The Ups and Downs of Volunteering

I recently organised a collection in my local area to collect clothing and toiletries for the refugees stranded in camps around Europe. It was after seeing the now infamous image of the body of Aylan Kurdi on the beach in Turkey, that I knew I had to do something to help.

I knew someone from the Wishaw to Calais team, who were organising a larger campaign, and offered to head the collection for my district. The support I had from the local community was just wonderful – so many people wanted to get involved, from family and friends, to church groups, and the local high school. I even had a dance teacher who donated old stock of children’s stage costumes which were no longer required. I was overwhelmed by the response, and can honestly say this was one of the greatest things I’ve ever been involved in.

However, on the other side, what I wasn’t prepared for was the negativity from a handful of people. I appeared in the local newspaper for my efforts, and the article was posted on Facebook. Apart from the racist anti-Muslim rants which we have come to expect, I also received some personal comments directed at me, which I certainly didn’t expect.

Ailie Wallace writer volunteering refugees

Posing happily alongside all the donations

This was only a tiny glimpse of being in the public eye for five minutes. I can’t imagine how celebrities, politicians and other public figures deal with this sort of criticism on a daily basis; let alone the refugees themselves who are facing all this hatred. It was difficult not to read the comments, and I got quite upset over some of them. I know I should have ignored them, but I found myself obsessing over them and checking back every five minutes to see if anyone had posted an update. I really wanted to respond to every criticism, but felt it might damage the campaign and make me look bad if I responded angrily, so I had to just grit my teeth and ignore the comments, but was left feeling depressed and exhausted with the whole thing.

But, now that I’m no longer involved, and because this is my own blog and I can say what I like, I’ve decided to address some of the comments here

  • “do-gooder,” and “Someone’s obviously trying to make a name for themselves”

totally not true

  • “Why not help the homeless here first” or “Why not donate to local charities?”

I do. Earlier this year I took part in a 3-part challenge involving a 10K, white water rafting and Tough Mudder to raise money for the Pseudo Obstruction Research Trust (PORT). Next year I am climbing Ben Nevis. Everyone who made this comment should really take a look in the mirror and ask themselves – What are you doing to help local charities?

  • “There’s a family in our street whose mother has depression and can’t send the kids to school. If she is a writer, why is she not helping the kids to learn?”

Where do I even begin?  1. Because I’m not a mind-reader – how am I supposed to know this? 2. I’m not Mother Teresa, on a mission from God to cure the world of all its problems. 3. I’m a writer, not a teacher, or a social worker. 4. I’m not even qualified to work with children. Would you send your children to someone you don’t know?

  • “Dick”

Ahh yes, when all else fails, let’s call someone a slang word for genitals. So mature and clever, coming from a middle-aged man.

Ailie Wallace writer volunteering refugees

The local newspaper article, which caused all the fuss!

In the end I was able to collect enough to fill a 3-Ton van. My collection was only a small part of donations from around Scotland as part of the Wishaw to Calais campaign. It was sent off via a shipping container in Liverpool to Greece on the 16th October 2015.

What I learned from the experience is this: Although I faced some fierce criticism, I came out as a stronger person in the end. The easy option would be to just pack it all in and stop doing it, which I certainly felt like doing at some points. But then I looked back at the pictures of the refugees fleeing Syria, and thought of the bigger picture. I remembered that this was about them, not me.

Remember you can’t please everyone all the time. There will always be someone who disagrees with you, so just have confidence in yourself, that what you’re doing is right. Feed off the positive energy, and don’t let a few silly comments stop you. You don’t have to answer to anyone else, especially idiots and keyboard trolls!

Even though I had a hard time, I’d definitely say the positives outweigh the negatives. I had lots of support from the local community, and met loads of people. I even made a few new friends. I’d definitely recommend that everyone should join some sort of cause that they believe in. It’s great to know that your actions have made a difference in someone else’s life.

Ailie Wallace writer volunteering refugees

Handing over all the donations to Peter McDade, of the Wishaw to Calais team


Newspaper Articles

Falkirk Responding To Refugee Crisis

Falkirk Donations Pour In For Refugees

Falkirk Refugee Appeal Generates Van Of Donations




Thanks for reading! Comments are welcome below, or contact me on social.

-Ailie x


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8 thoughts on “The Ups and Downs of Volunteering

  1. ” ‘Dick”

    Ahh yes, when all else fails, let’s call someone a slang word for genitals. So mature and clever, coming from a middle-aged man.”

    Indeed. It seems that is the demographic for Facebook anymore, no longer are we scrolling endlessly through Aunt Betty’s accidental posts-intended-to-be-name-searches-or-text-messages, we have thankfully been graced with the high-intellect thoughts and hormonal ramblings/criticism of the middle-aged father/divorcee/alcoholic uncle/overall intolerable 40-50 something aging man who just missed the boom and resents his futility in society due to “those feminists.”

    Brilliant thing you have done, I only wish the post had a bit more detail regarding your experience helping those truly in need. How it made you feel, the response, where you in fact sent the items, things like that.

    Regretful you had to deal with that response, though it was anticipated, nothing really stabilizes us when useless, hurtful, ridiculous words are slung our way. Good on you, I know that isn’t what you are looking for, but you are the kind of human we need. Thank-you for all you do.

    1. Hi Charleen,

      Thanks so much for your lovely comments.

      Yes, it is unfortunate now that we come to expect that sort of response on social media nowadays. As much as it is a brilliant tool for connecting with like-minded people; it is also a way for numbskulls to make their voices heard by criticising other people. In this situation, we just have to remind ourselves that these people are probably the school bullies, wife-beaters, football thugs who beat up supporters of the opposing team, and people who dress in white hoods and perform nazi salutes. Not the type of people we would associate with in everyday life, or whose opinions matter to us in the first place.

      On the other hand though, if it wasn’t for social media then I wouldn’t have been able to publicise my campaign, and I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet so many friendly people (like yourself) who support what I’m doing. I appreciate your feedback to include further information about the campaign itself, so I’ll try and add this in when I get the chance.

      Best regards,
      Ailie x

  2. Congrats on your efforts and for caring enough to make a difference! I can’t believe the criticism though. Regarding the mom who can’t send her children to school, I’d love to know what the person who criticized you for not helping her is doing to help her -unbelievable!

    Kudos to you for making the world a better place!

    1. Thanks Laurel. I still can’t quite believe the criticism either, especially when I’m trying to do a good thing. But hey, it’s their problem, not mine. Would it stop me doing something similar in future? No.

      If all these critics stepped away from their keyboards and actually joined in, then think of the difference we could make together…

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