I have just returned from Bulgaria, where for the fifth time I joined the annual Communication Workers Union Humanitarian Aid convoy which delivers much needed supplies to schools, orphanages, hospitals and other institutions for our newly admitted neighbours at the south-eastern corner of the European Union.
As the government removes the default retirement age and the size of the UK population over the age of 50 increases yearly with national healthcare generally improving, one would imagine that careers for older people should continue to flourish. However it appears that in many industries, the opposite is true.
I intended to write a book to promote giving but the donors I spoke to are so engaged with tackling problems and determined to change life for the better, that they have given us a template for living as well as giving. These are people who are not daunted by difficulty and who demonstrate that it is possible to make a difference.
After watching endless reels of heartbreaking footage emerging from inside Syria and hearing that at least 100,000 men, women and children have now died since unrest began, the question of "how can I help?" has run through many people's minds. This weekend I had the honour of seeing a collection of young people who are answering that question with action.
A new report we are publishing today lays bare the fact that the bulk of the people power that drives our charities is concentrated in a small minority of people. If you take together donations and time volunteered, we found that nine per cent of people are responsible for two-thirds of this social action in Britain.
Young people conceive of the internet more as an extension of their social circle than an extension of the school library, and the qualities they seek in the most valuable relationships they form are the same both on and offline: trust, understanding and the sense that someone will be there for them over time.
I experienced first-hand the impact of poverty during my own childhood when my father was made bankrupt and the bailiffs came calling, and I wouldn't wish that situation on any child. At the moment, we are in danger of creating a generation of children living in a vicious circle of hardship and disadvantage, growing up in communities reeling from the double hit of the recession and public sector cuts... I am pledging to give more at a time when need has never been higher, and I'm urging everyone else to do the same.
Last week marked the official launch of BBC Children in Need's Appeal and the Charity is getting geared up for another fantastic year. The launch featured Sir Terry Wogan, Matt Baker, Gary Barlow, Nick Grimshaw, Alex Jones, JLS and Union J who have given their time and talent to kick-start our campaign and inspire thousands of people to get involved. Being part of Appeal every autumn is an amazing experience as people come together to have fun with the simple aim of giving children across the UK a better childhood. The need for our funding is real and urgent, importantly our ability to make a difference is all down to the incredible generosity, imagination and commitment of our supporters.
Hayley came to me last autumn with the idea of setting up a summer camp for children from deprived backgrounds. I nodded enthusiastically at her proposal but was frankly sceptical. Jess, co-founder of the camp, points out that students are eager to hatch lofty plans whilst nursing a drink but less inclined to see them through...