Activism

Oxfam shows 'We Care' in Zimbabwe

For families in many parts of the world household tasks such as laundry, cooking, cleaning, collecting water and caring for dependents take a huge amount of time and energy. Limited access to time-saving equipment, public infrastructure and services exacerbates this situation.

For women, domestic and care work is often heavy, inefficient and unequally distributed. Women globally spend, on average, more than twice as long as men on unpaid work – that can mean as much as five hours per day on household tasks like laundry and cooking, and on caring for children and family. It can mean less time spent learning new skills, earning money or taking an active role in the community. This limits women’s choices and undermines efforts to achieve gender equality and overcome poverty. Oxfam’s We Care initiative aims to change this.

Why Oxfam cares about care

Care has long been considered the responsibility of women. As a result, providing care falls disproportionately on their shoulders – limiting women’s time to learn, to earn or to take part in political and social activities of their choice. This is an issue in every country; however, the effects of unequal care are more extreme in poor communities. Tasks such as laundry and cooking can take most of the day when there is limited access to water and fuel, let alone washing machines or stoves. Drivers of poverty, such as lack of services and exposure to disasters, increase the demand for care work – preventing women’s empowerment and trapping families in poverty.

Ulita Mutambo said: “We started the ‘We Care’ programme in 2014, that’s when things changed for the better. At first my husband did not help me at all. I would do all the work on my own, carrying firewood from the mountains, fetching water from the borehole which is far from here. Things got better when he accepted to join the programme and started helping me. Now the work is lighter. 

“The chores that have to be done are laundry, fetching water, cooking, bathing the children, as well as working in the fields. When I had just got married I would do all the work, my husband would only help now and then. Now we help each other. While I do the washing, cooking or sweeping, my husband goes to fetch water. After that we go together to collect firewood. Getting help is good because now I get time to rest. Before we joined the programme I would never have time to rest.

“Now that I have free time, I can help my children with their homework. Before the We Care programme, I never had time to help my children with school work, so I am happy. I am also able to spend time with my children, getting closer to them. The programme has changed life a lot within this family. We now live together in harmony as a family.”

(Top) Ulita Mutambo (26) stands with her husband Muchineripi Sibanda (36), her son Blessing, 9, and Sandra, 6, outside their home in Ture Village, Zvishevane region, Zimbabwe. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Ulita with her young nephew outside her home. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top) Ulita and her husband Muchineripi walk to collect water from an Oxfam-built water pump just over 1km from their home. (Bottom left) Ulita and Muchineripi take a break from farming together in their corn field close to where they live. (Bottom right) Muchineripi helps Ulita with the laundry in a nearby river . Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

(Top-Left) Ulita’s husband Muchineripi helps her hang up laundry outside their home. (Top right) Muchineripi with Sandra outside their home. (Bottom left) Ulita with her daughter Sandra. (Bottom right) Sandra relaxes in a wheelbarrow. Photos: Aurelie Marrier d'Unienville/Oxfam

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Coldplay in Dublin: stand in solidarity with refugees

Rock band Coldplay arrive in Dublin this weekend to play Saturday’s massive gig in Croke Park as part of their latest tour – and Oxfam Ireland will be there too…

The members of Coldplay have been among Oxfam's most high profile and vocal supporters of the last decade. The band have used their worldwide success to help Oxfam campaign in over 50 countries. As they set off on their Head Full of Dreams world tour, Coldplay again invited Oxfam to join them, including Saturday’s gig in Dublin.

So we’ll be there in Croke Park, asking Coldplay fans to join together in solidarity with some of the most vulnerable people on the planet – those people displaced by conflict and disaster.

Because people that have been forced to flee often have a head full of dreams too, but for different reasons. They often leave with little more than the clothes on their backs, but they carry with them hopes for a better future for themselves and their families, safe from terrifying natural disasters, extreme hardship and brutal wars.

65.6 million people have fled conflict and persecution in countries such as Syria, South Sudan and Yemen. This is the highest figure since the Second World War. The greater number of them are displaced within their own countries, rather than refugees crossing international borders. Almost 20 million more have fled environmental disaster.

