It’s been a long day in Spite. Relief efforts don’t organise themselves, except perhaps in Polythreme. Siobhan is stuck squarely in the middle of these efforts, arguing, persuading, and outright browbeating people into doing what’s necessary.
Feed the hungry, tend the sick, clothe the cold, and find beds for the weary. The work never ends, and Siobhan may be feeling just a little weary herself, which is why her temper is a little thin by the time Sara finds her.
She’s debating angrily with a man - at least, the tone conveys anger, even if one doesn’t understand Gaelic, and calling the other party a man is probably at least as accurate as calling him a loud and ambulant talking beard. Now here’s someone no barber has touched in at least a decade.
"Is cuma sa toll feisithe liomsa," Siobhan snaps, apparently concluding the conversation. "To Hell with what the dockers say, those barrels need to be here by tomorrow. Or people’ll go hungry, and the food’ll just sit there going rotten. You tell them that, all right?" She’s switched back to English as the elderly woman escorting Sara in arrives, for her sake.
The man, or walking beard, leaves, muttering something under his breath.
At last she sees Sara, and Siobhan forces a polite smile onto her face. "How can I help you?"
Instantly Sara senses the hostility in the air, but forces herself to ignore it; things need to be discussed, and politely fleeing the situation will only make things worse. She affects a casual, friendly tone to mask her nervousness, and quickly organizes her thoughts to avoid missteps there. “Hello! I’m Sara Hysaro. I’m here to talk about the supply drive I’m currently running to help Flowerdene.”
It’s entirely probable that stating her business was unnecessary since Eli surely would have told Siobhan about everything, but it wouldn’t be the first time details have suffered casualties due to stress. Better to be overly informative than to leave someone trying to remember who this strange lady is and why she thinks her name is a sufficient answer.
The tension fades suddenly, and Siobhan’s smile warms, becomes quite genuine. "Eli told me you might drop by. Good to meet you. Come and pull up a chair?" She beckons Sara to follow her over to a table and a couple of chairs, where she sits, looking relieved to be off her feet.
"So what is it you’re thinking of doing, and what do you need to be doing it?" Siobhan flips open a little notebook, holding a pencil at the ready. Normally, she’d simply rely upon her memory, but there’s too much going on, and all of it is too important, to risk forgetting even a single detail. "Don’t mind me with the writing, I’ve that much to remember," she explains ruefully.
Sara nods and sits down, glad the atmosphere is more friendly. She takes a second to ensure there won’t be any unanswered questions when she leaves here - it’s unlikely they’ll get to talk again soon, given Sara’s independence from the FDI and Siobhan’s busy schedule. First, the obvious.
"So, first priority is here, due to the supply line cuts. I’d like to have an estimate of needed supplies and their quantities, to make sure I can definitely cover that. Next is Flowerdene itself, of course. Depending on our success I’ll also be providing relief to Western Wolfstack, expanding out to the area between Flowedene and the Veilgarden Honey-Dens, and trying to help as many ex-urchins as I can."
Next, the matter of distribution. Sara fishes a piece of paper out of her pocket, providing information to a townhouse Sara has currently re-purposed for the charity. "I’m receiving and storing the supplies at this address. Delivery locations would definitely be helpful - I’ll be handling the distribution itself, of course."
Any other matters to handle, apart from the second project she has planned? Sara wishes she had helped with a supply drive of this nature before, so that she could know from experience what needs answering. Obviously the supplies will need to be inspected to avoid poison and other terrible things from those who really hate Flowerdene, but that’s something for Sara to deal with.
Ultimately she reaches out for assistance in grasping the right questions. "Anything obvious I might’ve overlooked? This is the first time I’ve organized anything like this, so it’s definitely possible I missed something." She offers a small hand motion, combined with a shrug as she continues to think. "The paperwork’s covered."
edited by Sara Hysaro on 9/5/2016
"I can get you a list of what we need and where it’ll need to go," Siobhan agrees briskly. "And the names of useful people who can help you distribute." She pauses, thinking. "Security. You have it right, I hope? Enough that no-one steals what you’re giving, to sell for their own profit, but not enough that anyone’ll fear you’re a raid in disguise. Because if the people think you’re infiltrating to strike at them, it will get ugly."
Siobhan frowns slightly. "They’re used to ‘help’ that comes with strings attached, or is no more than a cover for other things. Those are the only kinds that come from outside Spite, in general."
