Month: April 2013

The truth about ‘chuggers’

By Eva Nyandoro

My first day working as a street fundraiser will be forever marked in my mind.  On that day 52 people were killed by four terrorists on 7 July 2005. As I walked through King’s Cross after being told to get off the 73 bus, a mass surge of people run away from king Cross knocking me sideways and pushing people to the ground. Obliviously to the chaos around me, I kept on walking. I was a woman possessed with the blitz spirit. Needless to say, I was the only one in the team to get to Warren Street station. Our shift was cancelled that day.

untitled

Everyday a group of us would hit different spots across London from local high streets to affluent areas like Richmond. The hours were long and often we didn’t finish until we hit our quotas for the day. We had an hourly rate and if we managed to sign up a lot of people in the day, our hourly rate would increase for that day. I was great at chatting to people; unfortunately, I was terrible at getting people to sign up. I was let go after one month. Throughout my brief summer month working as a high street warrior I would come home either drenched in water from failing miserable to hold my umbrella, dripping with sweat from standing in the burning sun all day. Waking up in the morning and knowing that somebody was going to sign up to Amnesty International and they didn’t even know, kept me going on those particularly dark days.

My time involved heckling and joking with the commuters that skidded around me. I always had a knack of making people smile even if they didn’t stop to talk. I even drove a man to head into a lingerie shop to avoid me. He jumped out of the shop embarrassed and I was there waiting for him. I met the late George Best in a leafy picturesque village. He gave me his signature but he didn’t leave his credit card details as he had left it in the pub. He never came back in the end.

Picture from ThirdSectorsJobs website

Picture from ThirdSectorsJobs website

If you ever want to avoid street fundraisers the tricks that left me stumped were:

  • I’m already a member
  • I don’t speak English very well
  • I’m running late for a meeting
  • I’m underage
  • The meter is running

On-street fundraisers are often picked on in the media as ‘chuggers’. It is an aggressive charity mugger that goes around causing a nuisance and pest to people walking on the high street. This term is offensive to the hard-working fundraisers who work long hours making real changes to charities up and down the country. Over the years they have been branded with a barrage of misguided perceptions from the public.

The reality is a very small minority of individuals act like chuggers. They can use abusive language or be obstructive to passers-by. This type of person doesn’t represent the ethos of the charity they work for. Nobody would willing hire a person like this. The majority of Face-to-face fundraisers (F2F) are more like high street warriors.

Did you know that F2F fundraising raises £130million a year for UK charities and 18% of all donors that give through direct debit and standing order were recruited through face-to-face methods? This is one of the most cost-effective ways for charities to find new donors to support their causes.

Whether you like or hate fundraisers – when was the last time you went out of your way to donate money without being bombarded by an advertising campaign, emergency crisis appeal or plea from friends or family involved in fundraising projects like friend’s skydiving for Cancer Research? When did you just randomly decided to donate £5 to a great cause?

It is too simplistic to lay the charge of ‘chuggers’ on hardworking fundraisers. Or, put another way: don’t hate the fundraisers, hate the reality. If you don’t want to sign up you can always say NO. By the time a high street warrior hits their pillow tonight they will have helped to change people’s lives. Can you say the same?

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Lots of Jamaicans are helping others – and not “doing a ting”

By Stuart Taylor

What is your image of life in Jamaica, for the average Jamaican?  Some people think the island is rife with deception, trickery, stealing and corruption.  “Doing a ting”, as people say.

Like many people, I have been amused by some of the stories of “doing a ting”.  There’s the perhaps mythical story of the ex-London bus driver.  After thirty years of driving the streets of London, he returns to Jamaica.  He has a few car driving lessons and studies the highway code.  Test one – fail!  Test two – fail!  Test three – fail!  How can this be?  But his friend explains, “yu mus do a ting”.  Once his paperwork for the examiner is accompanied by £100, he passes – no problem!

buses

Then there is the policeman who was so helpful by accepting the fine for a minor traffic infringement to save the driver from having to spend all the next day in court.  Yet he asks the motorist to pull in to the side street as there’ll be fewer persons with cell phone cameras to record this fine transaction!

Okay, we could all go on and on with examples.  “Doing a ting” happens in many countries in one way or another.  The GP in Romania’s health system will often anticipate a tip in addition to the standard payment – and that’s in a part of the EU!

We can easily be blinded by all the talk of “doing a ting” in a negative way.  Many of my personal experiences suggest the opposite.  A primary school in Trelawny set up an early start breakfast club that is helping children that face particular difficulties to get up to scratch.  Teachers are choosing to start work earlier, for no extra pay.  Parents are helping with breakfast preparation.  Others are helping to pay for the food.  Pupils are keen – some even arriving before the teachers.

After viewing a house in Runaway Bay, on the north coast, the man showing me round walked to my car and spotted wires hanging below the front bumper.  Within a second, the bonnet was up and the problem sorted.

Then there are the friends or neighbours – tax or legal experts – who will sort your technical difficulty with no expectation of financial gain to themselves.  Just like the stranger standing in the road who gave me a bag of mango one day and a sack of yam the next.

Cowman's cows

Cowman’s cows

Surely this cannot be the Jamaica that we so often hear about?  Well, if you live there for long enough you can come across even better examplesThere’s the recent case of a labourer on my building site.  For weeks he impressed me as a hard-working 23-year-old. One day I was anxiously re-tracing my steps, searching, searching, searching.  A few site workers had encouraged “Cowman” to keep the lost bag of US dollars.  But as I reached the end of my first circuit, Cowman asked whether I had lost the little black bag.  Not only was he fair and honest with me, he also wanted to be fair to his co-workers – whom he believed stood to lose two weeks’ wages.

In a similar vein, I visited a house in Kensington, on the east coast.  A colleague dropped her phone in long grass, as we struggled across rough terrain.  A young lady answered the missing phone and explained how we could find her.  She happily returned a decent UK phone that carried plenty of international credit.

Such real-life stories of individuals “doing a ting” should be flashed around Jamaica – and around the world.  Jamaica really is made up of lots of honest people – however the media may choose to exaggerate.

And we must not forget the Diaspora – Jamaicans working overseas who send large amounts of hard-earned pay back to family and friends. A recent report calculated that almost a tenth of Jamaica’s annual income (GDP) comes from individuals living in the USA.  Adding in remittances from Canada and Britain means that perhaps a sixth or a seventh of Jamaica’s economy stems from the “gifting” of Jamaicans living abroad.

The Rotary club is a hospital where the local’s people volunteer their time to help people in the community.

The Rotary club is a hospital where the local’s people volunteer their time to help people in the community.

In addition, there are the many persons who contribute each year to Labour Day activities – or through more frequent assistance to individuals and their community.  And there remain a good few examples of credit unions and “partners” pooling financial resources to help individuals at certain times.  As the Jamaica Co-Operative Credit Union League says, the Credit Union Movement “continues to have a significant impact on Jamaican society, promoting the ideas of self-help and community co-operation”.

A year after Jamaica’s 50th independence anniversary, we see many, many examples of honesty, endeavour and good spirit on the island – from individuals to millions at home and abroad.  Whatever the cynics may say, we repeatedly see people, day-in, day-out, year-in, year-out living by the spirit of Jamaica’s wonderful National Pledge:

“Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.”

Few countries across the world can rival such a splendid pledge.  Perhaps Singapore gets nearest.

So, let’s celebrate Cowman and his many sisters and brothers who strive to build the better Jamaica that Jamaicans long to see – “whatever dem may sey ‘bout doing a ting”.

If you would like to find out more about Stuart experiences contact stuart@bespokehomesjamaica.com