Volunteering with Oxfam

A year ago I hated my job – 5 days sweating over a keyboard left me depressed and unable to enjoy my weekends.  I spent my evenings shouting at the television. Was I the only one who thought the world was going to hell?  Frankly I felt like the odd one out and powerless to change anything. I donated to charity collectors, I wrote to my MP – but did it make a difference?

Then one weekend  I checked out the Oxfam website and the section on getting involved. I didn’t have the time to work in a shop, music festivals aren’t my thing, but I could become a constituency campaigner

What campaigning is really about

I emailed them with some information about myself – as a student I had been politically active but career demands and a growing feeling of cynicism and despair had led me to withdraw from activism. Within a few days Diane, the Constituency Campaigner organiser, had got in touch with me from Oxfam’s Manchester office – we had a really interesting chat about my interests and how I could get involved – it was only when I put the phone down that I realised that this had been my interview. Soon after, I was spending my Saturday in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter with a group of like-minded campaigners from across the UK.

We learned about Oxfam’s work and how campaigners worked to influence their MPs and MEPs and through them, government and even global policy. The presentations were fascinating, but even more inspiring were the conversations over lunch. I met people from all backgrounds who shared my commitment to making the world a better place – people of my own age who had withdrawn from politics and also students who had turned their back on party politics and wanted to achieve real change. Their enthusiasm was inspiring. We left with piles of leaflets, hints on how to lobby our elected representatives and details of Oxfam’s climate change and inequality campaigns.

Have I changed the world?

Since then I have been asked to take a lobbying action every month, I have learned about the mysteries of Twitter, become an active member of a Facebook group and met up with fellow activists in our ongoing training programme.

Have I changed the world ? Well, Oxfam has already achieved a long held target of 0.7% of GNP for international development and as campaigners we are building on this success. Have I changed my life – yes. I resigned from my job moved to a similar post with shorter hours allowing me to volunteer at the Oxfam offices once a week. I have also trained to teach English as a foreign language, working with immigrants in this country and with a long-term plan to volunteer abroad. I have even moved house! And I no longer shout at the television, instead I go on Facebook and share my frustrations with my fellow campaigners!



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