Another pause. "Eli said you were coming at this from the church. Which one?" Her blue-grey eyes are very sharp. "That’s a thing you best work carefully around. You’ll want local faces and local voices involved, if you’re to make it clear this help isn’t depending on ‘getting right with God’ in any particular church’s way." She leans forward, emphasising her points. "See, there are a lot of people in Spite who’re not exactly the type filtering into the pews of the merry old Church of England, you understand?" There’s a brief flicker of cheerful contempt there, but it fades back into seriousness soon enough.
"And there’ll be some here who remember how it can go. Back home, in the Famines, there were those offering food… if a body were to convert, give up the faith of his father. Some’ll fear it’ll be the case again, if you come with church words on your lips and bread in your hands. Not just the Irish like m’self, but others, too. Like the Widow’s own, though she sees to them right enough, mostly. You’ll be after remembering that plenty of Spite’s folk are the kind used to being looked down on, and not just for empty pockets." Siobhan laughs mirthlessly. "Though at least with Rubberies and devils and Clay Men walking the street, things’re easier, is said by them as’re old enough to remember."
"Right, security. I do have some arranged." Sara had asked for help from some of her more dependable contacts, taking care to pick the ones who’d feel most comfortable working in Spite. The last thing Sara wanted was someone anxiously pointing a gun at every moving shadow, distressing the already wary community.
On the topic of religion Sara decides not to needlessly provoke agitation by identifying herself as catholic, especially since her personal views often didn’t align perfectly with the church’s teachings. She’d already decided against proselytizing of any sort during this fundraiser. "The bible stays at home, no worries. I fully understand that people don’t enjoy having faith shoved in their faces, and having to endure it to get actual necessities would be awful. This is from the church without condition - I’ve made absolutely certain of that."
edited by Sara Hysaro on 9/6/2016
"All’s well, then." Siobhan relaxes, with a disarming smile and a pacifying little gesture. "I had to check. Wouldn’t be doing my duty by these people if I didn’t. We’ll put together those lists and get them sent to you as soon as possible."
She’s already decided who to ask: old Isaac, who makes his living reading and writing for those who can’t do either - and there are enough of those, in Spite. He’s discreet, and a firm supporter of the Initiative. He’ll compose those lists gladly, Siobhan is sure of it.
"Is there anything else you needed?"
“Alright, thank you very much.” Sara smiles, glad to have gotten all the preparation for the supply drive out of the way. All that remains are matters she can handle personally, and responses from a couple contacts she’s yet to receive. One is out on a zee-voyage, but the other seems to have either vanished or misplaced the letter. She’ll have to look into that later. “There is one other thing I wanted some feedback on.”
The nature of her question leaves Sara wanting a clipboard, as if conducting a survey. Perhaps it is better that she lacks one, however - random pollsters rarely better received than random missionaries. “I was hoping to organize a second fundraiser for Flowerdene, to hopefully provide improvement on a long-term basis. Do you have a recommendation? I have ideas, but would like to hear your thoughts first. Also, since I like to make plans for the event of failure, I intend give any money I raise to an establishment already within the community if I undershoot the target goal. A suggestion there would also be very helpful.”
"Literacy and medicine." Siobhan’s answer is immediate. "Rookery folk rise no higher if they can’t read or write. They can’t reach for better things, and can’t teach any of it to their children, either. And medicine… you need strength to work. Get sick, lose that strength, and you’ve little left." The Neath may treat violent deaths as an inconvenience, but disease still takes its toll, Siobhan has discovered, and poverty and overcrowding are fertile grounds for countless sicknesses to grow and spread.
"You shouldn’t have much trouble with selling those needs to the right moneyed people, I hope." She smiles tightly. "Nothing too controversial. Unless giving the poor their letters and their health has turned controversial again, in which case it’ll be us, not you, that’ll need to get louder."
That smile is grimly amused, now. "I know you won’t be giving the money to the Initiative, even if we are most of what’s established in support, here. But there’s an Itinerant Physician some pool what little money they have to bring in at times, and Sister Kathleen serves soup, when she can afford to."
“Literacy is definitely something I was hoping to promote. I feel pretty confident in my ability to set up a library - I know a lot of people who would absolutely donate literature and old newspapers in great condition, as well as academic publications. I could bring in recent newspaper editions, and collect a list of job openings. The homeless could take shelter from the ‘snow’ when it falls. On the weekends there’d be story time in the morning, with a free breakfast. Oh, and I was thinking of organizing monthly field trips to various places in the city.”
