Donating time: my experience of volunteering at Oxfam

I love being a busy person. So when I found myself at a loose end recently, I panicked. I scoured my local high street for extra work, willing to try my hand at anything.*

As it turned out, my local Oxfam bookshop was looking for volunteers to help keep the shop open. In case you didn’t know, Oxfam is a leading UK charity that fights global poverty in over 90 countries.My local shop had lots of volunteers already but, in the nature of this work, they are not expected to work fixed shifts so there is always room for more.

I made inquiries and applied for a job there without a clue what was expected of me – was I to be on the shop floor or behind the scenes? Two days later I was invited to come into the shop and began work almost immediately, familiarizing myself with the layout and tills. It’s not often that an application process will be this quick but, like many other charities, Oxfam need people to help.

We often forget that charity shops simply could not operate without volunteers – selling, pricing, sorting and more – because so much emphasis is placed upon donations. And whilst material and monetary donations are extremely valuable, they must go hand in hand with donated time.

I calculated what I would have earned had I spent the hours I volunteered working at a paid retail job. For a student, it was a substantial amount.Yes, I could have done with the extra cash, but the knowledge that I had effectively donated that money to a worthy cause was much more satisfying than buying another Dominos.

So I would encourage you to volunteer your time too, at Oxfam or any other charity. You need only spare one afternoon a week if that’s all you can manage. It all adds up.

* I even considered applying for a job that required a ‘fit and strong young person’. Judging by the size of my biceps, that was ridiculous.


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