Across the world, displaced people are facing incredible odds. For example, in Syria, 11 million people have been forced to abandon their homes, and millions more are in desperate need of help. After six years of violence, many are in need of medical treatment and other support.

MARIAM’S STORY

This includes people like Mariam Bazerbashi. When continuing violence made her home in Damascus too dangerous, Mariam travelled for seven days to Presevo in Serbia with her children.

Mariam, 29, in Preševo, Serbia after escaping from the conflict in Damascus with her two sons Ali*, 7, and Abbas*, 4. Ali suffer from muscular dystrophy and can’t walk. Mariam’s husband is still in Syria. (*Children’s names have been changed to protect their identity.) Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam.

“I’m here with my children alone. My husband is still in Syria. My son has a muscular disease and can’t walk. I’ve carried him all the way from Syria but today I was given a wheelchair for him.”

But it doesn't have to be this way. We have been providing support to more than 6.7 million people in conflict-affected countries in the past year. We are working on the ground in countries like Syria, South Sudan, and Yemen to help displaced families with immediate basic needs such as clean water, shelter, food and work – but we need to uphold our commitment to welcome and protect refugees and immigrants here too.

As well as working to give practical support to people forced to flee, we have been campaigning for changes in the law here, to help displaced people in Ireland and the UK.

Strict rules are forcing refugee families to live apart, trapping them in different countries to their loved ones and making it harder for them to be brought together. These rules target vulnerable people who are seeking safety after fleeing unfathomable violence and loss. We're calling on global leaders – including the Irish and UK governments – to do more to ensure that people forced to flee can do so safely and legally and to reunite families torn apart.

We can't turn our backs on families who have fled violence and persecution. Together, with your support, we'll keep pushing until refugees get the protection and support they need.

By taking our Right to Refuge: Keep Families Together action, you’ll be helping us put public pressure on our governments to do more to help people find safe and legal routes to escape from war and persecution, and help families torn apart be united and find safety together.

That is why Oxfam is asking Coldplay fans in Croke Park and beyond to stand together in solidarity and support of those fleeing to safety. Together we’ll show that they are not alone, and make sure world leaders know that we won’t stand by while people suffer. We will stand as one.

SolidaritY

So far 30,000 Coldplay fans have joined us by signing up and wearing their Stand As One Coldplay tour wristband to show their support to those in Syria and all over the world who are fleeing conflict.

Chris Martin and Coldplay at Glastonbury. Photos: Coldplay/R42

Whether you’re at the Coldplay concert in Dublin (be sure to come find us and say hello!) or reading this from your front room, you can be part of our global movement. Take a stand with Oxfam by joining our call to action here.

And if you’d like to hear more about what’s happening on the day at Croke Park, follow @OxfamIreland, using any or all of the hashtags #ColdplayDublin, #StandAsOne and #RighttoRefuge.

To read more about Coldplay’s past work and support for Oxfam, visit https://www.oxfam.org/en/ambassadors/coldplay

 

“Hi, I am Hazem, I hope you haven’t forgotten me yet.”

Forced migration separates families. It wrenches children from their parents and grandparents, separates siblings, forces partners to live apart, and destroys extended family networks. Over the past months, Oxfam has interviewed people that have been stranded in Greece and asked them to share their experiences during their perilous journeys to Europe and the separation from their family. The right to family life and the protection of the family is a shared value that cuts across cultures.

People who were separated from their family talked to Oxfam about the severe impacts separation has on their lives and wrote letters to their loved ones in other EU member states.

Abdul

Abdul from Herat, Afghanistan, hopes to reunite with his wife and son in Germany. He wrote a heart-warming letter to them, while he waits for his family reunification request to be processed in Epirus.

“Greetings to my wife Zahra Ahmadi and to my dear son Mohamad Taha Jan that are now in the city of Hamburg, Germany. I hope both of you are in good health and spirit. I hope one day I will be next to you and once again we live together. May God protect both of you.

With respect,

Abdul Algafar Ahmadi

 

Abdul, a refugee from Herat in Afghanistan, who fled to Epirus, Greece. Photo: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam

Najat

Najat fled with only a few members of her family from the town of Afrin in Northern Syria, and she now lives in Epirus, in Greece. She hopes to reunite with her oldest son who arrived in Germany in 2016.

