Why I volunteer with Oxfam

Until I lived in New York, I had never been a volunteer before. New York made it easy: I had lots of free time during the last months of my sabbatical, volunteering is really ingrained in the culture and therefore really accessible, and I wanted to contribute to my community. Harlem, the first neighbourhood where I lived in New York, welcomed me with open arms, and I wanted to give back.

I looked for causes that resonated with me, and ended up participating in several incredible initiatives: assisting riders during the Five Boro Bike Tour and building bikes for kids with Bike New York, helping small businesses set up for a community party with Uptown Grand Central, helping the Harlem Arts Festival production team for a day of art and music in Marcus Garvey Park, speaking to little girls in the Bronx about being a woman in business.

I don’t have so much free time now, but as a freelancer my schedule is flexible, so I decided to commit to work as a shop volunteer in one of Oxfam’s charity shops a number of hours per week. These are the main reasons why I choose this initiative:

  • I’m passionate about second-hand and responsible consumption I’ve written about this here before: second-hand shopping and ethical fashion is the way to go for me. Sure, I’m a marketing professional who loves well built brands and design, so sometimes it’s very difficult for me to not just fall in love with a piece of clothing. But I try to buy only what I need, and invest in good-quality pieces that I’ll wear for a long time. With the great thrift / charity shop culture in the UK, I knew since I moved to London that I wanted to volunteer in this area. I just needed to figure out how.
  • I want to have positive impact in my community It was important to me to choose an organization operating in my area. Even if the results of the work Oxfam does here are mainly implemented abroad, I want to get the pulse of my neighbourhood, contribute to its business fabric and help change the way people consume around me.
  • I have never worked in retail Working in digital marketing I’ve helped huge consumer brands sell to their clients, but I’ve never had those real interactions with consumers. I’ve helped fashion brands make the most out of their e-commerce, but I’ve never worked the floor in one of their stores. I’m convinced that observing and servicing the shop’s clients will make me a better marketing professional.
  • I want to learn new life skills It’s the first time in forever that I arrive at my “workplace” in the morning and literally don’t know how to perform my tasks. In these first weeks at the shop, I’ve done so many things for the first time: operating a till, steaming clothes, labelling items, canning inventory… They’re not super difficult tasks, but being a total beginner at work is an interesting feeling at his point in my career.
  • Oxfam is a great brand with a great mission And finally, yes, I want to end poverty. Oxfam’s objective is to put local communities and the voices of poor people at the centre of change though 6 main goals: helping people claim their right to a better life, championing equal rights for women, saving lives (now and in the future), safeguarding global food supplies, helping people claim a fairer share of natural resources and increasing money for basic services. I really like Oxfam as a brand too, their practical visionary personality means their communication is direct and clear without missing the necessary warmth.

After participating in #SecondHandSeptember I was targeted on Instagram by an Oxfam campaign looking for volunteers, so I took it as a sign and decided to apply. You can find me sorting donated goods and helping with social media. And I’m happy to contribute my energy and time to make the world a better place.