Call for more young Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal volunteers in Norfolk

In just over a week, millions of people will mark Remembrance Day, November 11, to honour the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces.

However, while the Royal British Legion's annual Poppy Appeal to raise money for ex-service personnel still seems to be popular – last year a record-breaking �36m was raised from poppy sales – organisers in parts of Norfolk have raised concerns over a lack of young fundraisers willing to become collectors and keep the appeal going.

Victoria Giles, 30, the appeal organiser for the Diss area, told the EDP she feared for the future of collections unless she could find younger people aged over 16 to take over from the current volunteers when they are no longer able to continue through old age.

She believes members of the younger generation are not as concerned about the welfare of the armed forces because they have not had to live through world wars.

She currently has 30 volunteers, which is enough for the time being, but says she urgently needs to start recruiting.

Her anxiety has been confirmed by other organisers across the county, who said that the problem was particularly acute in more rural villages where there was not a large younger population.

Although these organisers could draw on help from military groups, such as the army and air cadets, to help at collections, they said there was a lack of young helpers from the civilian population.

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Lynn Hatch, Poppy Appeal organiser for Norfolk and West Suffolk, said: 'In smaller villages, it seems to be a problem, but not in the larger towns and cities.

'We get a lot of help from the army cadets and the air cadets.'

However, she could not explain why it was difficult to recruit in some areas, adding: 'It is not something you can put your finger on. In some areas, we see youngsters regularly, while in others we don't see them at all.'

Jenny Simpson, deputy appeal organiser in Norwich, attempted an explanation.

She said: 'I don't have as many young people involved as I would like and I think it is because the Royal British Legion has a reputation among the young for being an old-fashioned, grey-haired brigade that doesn't like young people very much, but I am all for inviting youngsters to come along and help out.'

The retired 69-year-old former City College employee believes there is a misconception among the young that the appeal only raised money for soldiers from the two world wars, when the RBL spent �1.6m a week helping current armed forces personnel and their families.

However, she added she did not have a massive problem recruiting younger volunteers in Norwich because she could rely on students from the University of East Anglia and City College Norwich.

Carole Matthews, appeal organiser for Aylsham, said that although she has 50 or 60 volunteers she would like more youngsters to be involved in her area.

She said: 'Perhaps they think this is old fashioned because whether they learn all about this at school nowadays I don't know.

'I think as you get older you tend to think about these causes, but the younger ones have got more on their plate to think about.'

Rowland Hall, welfare officer for Dereham and District RBL, said the more collectors he could get the better as they could collect more money, but accepted for many young adults this would be difficult as they worked during the week.

Mr Hall added: 'I would not say the majority of youngsters are selfish, I just don't think they think on the lines of helping the armed forces, whereas the army and air cadets would because they are already in that field.'

Mick Ellis, Poppy Appeal organiser for Great Yarmouth, said he was particularly careful when recruiting youngsters as volunteers because some in his area had been 'troublesome.'

He added he could rely on naval cadets from TS Warrior in Yarmouth to help out, but at the moment he only had four or five main collectors in the town, all of whom were older volunteers.

However, David Audley, Poppy Appeal volunteer for North Walsham, said the number of volunteers in his area had doubled from 12 to 24 in the last year, including a number of younger new recruits from the army and air cadets.

House-to-house collections will be taking place in Diss until November 13, while collectors will be in the Tesco store from today until 6pm and in Morrisons tomorrow and Saturday.

To collect for the appeal in the Diss area, volunteers have to be 16 and over and be able to spare a few hours a week.

To volunteer, phone Ms Giles on 01508 531568. To volunteer in the rest of Norfolk email Lynn Hatch at lhatch@britishlegion.org.uk

dominic.bareham2@archant.co.uk

Follow Dominic on Twitter @barichel78

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