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.