The older you get, the more you start to understand that the world’s problems are your own problems, and not just issues for politicians from distant lands to sort out.
You also come to realise how unfair it is that where you happen to be born can be the difference between a comfortable life, where your biggest worry might be whether to get the brown or the black rattan garden furniture set; or a life where every day is a basic fight for survival, with no access to clean water, suffering brutal attacks in violent conflicts and watching your family being tortured and killed around you.
I have found myself gradually thinking about this inequality and unfairness more and more. While running the tap to wash my fresh vegetables, that I have conveniently purchased from the local supermarket for a really low price; or while sat in a restaurant, quaffing some sort of pink fizzy drink and chewing away on an expensive steak; the pang of guilt can suddenly hit me and leave me with a desperate feeling that I need to do something – and I don’t mean sending my left overs to a third world country.
So where do you start? I know I can’t change the world by myself – there is way too much going on that I don’t even understand, let alone have any sort of influence over. But there are many organisations in the world that are already getting in there and doing the work that needs doing to help people in poverty and fleeing from conflicts. All they need are the funds to be able to continue with this amazing work.
Organisations like Oxfam have many genius ways of raising money, including through their network of second hand shops. They have a few shops in most cities, all of which are professionally run as profitable businesses, with the profits funding their work.
Already a shopping expert, I know a thing or two about finding a bargain, and charity shops have always been high on my list of recommendations for those wanting to save money. The great thing about charity shops is that they don’t just work for the shopper, they also work for the charity involved helping to raise those all important funds, and they are also good for the environment as they enable recycling and reusing of unwanted goods.
When I started to feel like making regular donations to charity was not enough, I decided to enter the wonderful world of volunteering and applied at my local Oxfam shop. I have since become amazed at the effort that goes in to running these stores. Charity shops rely on volunteers to work in the stores; cleaning, pricing and rotating stock, operating the tills, cleaning and tidying, dressing the windows and helping with customer enquiries. The managers that are employed to run the shops have the difficult task of managing the high rotation of staff, as well as finding the best way to sell the wealth of items that are donated each and every day.
The donations range from Paul Smith suits, to wedding dresses, to vinyl records, to curtains, lamps and so much more. Whether you are looking for a vintage item of clothing, or a book from your favourite author, you are sure to find a bargain when you shop at charity shops.
A top tip for bargain hunters is to regularly visit charity stores as stock is rotated frequently. Shops in affluent towns like York and Ilkley get a lot of designer donations, making it easier to find designer bargains. Items that can fetch a bit more money are often advertised online, so you can find some of the best vintage goods and designer label items by shopping in the charity’s web shop.
We took the decision in 2012 to advertise and promote charities through the Love My Vouchers website without taking any commission for any of the sales that we generate, as you can see from this blog post. Here is a list of useful charity shop links again so you can shop to your hearts content knowing that all of your money will be going to the charity and we won’t be taking a cut. We hope that some day all advertisers will take this same step.
Although I don’t quite feel like I have saved the world, my one day a week at Oxfam makes me feel like I am at least doing something practical to help an organisation that can really make a difference where it matters most. If you are interested in giving a shift for your local Oxfam, please visit: http://www.oxfam.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer-with-us