Avid fund-raiser Lee Clark hasn’t spoken to anyone at work for almost three months now – but it’s not because he doesn’t get on with his colleagues.
Tesco employee Lee works at a branch of the supermarket in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, and isn’t even speaking to customers.
The usually “noisy and chatty” dad-of-five is part way through a three-month sponsored silence whenever he’s on shift to raise money for Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and Diabetes UK, reports EssexLive.
He started his annual fundraiser at the beginning of last month and will finish on April 10. His only form of communication at the moment is through flashcards, pens and paper.
Speaking while not at work, Lee said: “It could be quite draining because you try not to slip up and try to focus. It can be a horrible experience but, again, I’m lucky I can put myself in that position to help someone else and I’ll happily do that every single time.”
“That’s what gets me through, it is usually every time because the sponsor’s silence is a very lonely place. I feel very lonely, it is quite isolated in a sense.”
This will be 40-year-old Lee’s 15th straight year taking part in his sponsored silence.
In his first nine-hour silent shift all those years ago, he managed to raise approximately £800 for the Lennox Lewis Cancer Fund.
He said: “It was phenomenal because I’ve never done anything like that in my life before, so it really got me. It gave me the bug for fundraising as well. I just saw the response as well as the love and support it brought.”
Since 2007, Lee has either organized or participated in 108 charity events – raising a whopping £178,000 for 32 different charities.
Lee decides to increase the time period of the silence every year by a day. He also said he saw the fun and laughter it brought to shoppers and his colleagues, to a point where they start to “miss his voice” after a while.
Lee has a board around his neck with an A4 piece of paper explaining what he is doing and who is he raising money for as well as flashcards to help with FAQs.
Lee considers this fundraising event as his “worst one” as he often gets frustrated when he wants to talk to colleagues or customers but can’t even make a sound.”
He added: “One of the hardest things I found is when my colleagues are having a chat and I can’t even join in. I switch off, I try to zone out of conversations because otherwise, I get frustrated I want to talk.
“It’s the worst thing in the world when you just want to blurt out and join in their conversation.”
But he also said he feels relieved after his shift because he loves talking. To cope during the three months, Lee has a countdown calendar to cope with the silence.
He went on: “It is like when you go swimming and you go underwater, hold your breath and then you come back up. That is how I feel every time I finish my silence.”
For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.