Keith Volunteers in our Kemptown shop

Keith volunteers in our Kemptown shop

Keith has been volunteering in Martlets’ Kemptown shop for the past three months. He tells us why the experience has been ‘brilliant and life-changing’.

“The warmth and friendliness of the staff in my local Martlets shop is just incredible. I can’t wait to go in every week, and volunteering there has given my confidence such a boost.

Keith behind our shop counter

It felt important to volunteer for a local organisation that meant something to me, and I wanted to give something back to support others who might be going through what I’ve been through.

When my cancer returned three years’ ago, it hit me emotionally more than it did the first time. I was told I would have to wait for the tumour to grow for a year and a half before it would be big enough to target with radiotherapy. It really got me down. I was in a very stressful job at Gatwick and I had got to the point where I wanted more of a life/work balance. Thankfully, I was able to take voluntary redundancy, but then COVID hit and I was in lockdown for a couple of years. My radiotherapy was cancelled as a result of COVID and I had to wait an extra six months to start it.

In all, I was out of the work loop for around three years. It’s amazing what that can do to a person’s confidence.

I was missing being in a customer facing role and wanted to get back into some work, but without jeopardising too much in terms of my health. I needed a flexible role that felt supportive rather than stressful and wondered if volunteering might be worth a try.

One day I was walking through Kemptown where I live and saw a sign up outside the Martlets shop asking for volunteers. I was aware of Martlets and the work they do locally and I thought one day I, or someone I know, might need their care. I’ve had two lucky escapes with cancer, and you never know what’s going to happen or what help you’re going to need down the line. I went into the shop and they were so welcoming; Charlotte, the manager, asked if I’d like to do a two-hour taster session to see how I got on. I went ahead and thought ‘wow, this is really cool’; I just enjoyed it so much.

Martlets’ shops are not just focused on raising money, they are places where volunteers can build their confidence, learn new skills, and make great friends.

The referencing and training process happened quickly and now I volunteer there regularly – you can’t keep me away! I know that sounds crazy, but that’s how much I enjoy going in. When I first sat down with Charlotte and she began showing me the ropes, I felt immediately at ease and there’s never been any stress or pressure. She understood that it was important to build me up as a person again and took the time to explain every aspect of how the shop runs, and that made me feel confident and trusted. There was such a warmth and willingness from the staff to welcome me in and explain what they do.

Now I do everything from sorting out donations to steaming, tagging and pricing clothes and putting them out in the shop. I also help on the till and do whatever needs doing. It’s funny because if you’d told me six months ago that I’d be standing here steaming clothes and enjoying it I’d have laughed because I hate doing the ironing at home! Oddly though, I love every aspect of it, and chatting with the staff and customers. I suffer from major social anxiety and find it hard to walk into a busy pub, but in a volunteer like this I’m a totally different person with confidence.

Keith sorting clothes in our Kemptown charity shop

Martlets’ caring ethos extends beyond the hospice in the way they look after their volunteers; each person is supported with their individual needs and there’s gratitude and respect there for what we do.

If you’re in a similar situation to me and want to try a volunteer taster session do give it a go. Volunteering for Martlets gives you that flexibility to be where you are in life and move forward without feeling pressure.

Martlets’ encourages people from all sorts of backgrounds to volunteer, to reflect our diverse community in Brighton & Hove. It’s that community spirit that really shines through with Martlets. It becomes not just a charity shop, raising money for a hospice, but also a community hub for people in many different ways. From regular customers to staff and volunteers, Martlets’ shops really are at the heart of our local community and make such a difference to so many people.

Could you volunteer for us at Martlets?

Throughout March our volunteering team will be holding a series of events in our wonderful shops. They are inviting the local community to drop in, say hello, and learn more about volunteering at Martlets. The team will be encouraging visitors to take part in their ‘dress the mannequin challenge’ and to talk to existing volunteers about their experience.

  • 10am-3pm Thursday 2 March – Martlets, 238, Southcoast Road ,Peacehaven, BN10 8JS.
  • 10am-3pm Saturday 11 March – Martlets, 89-90, London Road, Brighton, BN1 4JF.
  • 10am-3pm Thursday 16 March – Martlets, 71, Western Road, Brighton, BN1 2HA.
  • 10am-3pm Saturday 18 March – 87, Blatchington Road, Hove, BN3 3YG.

Your time is priceless. Whether you can volunteer with us for a few hours once in a while, or a regular shift. As part of #TeamMartlets, you’ll play a crucial part in keeping your local hospice caring. Whatever your experience and skills, we’ll help you find a Martlets volunteer role that suits you. For more information, contact our people services team on 01273 021548, or