowering people by providing support

“My heart is so happy. He wants to stand and walk and play,” Anyang says as she watches her son study a green leaf from the mango tree.

Now I am able to move about freely. I can go to the market to sell some things but before I do that, I’ll prepare porridge for him then go to the market. At two, I come back and cook lunch. Before, I was not able to leave him at home and I didn’t earn any money.”

All the stress I was experiencing is now gone. I’m still so poor that I can’t even buy soap, but I’m just smiling.

“When Akot is old enough I will take him to school. I hope he becomes a nutritionist, so other children can get help, just like he did.”

Thanks to life-saving treatment from a Unicef-supported nutrition programme, Akot put on 1kg in just eight weeks. He is now a healthy 17-month-old toddler.

With a gift in your Will, Unicef UK can continue to support 1,100 nutrition centres across South Sudan – saving the lives of thousands of children like Akot. Join the Unicef UK community today by visiting unicef.uk/giftinwills

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