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'Thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine': The Queen's charitable legacy

"On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine", the Queen said in 2016

the queen

The Queen spent a lifetime serving good causes. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96 at Balmoral, the royal family’s summer home in Scotland. 

During her historic 70-year reign, the Queen supported and praised countless charities improving the lives of vulnerable people in the UK.

“We sometimes think the world’s problems are so big that we can do little to help,” the Queen said in her 2016 Christmas message. 

“On our own, we cannot end wars or wipe out injustice, but the cumulative impact of thousands of small acts of goodness can be bigger than we imagine.”

As patron of over 800 different charities, the Queen was passionate about this nation’s charitable spirit. 

Her Platinum Jubilee was marked with a reception for charity volunteers in the Sandringham area. Charity staff and volunteers were invited to her official 90th birthday party, and the £1.2million surplus from the event was donated to a number of charities.

Here’s an insight into some of the charities supported by the Queen.

British Red Cross

The Queen was the longest-serving patron of the British Red Cross, having served the charity for more than 70 years. As a young princess, she travelled overseas to visit Red Cross nurses working on the frontline. She then became a patron of the charity in 1949. 

She made personal visits to many people facing bleak times, cheering them up in their darkest hours. One of her earliest visits was to a Red Cross hut caring for tuberculosis patients in 1951.

Around 1,500 members of the British Red Cross were on duty at the time of her coronation, and they treated more than 1,000 people – some of whom had fainted out of excitement. 

Since her coronation, she has maintained a keen interest in the charity’s vital work supporting people in crisis in the UK and across the world. 

From financial donations for those hit by disasters at home or overseas, to meeting the victims of crisis here in the UK, the Queen has spent nearly a lifetime supporting the charity. 

Mike Adamson CBE, chief executive at the British Red Cross, said: “We are so deeply saddened by the news that Her Majesty The Queen has died. “As our patron for seven decades, The Queen showed enduring support for the work of the Red Cross here in the UK and around the world.  

“From countless financial donations for those hit by disasters at home or overseas, to meeting the victims of crisis here in the UK, The Queen has been a source of support and comfort to people during some of the toughest times in their lives.  

He added: “On a personal level, I will always be grateful for Her Majesty’s visit to meet Red Cross staff and volunteers who were supporting those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. I was deeply moved by her compassion for those who had lost everything and the power of her visit to bring light to such a dark time. We share our deepest sympathies and condolences with all of the members of the Royal Family at this sad time.” 

Leonard Cheshire

When Leonard Cheshire died in 1992, the Queen singled him out for praise in her Christmas message, recalling a visit to one of his Cheshire Homes.

“This shining example of what a human being can achieve in a lifetime of dedication can inspire in the rest of us a belief in our own capacity to help others,” she said.

She was a patron of his charity, Leonard Cheshire, from 1980 and held a reception at St James’s Palace in 2014 to celebrate the work of the charity, which works to support disabled people in the UK and across the world.

YMCA England

The royal family’s association with the YMCA dates back to 1894, when its founder Sir George Williams was knighted by Queen Victoria.

Over 120 years later, that association remained strong. The Queen was patron of the iconic charity, which received an annual gift from the Privy Purse. For the YMCA’s 150th anniversary in 1982, the Queen attended a service at Westminster Abbey.

Save the Children

The Queen was also a patron for Save the Children, before passing the role over to Princess Anne in 2017.

Gwen Hines, Chief Executive of Save the Children UK, said: “We are enormously honoured and grateful that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth served as our Patron from 1952 to 2017. During her 65 years as Patron she made an invaluable contribution to building a better world for children. Her passion and dedication will never be forgotten. 

“She inspired thousands of supporters, volunteers and staff, and highlighted the lives and needs of some of the most disadvantaged children. We send our deepest condolences to our Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, and the whole Royal Family.” 

Action for Children

The Queen was the first Royal Patron of Action for Children, and she remained so from 1967 to 2016. The charity protects and supports vulnerable children and young people and their families. They provide practical and emotional care, ensure children’s voices are heard, and campaign to bring lasting improvements to their lives.

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust

The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust champions, funds and supports young people across the Commonwealth to make a difference in their communities. The Queen has been its patron since it launched in 2018. 

A spokesperson said: “The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust is deeply saddened by the news of the death of our late Patron, Queen Elizabeth II. The Queen had promised her whole life would be committed to the service of others, a promise she kept to the very end of her life. As its head, he Queen always believed that the Commonwealth should be a force for good in the world and always remained a champion of its young people. The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust continues this as a living legacy, supporting the young leaders of the Commonwealth.”

Barnardo’s

The Queen was Barnardo’s patron from 1983 to 2016, when she handed over the role to the Duchess of Cornwall. The Royals visited Barkingside in 2013 to officially open the Barnardo’s headquarters. 

Nacro

In 2016, staff from Nacro were invited to a street party to celebrate the Queen’s official 90th birthday.

Nacro, which has worked since 1966 to create a society where “everyone gets a second chance”, helps people with housing, education, justice, and health.

After attending the birthday lunch, Nacro reflected on what the Queen’s continued support meant: “The Queen’s patronage and the invitations to this celebratory lunch meant a great deal. 

“It signals not just Her Majesty’s willingness as our monarch to maintain contact with the most disadvantaged amongst us but also an official recognition that people deserve a second chance and are able to move on.”

Smallwood Trust

On the year of her coronation, 1953, the Queen also became patron of the Smallwood Trust, a charity which supports women on low incomes. The charity has been going since 1886, working to help women become more financially resilient and to ensure systems help women out of financial exclusion.

Reedham Children’s Trust

Reedham’s Children’s Trust has supported disadvantaged children for nearly 180 years, providing boarding schools and programmes building up leadership and resilience.

As patron, the Queen wrote to the charity in 2019 to mark its 175th anniversary, saying “I was pleased to be reminded of the important work undertaken by the charity to support young people across the United Kingdom”.

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