Archive for the 'Volunteering' Category
We marched for the protection of our fundamental human rights. I marched to remind Mr Trump that we exist, we are watching, and we will not let him take away our rights. I marched along with my sisters (and brothers) across the globe to remind the world that love trumps hate. We will not remain silent. We will not allow Mr Trump to take away rights for women, the LGBT family, or minorities.
I attended the march in London. There were many marches across the UK – some even in some of my favourite places to be – but I chose to attend the London march to march with some of my fellow ex-pat friends. At last count, they estimated 100,000 people participated in London alone….and the police only expected about 10,000. So given those numbers, you can imagine how crazy the event was. This led to me thinking the event wasn’t very organised, but after speaking with a friend who was part of the volunteer base, I found out that the problem actually was more people than they had planned for, but in my friend Bonnie’s words:
When a march greatly exceeds its expected size, the very fact that it strains the organised plans is a mark of success. Traffic is tied up, streets & rally points overflow, AND THAT MAKES THE CITY & COUNTRY TAKE NOTICE. It is a bit of bother for participants but it means you got your point across. So pat yourself on the back. You just launched a Movement!
Of course we will need to do things to keep this movement growing, and I am committing myself to making whatever difference I can, in the UK, US, and globally.
I share in their sentiments.
My day started off early in the morning. Too early, in my opinion, but when you can catch a lift into town with your husband on early turn, you take it. Even if it means waking up at 0400 and arriving in town at 0530 and your train isn’t until 7! But that’s OK. I had plans to grab a coffee from wherever was opened and then sit in the warm waiting room in the station, which opens at 6 (the waiting room opens at 6. The station opens earlier for the 0526 train, but then you’d have to sit on the cold platform until they unlocked the waiting room). I wound up going to McDonald’s after noticing a distinct smell of oranges coming from my back.
I bought a coffee, grabbed a stack of napkins, and found a corner. As soon as I opened up my rucksack I saw the problem — my bottle of orange juice to go along with my packed breakfast had leaked…everywhere. Fortunately, I am a smart packer even for a day trip so everything inside my bag was inside bags (plastic or cloth) and my electronics (my kindle, selfie stick, and emergency charger) were all in a separate pocket. The item that really got the damage, which I ultimately threw away was an A5 sized make up bag from Accessorize I had bought on clearance for £2 (because it was damaged by missing a single bead!) last year. Inside the bag was some extra layering items in case it got colder. All the items inside the bag were fine as the bag absorbed most of the juice. The juice also got on the drawstring bag my butterfly twist flats are stored in and a folding shopping bag (I kept both of those). I also had some face wipes in my bag, so I used those to give the inside of the bag a quick clean, re-loaded, and headed over to the station. It was around 0630, but the London train was already on a platform so the guard let me board even though the lights were out. Fortunately, by dumb luck I picked an unreserved seat once the reservation signs lit up! I managed to sleep for part of the journey until about Nottingham when other people boarded and sat with me (I was at a table) and we chatted – including a girl who was also attending the march. We arrived into St Pancras a few minutes before 10, and I made a beeline for the toilets since I knew we wouldn’t have many opportunities for a loo once we were part of the crowd.
I arranged with my other friends coming down from the North that we would meet up at the Meeting Point at St Pancras, also known as The Lovers. It’s a huge statue of a couple embracing right in front of the Eurostar platforms (which are behind glass). It’s a relatively quiet spot too, so I knew we’d easily be able to meet up. People started trickling in, and we finally had our group by 11AM so we headed to the tube. Plans were to go as far as Oxford Street and then walk to Grosvenor Square from there as we knew it was going to be hectic.
What we hadn’t planned on was how hard it was going to be to keep 6 adults and 4 children (one in a pushchair) together, and we actually became separated with one child with us on a platform while mum and the other 3 had boarded a train! No worries, we just took her with her and kept her calm until we met up with her mum again at Oxford Street….where we joined massive, massive groups of people all with signs all with one purpose. Fortunately, several of us know the area pretty well and we knew to go down a different side street than everyone was being directed on….but we met with a wall of people just shy of Grosvenor Square!
