The Oxfam shops on Half Moon Lane are looking for volunteers, especially on Saturdays or Tuesdays. No. 9 sells books and No. 20 sells everything else and it is at No. 20 where volunteers are needed. If you think the shop floor at No. 20 is small, you should see the sorting area! Its modest size and the enthusiasm of local residents to donate is why it has a limit of one bag of donations and a cut-off time of two hours before the shop closes, so that staff have time to sort and price items each day.
Accessories like scarves, handbags and shoes are always in demand and records are popular now that vinyl is back in fashion. Many customers are regulars and some pop in each week. Shoppers check out the clothes rails, buy coffee or pick up an 'Oxfam Unwrapped' card which shows the receiver that £10-£25 has been targeted at women at work or climate justice. Others buy Fairtrade certified chocolate which means that farmers in places such as Ghana are paid a fair price for their crop plus an additional premium.
Shop workers Gokcen and Selen are from Turkey and Gokcen was visiting relatives there at the time of the earthquake: ‘It was heart-breaking’ she says. On the counter at the moment is a donation box for earthquake victims. When Gokcen came to the UK, she was going to take an English course, but it was suggested that she'd learn more quickly taking a job. So she joined the Herne Hill team as a volunteer and is now the manager. Anthony and Nina are deputy managers. Anthony worked in Beckenham Oxfam where they might receive four bags a day: in Herne Hill they can get four bags an hour! Nina is trained in window-dressing and does displays for Marks & Spencer.
Oxfam projects are essentially about working together to end poverty. It responds fast to communities hit by emergencies, and disasters caused by the climate crisis. Its projects help millions get safe, clean water, build and equip schools and sustain women-run businesses. For every £1 donated, 84p directly helps emergency, development and campaign work, 8p supports running costs and 8p goes on fundraising. If you are a UK taxpayer, signing up for Gift Aid means Oxfam gets an extra 25% on selling the item donated.
Volunteers come and go but most stay for years. They come for fun, for their mental health, to learn skills or to build a CV. The current volunteering need is for Tuesdays and Saturdays but help on any day is welcome, given the shops open every day: Monday to Saturday 10am-6pm and Sunday 11am-4pm. For No. 20 apply online at their website or call in to see if it might suit you. For No. 9 pop in and speak to the manager.