There’s no point doing volunteer work if you don’t earn any money, right? Vittoria Bello-Borges, Notre Dame School

You may think there’s no point doing work that doesn’t involve earning money. It’s a waste of time, right? Wrong. Volunteering opportunities are so much more than just unpaid work.

I’ve recently started volunteering at my local Oxfam shop and I can say it has been on of my most valuable experiences. Not only do I have more knowledge and familiarity in a working environment, which is a vital asset for the future, but my social skills have significantly improved. For instance, I have become confident in communicating with customers and the general public and I have pushed outside my comfort zone by meeting new people and making friendships with my colleagues.

A typical day volunteering might include serving and greeting customers, which is great till and cash-handling experience, pricing and tagging items in the stockroom, a good admin skill for your CV but also having numerous snack breaks with your new colleagues. What more could you ask for?

Most people are only aware of the outer shell to charity shops. Have you ever once thought about what each item has gone through before it reached your hands? When I first started volunteering, I was so intrigued by the stockroom – what seemed to be a secret room underground was nothing like I expected it to be. Once I took a step into the stock room, I was suddenly surrounded with bags upon bags of donations all waiting to go through a tedious process. Charity shops don’t just immediately put out any donated items immediately, of course, but I was clueless as to how much care gets put into preserving them, so that they are of the best quality when a customer receives it. Cleaning and repairing items are necessary a lot of the time, such as making small adjustments to the zipper so it works, sewing on a missing button or debobbling a jumper: all of these are tiny details you wouldn’t imagine a volunteer would do. Spending time researching items, price checking them and comparing online are all part of the crucial process. Steaming clothes to remove creases and price tagging them are then the final procedures before putting them out in the shop. Like me. you may have had no knowledge whatsoever as to what goes on behind the scenes in a charity shop but now, it is no longer a mystery. Volunteering isn’t just unpaid work it’s an opening of knowledge and new experiences.

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