Struggling onto the tube every morning, I witness some of the worst in human behaviour. Survival of the fittest reigns supreme as several million people battle for breathing space on their way to work. Experiencing such a harsh environment on a daily basis, it’s little wonder that I sometimes feel alienated from my neighbours. In a bid to re-connect to a more giving side of my fellow Londoners, I signed up for a stint of volunteering at the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal.
What is the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal?
The Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal runs every March and is open to volunteers of all ages. The fundraising lasts for two hours with a further hour needed to complete paperwork and bank the money raised. The daffodil appeal contributes to the care and support of terminally ill patients in their homes – 40,000 people were supported last year by Marie Curie.
What to expect when you volunteer for the Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal
Typically my volunteering shift coincided with the visit from the “Beast from the East” which meant layering up like a Michelin Man before heading to my pitch outside Waitrose. Initially worried that I’d be taking business away from the Big Issue seller who is normally there, I was relieved to note that high street was empty. Attired in my regulation Marie Curie vest, (I drew the line at donning the infamous hat!), I immediately felt horribly self-conscious in my yellow regalia. As a shy, retiring type, being in the spotlight does not sit comfortably with me.
I needn’t have worried though as the first few forlorn shoppers barely give me a glance and I begin to wonder if I’ll raise any money at all. And do people actually carry cash in our contact-less world? The first clang of a pound coin in the collection box, jolts me out of my anxiety and I resist the urge to kiss the donor and his dog.
As more people struggle out to forage for food, I became familiar with the halting steps and awkward fumble for change. A slow trickle gathers pace and I’m surprised and humbled by the number of people, young and old, who want to donate. And it’s not just money that people share. From the supermarket cashier who battled prostrate cancer to the lady who wanted to thank Marie Curie for allowing her to sleep while her mother was ill; the stories I hear are both heart-warming and uplifting.
Others so far untouched by illness also want to give as “you never know what tomorrow might bring.” An elderly Indian lady tells me about the difficulties she’s experiencing as a first-time grandmother and I’m amazed that complete strangers are willing to open up to me about the intimate details of their lives. It’s a sad fact that this would never normally happen in London and I suddenly realise the power of being such a focal point of attention. Offers of cups of tea are also in constant supply – thank you Waitrose for your timely free tea and coffee promotion, and I’m grateful to warm my hands against the freezing cold wind.
On a roll, my fundraising stint flies by and the collection bucket weighs heavily in my hands. On my return home, I discover to my delight that I have raised £102.54 in the space of two short hours – enough to provide five hours of nursing care. But money aside, the real joy has been the connection that I’ve felt to my fellow Londoners. While we may be battle to the death for a seat on the tube, my fellow commuters’ kindness and generosity also knows no bounds.
Find out how to become a Marie Curie Great Daffodil Appeal volunteer.
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