“My dear son Mohannad,

How are you? How is your health?

I am your mother in Greece. Thank God that we are OK, nothing is missing, except seeing you and your brothers. How’s your health, and everything else?

Let me know about yourself.”

The EU and its member states, including Ireland, are failing to protect the right to family life for migrants, including refugees, as the new policy brief of Oxfam ‘Dear Family’ showcases. Their policies and practices are tearing families apart, forcing them to continue living apart after being separated during displacement and exposing people to risks.

The ‘MikriPoli’ Community Centre is based in Ioannina, the North-west region of Greece where Oxfam operates. Itwas established in March 2016 by Terre des Hommes and Oxfam, thanks to the support from European Union emergency support funding (ECHO). The centre helps provide cross-cultural communication and simultaneously supports people who arrive in Greece seeking safety and dignity.

Najat fled with only a few members of her family from Afrin in Northern Syria, to Epirus in Greece. Photo: Felipe Jacome/Oxfam. 

Hazem

Hazem is a 20-year-old Syrian asylum seeker who lives in Greece, and who also works in the Mikri Poli Community Centre. Hazem shared his feelings about the separation of his family, and sends a powerful message to European governments:

“I am almost 20 and I live in an apartment in Ioannina, working as an interpreter/cultural mediator for an NGO called Terre des Hommes. My main work is in the community centre in Ioannina.

 “I am in touch with my family, my mum, who has stayed with my little brother back in Syria, my brothers, who are in Germany, and my sister, who lives in a camp in Konitsa. I haven’t seen my brothers for two years and my mum for almost 1 year and a half. My mum and my brother are still in Syria. We couldn’t find a way for them to join us in Europe or even to be in a safe site [in Syria]. Now, they are a bit safe because of the ceasefire in Idlib. But anyway, this is not a permanent solution, it is a painkiller!

“Honestly, I miss my mum the most, I miss her hugs, her presence inside our home, her delicious food, and everything related to her. I am still stuck in Greece having a sharp desire to continue my studies in medicine which were interrupted due to conflict and study also about cultures and religions, how they affect each other, and how to approach people from different backgrounds. I want to take the next step and learn a new language and integrate with the society. It is still hard to feel stable. I am worried about the rest of my family and this is a sharp challenge.

“Regarding that, I have something to say to the European governments: We are still human, please, support the family reunification more and give it more importance. Because people are suffering from family dispersion and I am one of them.”

Hazem is a 20-year-old asylum seeker now living in Greece. Photo: Angelos Sioulas/Oxfam

How will the EU respond to Hazem and so many others like him?

As well as working to give practical support to people forced to flee, Oxfam has been campaigning for changes in the law to help people find safe and legal routes to escape from war and persecution, and measures to help families torn apart be united and find safety together.

Find out more information about Oxfam’s Right to Refuge – Keep Families Together campaign. You can read Oxfam’s new policy brief on refugee family reunion in Ireland here and the full ‘Dear Family’ report here. Find out more about Oxfam’s humanitarian response in Greece here.

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Keeping families together

Layla Mohammed* (39) and her family recently returned to their home in Bashir village in Iraq after two years on the move. The family were forced to leave everything behind when ISIS captured their village and fighting broke out.

In Iraq, Oxfam is helping families like Layla’s who have returned to their homes to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives through cash for work programmes and business grants.

We’ve installed water systems and toilets in camps for those forced to flee and distributed other vital supplies such as blankets and heaters. Oxfam has also helped run trauma centres in the eastern part of the besieged city of Mosul and we continue to support health centres with water and sanitation.

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Life was good before ISIS came. Layla and her husband had a two-storey house, livestock and a shop – they were able to provide for their children. Initially, they weren’t afraid of ISIS because Bashir was surrounded by police and military, and they thought they would be safe

When ISIS came, Layla’s husband was away working. He had told her to stay safe at home. She didn’t know what to do.

“[My husband] told me to stay but I saw people escaping…My eldest daughter understood what was going on and she was afraid. I was afraid because they were shooting and bombing so I took my children and went to Taza, the next town. My husband called me and told me that I did well to escape. I kept thinking it was the end of our lives and they would kill us.”

