THE Oxfam shop in Okehampton had good reason to celebrate last month as 11 of their long-term volunteers had collectively given more than 185 years of service to help the charity.
The philanthropic eleven-some were presented with certificates and badges during a celebration at the Okement Centre, with guest Billie Burnett — the Oxfam volunteer services co-ordinator for West Devon.
Since the organisation formed in 1942, Oxfam has formed a movement of millions of people all working towards one goal — an end to poverty for everyone — a few of these people are on your doorstep at your local branch.
This small group of Okehampton’s charitable folk offer their skills, time and hard work to the global movement which fights important issues like inequality, hunger and climate change.
Some individuals have given up to 20 years of support to help this wonderful cause.
People like Anne Brough, who has dedicated two decades to helping the charity.
Anne is a Okehampton volunteer, whose generous actions are being felt across the world. Anne said she remembers when Oxfam was the only charity shop in the town.
She said: ‘The shop window was very different from the displays you see today.’
She has watched Okehampton grow into the bustling town it is today and said as the town had changed and grown, so had its Oxfam branch.
During the past 15 years of service, volunteers like Anne have seen extreme poverty halve with help from many Oxfam initiatives.
Like their education initiatives — volunteer dedication on a local level travels far across the globe, helping to lift whole communities out of poverty forever. Whether it is getting more children into class by building schools in rural Pakistan, training teachers or providing textbooks for children in Ethiopia — giving every child the chance to find a new enthusiasm for learning.
Or initiatives to help midwives save lives in Ghana. Since 2008, the provision of UK aid, secured as a result of energetic campaigning from Oxfam supporters and volunteers, has helped make free health care in Ghana a reality.
It’s not just communities overseas reaping the benefits from Oxfam’s tireless work. 1996 saw the start of Oxfam’s UK poverty programme, Charity Begins at Home, supporting struggling communities across the UK and highlighting the links between poverty here and overseas.
Since then, Oxfam have been working hard to help the one in five people in this country who are struggling to put food on the table and heat their homes.
Still, more than half a million people have had to rely on food banks to feed themselves and their families in the past year.
Inside the charity shops, just like the Okehampton branch, Oxfam offer people in their local ommunities the opportunity to build life chances — to help them gain work experience and support them to take the next step in their lives.
Speaking about the volunteers that work in Oxfam’s 650 shops across the UK, Andrew Horton, Oxfam’s trading director said: ‘Each Oxfam shop relies on its team of volunteers, who work together to give customers a rewarding shopping experience and raise money to fight extreme poverty around the world.’
Pop into Oxfam Okehampton to find out more about the work of the charity and opportunities.