The rest of our friends were “near the drums”, so we asked a volunteer how to get there and they directed us to use the pavement to get down to our friends, but we soon were blocked there as well. Two of our group managed to get through (though I don’t know if they ever found the rest of the group!), and the rest of us were stood on the opposite end of Grosvenor Square from the US embassy for at least a half hour. Probably longer now that I really think about it. At some point we got shoved around by people behind (obviously wanting to get moving) and the official march time start came and went. Chants of “We want to march” rang out, and my friends and I kept ourselves amused by looking at all the different signs people had brought. I pulled out my selfie stick to grab some pics of the crowd, as I knew this was the only way I was going to get any!
Eventually, a volunteer with a megaphone came near us followed by a motorcade of motorcycles and told us we needed to move, so we threaded our way through the taxis to a little slip….where we stood again for probably another half hour before we finally started to move! We got to the corner and people were being directed to march back towards the embassy building, but we headed straight instead and caught up with another section of the march further on.
We were finally on the move! But the crowds were still very large and it became harder and harder to keep our small group together. At one point, I got cut off from my friends and I thought I could see the hat of one of my friends, but it turned out not to be her and I was well and truly separated from them. I marched on, but I really needed a loo.
I got as far as the Hard Rock Cafe, and I decided that I would go use their loo, even if it meant that I had to get a table or go to the bar, but fortunately, they were allowing people who asked in to use their loo. I then walked a bit past the Hard Rock to try to find out where my friends had got to, but a police officer told me I needed to keep moving as “this wasn’t a stopping area”. Err…Ok.
I wound up on a quiet side street where I managed to get myself back in with the main march crowd, and I had hoped closer to where my friends were…..but then I soon gave up on finding them or getting through the crowd. Someone near me murmured that online it was reported that we had 50k (this figure later turned into 80k, then 100k as they realised how many were there). Someone else was loudly complaining that they didn’t understand what all these people were here for (I’m assuming they were a tourist and got swept up in the crowds by accident). I finally saw the Green Park tube station, and that was when I decided I was going to head back to King’s Cross as I knew I wasn’t going to be able to find my friends again, and it was already well past 1500. The rally was supposed to have started at 1400, and I knew if I didn’t make it back to KGX by 1830, I would have to wait until 2030, which would be the very last train that could get me home on a Saturday.
After looking at the National Rail app and talking to Tim, I decided to get something to eat and made plans to get on the 1630 Virgin East Coast train to Newark, and then onto Lincoln from there. I even made it home and was in bed before some of my friends made it out of London!
I’m really glad I went, I’m glad I was counted in the numbers demonstrating, and I would absolutely do it again if the need arises.
*I saw these ladies, but I did not take this picture. This picture was taken by Tara Rose. I just borrowed it for instagram (So this pic has been edited by me via Instagram).
**As stated in the caption, the artist wishes to remain anonymous, but has given her permission for others to use her art and to share her art. This image is not mine.
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I really need some opinions on this matter.
I volunteer at the Cancer Research UK charity shop on Thursday afternoons from 1-5PM. I take the bus into town (£2.50) and then usually meet up with 2 friends to go to chorus, and then another friend would give me a lift home.
My friends I usually meet are no longer available to meet me before chorus to give me a lift, so I’m stuck scrambling for a solution. Another chorus friend lives in one of the villages near me, and she’s offered to give me lifts on “most” Thursdays if I can get to her house via the bus. I’m fine with doing that, but it will mean paying for a return fare into town (£4.50) plus a single to her village (£2) every week. I’d also only have about 45 minutes at home between busses to shove something to eat down my neck. That’s not counting busses running late (they nearly always are) or the walk to the bus stop (about 5 minutes each way). So really, I’m looking at spending maybe if I’m lucky a half hour at home. Which isn’t enough time to cook anything, so I’d either have to have a meal in the crock pot waiting, or just have a sandwich. Even heating up my oven to cook chips takes nearly 20 minutes! The downside to a crock pot meal is that depending on Tim’s schedule, he might not get to eat it, but would have to smell it cooking, which really isn’t fair.