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

The battle for Bashir destroyed Layla’s home and over 100 of her friends and neighbours have never been seen again. Layla fled Taza shortly after arriving as ISIS were en route to claim it too. She lived in a mosque for seven months and then an empty school building for two months. Finally she settled with her family in a cattle shed in another village called Leylan.

“We stayed in the cattle stable for a year. The neighbours helped us and gave us food. We were strangers there but they helped us anyway. The stable was small…dirty and had scorpions. I could only think of my house in Bashir, which was clean.” 

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Layla was worried about her family and their future. She had decided not to send her son to the local school because she believed that they were going to return home any day. As a result, he missed out on a year of his education. Worse still, food was very scarce – and her children were starving. 

“We had nothing to feed the children, I only had sugar and water to give them. They were starving. When we were escaping from Taza I found a sack of bread someone had left for their cattle and I took it and gave it to the children to eat.”

Only one thing kept her going: “Every day that I was displaced I was living to come home.”

Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

When Bashir was retaken, Layla told her husband that she wanted to go home. But when the family returned, they couldn’t go near the house because it was littered with mines. The army had to clear the site before she could start rebuilding her home – and her life.

The first time she saw her house, Layla cried for a long time. Then she set her mind to transforming a pile of rubble into a home: “I was waking my husband up at 5am every day and I lifted the concrete blocks myself. People respected me for it in the community…They said I am doing a lot to rebuild my own house. I am happy to be home because it’s my home; even if I only eat bread I am happy to be back. I never thought I would get to come back.”

Layla and her family, who feature in our virtual reality content from Iraq, got to experience a virtual reality trip to Tanzania for themselves when Oxfam brought the head set to their home in Bashir in Iraq. Photo: Tegid Cartwright/Oxfam 

Last year, Oxfam launched the Right to Refuge campaign to put pressure on governments ahead of the first UN summit on refugees and migration. An incredible 32,000 people from across the island of Ireland joined us by signing our petition calling on the Irish and UK governments to do more to protect refugees and migrants.

The summit marked the start of a long process to agree a new global plan for refugees and migrants which will be announced in 2018. And while some progress has been made, it isn’t enough. What we urgently need now is action.

We are expanding our Right to Refuge campaign to call on governments to immediately do more to welcome and protect those seeking safety and to reunite families that have been torn apart as they flee from war, persecution or disaster. As part of this, we have developed a virtual reality environment where you can experience what life is like for Layla for yourself throughout this summer at various shopping centres, festivals and events throughout the island of Ireland. To find out more about our locations, please email info@oxfamireland.org.

Please take a moment to ask your government to protect the right to refuge.

*Name changed to protect identity

Time is the most precious gift of all: Meet some of our inspiring volunteers

For over 50 years, Oxfam Ireland has had the pleasure of hosting countless generous and giving volunteers who put their heart and soul into contributing in a positive way to their local community, their local Oxfam and further afield. These volunteers give the most precious gift of all - their time, to give back to their community and to help organisations like Oxfam Ireland run smoothly and raise money to run life-saving programmes to help vulnerable people in poverty. The funds raised from our shops help to implement Oxfam initiatives such as providing clean water and sanitation in refugee camps and helping to protect and empower women farmers in Tanzania through our livelihoods programme. 

Our Oxfam volunteers are at the heart of our organisation and without their time, effort and selfless generosity, our organisation would not run as effectively as it does, providing essential aid to those who need it. 

Oxfam wants to highlight some of the volunteers who are part of our Oxfam family, striving to make the world a more just and fair place. Here are the faces of some of our volunteers, who have kindly shared their stories. We hope that you can see a little bit of yourself in each and every one of them.

Zahid, a volunteer at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, Dublin on coming full circle with Oxfam

Zahid has become part of the furniture at Oxfam Home on King’s Inn Street, having given five years of hard work and dedication as a volunteer. Photo: Maria Gillan

Zahid, a student at the IBEC College in Temple Bar comes from Bangladesh and describes himself as a conscientious person. He previously worked with Oxfam, volunteering to help distribute life-saving emergency aid provided by Oxfam in Bangladesh after his country was affected by natural disasters.

