A knock on the door

I was expecting a parcel and when there was a knock at the door I hurried to open it. Instead of our post lady dressed in orange, there was a young man standing there. I guess he was in his early twenties, very smartly dressed, and had obviously taken care over his appearance with tidy hair and beard.

I think I guessed what he wanted before he even spoke. He politely told me that he had some information about energy use – and I stopped him right there. I told him in as nice a way as I could that thanks but we were well-sorted as regards energy suppliers, cheap rates, service agreements, etc etc. He knew as I was talking to him there was no point in trying to persuade me, or try to tell me anything else; he looked not so much disappointed as resigned.

He thanked me as he turned away, and I thanked him  and said I wished him luck for the rest of the morning, and success elsewhere.

“No-one wants to listen to me,” he said, dejected as he walked away.

I felt so sorry for him. A couple of  years ago, my son was the same; smart – in appearance as well as his attitude, intelligent, good-hearted, with lots to offer, eager to work, desperate to make a success of his life. He struggled to find a job – too many talented young people out there, too few jobs… in fact too many talented people of all ages and too few jobs. My son went for an interview and was so excited to have been successful at last – he had a job, a paid job… working for a charity.

My heart sank when he said he was going to work for a charity, but I congratulated him and kept my doubts to myself. He was thrilled, not only a job, but a job which would help other people, help people less fortunate, give people a chance…

Within a few days reality struck. His job involved being dropped off with some other young people in an unknown part of the city, going round knocking on doors, trying to persuade people not only to donate, but to sign up to donate regularly each month. He was on a schedule and was supposed to knock on a certain number of doors and sign up a certain number of people to donate… Of course he managed neither…

I don’t know if it was a scam – it was a proper organisation and the charity it supported was a proper charity, but the way it was organised… On some occasions they were dropped off in quite rough areas, and I was actually anxious for them for their safety. It didn’t matter whether it was raining or blowing a gale, they still had to work all day – and in bad weather, where could they have their lunch? In housing estates, where could they find a loo? My son had little success – he knew that some of the others would virtually bully people in signing up, especially the old, but he just wouldn’t. On one occasion he knocked on the door of two old people who clearly had issues with senility. They were keen to sign up, but he just couldn’t let them do it – he wasn’t sure they were capable of making that decision, they were frail and they plainly had little money for themselves. He pretended he hadn’t got the right forms, and said he would try and come back, but they weren’t to worry if he didn’t…

When the handsome young man knocked on my door today, I thought of my son. Nobody would want a job like this, going round trying to get people interested in something most people wouldn’t be wanting/needing/have the time for. He had dressed so smartly, trying to be professional even in this job, he no doubt had as high hopes as my son when he got the job… I just hope something better comes along for him, something where his efforts will be appreciated.


Practical Action

There are so many charities and so much need of charity in the world it is really difficult to know how to help and who to help. One of the charities I do support is called Practical Action, because that’s what it offers – affordable, practical, sustainable technical support to communities which can become self-sufficient. What the charity is fighting for is ‘technology justice’ – which it explains as ‘simple, locally-produced technology that removes the unjust barriers that prevent people from improving their own lives… giving people the appropriate tools, techniques, systems or approaches to meet their basic needs for food, water, health, education and a way of earning a living‘.

The sort of problems other families face which me and my family have never had to contend with, and probably never will, are for example, having safe clean drinking water and a proper sanitation system, being safe from preventable diseases, and having strategies when facing natural disasters.

