‘I feel like I give back to society by volunteering here’

There are Oxfam shops across the country, and each one plays an important part in the campaign to end poverty. 

Every book, CD and vinyl sold help to fund our global work, from installing clean water pumps and shelter in refugee camps to empowering women and girls across the world to find a path out of poverty. Shops are vital, and they help women, men and children in many amazing ways.

Oxfam shops would not be able to do this without volunteers, and every shop is also full of brilliant and committed volunteers with their own interesting backgrounds and stories. That’s why I went to the Oxfam shop in Penarth, to meet Keith Howells, a volunteer for over 10 years, to talk about his experiences.

So, why did you decide to volunteer at Oxfam?

When my wife passed away I decided I needed to do something for myself, so I thought I’d start volunteering and Oxfam was my first choice because I’ve been supporting the cause for years, especially things like Fair Trade.

I used to do a lot of work on Fair Trade when I worked as a teacher for deaf children. I’d often take them in to supermarkets to teach them about recycling and about plastic and so on. That was back in the 80s! So Oxfam was the only choice for me when I decided to volunteer.

What do you do at the shop?

My favourite thing to do in the shop is be on the till so I can chat to the customers. That’s where my personality comes out! I like to chat to them about the book they’re buying, and I have all sorts of conversations with the customers.

And what do you get out of it?

It lifts my spirit to volunteer here. I’ve met so many people here, I know all the regulars. We have an amazing music section here thanks to one of our previous volunteers, Nigel. He transformed the music section, we’ve got so many vinyl’s, CDs and sheet music as well, so the musical people of Penarth all come in to the shop. The conductor of the National Welsh Orchestra comes in as well. I used to play the fiddle too so I enjoy speaking to customers about music.

I feel like I give back to society by volunteering here. I mean I get a lot out of it but I feel like I give back too and take pride in the fact that the shop is so successful.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking of volunteering?

If there is anyone out there who is thinking of volunteering I would say come in! Give it a try! And see how you like it. You’ll make so many friends.

Do you feel that your work here contributed to Oxfam’s work around the world?

I like to think so. When I used to work in the school I used to try to get the children thinking about their neighbours, their neighbours next door on the street in Wales, and the neighbours on the other side of the world.

I’m also a member of the Penarth and District Lesotho trust. I’ve been to Lesotho too. And as a Christian I’m interested in the idea of missionaries who travelled around the globe.

If you would like to volunteer at an Oxfam shop, or would like to learn more about other volunteering opportunities with Oxfam, click here to find out more.