This also means I’d be spending £4.50 each week just to volunteer….over £20/month. In a time when Tim and I are trying to cut back on some of our finances so we can put more into savings…do I really want to spend that extra £20/month? Granted, some weeks I go into town early and do some shopping, but since I’m also trying to cut back on my extracurricular shopping trips, I can’t really use shopping as an excuse. Plus, I always have to take the bus into town on Market days, since Market isn’t on a Thursday.
And let’s talk about the volunteering.
I started volunteering to get myself out of the house, to meet people, and to possibly count towards my eventual citizenship*. I started in March 2010, and I have not met anyone to hang out with outside of the volunteer job. I’d say I’m “friends” with the woman I usually work with, but we don’t even have each other’s mobile numbers and we only talk if we’re both at the volunteer job at the same time…and since September, it’s been hard to find a day when we’re both there since they keep switching her schedule around. I do not get along with anyone else I volunteer with, other than one of the men who helps out with sorting (and he’s not usually on the floor). All of the other women who work on the floor just rub me the wrong way, boss me around, treat me horribly, or are just too quiet to try to make friends with and barely answer my questions if I try to start a conversation. One of them clearly has a problem with immigrants as well, as she makes horrible comments but then covers them up with a “but of course I don’t mean you”**. Another deliberately gives me a hard time any time I use the word “pants” instead of “trousers”. Now, most people know what I mean (and even this person knows) if I say “pants”. Customers recognize that I am American and that in America we call trousers “pants”. Nine times out of ten, I catch myself and correct myself immediately when talking to a customer, but there is one of the co-workers who always sneers at me if I use an American clothing word.
The bosses are nice, but sometimes I think they think we are all uneducated and they seem surprised when I pick things up after being shown/told once….but then if I make one tiny mistake I get called out for it, so really, you can’t quite win with them. The bosses (and other co-workers) seem to be plagued with the same problem some of the chorus members have of “you should just know this because that’s how it’s done”.
I know I’m not happy 100% with the “job”. I think if I was 100% happy there, I wouldn’t bat an eye at spending £20/week to commute to it. But really, it’s more like about 20%. Most Thursdays I really can’t get up the excitement to go, but I do it anyway.
I don’t want to be a quitter. I wanted to stick it out and “just do it”, but I really don’t want to spend that money and rush myself around like that.
Tim didn’t want me to quit the many times I said I wanted to before, because he didn’t want me to be one of those people who never leaves the house and who doesn’t have a life of her own outside of her husband, but I do things. I have friends that I see and do things with. I take the train to visit friends and other places….I’m not going to suddenly become an invalid if I stop volunteering. I also still have (for now) chorus. I think Tim is starting to see point in me leaving it though now that my schedule is changing.
PLUS, our steam-ups are always on Thursdays, and if I’m not volunteering, I’d at least be present for part of the steam-up. I’ve missed so many of them last season, and some of Tim’s friends (my friends now, too) were disappointed when they didn’t see me.
So, how do I graciously get out of this? Do I need to write a formal letter stating that I am leaving? Do I ask if I can leave myself on the roster for possibly going back if my schedule changes again? Do I just call in and say “not doing this any more” or do I need to attend a “last day”?
*The volunteering was part of the Earned Citizenship stuff to reduce wait time from 5 years to 3. Parts of the EC have been thrown out, but no one seems to know if this volunteering thing will still be needed….but they also never released figures stating how much volunteering you needed to do for it to count.
**I don’t think we need to get into this again. Those of us who are (white/English-speaking) immigrants in the UK get treated to comments like that all the time.
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I volunteer once a week for Cancer Research UK in their charity shop on the high street in Lincoln (if anyone wants to visit, I’m there on a Thursday and we are located near the base of Steep Hill across from the Slug & Lettuce). My job is mostly downstairs in the shop – running the till, putting clothing and other items out on the racks/shelves, and general tidying up. Sometimes I also help W, the other volunteer with picking items for the window display, make price labels for B, our manager, and set up displays. I love volunteering and helping out…but the biggest benefit of working in a charity shop? Shopping in a charity shop.
