That time I begged on the streets of London

Have you ever had to beg total strangers for money?

A couple of times, I'm sure I've probably forgotten my wallet and had to ask someone for money. But that's not such a big deal (I think). It's just one person you may have to ask and you could do that discreetly.

But have you ever had to publicly stand on the streets and beg everyone that passes for money. Jiggling your bucket of coins and asking "Any change please, any change?" I have. It wasn't a funny experience, but I'll do it again if I had the chance.

It was awkward at first. I was hesitant. People were looking at me funny - or so I thought.  I wasn't jiggling the bucket hard enough. I wasn't talking loud enough. People passed by, some said "sorry no change". Others walked straight ahead without casting as much as a side glance at me. The occasional person dropped a few coins in. After a few minutes, I gathered some confidence. Anything worth doing is worth doing well. So if I was going to beg, I was definitely going to beg well! 

Okay let's address the obvious question. Why was I begging on the streets of London, precisely by St. Paul's station. 

You see, I'd always assumed that people who stood on the streets of London, with similar buckets asking for a donation to their charity, often worked for the charity or were paid to do so. Till I stood at St. Paul's, jiggling my bucket to raise help money for Macmillan Cancer Centre. I stood there with some of my colleagues: Lawyers, Non-Lawyers and Partners. Yeah some partners begged as well. Never mind how important they are, or how much money they've got. They took out one hour or two or three of their day to stand at St. Paul's station. I was very impressed by the guy (Let's call him R) who took up his entire Volunteer Day to do this. 

So back to me begging. I had initially been sticking to R, begging in the same area as he, afraid to venture out to another side of the road on my own. (For some reason (or is it just my imagination) passers-by seemed  to drop more coins in his bucket than mine). I decided to go in search of greener pastures. I walked to a busier side of the street, and I wouldn't forget the  two lovely elderly women who stopped to ask if I was a Macmillan nurse. No I replied "I'm only helping them raise some money". She dug into her purse and replied "Oh those nurses are wonderful. I'll never pass by an opportunity to donate". I think she dropped a £2 coin. Every little helps! 

At the end of my hour shift, I had such a sense of fulfilment. Begging had never been more fulfilling. 
I emptied my bucket into R's, took off my green overall and wished him the best for the rest of the day (He seemed un-bothered to be there for the rest of the day, and was happily munching on his sandwich).

Macmillan was one of the charities my office supported. We had events very often to help raise money.  It was one of the ways we lived out our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I had pitched in to help during my one-hour lunch time.

The idea behind CSR is easy. You have a business. Your business thrives in the society. How are you giving back to the society?

In Nigeria, I know a few businesses that have a very visible CSR initiative. But I'm afraid, that the majority don't appear to do so. I think it'll be a great idea for businesses to pick a charity and publicly declare that their charity and help raise funds for it. Employees could also be entitled to a day off to volunteer with the said charity or any charity of their choice.

Or you could organise mini events at work, and raise money for the charity. Some examples from my office are:

  • Bake-off Day: People bake all sorts of pastries and these are sold, with the proceeds for charity. I really wanted to bake some Nigerian meat pies for this, but was so swamped with work that period. Hopefully next time!
  • Christmas Jumper/ Wear a particular colour to work day: Wear a Christmas Jumper, take photos and donate a minimum amount: Remember that's how I won the Orchestra Tickets. 
  • Inter-Departmental Fun Quiz - Each participant donates a minimum amount to partake in the Quiz and stands a chance to win prizes. 

Basically, anything. 

And if you're just an individual, you're not exempted from social responsibility as well. Let's call it Individual Social Responsibility - or simply the good old Volunteering!

It could be awkward at first. Like the time I was part of a group that  visited an Orphanage in Ibadan, or the Prisons in Enugu - unsure of why I was really there and if I was saying/doing the right things at that moment. 

I've recently signed up to attend an event - four sisters who love to cook have organised a night-in to simply cook and invite guests to eat and have a good time. For free. Everyone attending is invited to consider making a donation to Macmillan Cancer care. 

Similarly, you could host a barbecue or game night and ask people to donate as well - to any good cause.

What (free) contributions do you make to the society you live in. Do you volunteer anywhere? Visit orphanages/ the Sick / Prisons? Do you work in a place that has a visible CSR policy? Is this something you can pitch to your bosses? Or maybe start it?

I'm trying to consciously create time for volunteering and I hope you will too. On a lighter note, have you ever had to publicly beg a stranger for money? How did that go?

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others
— Mahatma Gandhi
Volunteers don’t necessarily have the time, they have the Heart
— Elizabeth Andrew

KacheeTee... Xx

pS: If you're aware of any good volunteering opportunities in Nigeria, could you please state below, as a couple of people have asked me this question. 

ppS: Being in the UK, exposes me to all sort of things people do to raise money for charity! Swim the Nile, Cycle to China, Climb Mount Everest. I exaggerate but you get the gist.  Hopefully, one day I hope i can run a 10k race. If you know how much I hate physical exercise, then you know that that's a mean goal!