When Abio arrived in Huddersfield from Nigeria in 2021 she needed help kitting out her daughters for school.
She was provided with free school uniform by Lockwood-based charity Uniform Exchange and was so touched by the help, she is now a volunteer for them.
Abio spends three or four days a week at the charity’s warehouse helping to sort and fold the donations of school uniform that flood in from kind-hearted people across Kirklees.
Abio said: “When we received the uniform it was like brand new and I wondered how they could give it to us for free and then I found out about Uniform Exchange. They were so kind I wanted to give something back which is why I’m a volunteer here now. They’ve been so welcoming and I feel like I’m part of a big family.”
Volunteers Lora and Margaret believe the social side to volunteering is all-important.
Margaret said: “It gets me out of the house and gives me the chance to meet people. I found out about Uniform Exchange by accident. I was knitting scarves and was asked to drop some off at the charity in Lockwood and, once I realised the great work they are doing, asked if they needed any help. That was a couple of years ago and I’ve been here ever since.”
Lora added: “Volunteering is definitely a great thing to do to find some social interaction and can really help people’s confidence. It certainly keeps me busy and we’ve seen a big surge in requests for uniform recently.”
People who need uniform fill out a ticklist and then Lora searches through the charity’s neatly laid out warehouse to find each item.
Volunteer Gillian’s role is to ensure all the logo uniforms are kept up to date with school uniform changes and she’s drawn up a comprehensive folder displaying all the logos for every school in Kirklees.
Uniform Exchange (https://www.uniform-exchange.org/) provides the uniform to people struggling to afford to buy one for their children and is also keen to keep all school uniform out of landfill.
The charity is very busy at its headquarters in Lockwood, Huddersfield, and needs more volunteers to sort through donated items and get them ready to send out to schools.
They also need drivers to pick donations up from the many collection points across Kirklees and also take the uniforms out to schools once they’ve been sorted.
Uniform Exchange founder Kate France said: “Our volunteers are the charity’s lifeblood and we just couldn’t do what we do without them.
“It’s a really enjoyable place to work with a great sense of teamwork and the satisfaction knowing that every item of uniform sorted will go to a child in need or to someone eager to keep school uniform out of landfill.”
The charity is really pushing the sustainable side to what it does to try to save the planet and keep plastic pollution to an absolute minimum.
Research reveals that parents in the north of England are throwing away 350,000 wearable school uniforms each year, just because they’ve been outgrown.
With the average school uniform consisting of 32% polyester or similar synthetic fibres, that’s the equivalent of 87 tonnes of plastic going to landfill each year, making up 25% of the 354 tonnes of uniform discarded annually across the country.
The discarded clothing needlessly causes an environmental problem when it could be given to other families or recycled as rags.
Uniform Exchange volunteers tend to help out between 9.30am to 2.30pm so it fits in with school times but it can be as flexible as people need.
Volunteers are required to sort and fold clothes, pick and pack them to go out to families, drivers to pick up and deliver the donations, people to help out in our charity shop and Uniform Exchange ambassadors to spread the message.
If you want to come in to help for the odd day now and then then the ideal roles are:
· Emptying donation bags and sorting through them
· Checking each item for quality
· Folding and tagging clothes
· Tidying and putting items on the shelves
· Cleaning shoes
· Bagging up coats
If you can give the charity more time by volunteering regularly then people can be trained in stock control along with picking and packing items to send out.
Volunteering to drive can be very flexible too with the routes kept as small or as large as the volunteer needs. People can help as often as they want – even once a fortnight would be a great help.
Volunteers receive a £4.50 lunch allowance each day with drivers using their own vehicles getting 45p a mile.
If you want to volunteer then please do it through TSL Kirklees Volunteering by phoning 01484 519053 or email@example.com