The first and original “Shop of Sanctuary” is the Oxfam shop in Castle Street, Swansea.
Oxfam Castle Street Shop Manager Philip Broadhust shares what becoming a Shop of Sanctuary has meant to his community:
Asylum Seekers and Refugees have made up a substantial part of the shop team at Oxfam in Castle Street, Swansea since around 2004, when we built up links with Swansea Bay Asylum Seekers Support Group, a group set up by local people to help provide a welcome to new asylum seekers coming to Swansea. With asylum seekers unable to work, it suited both them and us to develop a connection which has since provided Oxfam with a steady stream of volunteers. Asylum Seekers welcome the opportunity to do something worthwhile with their time, to improve their English, to make new friends, to learn new skills and to get a UK-based work placement on their CV. Our shop team welcomes the opportunity to fill the rota! And to make new friendships with people from all around the world.
The fact that we are known as a Shop of Sanctuary with a diverse volunteer team has definitely helped us recruit and maintain more volunteers, obviously from the asylum-seeking community, but also from across the city’s population. It has also helped us make a wide range of connections with groups and individuals across Swansea, winning us much goodwill and subsequent donations!
When Swansea City of Sanctuary began their system of Sanctuary Awards in 2014, we immediately applied for Shop Of Sanctuary status, which we gained, and then renewed in 2017. We had long been operating in a “Shop of Sanctuary” way, but it was nice to get official status, and to use the award presentations as a way of highlighting how our shop is putting Oxfam’s principles into practice at shop floor level, and to celebrate the strength and values of our Shop Team.
Manchester Oxfam Shop Manager, Emma:
As a manager of an Oxfam shop situated within a large, multi-cultural community, I have a strong passion for wanting to make my volunteer team as diverse as possible and accessible to everyone. I feel it is very important to offer a welcoming environment and professional opportunities for people who have arrived into Manchester seeking sanctuary and a safe, new home. When I found out that there was in fact a Manchester city of Sanctuary I was very keen to try and connect with them.
For the last five months we have had placements with people seeking sanctuary. Over the months, as they have got to know us, the team and how the store operates, they felt confident enough to be trained on the shop floor and regularly run the shop floor alongside newer volunteers and help with training. They are very confident speaking to all customers and have developed many friendships with fellow volunteers, something that makes us really happy to see. They feel that they are part of the Oxfam family.
Having Manchester City of Sanctuary supporting us throughout this placement, was paramount to its success. Even though after the first month or so, we didn’t need to be in regular contact, it was reassuring and comforting to know that we had the support if needed and could pick up the phone for advice.
The initial aim of the placement was for our Oxfam shop to be a welcoming and happy place for refugees and asylum seekers to learn new skills, make friends and make the transition to a new place a little easier, and I’m happy to say that I think we achieved that.