walk a-musing

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Charity shops

A feature of every town in England is the charity shop. The way it works is this. Let us say you have a book you no longer need, or a sweater you no longer fit into, or a toy your child played with ages ago and has now outgrown....and you just don't know what to do with it. What you can do is take it to a shop run by a charitable organisation and donate it. They decide whether it is in good enough condition for someone else to be interested in buying it. If it is, they fix a price on it and display it in their shop. The price is much less than its original price and there are many people ready to buy it. The organisation gets money for its work, you feel good that you did not throw away something that was once useful to you, and you actually helped in a good cause.

I think this is a wonderful idea. There are charity shops run by Oxfam (which I believe started the trend and has hundreds of shops), Amnesty International, Salvation army, British heart foundation, cancer research UK, Marie Curie cancer care, British red cross, and many others. They sells books, clothes, toys, CDs, cassettes, gifts and so on. Most of them are single room shops with very pretty window displays, that would tempt you to go in and have a look. Most of the shops are run by volunteers. It has been estimated that nearly a hundred billion pounds are raised every year for charity through these shops. There is the additional advantage that many things which would only have gone to the landfill are being given a further use. One step towards 'reduce, re-use and recycle'!

I hear there are charity shops in many other countries. I wonder why they have not caught on in India. There are innumerable organisations working for good causes. There would be lots of people happy to buy things in good condition, available at low rates. I am equally sure there are many people who hang on to unused items in the house for the simple reason that they dont want to throw them away, but would gladly part with them if they are sure someone will use them.You may say that one might as well donate things to people who actually need them. But there is always the problem of linking up the needy to the one giving the charity. This is an excellent way of bringing them together! Are there charity shops in India that I am not aware of?

I volunteer at a charity book shop. It is both agony and ecstasy for me! More about it in my next post.


  • At 11:18 PM, Anonymous vidya said…


    Charity shops are a great idea. Wish it comes up in India too.


  • At 11:55 PM, Blogger Shruthi said…

    Oh wow, I did not know how charity shops worked... that's so wonderful! I don't know if there are such shops here in India, but I think there is a tremendous need for them!

  • At 6:50 PM, Anonymous confused said…

    Interesting idea-for sure.

    But then charity in Western countries is taken so seriously. Look at the kind of grants big universities get from their alumni.

  • At 11:07 PM, Blogger Nirwa said…


    Instead of giving away money to temples, I think giving it for education and other basic necessity is more important.

    I never believed in donating in temples, however, my parents have been funding for books and school expenses of our domestic maid's children.

    Also, my mother, now retired, teaches them.. and I think its a perfect example of charity begins at home! :)

    Also like your idea of charity shops in India! :)


  • At 1:25 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    Vidya, thanks for the comments!

    Shru, How about starting one yourself?;) But unless it is associated with a known charitable organisation, I suppose people would not really respond. What do you think?

    confused, not just that. I recently read an article (was it in economist?) about how big philanthropy is now. Wealthy individuals and companies employ people to run their charitable work, to study how best to utilise the money allocated to charity. It is increasing in India too. Perhaps it is much more organised in the west.

    Nirwa,you are absolutely right. A lot of money is given away to temples which could be used for other good purposes. I read a headline in Samachar.com recently that Amitabh Bachchan had given **lakhs to Andhra. I was really impressed. Then it turns out that he donated so much to the tirupathi temple to thank god for his recovery!!:( There is a lot of charity in India at the individual level but I think it is not sufficiently organised -yet- to tap a lot more that is available.

  • At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Sloganmurugan said…

    I heard about this yesterday:

    The mumbai-headquartered Dignity Foundation is setting up a library for its township at Neral, near matheran : off mumbai.
    I am assisting by way of passing around the hat : for any books you may like to donate.


    The library, at the Dignity Lifestyle Township at Neral is shaping up well.

    A few books have already come in and we would now welcome your donation by way of more books, music CDs and video films.

    Hiro Shroff, oral historian and journalist, and author of the book --Down Memory Lane -- is our honorary books advisor.