Sara was particularly fond of the library idea, though she doubts it would make a great difference. She moves onto the far more obvious choice, easier to promote and with more benefits overall. “Now, for a primary school I could definitely provide textbooks, and stock a small library with encyclopedias and biographies, along with fiction for entertainment. There’d be a clinic for first aid and some medicine. Free breakfast and lunch, of course. I’d need to do some hunting for good teachers, but it’d definitely be helpful.”
Medicine wasn’t quite something she was quite as enthused about in terms of planning, but those who are deathly ill probably won’t spend their time learning to read. On the other hand, who’s to say a library can’t also be a hospital? There would need to be two separate entrances to avoid disease spreading to the healthy, and everything would need to be kept as sterile as possible, but she sees no reason why it couldn’t work. It’d also make it far more easy to pitch to the public, seeing as it would provide obvious benefits to the people there.
“…here’s an idea. What if the library was also a charity hospital? It’d be a hospital first and foremost, of course, but there’d be a separate entrance that’d go directly to the library. And who needs some sort of distraction more than those who are recovering?”
She holds her tongue, waiting first for any possible objections to this hybridization she only just considered. There could very well be a fatal flaw in this combination that she hasn’t had a chance to notice. That’s even assuming that a hospital could even win out over a primary school in this matter of advice. She could only do one project of this scale, at least for the time being.
Siobhan looks a little dubious. "You’ll have sicknesses riding through your pages, that way. There’s diseases bad enough that everything a person owns gets burned to keep it from spreading, or returning - that’d do your books no good at all. Better off separate, perhaps." She tugs thoughtfully upon her braid. "Same way a lot of the sick will need to be kept separate from each other. Recovering from one thing, you’re still weak enough to catch another. Or if you’re old, or very young, or with child… You’d need to be helping a lot of people, and not all of them ought be close together, you see?"
She makes some notes as she goes. "Even with the library you’d need teachers, or half the people couldn’t use it anyway. They’ll not go in to stare at books they can’t read. Might be you could have classes in your library? For the grown and the small. Make them at times people can get in without losing money by not working - and that includes the littles, plenty of them are working goodly portions of the day to help their families, the ones that aren’t orphans stealing to live."
Taking the criticisms in stride, Sara offers a smile and nod. “Makes sense. The last thing anyone needs is to have disease spread when it’s preventable. Books can only be kept so sterile before they no longer qualify as books.”
She contemplates the library suggestion. Formal literacy classes would definitely help the library accomplish the most it can to help the people of the community get ahead in life. Getting the needed teachers would be a little easier than it’d be for a full school, as well. “I see no reason why I couldn’t - classes sound like an excellent idea.”
Scheduling would be a bit of a hassle, as many workers still worked frankly ludicrous hours per day. She takes a minute to puzzle out the logistics. “Definitely a few at various times during the weekdays, short so people aren’t cutting into their much needed sleep, and anyone is free to come and go as needed. Sunday afternoons, after church, there could be a longer class for young children. Workers still need to sleep and do things, so still short classes for them in the afternoon and evening. Sound good?”
She considers this carefully, before nodding. The library suggestion is one she can see herself being able to check up on more easily, unlike places for the sick. Siobhan’s generally been in good health, good enough that she can help look after ill people with little fear normally, but now that she’s with child, she doesn’t dare, and it rankles a little, being unable to help because of her condition. But books? Those she can deal with, still. She can read and write, and when all this is over, perhaps she can spare more time for passing those skills along.
"Sounds as though it’d suit just fine. You need anything, you just send someone to ask me, all right? I’ll get whoever’s needed moving fast as they may."
In response to the finalized plans Sara’s mind begins compiling a list of all the necessary paperwork for such an establishment. She’ll also need to determine a proper location for it within Spite, but between the map she made of Fallen London and her bat Ayla to check for discrepancies in her cartography this shouldn’t be too much trouble. “Alright, I shall definitely let you know if anything comes up.” She offers a parting smile and wave. “You have a good evening.”
Her departure involves retracing the same path she used to arrive, reuniting with Caldyr a fair distance outside of Spite. Though well aware of the uncertainty of fundraising, Sara can’t help but feel a sense of surprised enthusiasm on the way home. She had braced herself for potential disappointment, made tentative plans to preserve some of the aspects she found exciting, and tried to find the fun in planning other endeavors. Instead, she got precisely what she was hoping for, a quite unexpected outcome. Superstitious cynicism would play at the corners of her mind, but for now she permits unfettered delight to reign.