Posted: 27 November 2016

Meet our retail volunteers: 'I come here because I really like it, not just because it’s helping'

We’ve all seen The Children’s Society’s retail shops dotted around the country. Over 100 shops, kept open by 3000 volunteers. But who are some of our volunteers and what do they actually get up to? Meet Colleen, Samia and Iris- the three volunteers I had the pleasure of catching up with at our South Woodford shop. All three are thoroughly committed to the work of The Children’s Society, Samia having worked in the shop for 4 years, Iris for about 10 years and Colleen a grand total of 22 years.

Their motivations for becoming volunteers were completely different.

Colleen: I was out of work, so I had to get into some situation where you sign on. They suggested here and gardening, so that is what I did. When that time was up, I enjoyed it so much I stayed here.

Samia: I wanted to improve my English by practising a lot. I like to make myself busy as well.

Iris: A friend was working here at the time. I think she was feeling a bit lonely and needed help and she rang me. I said I would be there in 20 minutes. And that is the way it started.

'I do two mornings a week, Wednesday and Thursday morning. I love it- I wait for it to come round'

Years later, Colleen, Samia and Iris are still here. So what is that they enjoy so much about working in one of our high street shops?

Samia: We help a lot of customers. Showing people what they need and seeing people happy- it makes me feel like I have done something amazing.

Iris: It’s a nice team, that’s the main thing in my eyes.

Colleen: I enjoy it. I like to be busy, very busy. Friendship, I enjoy the company. We don’t stop here, we really go to town- I love it.

From left to right: Iris, Samia and Colleen. 

Day to day tasks involve sorting through the masses of items they receive in donations each day, organising them, pricing them and getting them out onto the shop floor. If this isn’t challenging enough, there is always the actual running of the shop to worry about.

Whilst all the volunteers talked about the friendships they had formed working as a team, the role had special significance for Samia. It allowed her to gain a great deal more confidence in her English abilities.

Samia-The first time I came to England, I thought it was impossible to learn this language. Look now! I’m speaking English and understanding.

'Give it a chance, you won’t want to stop'

Seeing the success of the shop is really important. The team have a board which is updated with their weekly contribution achievements. They also receive updates about what is happening in the wider organisation. This helps them to really see how their support benefits vulnerable children and young people.

Their final thoughts on their volunteer roles revolved around the building of friendships and supporting one another.

Samia- It feels like a family sometimes. I am very proud to help here. I always have fun with the team. When you go home, you are refreshed, you have energy.

Colleen- I love it, I wait for it to come round. I come here because I really like it, not just because it’s helping. 

Iris- I would miss it.

If you are interested in becoming a retail volunteer, head over to our volunteering page.



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