Sara Cowan Campaigns and Activism Co-ordinator
15th Nov 2012
Guest Blog By Trevor Rigg, Volunteer Morningside Shop Edinburgh
Volunteering at an Oxfam shop can sometimes seem somewhat distant to the organisation's life-changing work around the world - so it's great to find out how it all connects together.
Recently, fifty volunteers, donors and supporters gathered to learn more about Oxfam and meet like-minded people during the annual Oxfam Live! Event in Edinburgh, hosted by Judith Robertson, head of Oxfam Scotland.
We were first invited to examine the four display boards around the room - each highlighted a challenge Oxfam tries to deal with in its programmes, especially involving female and financial empowerment.
Jane Cotton, Director of Human Resources, then enlarged upon these themes and spoke of Oxfam's hopes and ambitions for the future, particularly in the context of the recent announcement that Barbara Stocking, Oxfam GB's current Chief Executive, will soon be leaving the organisation.
There then followed an absorbing presentation by Orkhan Aliyev, a field development officer in Azerbaijan.
He gave a sometimes shocking, yet uplifting, account of the problems faced in this small Central-Asian country, beset by problems of corruption, lack of accountability and trust in the authorities, yet hugely rich in oil resources.
A large part of Oxfam's work focusses on governance and education in a country which spends up to 35% of its national budget on defence, a legacy of the on-going simmering hostility with neighbouring Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
He described the levels of deprivation and poverty away from the modern capital, Baku, as being on a level with certain parts of Africa and focussed attention on one particular project that Oxfam had supported, in bringing running water to an outlying village.
Orkhan described how it took a whole year to overcome the deep-seated mistrust of the local population.
After the installation of a water supply to dozens of local families, he showed how their lives had been transformed.
Education for children, previously an unfulfilled aspiration because of the enormous time taken just to collect water for everyday needs, was now a reality and the local school was now over-subscribed.
This was an enjoyable and informative event and, above all, an invaluable opportunity to hear, at first hand, about Oxfam's work from someone closely associated in its implementation.
OxfamLive! was held in St George's West Church in Edinburgh on November 1.