Zahid says: “If a big flood happens then people lose their homes, they lose everything, they don’t have any money to buy food. They don’t have any place to stay so we help them by giving them shelter and by providing some food, or whatever else they need.”

Having previously worked with Oxfam in his home country, Zahid was motivated to continue working with the organisation when he first came to Dublin, and he has come full circle in terms of seeing how Oxfam provides life-saving aid to those in need. Zahid has now been working in the furniture shop on King’s Inn shop for 5 years from the first day the shop opened.

”I like talking and communicating with people and asking them about their lives. It’s like a daily routine for me. I like how every day is like a new start, different things happen every day.”

Zahid is not just a volunteer with Oxfam but volunteers with Saint Vincent de Paul too. “I love to have a chat with the local people, and ask about their daily routine,” he says. “It’s nice to see that you know all the Finglas local people and the customers at King’s Inn Street too. They really love me. They know which days I am working and if they don’t see me they keep asking, ‘Where is he, where is he?’” he laughs.

Zahid’s conscientious and generous spirit is not only seen by the customers in the shops that he meets daily but by his own friends and family too: “If any of my friends asks for help, if I’m able to do it, I just do it straight away. If I am able to do what you ask of me, then I can never say no, I can do it for you. I like to help others - you can say it’s a part of my character.”

Emmet James Driver: A volunteer campaigner on behalf of refugees

Emmet, volunteering on behalf of Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign at Longitude festival in Marlay Park. Photo: Maria Gillan

Emmet shared his story about how he became a volunteer campaigner with Oxfam Ireland and the importance of changing negative mind-sets surrounding refugees. 

Emmet’s campaigning role began when he was walking down the street one day and was approached by an Oxfam campaigner named Shazia who asked him to sign a petition. As he walked on by in a hurry, she called out: “It’s just a petition and it’s just about equality!” After hearing about the petition, he immediately signed up and when he received a follow up phone call to ask if he could become a regular supporter, he said: 

“Look, guys, I don’t have any money…but I’ve got lots of time. Do you want some time?”

When asked if he would be interested in supporting Oxfam’s Right to Refuge campaign, calling on the Irish Government to do more to protect and support refugees, Emmet replied: “Absolutely, yes I would”.

Emmet’s passion and commitment to campaigning on the refugee crisis comes from a personal story of his own:

“When I was in college I had a friend who was Palestinian who was seeking asylum here in Ireland, and he was seeking asylum for two and a half years and was denied. And then he was ordered to be deported. At that point I was so unbelievably angry because, as Irish people, we have travelled to every single corner of this planet over the last seven hundred years and every single place we went we were accepted and every single place we still go to now, people are proud to say ‘I have Irish blood’.

“In Ireland, I believe we have a sort of genetic memory of the hardships of our past. What’s frustrating is that we are not taking in as many refugees as we can, and when we do take people in, we put them into a completely inadequate situation which is Direct Provision. Then when it comes to people seeking asylum, there’s a massive long list of people and they are not allowed to work and they’re not allowed to do anything while they are seeking asylum and then they can still be denied and then deported.”

Emmet strongly believes that due to our own personal history of emigration on this island we have a responsibility to help those in need, bringing to mind a famous quote displayed on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses”.

“That is what Ireland should be, because we did just that. We did it for years, even centuries, Irish people travelling abroad and we owe it to the world to offer that back. We should take people in, give them a home and be friendly to them, and welcome them into our society and into our culture as well. Anytime, I see that not happening, I get very, very passionate and I get very, very angry. Which is why, when I heard about the Right to Refuge campaign I said yes. We have to do more, to lobby our governments to provide refugees with a safe place to call home, and that’s what this campaign is about and this is what volunteering is about.”

Emmet remarks that one of the most rewarding parts of his role is when you change someone’s mind-set or when people realise the importance of the work that volunteers do:

“You’ll thank a person for signing the petition and they’ll look you in the eye and they’ll say, “No, thank YOU - you are the one doing the work.

“I find that every single person out there has the ability within them to understand the issues we’re talking about, they just have to relate it back to something they are familiar with, back to something that they can understand. And then it suddenly dawns on them that these refugees aren’t these foreign figures, they are human beings and we should give them a place to live and feel safe.”

