Oxfam shops

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.

 

 

 

 

Celebrating Volunteers: Celine Voiry from Oxfam's shop in Galway

Celine Voiry has just celebrated her one year anniversary as a volunteer at the Oxfam shop in Galway, first volunteering all the way back in March 2016. Here she tells us a bit more about herself and her work with us at Oxfam Ireland.
What does a typical day look like when you’re working in the shop?
I arrive, I open the shop, set up the till, clean up a little – just get ready for the day. I mostly work in the back: sorting and steaming clothes. I do a lot of different things! I like it because I like fashion, especially clothes and shoes.
I am an Oxfam shopper too – for me and my husband – because the shop has beautiful clothes. We get lots of great donations!
 
What’s your favourite things about working in the shop?
Shoes, shoes, shoes! And sorting and looking at the children’s clothes – I have a teenage son. I also really enjoy working with the team – I have a good manager, all the volunteers are lovely and we have a great ambience in the shop.
 
Why did you choose to volunteer with Oxfam Ireland?
I wanted to practise my English - I live in Galway but I’m originally from Paris – so I started to volunteer but now I love what I do so I decided to stay!
 
Tell us about yourself…
My hobbies are fitness and sports as well as reading books, shopping and going to the pub with my friends. I also like walking my dog. I just don’t like sitting on the sofa – I like being active!
 
Next time you’re in Galway why not pop in and say hi?
 
If you would like any further information about volunteering with Oxfam Ireland simply email volunteer@oxfamireland.org
 
Oxfam volunteer Celine Voiry

Be a cool kid, buy your dad a goat gift this Father’s Day

All the cool kids know it – goats make people smile! This Father’s Day, you could spread smiles the world over with the gift of a goat from the Oxfam Unwrapped range.

It’s the present that keeps giving back by changing the lives of families who depend on animals for their livelihood.

Goats are easy to care for, hardy and resilient even in times of drought which means they play an essential role for families living in poverty. They provide nutritious milk as well as fertiliser for crops and the money earned from selling extra milk can be sold at the local market and used to buy supplies for school, medicine and other household essentials. Plus their little kids can be passed on to another family when they grow up so many others will reap the same benefits.

Be a cool kid and buy your dad a Goat (€35/£25).

Augustina with her husband Joshua and two of their three children – daughters Ava and Emily. Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

Augustina Danaa (32) is from northern Ghana and part of an Oxfam programme, run with local partners, which helps farming families to thrive despite the effects of climate change.

Augustina and her family have received a kid goat as well as chickens and pigs. She has also received training on how best to care for animals so that they stay healthy and strong as well as practical, weather-resistant farming techniques like composting which increases crop yields.

Augustina is also one of the first women to be involved in a bee-keeping project in the area.

Augustina harvesting honey. Photo: Adam Patterson/Oxfam

Before she got involved in the project, Augustina harvested and sold shea nuts. The work was very labour intensive and dangerous too as she was constantly at risk of being bitten by snakes when at work. Her income was small and erratic and the family relied heavily on what her husband Joshua earned. For four months of every year, her family did not have enough to eat.

Augustina says: “We couldn’t grow or buy enough food. I used to feel sick and unhappy. It was a bad situation. I couldn’t get enough food to feed my children, which made me feel bad as a mother. We would survive on a cup of rice each day, which meant each had just two spoonfuls. That was it.”

Now the future is much brighter for Augustina and Joshua and their three daughters since she joined Oxfam’s project. Their honey is a valuable commodity, which also keeps the family healthy. Their animals provide them with a more nutritious diet as well as additional income. Last year, she and Joshua enjoyed the best harvest in years thanks to their training in new composting techniques.

“I cannot express enough joy for the support and training we have received in these projects,” Augustina explains. “There is a great difference in my life. Now the story is different. I am benefitting from the bee farming, agricultural activities and livestock. Now we have food. We eat a variety of foods and meat. I can now buy school books, pencils and uniforms. With the rest, we can save for our children’s education.”

Feeding time on Augustina’s farm. Photo Adam Patterson/Oxfam

Other great gift ideas from the Oxfam Unwrapped range include ‘A Share in a Farmyard’ €7/£5 gift which makes sure people have the best opportunities to sustain and grow their livelihoods while Educate a Girl (€25/£19) is full of girl-power – giving girls and women the chance to learn, grow and reach their potential!

You can purchase any of our 15 life-changing Unwrapped gifts here.

Our full range of gifts are also available from your local Oxfam shop.

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Gifts from Oxfam, spread the love this Valentine’s Day!

It can be hard to pick the perfect gift for Valentine’s Day but with our Unwrapped range of alternative gifts, we’ve got you covered.
 
