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Four-letter curses and the chugger swerve - is this really what it’s like collecting for charity?

PUBLISHED: 09:04 14 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:04 14 December 2017

Kerri's Campaign collection bucket.  Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Kerri's Campaign collection bucket. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

I learned something new this week. If you spend a bit of time on the streets doing collections for charity, don’t expect to come away with a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling.

Quite the opposite in fact, if my own experience was anything to go by.

Myself and several other members of the editorial team were out in Norwich city centre with collection buckets as part of our effort to raise £10,000 for the Leeway charity which helps victims of domestic abuse, launched in honour of Kerri McAuley, the young Norwich mother killed by her abusive partner. While I was only able to devote a small amount of time to collecting and therefore my own experience has to come with a massive caveat that it could have been a one-off, I was quite shocked as to what it was like.

The first surprise was just how few people actually chose to take heed of my request to ‘spare a pound to help Norfolk’s domestic abuse victims’. Perhaps I need to improve my patter? Perhaps the nature of the charity doesn’t quite resonate with everyone? But it left me wondering whether, as a society, we are so used to being asked for money for one charity or another that we have become desensitised and therefore a little less sympathetic to such appeals as the one I was making?

What I also noticed, and hadn’t expected, was how obvious it was when people felt uncomfortable about your presence or went out of their way to avoid eye-contact or interaction of any shape or form.

All of us are used to being canvassed for this, that and the other in the high streets of our towns and cities and many of us (myself included) have probably perfected the art of giving those people the swerve. Perhaps, to others, I was yet another person trying to sell them something they didn’t want? What I certainly hadn’t expected was that one person, mid-twenties, would be so affronted they would feel the need to utter four-letter expletives in my direction imploring that I vacate the area sharpish.

The problem is that, as with many other things in life, emotionally it was too easy to concentrate on the negatives than be happy about the positives. Like the woman who gave £20 because she said she knew what it was like to need help from a charity like Leeway. Or the many people who popped in a pound and then wished me ‘a nice day’ or ‘a merry Christmas’. They made it worth the effort.

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