It’s just passed five whole years of having volunteered at my local Oxfam bookshop in Brighton, and I love it.
I first started volunteering at fifteen, and not for the most noble or charitable reasons… I was bored. Back in year eleven, my friends were all turning sixteen and getting jobs. As an August baby, still fifteen, my employability options were extremely limited. I felt left out. My cousin had told me how he enjoyed working at this Oxfam bookshop so I thought: why not give it a go?
Five years on, I regret nothing. In the heart of Brighton’s North Laine, there really is no better place to work. It’s kooky, colourful, and fun. I’ve even bumped into a few celebrities on the shop floor such as Dakota Blue Richards, Phill Jupitus and Mark Williams. The bookshop draws attraction because of its specialist reputation for stocking many niche books, so we have a lot of specific interesting sections on the shop floor that you might not see in other charity shops, such as anthropology, philosophy, LGBTQ+ and more. Also, since going to UWE and studying English Language and Linguistics, I’ve created my own Linguistics section!
Oxfam is a charity that is set up to fight poverty around the world, operating in more than ninety countries. From the age of fifteen, I worked at Oxfam every Saturday until I went to UWE at eighteen. But every time I came back for the holidays I continued to volunteer. And now after completing two-years of uni, I am currently doing my work placement at Oxfam as I’m doing a sandwich degree where I go back and finish my final year after a year in industry.
The main reason I enjoy volunteering is the freedom. I am lucky enough to pick and choose the tasks I wish to do, which I think is the benefit of doing voluntary work in a charity shop – you can make it work for you: I make shop displays, sort through donations, replenish the shop floor, create posters, research potentially valuable books – some centuries old, which is quite extraordinary! I also train new volunteers, help with the shop’s social media, list books for sale on Oxfam Online, work on the till, interact with the customers, and socialise with the volunteers. The rush of selling a book you just put out can’t be beaten. I know a lot of the aspects I just listed may be somewhat specific to my shop, but the point is there are so many possibilities and unique qualities to every charity shop!
I have recently been given the official title of supervisor due to my experience at the shop which I’m very grateful for. In the last couple of years, the shop has really been thriving and I definitely think that’s a credit to the manager and assistant manager, as well as the amazing volunteers. We’re now a flagship Oxfam shop which means, despite our small size, we are among a handful in the country who stock the full range of Oxfam’s new products. I am incredibly proud of how far the shop has evolved in the years I’ve been here. It must be even more incredible for a couple of the volunteers who have been there 10+ years!
Volunteering, in general, is typically flexible around you. I have always managed to find time around my schedule to fit it in around education and a job. A couple hours a week isn’t a lot.
Time volunteering is time well spent – think of the positive contribution you will have made to your favourite charity. I am proud of my shop. Volunteering has made me a more positive person and increased my enjoyment of life. Try volunteering!