Fieldset
Diary of a street fundraiser: joining the team behind the team
MSF teams provide emergency medical care in epidemics, natural disasters and conflict zones around the world. We send medicines, equipment and highly trained staff. To keep doing it, we need ordinary people to donate what they can. In his first blog, Jake writes about what he's learnt since joining MSF UK's street fundraising team...
 
Time passes slowly. Strange tasting coffee dulls my tongue, masking the thick exhaust fumes that spray off the motorway above me. It's sweltering. The kind of heat that makes your nervous system halve its response rate but quicken your sweat glands in some cruel paradox of bodily mutiny. I hear the roar of engines, see the spirals of ochre dust kick up from the littered roadside and sigh slowly. This is not Bangui or Kinshasa. This is the car park behind New Malden's B&Q.
 

They've travelled 'to the ends of the earth', he tells me, and have seen MSF doctors and nurses grafting hard in the most unlikely places... 

The day starts with a quick conversation with a stranger, who agrees to become a regular donor to MSF. The first sign-up of the day brings with it a moment of sheer relief that we in the trade call the 'OTM' (off the mark) - but my legs feel unusually weak and the heat of the sun is searing through my black MSF polo shirt and black jeans... I know that I have a full litre of coffee on hand in a flask if needed, so perhaps things aren't so bad... 
 
I think about a fact I just recalled to an interested passer-by: MSF did 151,000 outpatient consultations in Yemen in 2015. It's a country suffering under a raging war that gets far less than its deserved shared of media attention...
 
Later I find myself listening keenly to an elderly academic economist and his wife who is a nurse. They've travelled 'to the ends of the earth', he tells me, and have seen MSF doctors and nurses grafting hard in the most unlikely places...
 
 
One of MSF's face to face fundraising stalls, manned by the street fundraising team
One of the team's fundraising stalls. Photo: Jake Leyland / MSF.
 
My final sign-up of the day comes from a motherly Irish lady with a pramful of yelping babies to overcome, but she listens to my words with interest and agrees to a handsome monthly sum, wishing me luck for the final two hours...
In the course of a day you might have to negotiate your way around arguments, tears and marriage proposals
As one of MSF's face-to-face fundraisers, I work on different sites in and around London every day. I carry a large bag full of Dispatches magazines, posters and a hefty branded banner that sometimes falls down as I'm talking to people. I stand for seven hours or so in one place, speaking to unwitting strangers who typically are kind and responsive. Fundraising is rewarding, despite being gruelling. It makes you see through the crudely constructed stereotypes of the everyman portrayed in the media, because you have to engage with everyone. It forces you into a state of constant positivity. It breeds empathy but refuses to suffer the foolishness of the closed-minded. 
 
In the course of an hour of face-to-face fundraising, your mood can veer between elation and misery depending on who you talk to, what is said, and what your body's blood / caffeine ratio is. In the course of a day you might have to negotiate your way around arguments, tears and marriage proposals. You are a victim of chaos and chance, a bit like the moon, and no two days will ever be the same. 
 
In July I will be posted to Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, if all things go to plan. I will be working as a  Logistics Base Manager for MSF for six months. Until then I will continue to convince strangers that this organisation is worth its salt and their monthly 10 quid; that their support allows us to continue to save lives.