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By James Restall
Oxfam is to receive the Freedom of the City of Oxford in October in recognition of its achievements both in the city and worldwide.
Chief Executive Dame Barbara Stocking and Oxfam Chair Karen Brown will be presented with a Freedom of the City scroll at the Town Hall by the Lord Mayor, Councillor Alan Armitage.
The honour will mark the 70th anniversary of the organisation. Oxfam’s started in 1942 to help those suffering in Greece in the aftermath of World War Two and is now working in 90 countries on a number of projects such as providing emergency water sources and supporting community health projects.
Either distinguished individuals or people who have “rendered eminent services to the city” are eligible for the accolade.
The Lord Mayor said: “Oxfam has made a huge difference to the lives of many millions of people across the world, during 70 years. We in Oxford can be very proud of the organisation’s strong links with our city, and the unfailing support it has had from our citizens.
“This is a good time to demonstrate our appreciation by awarding Freedom of the City.”
Oxfam retains a strong presence in Oxfordshire with 20 shops and providing 700 local jobs. The outlet on Broad Street is Britain’s first charity shop.
CEO Barbara Stocking expressed her “delight” at accepting the award. She said: “We are very proud of our beginnings in Oxford and what we have gone on to achieve in the past 70 years, working to overcome poverty and suffering worldwide.
“Oxford residents have played a big part in our success over the years; as staff, volunteers and supporters, and Oxfam shops play a special role within the community.”
Oxfam has expanded to include second hand book shops, with books and music contributing 35 percent of the stores’ overall income. In 2009, the Arctic Monkeys released a vinyl version of their single “Crying Lightning” exclusively through the charity.
However, Oxfam’s work has been made more difficult in recent years with the UK in recession. An Oxfam spokesperson told The Oxford Student: “Although Oxfam shop sales are doing well in the current financial climate, donations of items are down. We still need people to donate items such as clothes and books to stock the shops.”
The organisation has launched its “Shwopping” campaign in partnership with Marks & Spencer which encourages customers to exchange an unwanted item of clothing when they buy a new one.
She added: “Continuing to generate income to fund our work overseas is vital to Oxfam in the current economic climate. We therefore have to be innovative about the ways we engage with the public.”
With its resources “stretched more thinly than ever”, fundraising initiatives are vital if Oxfam is to continue responding to large scale emergencies. The organisation is currently tackling the food crises in East and West Africa and Yemen and the displacement of millions of people following the conflicts in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The spokesperson said: As well as responding to these emergencies, Oxfam is also campaigning for Governments and other actors to take concerted action to address some of the flaws in the production and distribution of food around the world, which mean that 1 billion people go to bed hungry nightly despite the planet producing enough food for everyone to eat.”