David K
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Maria Clarke - Connecting with volunteers

David K
Posted by
01 Aug 2014

This week Maria has kindly agreed to give us some insight into volunteering with us

This week the questions I have been asking our volunteers are answered by Maria Clark, Regional Chair for Scotland and Chair of our Glasgow & District Branch

 

Hi Maria, can you give us a bit of background about your involvement with us?

I joined my local branch (Glasgow and District Branch) in 2002, shortly after the death of my husband from lymphoma. I had vaguely known the Branch was around but hadn't taken much notice of it. In the end I think I was quite angry at the disease, and maybe saw myself in joining the branch, joining the fight against it and getting some revenge. I was amazed to meet all the others in the Branch, some of whom had been fund-raising for more than 40 years, and were still so active. And they still are! They had lost children to leukaemia. Others were survivors of blood cancer, others involved through family association or friendship. It immediately gave me a much wider picture of blood cancer. It was great to join in all the fund-raising activities they had organised, and to make new friends. Two of them, who became good friends to me, have since died, but though we all feel their loss, the Branch continues! I am always astonished at the number of people who come out to help us, or to take part in our events.

What drives you to keep fundraising?

I want to see blood cancer beaten, I want to see better treatments, and I want to support all the others who put so much energy into fund-raising. I'm retired now and I have more time to give to it. At times it can be a bit of a drag standing with a bucket in the rain. More often it can be fun and you meet lots of interesting people. It also restores my faith in humanity when I see how generous people, often total strangers, can be.

What do you do to recruit more people to the Glasgow & District Branch?

That is never easy. Most younger people work such long hours these days, so that they really don't have time to give to meetings. But it is so good when someone does come along. We have had two younger people join us since I became a member, and despite both of them having young families, they do as much as they can. Just having them around with their fresh approach and ideas is invigorating for us all. I think the important thing is to respond positively to anyone who approaches us (we do get a number of people contacting us from the LLR website). Most of them don't want to attend meetings, but I have an email list of people who are interested in supporting us, and when anyone gets in touch, I ask if they would like to be added to the list. Whenever we have an event coming up, or we need help, I put out a message, and people can get back in touch if they can take part. I think the important thing is not that they join the Branch (though we would love a few more to come along), but that they come out whenever they can and support us. Similarly, whenever we can, we support other peoples activities, and they become aware that the Branch exists. If anyone else has had success in recruiting others to their Branch, I would love to hear how they do it!

What do you get from volunteering with us?

Fun, a lot of fresh air, a lot of good food and good company, good friends, and a lot of things to think about. And though I'm certainly not out for revenge any more, I still want to beat blood cancer for everyone.

If someone were to ask you how your activities have helped you personally, what would you say?

Joining the Branch was probably hugely important in the healing process after my husband's death. And it certainly gave me immediate goals, and things to occupy my thoughts. It still gives me a focus. If I have an idle moment, I can find things to fill it if I really want to. Quite simply, it has become part of my life, and one of the many things I do that gives me fulfilment. I have got a lot of personal satisfaction out of what we do, despite the frustration at what we can't do sometimes. I have met people I never would have done, and made new friends. I look more kindly on others because I know how generous they can be. I have a lot more understanding of the volunteer world, and rarely pass someone else collecting without opening my purse, as long as it is a cause that I feel I can support.  But because I understand why LLR does things and how they do them, I am even more intolerant of people who cold call at my door, hired by agencies to support a charity to which they, themselves, have no personal loyalty. It may be cost effective financially for these organisations (I remain unconvinced in the long term), but I don't think it does their standing and reputation much good. I am proud to be involved in a charity with an ethos that I can whole heartedly support

 

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions Maria, it's really inspiring to see how you've taken all the negative experiences and turned it into a force for good  

If you would like more information on the Glasgow & District Branch, or any of our other Branches then please do contact me on 0131 524 1321 or email me on dkennedy@beatingbloodcancers.org.uk.

Last Week’s blog with John Purser from our South Birmingham Branch and Regional Chair for the Midlands can be found here