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Young Charity Shop Volunteer Puts Respect For The Elderly First

Interview with Jenny Osiberu

Jenny News Banner

Young Charity Shop Volunteer Puts Respect For The Elderly First

Interview with Jenny Osiberu

Young Charity Shop Volunteer Puts Respect For The Elderly First

Sixteen-year-old Jenny Osiberu has just spent the summer helping out at her local ellenor hospice shop. The Gravesend girl, now studying biology, geography, and psychology in the Sixth Form at St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School, found her experiences invaluable – and proved a real asset to the store.

 “I made up my mind I wanted to get some work experience during my summer holidays, and to get a taste of the retail industry, so I chose ellenor.”

She said: “A lot of customers are elderly, and it’s important to make sure the shop is easy for them to get around. We make everything more accessible for them. We put chairs and stools around, so they are not standing too long, and we still ask customers to wear masks to protect the vulnerable customers who come in.”

Jenny attributes her respect of the elderly to her Nigerian philosophy.

She said: “We put the needs of the elderly above our own. It would be customary for a Nigerian family to visit grandparents at least weekly and make sure they are doing OK. When people retire in Nigeria, it is believed their children should be there for them. There is a lot of respect and gratitude.”

Jenny’s parents, Olu and Mulikat, are both from the Remo region of Nigeria, but she and her 12-year-old brother Josiah were born in the UK.

She said: “Dad went to school here and mum came over from Nigeria after they were married. Gravesend is very multicultural, and so is my school. There are a lot of Nigerians and other nationalities. In fact, we often forget we are all from very different backgrounds. The school does embrace its multiculturalism, for instance before the Covid restrictions we had days where we would bring in and share different dishes we had cooked.”

A few of Jenny’s school friends worked with her at the ellenor shop this summer.

Jenny described it as “very professionally run and a great working environment”.

She said: “Because of the pandemic it was my first proper work experience and I have learned a lot, especially about working on the shop floor and the till – and of course customer service.

“Everyone working there is always so willing to help me. I was pretty scared at first, but the manager Emily and all the volunteers made me feel so comfortable. A few friends from school were also working there over the holidays, so that was nice too. I wasn’t judged for making mistakes, in fact I was allowed to learn from them.”

Staff and volunteers at the King Street store were full of praise for Jenny, especially when she helped to reorganise shelves and design a display to promote ellenor’s Twilight Walk. Assistant manager Jimmy Stuart said Jenny was “brilliant” and even inspired the other volunteers with her eye for shop layout.

Jenny said: “It did feel good to be doing something which was raising money for such a good cause. To be honest, when I started at the ellenor shop I didn’t know much at all about the hospice. Obviously being in Gravesend, I had heard of ellenor and of fundraising events like the annual Twilight Walk. I also once performed at the hospice with my primary school choir, and really enjoyed the atmosphere there. Now I know a lot more about what a hospice does.

As well as helping ellenor with fundraising in the future, Jenny hopes to promote its services within the wider community.

Every year the charity must raise £7m to fund its in-patient and out-patient care, its Wellbeing department, and its services in the community for patients of all ages and their families.

Jenny admits that although ellenor is a well-respected part of the community in Gravesend and throughout Kent and Bexley, sometimes Nigerian families can be wary of care homes, hospitals and hospices in general, and Covid visiting restrictions have not helped ease their concerns.

She said: “People from some cultures can be reluctant to take their elderly relatives somewhere where they are not able to see what is happening. There are a lot of myths that need to be quashed and more knowledge about hospice care needs to be shared within our culture.”

Jenny is considering a career either in retail or health care and would love to work in a hospital. She hopes the commitment she has shown to ellenor will help with her CV in the future.

She said: “I am very busy with my studies now I am in sixth form, but I hope I will still be able to help out at the shop in my holidays, and I would also like to get involved in some fundraising. I’m going to persuade a friend to do the Twilight Walk with me.

“I would recommend volunteering in a charity shop like ellenor to anyone. It’s really good experience. You learn good customer service skills and how to interact with people. You learn to handle all sorts of situations”

Jenny’s strong work ethic and customer care has certainly impressed staff and volunteers at the store, and they wished her well with her career in the future.