Stories of Hope – Qassim’s Story.

It’s that time of year when I sort out my clothes, Joe’s toys and books in order to have a cull in preparation for Christmas. I try to be ruthless with my sorting, and, when I am finished, I donate all the good but now unwanted stuff to my local charity shop. It is a win-win situation in my view, I am able to make extra space for new things that will be arriving with Santa, and know that my donation is going to a good cause. But have you ever wondered how your donation to Charity helps people – where your money goes and what it actually does? Oxfam are giving you some of ideas with their latest campaign which is called ‘Stories of Hope’. Today I’m going to share Qassim’s story,

Qassim Daoud is a barber. He lives in Husseini Village in Eastern Iraq. His barber shop is his passion and he had worked hard to build up his trade. But in 2014, life took a very dramatic turn. An attack on a nearby province saw an influx of people arriving in Husseini Village, seeing his already popular barber shop now over run. Kurdish Police became suspicious of him, and he was arrested and thrown into jail. He was later released, but returned to his village to find that his beloved barber shop had been completely trashed. All his barbering equipment had been stolen. Many people would’ve been destroyed by this action. But Qassim was made of sterner stuff. He found another property to use as a salon, and started all over again.

Rokam Hamoud cuts a customer’s hair in his barber shop in Husseini. The shop was looted by ISIS in 2014, but support from Oxfam has helped him to rebuild the business.

Rokam Hamoud cuts a customer’s hair in his barber shop in Husseini. The shop was looted by ISIS in 2014, but support from Oxfam has helped him to rebuild the business. Phot Credit Tommy Trenchard.

He says “…When Oxfam came, I reopened my shop. Oxfam provided me with money…They helped me buy everything in my shop. I bought chairs, the mirrors, the machines, the creams, everything actually. My barbershop is a small shop but I like it…I love everything about it…”

Rokam Hamoud cuts a customer’s hair in his barber shop in Husseini. The shop was looted by ISIS in 2014, but support from Oxfam has helped him to rebuild the business. credit-tommy-trenchard_oxfam-may-2016-2

All over the world, there are people like Qassim, struggling to rebuild their lives in warzones and villages decimated by the effects of war, you can help by making a donation that could provide urgent support to families in incredibly vulnerable situations.

  • £2.50 can provide 25 water sachets to a family in an emergency. This is enough to make 500 litres of water safe.
  • £7 could provide cash or vouchers for families to use in an emergency, helping them buy food locally.
  • £20 could provide warm bedding and offer protection from the elements.
  • £30 could give four families a kit of soap, detergent and other essential toiletries
  • £60 could build a safe, clean emergency toilet in a temporary camp
  • £100 could help four people to earn a good living in their community

As you prepare for Christmas, maybe you could add a donation to Oxfam to your gift list.


Are you going Shwopping?

On May 9th Oxfam and Marks and Spencer are joining together to get you ‘Shwopping’, hosting a fantastic one day wardrobe clear out. This is a fabulous, fun event which has been designed to get us sorting out our unwanted clothing in order to donate them to help good causes. The very gorgeous Joanna Lumley is currently fronting the campaign, and is also the face of the M&S Eco and ethical project, Plan A. Shwopping helps us to declutter our wardrobes, get rid of things that are old, unworn and just plain unwanted, and makes us feel good about doing it. (And provides more space to buy even more clothes of course!).

So, how exactly can you Shwop, and what is the idea behind it? Well, shwopping is easy. Shwopping is about bringing old items of clothing into any M&S store. They don’t have to be from M&S, they can be from any shop or store. In each store you will find a ‘Shwop Drop’ box (usually  by the tills in most stores, and this includes outlet stores too). All clothing goes to M&S charity partner Oxfam, who will then either resell it in one of their stores or website, forward it on to those who need it in the Third World, or recycle the fibres to make new material. Everything is utilised in this way,  absolutely nothing goes to landfill. Oxfam will the use the money raised to help people around the world overcome poverty.

So, on May 9th, get yourself along to your nearest M&S store with the pieces from your wardrobe that you no longer wear. There you will find volunteers representing Oxfam, who will take your shwopping donations and will give you a £5 M&S shopping voucher in return. The voucher can then be used to get £5 off a  £35 spend on clothing, home and beauty products in M&S stores and online.

Shwopping is a great idea. Next time you buy something new, maybe you could think about donating something old.

This Christmas – visit a Charity Shop.

An Oxfam charity shop in Covent Garden, London...

Image via Wikipedia

It seems to be getting harder to find a Christmas gift to suit a fashionista. Despite the ‘credit crunch‘ we still seem to live in a society where we buy what we want, whether that means saving for the ‘real thing’, or buying the Primark copy. For many of us, asking someone what they want for Christmas is met with a shrug of the shoulders, or worse still, that fatal statement ‘just get me anything’.

Christmas is also called the ‘party season’. Lots of excuses for wearing your best frocks and glitter and drinking, eating and dancing to excess. The main questions this raises are ‘WHAT SHALL I WEAR?’ We worry that we will be under-dressed, overdressed, or, worse case scenario, wearing the same dress as someone else!  All this leads me to believe that this is the year we should visit a Charity shop.

Forget any notions that charity shops are dirty, dusty or full of clothes belonging to dead people, charity shops are, on the contrary, filled with designer goods just waiting to be discovered, and vintage bargains crying out for new owners to love them. Just this month I have found a Marni tunic for £5.99, a pair of Charles Jourdan lace up shoes for £7, an original beaded 1980’s top that’s a dead ringer for designs from Kate Moss Topshop, that I bought for £3.50 and will wear on my girls night pressie swap, a 1950’s Kelly style bag, and best of all, an original 1970’s brown fake fur coat with rose buttons that I haven’t taken off since the weather became so cold. Clearly charity shops have a lot to offer for any diva looking to extend their designer or vintage wardrobe.

Just like all the main high street stores, charity shops all full of glittery, glitzy party wear and accessories, but, unlike the High Street, you have more chance of finding something unusual and original. You may find High end high street clothing for just a few pounds, or an absolute vintage gem.


bags, shoes and scarves neatly coordinated by Acorns, Wednesbury

Fab 60's style dress I saw on the window of a Scope shop.

But Charity shops are not just about fabulous clothing. One of my favourite finds of recent times has been a signed copy of the Gordon Selfridge biography ‘Shopping, Seduction and Mr Selfridge’ by Lindy Woodhead. You can also find cute teacups, vintage paste brooches which you could put into a little voile bags to give as quirky gifts for your friends or sisters. Most charity shops these days also have a range of new goods, from Fair trade chocolate and jewellery at Oxfam, to knitted scarves at BHF. All stores sell eco bags, which you could use to put your presents in as a nice alternative to Santa Sacks.


cute tea cups found in a charity shop

So, when you do your last-minute Christmas shopping this year, give charity shops a go – after all – it is Christmas, so why not share the love!