Oxfam shops

Reasons to volunteer with your local Oxfam shop

Countless businesses across the country faced the sad reality of having to close their doors due to COVID-19. But what if your business is also a home away from home for people from all walks of life?

At the heart of Oxfam Ireland Shops, there is a network of dedicated staff and volunteers – all working together to beat poverty. They play a vital role in supporting Oxfam’s global work - and now our global response to COVID-19 – while also providing a solution to throwaway fashion by saving items from ending up in landfills here in Ireland. They are planet and people protectors.

I had a chat with my colleague Tina, Shop Manager, about reopening for business and what she missed the most during lockdown.

Q: How long have you worked with Oxfam Ireland?

A: I have worked in Oxfam for two years.

Q: What was your motivation for applying for the job?

A: My motivation in applying for the job was to work for a charity who’s aim was to alleviate poverty. I also wanted to challenge myself in a shop environment after acquiring my qualification in speech and language and special needs. I looked forward to working with volunteers and those who are on schemes such as CE and Tus. I hoped I could help teach them new skills, which may help them in the future. Another reason I applied for the job was to work somewhere that I could create a happy, inclusive environment for all my team members who I could not be without as they are all fantastic!

Q: How did it feel to have to close your shop?

A: I felt so disappointed but it was something that was out of my control and it was of course for the best to protect everyone. I felt guilty telling my volunteers that we had to close as I knew some would be upset but from a health and safety point of view it was the right thing to do.

Q: What did you miss the most?

A: I missed my routine every day. Most of all I missed my team and all their little stories and chats that we would have as we went about our work. It was difficult having less communication with my colleagues in other shops too as we often share ideas on how to layout our shops or promotions. That’s really important to me as I pride myself in doing the very best I can to make as much money as possible for those who are in need and the project work Oxfam carries out. I missed the smiles and waves from customers and volunteers in my store as that makes my day.

Q: What were you looking forward to when you reopened your doors?

A: I looked forward to seeing my volunteers and customers again. They always have a smile and bring happiness into the store, which makes me feel very lucky to work with Oxfam. I know there will be new challenges now but I hope to have a beautiful, bright, summer store and that we can bring some nice summer bargains to everyone in Kilkenny.

Q: What is the best thing about working in a charity shop?

A: Its great to work with a diverse group of people who all have particular skills, which help the store to do really well. I have those who look after individual areas and I would be lost without them as they help me everyday and they make the store really! I am only with Oxfam two years but I have seen my store get better all the time all thanks my volunteers, scheme workers and the support of our donors who give us great quality clothing, books and bric-a-brac. We also have lots of regular customers who we cherish as they keep our store alive and successful too.

Q: What has been your best moment in the shop?

A: Celebrating Oxfam Kilkenny’s 20th anniversary was the best moment. Many of my volunteers who have been here since we opened were acknowledged for all their hard work, dedication and support down through the years. We had a little party with cake, flowers and plenty of tea! Everyone had a great time!

Q: How can people help your business bounce back?

A: My store can’t survive without our community. We depend on donors for stock and customers to buy it so I would encourage everyone to try visit our store to support in anyway you can. For others who wish to give their time, we always welcome new volunteers to our store. We have a really lovely team here. You’re guaranteed to meet lovely, friendly people and you can help in a variety of ways within the store!

Q: Is there anything you would like to say to your customers and/or volunteers?

A: I would like to say a huge thank you for all your support over the past number of years. Thank you to all my team for being such a lovely crew to work with. I also want to thank all the customers that donated and continue to donate clothes bric-a-brac etc. We are open for business now and all are very welcome.

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Oxfam Shops and Sustainability

Through our all-island network of shops, we are proud to offer solutions to ‘throwaway fashion’, encouraging people to donate pre-loved items and reduce the amount of clothes that end up in Irish landfills – as well as extending the lifecycle of clothes and raising awareness about fast fashion.

People have been reusing and reselling clothes with Oxfam Ireland since it opened its first shop in 1971, and since then we have always worked to maximise the value of everything we are given and minimise waste.

Although there is a growing sustainable fashion movement in Ireland, it is not usually the industry people think of when considering climate villains or big polluters.

Fast fashion clothes are produced in high volume which means a high cost to the planet: According to the UNFCCC, the textiles industry accounts for more carbon emissions than international aviation and shipping combined  – it is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil and accounts for approximately eight percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, clothes are produced cheaply which often means low wages and poor working conditions for garment workers.

Overproduction is part of the problem. Shared Cloth published a report that states 20 items per person are produced every year (150 billion garments), and 30 percent of them are never sold. On top of that, cheap production and plummeting prices means the items we buy often end up in landfill before they should.

According to Re-dress, 225,000 tonnes of textiles are dumped in Ireland each year – that’s the equivalent of over 5,000 44 tonne lorry loads. This is having a devastating impact on our planet and people. We know that the world’s poorest, who did the least to cause climate change, are most affected, through droughts, floods and extreme weather events.

In addition, clothes can take up to 200 years to decompose whereas recycling the 225,000 tonnes of textiles would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 300,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 50,000 cars off the roads.

Oxfam staff sort clothing into different grades depending on garment type, condition, style and fabric.  The clothing donated is then used in the most suitable market via several different routes, including:

  • Oxfam high street shop – most of the donated clothing is sold in the shop it was donated too as we believe in local economy.
  • Online platforms such as Thriftify
  • Designers who restyle garments and reuse fabrics in their collections – for example, we provide denim to a company that make them into really cool tote bags

The low-grade items not sold as clothing are sold in bulk to recycling reprocessing companies in Ireland where it’s used, for example, as mattress filler, carpet underlay, upholstery or car sound insulation. Unsaleable items which are too soiled or damaged to be recycled are incinerated by a textile recycler.

We also work with retailers and big brands, encouraging them to donate their end of line or excess stock instead of sending it to landfill – a more sustainable solution for people and planet.

So, as you can see, your donations hold a lot of value and power. Every garment or item donated to us raises money to fight inequality around the world and supports our mission to beat poverty globally.

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Fashion Relief TV

Get ready for Fashion Relief TV – coming to a screen near you! Kicks off every Friday at 7 pm
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