Regular readers to my blog will know I recently took up a position volunteering my time in a local Save The Children shop. I started last Friday and I loved it so much I wanted to blog about it - plus a few of you asked me to (thank you for your interest).
For those of you who missed the previous post, it would probably help to read my post 'Charity Doesn't Always Begin At Home' to understand why I decided to do it.
It's strange but whenever I've started a new job I haven't been able to sleep the night before, felt a bit anxious on the morning and all those usual feelings you get when venturing out into a new world of employment. However, last Thursday night I slept like a log. I woke feeling refreshed and raring to go - this has been very rare for me lately. You know things are bad when your own parents turn up on your doorstep with the biggest bottle of Metatone Tonic you've ever seen in your life! I was so excited, I couldn't wait to get there to help out - even though I had no idea what I was going to be doing.
When I arrived just before 10am I was greeted so warmly by everyone. They were all older than me, which I fully expected, but they were delighted to see me. I half expected some of them to see my young blood as a bit of a threat in a way....I thought they may think I was going to go all Mary Portas on them or something.
I was shown the ropes by a lovely lady called Jackie. She took me on the guided tour which started with the most important place - the kitchen. We went through everything, all their procedures and practices. The shop was great and I instantly felt at home. The shop is really large and the upstairs hub was clean and tidy and I was surprised how well organised it all was.
Helen, the shop supervisor, came in a little later on and she was keen to talk to me about Save The Childrens new 'Born To' campaign. It was a chance to get back to my marketing roots reading through all the material and to understand what Save The Children were trying to achieve and the promotional items they are in the middle of producing.
The 'Born To' campaign is to raise awareness that no child should be born to die. It's currently estimated that 8 million children under the age of five die needlessly every year - it's a shocking statistic and one that really hits home... especially being a mother of a 2 (next week) year old.
Save The Children work in more than 120 countries around the world, including the U.K. and the U.S. saving children's lives and fighting for their rights. The work they do is incredible and they have a superb fundraising efficiency compared to other charities which means a huge percentage of money raised goes direct to the cause.
I give a monthly donation to 2 cancer charities as cancer has had a direct impact on my life but, as a stay-at-home-mum with no income I wanted to be able to help more. Save The Children was my chosen charity and I will fully support them for the rest of my life.
So, back to my first day. I also got my hands dirty (not literally though) by helping sort through donation bags. It probably sounds dull to a lot of people but this was actually my favorite job of the day. Jackie said she enjoyed it too so the two of us started tipping out the bags onto the counter upstairs. We chatted whilst sorting the wheat from the chaff...deciding what was to go on sale in the shop, then pricing it and tagging it. It was great fun! You know what I even did for a while? I used the industrial steamer to steam some clothes for display. Strange, considering most of the time all my iron does at home is collect dust!
I was only supposed to be there 10am - 2pm but I stayed until gone 3pm and I didn't want to leave I was enjoying it that much. If I hadn't have been busy Saturday I would have been there again the next day.
The great thing about it is, everyone who works there is there because they want to be. Nobody is paid a wage at all. Infact, the Save The Children charity is unusual in that most of their jobs, even managerial positions, are carried out purely by volunteers. All the volunteers in the shop were lovely, a real mix of characters too - all with their own stories to tell.
I came away feeling fantastic. Tired but full of energy and excitement. Next week I'm going to be let loose on the tills for while to help out and I'm looking forward to meeting all the customers. I've never worked in a direct retail environment before, but you know what? I can't wait!
On Saturday I was alerted via twitter to the 'Born To Write' conference that had taken place that day at the Save The Children head office in London. I just so wish I had known about it sooner, I was so upset when I looked into it - I would have loved to have gone but it doesn't stop me becoming involved. My passion for this charity has grown massively since becoming a volunteer. This 1 day has changed my life and had such an impact on me...for the better.
Yes, I now firmly believe I was born to volunteer. What were you born to do?