Charity shops in the UK are different from shops in the US. In the US, the two big shops are Salvation Army and Goodwill. At SA you can get t-shirts for $0.50, jeans for $2, and even prom dresses for less than $10. You really have to comb through the racks of clothing to try your luck at finding something branded. I remember one time I found an Express skirt for $2, but most of the time it was combing through lots of discount chain brands and promotional items.
Charity shops in the UK are different. First of all, most big charities (Cancer Research UK, British Red Cross, British Heart Foundation, OxFam, etc.) have their own shops where they sell commercial goods for fundraising, branded items, and donated items. Some charities have multiple shops, such as the OxFam bookshop or the Heart Foundation furniture & appliance shop. Signs in the window at the British Heart Foundation shop advertise used televisions starting at £15 and other used appliances for under £100. I wish I had known of their existence when we had to buy a new washing machine in February!
Since I started volunteering in March, I think I’ve spent around £30 total in different charity shops (though most in the one I volunteer at!). But if I had purchased those same things on the high street? I bet I would have easily spent £300. I shop for high street branded items – I’ve scored per una (Marks & Spencers) blouses and tops for £3-£5, a dress from Evans for £7, a dress from Monsoon for £4, and assorted practically new books for £1-£3. And a quick glance at M&S shows a shirt similar to the one I purchased for £3 selling in their shop for £22, a new-with-tags shirt I paid £5 for selling at £25, and another new-with-tags shirt I paid £4 for selling at £19. And the dress from Evans would have set me back at least £25, and the Monsoon dress at least £55!
And I can’t forget about books. If I forget a book when I go into town, I usually stop in at the OxFam shop and pick out a book and spend £1-2, less than the cost of a magazine. I’ve even picked up the latest Phillipa Gregory book at the charity shop for £2. Buying books used is a great way to expand your collection if you don’t have much to spend. I also decided to purchase cookbooks at charity shops and used book shops instead of £25-30 at Waterstones.
So please, if you’re looking for some new clothing, consider checking in a charity shop first. Not only will you save some money, you’re money will go to a good cause. Or even better, donate some time to your local charity shop!
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I took the bus into Lincoln today because I had a few errands I needed to run.
I got off the bus at the “top of the hill” near the Cathedral, as my original plans were to talk to the people at the pub we want to use for the reception in person, but that didn’t work out. As I was walking down Steep Hill (yes, it’s called that) I happened to spot a volunteer sign in the window of the Cancer Research charity shop. Since my application for OxFam must have been rejected (never heard back from them!), I was still looking for some place to volunteer, both as something to do, and as part of the new requirements for seeking citizenship in the UK. I walked in, asked about volunteering, and 10 minutes later I was “hired”. I’ll be working every Thursday from 1-5PM, which goes nicely with my other activity on Thursdays – an all-female Barbershop group (part of Sweet Adelines).
After landing the “job”, I went to Primark to replace some of the items I accidentally shrank in the wash* and then to Boots (drug store) to use some coupons that expired at the end of the month, and to place an order for photos to be printed to go with my insurance claim form. Then, it was the trek over to the other side of High Street to Argos to make a return. Right as I got to the barriers for the train, they went down, so I sent a text to Tim. He called and played “big brother” on me by looking at me through his CCTV! Item returned and new item purchased (I needed a new small crock pot), I walked back only to get to the crossing right as the barriers were going down again.
I met up with Tim and we went shopping for Mother’s Day cards and Birthday cards and then decided we’d just go look at eyeglass frames at one of the discount stores. I found frames for both regular and sunglasses that I liked (and they were only £70) and so we asked about making an appointment, and there happened to be an opening right then, so this afternoon I had an eye exam and got new glasses and sunglasses! I pick up the glasses on Thursday.
We also did our weekly run at Tesco, and now I’m busy (at midnight) finishing roasting a chicken so I can use it tomorrow in a stew I’m making for Tim’s grandad.
I just need to keep my eyes open for another half hour….
*Last week when I did the wash, I forgot that temperatures were in Celsius and I set it for 60…..60C is a hot water wash, not the lukewarm water wash I thought it was.
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