This month we spoke to volunteer Marion Wells, a seasonal Fundraising Events Assistant, from Long Eaton in Nottingham, who supports the Fundraising Events team on the air show circuit. We spoke to Marion about her role.
I am a qualified teacher and chartered librarian by trade. The armed forces have always been a part of my family. My father did national service towards the end of WWII in the RAF. I had uncles who also served the RAF and in the Army. As a child I lived in Dover and I recall my mother telling me stories about her experiences of living in the area of Hell Fire Corner. She used to hang out the washing while the Battle of Britain was going on overhead.
It was a chance event about five years ago. I met a gentleman, while shopping in Tesco, who was holding his blue tin and collecting for the Wings Appeal. I stopped and had a chat with him as he had a photo that looked so similar to photos I had seen of my father. A month later I joined my local branch and started to help with Wings Appeal collections.
Three summers ago I joined a collection at Chatsworth and had a good time working with Mal and Susan from the branch. I loved the role, working with the public and talking about what we do and the enjoyment of the process. It was fantastic to meet a wider audience of people who have a similar mindset to me and common interests.
At the end of the event, I had enjoyed it so much that I asked Mal if I could to help again. He put me in contact with Chris Osborne, the Fundraising Events Manager at the Association. From there I have helped at the air show events for the last three summers.
I believe in the Association, and why I am doing it. It’s not just being given a product to promote or about getting donations. It’s also about what we do and about promoting the brand and getting the Association’s name out there, highlighting the support and services we offer to the RAF family.
I was at the point in my life where I was on a repeat, going to work, eating, then sleeping. I felt that I needed more in my life. I had been looking for an organisation to work with and it was by chance that I met the gentleman collecting for the Wings Appeal. I knew there and then this was the direction I wanted to take.
I enjoy meeting and helping people as it gives me a huge sense of satisfaction. Knowing that I have helped someone, whether that’s on the day, or a few months down the line.
I am aware that I have been very lucky. I have had opportunities to meet and talk to people that I would not normally have been able to. Once, I stood on the cliffs at Bournemouth Airshow and had members of the Typhoon Display Team give me a personal commentary on the display on a lovely summer’s day.
At the same event, in 2016, some parents came to the stand with a red flying suit asking, ‘could we possibly get the flying suit signed?’ Just the fact, I was able to walk across to the Red Arrows’ PR Team tent and enquire about getting the suit signed for the boy’s fifth birthday gave me a sense of pride. The delight of the parents when they returned to pick the suit up; you could see that it meant everything to them and potentially more to the boy who would receive the gift. For me I had pride that I was given the opportunity to make someone smile.
That everyone has a story and that everyone has a history ….
At an air show a lady was standing in front of the stand while some military band music was playing. I noticed that she was crying. I went to speak with her. It was at that point she spoke of her brother’s death that occurred ten years previously. The lady had not talked to anyone before about the grief or impact of her loss. I was able to listen and provide some emotional support there and then. It was nice to know that she left having discussed her emotions, but interestingly she also left with an RAF Association membership form in hand.
At another air show I was taking some photographs when I spotted a gentleman with a chest full of medals. I felt that I needed to outline why I was taking the photos, as he had shown interest in my activity. He said his name was ‘John Bell, I may be 93 but go and Google me’. I did so. He was an interesting individual and he had many stories to tell.
I have also had the privilege to be in the company of the late branch member Ted Leaviss, a Rear Gunner who was involved in Operation Manna and was the founder and organiser of Manna reunions for over 20 years. I have always found it interesting to hear the stories.
As a volunteer in the Fundraising Events Team I get to be involved in the front of house and behind the scenes aspects of the air shows. I get to go to some fantastic places on the air show circuit and meet and speak to some fantastic individuals. I get to promote the work of the Association, I believe in the work that I’m doing and why I am doing it, every event is a highlight.