Here are three gifts from Oxfam that can help spread the love this Valentine’s Day:

GOAT COUPLE:

 
Goat Couple €70/£50 (Available online for half price, just €35/£25)
Celebrate your togetherness with the dynamic duo that is our Goat Couple. Now half price online, pick up this pair and help change the lives of people in extreme poverty who rely on animals like goats to provide for their families.
 

HONEYBEES:

 
For that someone sweet in your life, give the gift of Honeybees and you could help rural farmers to learn about the latest beekeeping methods and build brighter futures by harvesting more honey from their hives.
 

CHOCOLATE:

There is no better way to show you care than with calorie-free Chocolate – a gift that’s free of guilt and full of potential for farmers everywhere, especially cocoa farmers.
 
All three of these gifts raise vital funds for our Livelihoods programme that helps make possible a whole range of life-changing livelihoods projects. Whether that’s increasing agricultural production, safeguarding animal health and well-being, or providing small-scale farmers and other producers with access to more opportunities, we promise to maximise your generosity by helping poor families to thrive.
 
Unwrapped gift cards are available at your local Oxfam shop and online as a printed card or eCard.*

*Please note, the Goat Couple is only available at 50% discount online, not in store. Offer available online until February 16th 2016.

Ireland rugby star Andrew Trimble helps us tackle poverty

Christmas is a special time. I recently became a dad, so I am looking forward to spending a first Christmas with our baby son.

The festive season is also a time for sharing. As we remember those less fortunate than us, I’m proud to support Oxfam Ireland’s Unwrapped range of alternative Christmas gifts, to help families in emergency crises and extreme poverty worldwide.

Oxfam Ireland Ambassador Andrew Trimble is pictured with siblings Micah and Lucy Campbell and a Clutch of Chicks’ (€19/£15), one of the charity’s Unwrapped range of alternative Christmas gifts, which help families in emergency crises and extreme poverty worldwide. Photo: Press Eye Photography/Oxfam.

To promote the Unwrapped gifts I recently took part in a photo shoot at the Oxfam shop in Botanic Avenue in Belfast, with the help of two-year old Micah and his five-year-old sister Lucy, along with some chicks from the Ark Open Farm in Newtownards. The cute chicks soon drew a small crowd of admiring customers, with Oxfam staff explaining how these simple Unwrapped gifts can transform lives.

2015 has been an incredibly challenging year for the people Oxfam are trying to help. War and conflict has forced millions more people from their homes and everything they knew. Earthquakes, cyclones and other extreme weather events have destroyed lives and livelihoods that people worked so hard to build. People just like me and you, but who now have the odds stacked against them.

Oxfam shops across Ireland, north and south, are offering a wide-range of Unwrapped gifts that give back, making a positive impact in the lives of people.

One of those gifts is called ‘Care for a Baby’ (€17/£12). It helps Oxfam to provide life-saving emergency aid to families from the youngest member to the oldest, helping them survive crisis situations with what’s needed most like food, clean water, shelter and sanitation. Gifts like these are vital to people fleeing conflict in places like Syria.

Another gift that makes a big difference is the Unwrapped ‘Cooking Stove’ (€10/£8). This gift is eco-friendly and fuel-efficient – it only uses half the wood of traditional methods and it’s hotter too. Oxfam’s emergency workers give the stoves to families who’ve lost everything in places like South Sudan, providing people with warmth and a way to cook food. It also reduces the need for women to venture in search of firewood into areas where they are at risk of attack – and makes it one of the ways Oxfam keeps women and girls safe after they’ve been forced to flee their homes in an emergency.

Andrew's Pick: Unwrapped Cooking Stove

Other Unwrapped gifts range from giving girls the opportunity to reach full potential with ‘Educate a Girl’ (€25/£19). through to helping poor farmers thrive through agricultural projects with cards like a ‘Goat’ (€35/£25). or a ‘Clutch of Chicks’ (€19/£15).

The ‘Clutch of Chicks’ gift is more than a bit of yellow fluff – you’ll actually be helping to make possible a whole range of life-changing livelihoods projects. By providing communities who depend on animals for their livelihoods with new opportunities, you’ll be supporting them in a variety of ways, including veterinary care for their animals, agricultural training or even village grain banks.

Oxfam Ireland Ambassador Andrew Trimble with Micah Campbell and a baby chick. Photo: Press Eye Photography/Oxfam.

Whatever Unwrapped gift you buy, Oxfam will ensure that your money has the best possible impact on the communities who need it most, from providing safe water that saves lives in emergencies to helping farmers to grow more crops as well as lots more besides. Please help those who have so little this Christmas to build a better future in 2016. Thank you.

Unwrapped gifts are available at your local Oxfam shop as a printed gift card and can also be purchased online at www.oxfamireland.org/unwrapped which also has e-card versions, or over the phone by calling 1850 30 40 55 (Republic of Ireland) or 0800 0 30 40 55 (Northern Ireland).

Ireland and Ulster rugby player Andrew Trimble is an Oxfam Ireland Ambassador.

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