Alex Clyde, a volunteer in Oxfam’s Belfast office on embracing opportunities

Alex is pictured at Oxfam’s office in Belfast where she volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant. Photo: Maria Gillan

Alex volunteered as a Campaigns and Advocacy Assistant, working in Oxfam’s office in Belfast. She first became interested in volunteering with Oxfam while pursuing her Master’s Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies at Magee University in Derry and wanted to gain work experience in the charity sector:

“Finding work in the charity sector is not easy. But I became interested in working with Oxfam as Oxfam create campaigns, not just to raise money but to actually do something to create real change to benefit those that need it. Oxfam provided me with the chance to gain work experience for a full year and I was interested in getting experience in events management and the campaigns and advocacy side of Oxfam’s work.

“I got to organise events like Culture Night, getting people involved in events, sorting out insurance matters, alongside communications work. I learned loads, it’s hectic but it’s so much fun.”

Alongside her work with Oxfam, Alex volunteers with local charities that benefit refugees, and stresses the importance of welcoming refugees into our communities:

“I believe reintegration for refugees into communities is so important and so I also do work with other organisations who deal with this. Refugees only survive on about £30 a week here, with full families living on that little per week. 

“I’ve sat down with refugees and heard their stories, some of them can be heart-breaking and make you realise the little things we take for granted. Something as simple as a guy that I was talking to from Sri Lanka whose child wanted to go swimming and he finds it hard because he can’t send his child to the swimming pool. This is because they barely have enough to feed themselves, let alone afford those activities.”

Having worked with organisations that deal directly with refugees, Alex has had first-hand accounts of refugees’ individual experiences since leaving their home countries and settling into their new home in Northern Ireland:

“I think that doing the simple things with people, like taking them out for a coffee, the little things, really welcome them into the country. They are going to settle into a really different culture so it’s so important for us to welcome them as best as we can. Going to events are great to let them know you are there but they really need the day to day interaction, asking how they are doing and so on.”

Outside of her role at Oxfam, Alex’s work and research involves dealing with the mental health issues refugees experience, especially in relation to Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and living in conflict:

“Imagine fleeing conflict and dealing with the trauma of it, then moving to another country and feeling like an outcast, it can be so damaging for them. Volunteering or having a job enables you to make friends, to get to know people, have a real purpose and create a real identity. So I think working in a volunteer capacity can be great for refugees too.”

Having worked with many local organisations, Alex knows the value of volunteering:

“With volunteering, I really feel like I’m giving back. I mean, we’re really lucky. I really recognise this, especially as a woman. I can go to school to get a full education, I can wear trousers, I can drive a car. There’s just so many things that we can do that others can’t. I have so much going for me that I feel it’s important to provide other people with that opportunity and I would definitely encourage more people to volunteer. I think that all graduates of Social Science should be made to take a year out and do something like volunteer, (such as with Oxfam!), or helping out in a foreign country. It really gives you a different perspective on the world and makes you more open-minded.”

Family matters: Chloe and Johnnie Chu, volunteers at Oxfam Books in Dublin

Siblings Chloe and Johnnie pose in front of the wide range of books available in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street shop in Dublin. Photo: Maria Gillan

Chloe and Johnnie from Dublin are brother and sister and have been dedicated volunteers in Oxfam Books on Parliament Street for a number of years. Johnnie was the first member of his family to volunteer his time with Oxfam and after seeing how much her brother enjoyed his time there, Chloe started volunteering for a few hours once a week, to give something back: 

“A normal work shift is about four hours,” says Chloe. “But I always wish it could be longer because it is amazing to see so many people of all ages take an interest in books and helping charity.” 

Chloe and Johnnie both love books and love meeting the interesting customers who visit the shop, as well as immersing themselves in the extensive range of unique books that can be found there. 

Chloe and Johnnie aren’t the only members of the Chu family who selflessly give their time to volunteer with Oxfam. When Chloe’s older sister moved to England she also volunteered with Oxfam over there too.

“There is a running joke in the family that our younger sister is going to start working here too,” laughs Johnnie. “That would make it four members of the family who volunteer with Oxfam!”