The fields in which the charity work in Africa, Asia and South America are

  • Energy access
  • Food and agriculture
  • Urban water and waste
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Climate change
  • Markets
  • Policy and practice

I received a news booklet today, and there were some interesting projects highlighted –

  • fish cages made from bamboo, netting and plastic bottles
  • ploughs made from scrap metal
  • clean water powered by sunlight
  • a safe cooker which needs less fuel
  • early warning systems in flood areas
  • evacuation procedure training for earthquake zones
  • ventilated latrines – for privacy as well as improved sanitation
  • micro-hydro power
  • floating farms made from bamboo and water hyacinth

All these simple, practical ideas for self-sufficiency, not only save lives and keeps people healthy, but also allow people to be able to feed themselves and their families; they become able to sell extra produce, and improving efficiency allows children to go to school rather than having to work,

Here is a link so you can see all the really amazing and amazingly simple things Practical Action has achieved – and is planning to achieve:




A chugger is someone, usually a young someone, working for a charity out and about in towns, trying to raise funds for the charity. They do not collect money, but they try to get people to sign up to commit to donating a regular sum every month. My son worked for a while at doing this, although he was on a house to house scheme. He was so excited and optimistic when he started; he was working, and he was working ethically, and what he hoped he would achieve was support and funds to help people less fortunate than himself. So good-hearted. Disillusion soon set in; he was not actually working for the charity he was trying to raise awareness for, but for a company employed by the charity. He was set impossible targets which would have encouraged some people to put pressure on those they were trying to interest. He was almost bullied by the team leader, who in turn was under pressure from those above. Fortunately for my son it was only a temporary holiday job… but it certainly showed us the other side of charitable fund-raising.

Back to chuggers; most chuggers seem to be enthusiastic young people, friendly and bright, trying their hardest, as my son did, to help the charity and earn money themselves. However, there is a darker side; chuggers sometimes use emotional blackmail to try to get people to sign up to donate to the charity, and they are almost pestering people, and I see them trapping the unwary and engaging them in conversation about the particular charity, and I have actually seen them trying to bully people into signing up.

I regularly give to charity; I regularly donate good quality items including good as new books, CDs and DVDs to charity shops, I respond to specific appeals to meet the needs of people suffering disaster. When I was working I contributed to several charities of my choice, regularly, every month. I don’t want to walk down the High Street and be accosted by people, however lovely and nice and caring, trying to raise my awareness of issues. It’s one thing for charities to have ‘flag days’ where passers-by stick money in a tin, but I really don’t like this more interactive style of raising funds.

Tupper’s total!

As you may know my friend Dave Johnson, AKA Alf Tupper recently tan the London Marathon, despite a knee injury; he did it as most runners do, to try to beat his previous best time, to enjoy the spirit and camaraderie of the run, and the fun of the huge event, but also to try and raise money through sponsorship for two very deserving charities. He has run the London marathon before a couple of times and raised thousands of pounds for good causes. This year he chose to support MIND, which helps people with mental health issues, and Weston Hospicecare, a local hospice for people in the last stages of their lives.

Here is final report:

Hello there!
Tupper here, or perhaps I should change my name to Alf Banksy! Yes, as you can see from the attached photo, I’ve been out on the prowl late at night indulging in a bit of anti-social behaviour. Well, he deserves it doesn’t he? Call yerself an Olympian and a Tour winner Wiggo? A knee injury didn’t stop Tupper running 26.2 miles. Shame on you!
Anyway, enough of that! The real reason I am emailing you all yet again is to proudly announce that you raised between you a magnificent £820.00 for Weston Hospicecare and £806.17 for Mind. That’s a total of £1626.17 which is a fantastic achievement. Thank you to each and every one of you who were kind enough to donate. I probably drove you all mad with my emails but I hope you will agree that the outcome was worth it.
This will be my final update other than to email copies of any certificates or acknowledgements I may receive from the charities concerned.
Thank you once again for your wonderful generosity.
All the best
Alf/Dave’s target had been £500 for each charity, so to top that so splendidly is an amazing achievement. Well done Alf! Well done Dave!
PS: Bradley Wiggins is a British cycling star and Olympic gold medal winnerwho’s recently pulled out of the Tour de France because of a knee injury, his nick-name is Wiggo, and Banksy is a famous graffiti artist