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Story of a street fundraiser

Italian-born Francesca Passi speaks five languages, spent time translating for Syrian refugees and now raises money for Oxfam across the north west. 

She explains why her determination to fight poverty makes street fundraising the ideal career choice.

On working with refugees…

As a student I spent time in Jordan and Syria. After that, I worked for the UN, translating for people who had fled from Syria. Most were happy to be safe and hopeful for a better future, but also worried because they had left everything behind.

On becoming an Oxfam fundraiser…

As an interpreter, I had to be neutral - translating word for word. But I wanted to feel I was making more of a difference. I'd never done anything like street fundraising before but - because I'm passionate about fighting poverty - I absolutely wanted to try.

On training as a fundraiser…

We learnt a lot about Oxfam, and I read as much as I could find online, because the more knowledge I have, the more I can do to fight poverty. We learned about the things we can't do too - like never speaking to people in front of cashpoints and not being too pushy. I really believe in Oxfam's work, so it's important to try to inspire people but not to pressure them.

On the potential for change…

My time as a fundraiser has made me believe in people's generosity, and it's helped me to see how many people share my belief that there is always the possibility of change - and that even poverty can be overcome. Every town and every day is different, but there are so many people who share Oxfam's values.

On life as a fundraiser…

I used to be the one who would cross to the other side of the street or say, 'Sorry, I'm busy' when I saw a fundraiser. Now that I'm in the opposite position, I see things differently! I try to inspire people, and to let them know that even by giving a small amount they really are doing something special.

On using languages...

Fundraising is a good opportunity to use my language skills. I speak to people in Arabic and in Italian and in French. It works well - I use all of my cheeky Italian ways! I think it can help people to understand that Oxfam is an international organisation that works in 94 countries. I spoke to a man from Yemen recently, who had never heard of Oxfam and couldn't believe we were working in his country. He said he absolutely wanted to help.

On feeling proud…

The work I do makes me feel useful in society - and not just in one society but in our international community. It can be a little tough, but you achieve amazing things. When I speak to someone who then gives to Oxfam, that donation could support someone with clean water, or help people to enjoy basic human rights. Knowing that makes me feel like I'm doing something great in my daily life. It makes me feel proud.

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