A few summers back, when I was between years at university and didn’t have the energy both physically or mentally to hold down a job, I needed something to do with my free time, so I took up a voluntary job with Oxfam in my city centre. This allowed me to be a lot more flexible with my hours that a paid job would have done and turned out to be a wonderful experience for me.
During the summer, I worked two or three days a week, for between four and eight hours and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. In my city, Oxfam is split into three stores, one generic, one music and one for books and while I spent the majority of my time in the generic one, every so often I was ‘stolen’ by the music shop.
While working there, I met some fascinating people including a Dutch lady who spoke fluent English but would swear in Dutch when something went wrong and an older lady who had been to a David Bowie concert ‘back in the day’.
The work itself varied from work on the tills, sorting stock, redressing mannequins, cashing up and uploading information onto the online store. The most fun came in dressing the mannequins and being able to decide what they wore before they were placed back into the window for everyone to see, it certainly felt like I had a lot of power.
The charity itself was one that I knew only the basics about before I joined them. I knew they worked to help people in third world countries but I didn’t know a lot about what they did. During my summer there, I learnt a lot about specific projects of theirs, including the ‘Shwop’ deal they had with Marks and Spencer.
When I joined University, I made connections with the chaplaincy centre during Fresher’s Fortnight and learnt almost straight away about JUMP. JUMP stands for Jesus Understands Me Personally and simply put was a puppet show for children.
Myself and a team of between 2 and 4 others would go into one of the many primary schools in the city, with our collapsible puppet stage, made of difficult to place together plastic and tell a Christian story using the puppets. During my three years at Uni, I must have done around 50 of these shows, using three or four different scripts.
While at the shows, we alternated who had what role. Although I was often a puppet telling the story, there were times when I would present instead, which meant I was introducing us and giving the assembly a quiz after the show. JUMP was one of my favourite parts of university as it gave me the chance to get to know different areas of the city and interact with a lot of children.
As well as performing in the shows and setting up the stage, me and one other person also wrote a couple of the scripts as we were study Creative Writing and thought it would help us along the way, and it did. Here is an extract from Jonah and the Whale
Human: It is. Jonah was asked by God to go to Ninevah and make them behave better, but like you with your homework, Jonah couldn’t be bothered to do it, so he refused.
Animal: What happened?!
Human: Jonah ran away from God. He ran to the sea, agreeing to get a place on a boat with some sailors.
Animal: Huh? But he couldn’t run away from God, could he?
Human: That’s right [name] he couldn’t. There came a huge storm and the sailors realised that it was because of Jonah running from God. They prayed for forgiveness and understanding, and with Jonah’s agreement they threw him into the sea.
Animal: Did he drown?!
Human: Not exactly. Jonah was swallowed by a fish.
Animal: Wha-? It must’ve been a really big fish!