Originally from Cape Town, South Africa, Dave lives in North London with his partner Satu. Both Dave and Satu volunteer with Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, Dave as a fundraiser and Satu as a complementary therapist.
Speaking to Dave, I am reminded of the presence of the extraordinary in the so-called ‘ordinary’, of the good that can be done through simple kindness and consideration, that is all too often forgotten and undervalued in the frantic rush of modern urban existence.
A self-described ‘grumpy’ person, Dave comes across as the polar opposite to your typical socialite. However, this surface prickliness is belied by his conduct; Dave is a person who has his head screwed on right and who regularly goes out of his way to use his skills and knowledge to help other people.
Dave spoke to ehospice about his upcoming trip, his fundraising and volunteering work for the hospice and why hospice is important to him.
Could you give me a bit of background about the challenge. It looks like you’ll be doing it as part of a team. How big will the team be and how are they recruited?
There are over twenty walkers, but I’m not sure how many of them I know. I know the team at Marie Curie Hospice well, the people in the fundraising office as well as others, because I do all sorts of stuff there. The hospice advertises the walk on social media, and they put posters up in the hospice so that people are aware that it is happening and can sign up.
How long have you been volunteering there?
And what sort of activities do you do?
I do can-shaking for them, in March when they do their Daffodil Appeal, and in December when they do their Christmas collection. Those are their two big collections of the year.
I also put cans out in assorted builders’ merchants and other local businesses, just as a regular thing.
They have a summer fair and a winter fair. There are always plenty of volunteers to stand behind tables to sell the goods, so I help by lugging tables and boxes and things like that.
Do you know why Marie Curie would choose the Great Wall of China for a fundraising walk?
They do a big trek of some kind every year: India, Peru, and there are things going on in the States. There’s always a big fundraising trek on the go.
Have you taken part in any other challenges in the past to raise money?
In 2011, I walked the Inca trail on behalf of Marie Curie, and I raised three and a half thousand pounds for them.
Do you find that people give generously when you ask them to give to hospice?
Yes, I‘ve been pleasantly surprised by who’s given what. When I decided that I wanted to do the Inca trail, I was sent money from a school friend of mine in South Africa who I hadn’t seen since I’d left school. We had connected randomly through Facebook.
He saw that I was doing the walk and sent me twenty pounds. Now in South African Rands, that’s massive. And a friend of my daughter’s from Cape Town, she sent me twenty pounds, also from South Africa, and you just think: Wow!
I’m always amazed by the goodness of people. I’m always touched by people who give something.
I’d given up my expectations when I started collecting for Marie Curie at the station. You think: ‘Well, why doesn’t everybody just give 5p, you know?’ You stand at King’s Cross station and you think: If everyone on this station just gave me a penny, then I’d have more money than they collected for the day. But it’s not like that and I’m just grateful for the money that I do manage to collect. Because it all goes to a good cause.
There was a homeless woman on Euston for a couple of years, she used to bring me her coppers. She would come with a handful of change and she’d take the silver out and give me the coppers for my collection.
That went on for a couple of years and then I never saw her again, so I hope she got straight rather than something happened to her.
What other things are you doing to fundraise for your walk?
I will more than likely in the New Year get hold of all my musician friends as I did for Peru. I need to find a venue, and I will organise an evening of bands and charge ten quid on the door.
I also do, because I’m a handyman and I do bits of work for people, if I do a small job and it’s not really worth a lot… I mean it’s almost embarrassing saying: “Well it’s thirty pounds for the fifteen minutes I spent here.” I’d rather say: “This is what I’m doing, make a donation to my walk fund.” And I’ve probably raised about 500 pounds just from doing that.
And by habit I stop and help people change tyres, or like if a car’s broken down, I’ll push it out the way to the side of the road. You know, it’s just things that I do. And if somebody offers me money, I just say: “No. This is what I’m doing, make a donation.”
Have you been able to keep track of people doing that?
Yes. Recently I helped a guy in Islington who had driven his van into one of these width restrictions, and they’ve got those big cast-iron half bells on the side and he, in a momentary lapse of concentration, hit the kerb and dropped his van over the top of one, and was busy taking the bumper off to try and get the van free.
I’d pulled up because I’ve got a bottle jack that could have lifted his van. Afterwards, he asked whether he could give me something for my trouble. But I said: “No, don’t, that’s what I’m doing…”
Well he remembered and a couple of days later in my just giving account, there was a message saying: “Thanks for helping me out when I crashed my van in Islington. Good luck with the hike!”
Can you tell me how you got involved in hospice?
In 2006 I met a lady at Christmas time who, two weeks later, was given her third diagnosis of cancer. She asked me if I would come to the hospital with her. They told her she had six weeks to live. I’d only known her for three weeks.
She was young, she was 42 when she died. She was an orphan, and had grown up in homes and various other places so she didn’t really have any close family and I cared for her.
She fought it off until May – so five months rather than six weeks – and she died at Marie Curie Hospice. They allowed her to die with grace and dignity.
I don’t have money to give them, but I’ve got time, so I give them my time.
There must have been a kind of decision moment because you could have said goodbye and that could have been it for you. What kept you on?
How can you leave somebody on their own? With nobody else. She was stuck with me. I feel sorry for her that all she had to rely on was me. But how could I walk away?
And she was a lovely girl and she used to sing like an angel. She had fire and character and all the rest of it. And I used to… in the last weeks and months that I knew her, I used to drive her around to open mic evenings so she could sing and she said: “Will you tell me if I can’t sing anymore?” and I said: “Yes, I’ll tell you when you can’t sing anymore.”
But she decided for herself that she was going to stop singing. She drank whiskey and smoked like a train and she had a good heart.
She appeared on ‘Stars in our Eyes’, a programme that used to be on ITV, as Edith Piaf.
I have the video at home, which I had put onto DVD and I gave to a couple of people, her friends, people that she knew.
I‘ve got the video tape at home and I need to copy it onto a DVD, because otherwise she never existed. There are very few of us who remember Tania.
Why would you say that it’s important to donate to hospice?
They do wonderful work. They look after people who are at the end of life or who have had a debilitating illness for a long time and people who are frail or mentally scarred.
And not only do they look after the people, they look after the families too. They do grief counselling, they care for everybody involved. It’s not just: “You’re the sick person, so we’ll look after you.” They look after everybody.