    Your gift packets may please be sent to Dignity Foundation addressed to :

    Mrs. Umadevi Krishnamurthy : Dignity Foundation : BMC School Building : Topiwala Lane : Opp. Lamington Road Police Station : Grant Road (E) : Mumbai 400 007

    Uma's tel no. 022 23885090 :

    Email id : dearuma@gmail.com

    Signed : Sheilu Sreenivasan

    President : Dignity Lifestyle Township


    Dignity Foundation : dignityfoundation.com

    Dignity Lifestyle Township : dignitylifestyle.org

  • At 8:48 AM, Blogger Anu said…

    sloganmurugan, Thankyou, this is wonderful!

  • At 7:15 AM, Anonymous Shrinivas said…

    It is surprising and good to see so many people interested in "Charity in India". nirwa even wrote that instead of giving money at the temples, it is important to give money for education. A lot of people would agree and so would I. But let me add a few words here. There are many temples (or that is what they are considered by outsiders) give education to poor children from the community. Let me give you some particular examples. There is a Madhva Vidyapeetha in the Mumbai Suburb of Mulund which runs purely on donations from the community and is one of its kind in India. The education imparted there includes Vedas, Shlokas, Sanskrit, etc. At the end of a 10-12 year tenure, the students not just come out as "Sudha Pandits", they also are very well educated in Mathematics, General Science and Computers to that extent and are good citizens. Not to mention, the students coming out get an M.A. (Master of Arts) in Sanskrit and all for free.

    Another such example would be the Pontiff of The Uttaradi Mutt His Holiness Shri Satyatma Teertha Swamiji putting all such donations to good cause by sponsoring schools, researches, etc. and organising events like Personality Development, Eye Camps, Computer Coaching for the poor, etc. which are purely from the donations or charities.

    Charities have been existant in India since time immemorial. Only, the fashion or the idea of charity has been different in India compared to the Western World.

    If you ask your grandparents or someone of that age, you will learn that they would have known someone who was either living at someone else's place or had someone living at their place for educational purpose without even being remotely related. Such was the idea of charity that if you could help any one person to stand up on his/her (mostly his in that time) own feet and be self reliant, that was an achievement. Things evolve over time and take different forms depending on the need of the hour. The priority for people about 40-50 years ago in India was to get educated and become self reliant. This hasn't changed a lot over time but the conditions were much challenging back then. With very few schools, colleges and even fewer Universities, people had to rely on one another and the religious institutions played a very active role to a great extent.

    If people stopped donations to temples, think of what would happen to such an establishment? I am not asking you to put a hand in your pocket every time you see a God or a Godly man, the decision is left completely to the individual but please do not make generalised statements.

  • At 11:07 AM, Anonymous Rajani said…

    Even I was quite impressed with the charity shops, called "Thrift Stores" here in the US. Every few months we have a couple of boxes of our son's clothes and toys which he's outgrown...It's a good feeling that someone else will use the stuff. Incidentally I know of one place in Mumbai where they welcome any kind of charity. It's in ANdheri, West on Veera Desai Road. I don't remember the name but they're a Christian organization running an orphanage as well as an old-age home on their campus. I remember the nun told us absolutely anything was welcome...from money, to grains to toiletries and clothes, to books..whatever...I haven't been there in a while but if any of u can...please.

  • At 2:23 PM, Blogger Anu said…

    Shrinivas, Thankyou for very much for your comment.
    First of all I agree with you, and I have mentioned before, that charity is not new in India. I felt that it is not organised the way it is in the UK.
    I don't deny that there are religious institutions which have contributed towards education, built hospitals and so on. What (I think) Nirwa talked about is giving money to temples to build bigger ones, to conduct grand poojas,etc. Some of us would consider that a waste.

    Rajani, Is it the Little sisters of the poor? There is a branch of Little sisters in Mysore. The sisters go from door to door, collecting, like you say, anything one is ready to donate, to use in their old age home. They do a great job.

  • At 2:09 AM, Blogger Mridula said…

    I have not heard about it before reading your post. But I guess we do have our version of giving, usually it goes to the maid or the person who collects the garbage and some such person. As soon as I find clothes I have not worn for many months, they head out of the house. But more organized effort definitely would be better.

  • At 3:14 AM, Blogger Swathi said…

    All i know about India is that there is only 'charity' in India, no charity shops.

    every year clothes and footwear and lotza other things are given out to many NGOs (dunno if they would inspect the goods given...)

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  • At 12:46 AM, Anonymous David Jeba said…

    Charity Shop is just a small concept.
    World Vision India has a larger scale Charity operations.



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