Overcoming fifth-week blues by going… blue

Overcoming fifth-week blues by going… blue

Last week Exeter student Nathan Ellis decided to beat the fifth week blues by going blue for charity.

The second-year English student painted himself blue for a whole day in aid of Progressio, a charity that works on educational, environmental and health projects in the developing world.

This summer Ellis will set off to Nicaragua for a ten week volunteer project. He hopes to raise enough to cover an £800 contribution to the charity, in order to allow it to carry on its work.

The day was spent making the most of his new colour. Ellis said: “After going blue it was an easy step into just wandering around my daily life making puns on the word blue and avoiding people wearing any white clothes.”

Ellis remained blue from ten in the morning to midnight that evening. To counter claims he wasn’t painted completely head to toe, he will be repeating the stunt at some point this week.

He said: “Some people thought it was a cop-out that I hadn’t gone blue all over,  so I’m going to rectify that. And I’m also only going to be eating blue foods just to make it even less fun.” 

A second year student from Lincoln  commented: “You thought fifth week blues was a thing before, maybe. Back in those days, it was merely a meaningless metaphor. Thank goodness we can add an actual blue man to the mix. Phew. I wouldn’t know where I would be without it. Mr Ellis is my guide, my light, my life: he likes to party in blue, I like to party in blue, let’s all just ruddy party in blue shall we?” 

The next time Ellis goes blue, he encourages any interested members of the public to approach him for a chat. Despite the rainy weather all day, Ellis enjoyed the varying reactions to his unusual appearance.

“A woman came in while I was playing the piano in the chapel, stared at the blue man singing Frozen for a bit, put money on the piano, then left. It was bluezarre.”

He had a more sobering episode whilst shopping in Tesco: “I was walking into Tesco and a woman walked past me with her friend and said really loudly ‘he looks fucking mental’.

“It was completely out of the blue and really hurtful, particularly as her language was so colourful. In many ways it is a demonstration of the sort of prejudice Progressio works to counteract.

“Ultimately, I’m just another blue man and I’m no different from anyone else. She blew the whole thing out of proportion.”

Exeter student Jack Crewe commented on how the move had been a long time coming: “Right from when I first met Nathan I knew he was blue, and I think on some level he did too.

“He spent years as a shrinking violet, but now he is a majestic Oxford blue. I’m so happy that he’s accepted who he is and can finally express himself openly.”

Another friend of Ellis’s said: “He blue himself and got paid to do it”.

Sweet charity

Sweet charity

“Oh my God, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?”

“It was my mom’s in the ‘80s.”

“Vintage, so adorable.”

Regina George may have been insincere, but there is nothing like a compliment on something you are wearing to brighten up your day. I find that the compliment is even better when the item was relatively inexpensive, no one else has it, and you did a good turn in purchasing it because it’s from a charity shop. A few weeks ago I stumbled across Helen and Douglas House in Summertown (they also have a shop in the Covered Market) and picked up a gorgeous bright red, orange and purple pleated maxi skirt for just £5. I’ve grilled Hayley Owen, the Business Development Manager at Helen & Douglas House about what it’s like to work for a charity, how money raised in-store helps the charities, and how we can do our bit.

Olivia: So Hayley, tell me a bit about Helen & Douglas House.

Hayley: The money raised through the 36 Helen & Douglas House shops goes directly towards the funding for children and young adults with life limiting conditions. When a child comes into the houses, the family is offered a number of nights annually for respite care. We make sure children have comfort, appropriate medical support and the chance to enjoy their life, even when that life is short.

O: What impact do the stores have on the funding of the hospices?

H: It costs £5 million every year to run the 2 hospice houses, the vast majority of this funding comes directly from the shops and voluntary sources. A large percentage of that £5 million need annually to run the hospices comes from our stores. Which couldn’t be done without the kindness of our volunteers that play a huge part in running our shops and most importantly the public who are the ones that fill our shops with their kind donations.

O: The Summertown store has a fantastic selection of vintage fashion. Where do these clothes come from?

H: Our donations come from all sorts of people from all sorts of places. We sold vintage in all of our shops, mixed in with the normal ‘highstreet’ clothing. We had a real build up of vintage and found there was such a huge market for it that we started to sell it at festivals, which went really well. We then came to the idea that we could reach this target market by having a shop specifically for vintage. Summertown is a great success and we have now turned our shop in the Covered Market into a vintage shop too.

O: Do you have a special interest in vintage fashion?

H: I have studied fashion for 5 years at college and University and have always been specifically interested in vintage.  What I like most is how it’s possible to mix vintage with high street for an on trend look.

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O: What attracted you to work for a charity, rather than in the private sector?

H: I volunteered with the charity and then went on to do an internship with the E-Commerce and Merchandising Manager, which opened my eyes to how interesting and detailed working in a charity is.  Being apart of such an amazing cause gives you a great sense of purpose and satisfaction. If I were working in a private sector, I wouldn’t be working to support the lives of children and young adults. . I may work as the Business Development and Brand Coordinator but if it weren’t for jobs like mine in the charity retail sector raising money, we wouldn’t have the complete funds to support the children.

O: How can students get involved in helping with the development of charity shops?

H: Students becoming involved with charity shops is definitely the future. We are always looking for new volunteers who are fresh and full of creative ideas, and that’s exactly what students are. By coming along and being a part of the shops, the retail office, fundraising or even in the warehouse office, students can make a huge difference and assist with the on going development that we have. We offer great internships and apprenticeships for students. It’s great work experience for the CV and really assists us in raising the £5 million we need every year to run the 2 hospice houses. With 36 shops, an ebay online store and many roles within retail and fundraising, there’s a huge variety of work experience opportunity.

Fashion is always changing, and keeping up with the latest trends is expensive. Trying out different charity stores is a great way to save money, ensure you have an individual look, and above all do your bit for charity. If you have any questions about Helen & Douglas House regarding internships and volunteering, send Hayley an e-mail:

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