Chloe adds: “The main reason why I volunteer is because I love the idea that I am helping someone and that makes me really happy. And with every book donated or sold, that means I’ve done a successful job and we’ve all made a joint effort to help people in need – and that is what’s important.”

50 years of commitment: Kay Rogers, former Oxfam Ireland Board member and volunteer in the Belfast office

Kay stands beside a picture displaying Oxfam’s message of ‘Hope’, a message that Oxfam’s programmes strive to provide to people in need. Photo: Maria Gillan 

If there’s one lady who can be given a badge for dedication and long-term support for Oxfam’s work, it’s Kay Rogers. Kay has been an irreplaceable volunteer with Oxfam for almost 50 years and is a prime example of someone who displays real selflessness and commitment to helping those less fortunate. She is also responsible for helping to develop Oxfam’s first presence in Northern Ireland and has served in countless ways: as a volunteer Board member, a shop volunteer, an office intern, a spokesperson and a fundraiser.  

One of the best experiences that Kay has had was a trip to Tanzania to see the work that Oxfam does there and the impact it was having on the lives of people living in poverty:

“I was lucky enough to go on a week-long trip to Tanzania with Oxfam, where we visited many types of projects with small farmers. For example, we visited Kiwokukie, which was a women’s organisation that was founded by women in response to the HIV and AIDS crisis at that time. We also visited a small-scale farmer’s organisation too, where I got to see the positive impact that Oxfam initiatives have had first-hand. And it’s extraordinary, you know, for me, being an old luddite who rages against technology, to see how actually providing small-scale farmers with a mobile phone meant that they could find out the price of produce that day so they knew whether or not it was worth their while hauling their produce on a bicycle into the market or if they were going to be ripped off by traders. So if they knew they were going to get a decent price, it was worth their while going.

“I could see the benefits of these simple things first-hand. I could see progress. I saw the impact our work truly has.”

In the 50 years that Kay has been involved in Oxfam, she has seen it grow and evolve, alongside raising her family and working as a nurse in her community: “A few years ago, I was thinking of giving up as I had other important commitments and a friend of mine said to me, you’ll never do that because Oxfam runs through your veins.”

Kay understand the importance of volunteers and that’s why she has enjoyed the work she has done lately in the office which is about recognition and awards for volunteers, many of whom have been working in Oxfam shops for 20 or more years. 

“Volunteers give a gift of time and I think that just summarises it. They give the gift of their time and in return for that they need to have recognition, they need to have people say thank you. Volunteering is an opportunity to give something back to your community and you get something in return also – a new batch of friends, something positive to keep you busy, while also raising money for projects in the developing world.”

Philip O’Brien, a volunteer at Oxfam Portlaoise, on the importance of giving back

Philip, sits by the till in Oxfam’s shop in Portlaoise, where he serves customers each day. Photo: Maria Gillan

Philip was a mechanical engineer by trade, working for almost 40 years. However finding out he had cancer changed his outlook on life: “After getting over the cancer, my attitude became more positive. And it was my positive attitude that helped me get through it. I learned not to take life so seriously, and I now appreciate life so much more. I need to have a laugh so working here is great for me - we have great fun.”

“I enjoy meeting people and giving back to society. And after nearly dying, it made me realise to live for the moment and want to give back in some way. Going from working all my life to not working was a big adjustment, especially for my brain to handle.

“I don’t take life for granted in any way anymore. I’ve learned not to jump into situations too quickly and rush myself. Laughter is the best medicine. I’m a messer, I love to have the craic with people who come in to the shop.”

Volunteering with Oxfam has helped Philip to remain positive and make a difference in his community:

“I intend to work at the Oxfam Portlaoise shop for as long as possible,” he says. “Volunteering is positive for your mental state and a great way to pass the time while helping those who need it.”

Oxfam has many exciting opportunities for people who would like to make a difference and join a global movement of people who won’t live with poverty. If you would like to volunteer or find out more information on volunteering, click here.

Maria Gillan, author of this post, volunteered her time and talent to Oxfam Ireland to collate these stories as part of her university studies. We’re grateful for the energy and enthusiasm she gave to highlighting the names, faces and stories of some of our wonderful volunteers.

 

 

 

 

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