TRAID’s CEO Maria Chenoweth reflects on one year since the UK’s first lockdown, closed charity shops and striving to fund our global partners and projects, when they need us most.

Wow. If someone told me I would be managing TRAID for a year from my kitchen table during a pandemic lockdown, I would surely have thought them mad! Toilet roll queues and closing our charity shops was like being in a surreal movie of which the ending has yet to be scripted.

We are now in spring yet ironically, on the high street, shut charity shops still have their Christmas windows of tinsel, and it’s a year since I have collectively seen work colleagues face-to-face.

For charities and charity retail, the financial hit of this pandemic is significant. The Charity Retail Association estimates that closed charity shops have cost charities more than £28 million each month.

There is no insurance policy that covers Covid, closed shops still have rent to pay, and the social causes charities like TRAID support still need funding – now more than ever – making balancing the books a calculated feat. 

Despite multiple lockdowns, behind the scenes at TRAID, we expanded our second-hand retail with the opening of two new charity shops in Lewisham and Walthamstow. Our team also kept our textile bank collections operating enabling communities to continue to pass on clothes for reuse.

New TRAID Lewisham Charity Shop opened 2020

I am very proud that TRAID managed to continue funding all our international partners and projects. It means that PAN UK can continue vital training for thousands of organic cotton farmers in Benin and Ethiopia; Childhope and Nagorik Uddyog are still providing care, food and education to over 200 children of garment workers in Bangladesh, while READ’s crucial work to end the exploitation of Dalit and migrant garment workers in Tamil Nadu, India continues to grow from strength to strength.

Organic cotton farmer training continues in Benin and Ethiopia

TRAID also reallocated funding to support partners emergency work to feed garment workers in Bangladesh and India abandoned by brands and retailers when they lost work due to Covid.

I’d also like to thank everyone who donated to READ’s urgent appeal in April 2020 which raised just over £4,000 to provide food parcels for 1,120 destitute migrant garment workers and their families to see them through this crisis.

After this longest lockdown, at last on April 12th, we are set to re-open our TRAID shops. In preparation, our team will be back at our Wembley warehouse sorting fantastic, donated clothing that will be sold to our fabulous secondhandfirst shoppers.  

Sorting clothes for TRAID shops
Expert sorter Elaine at the warehouse

Here, the cycle of sustainability will begin again of keeping clothing out of landfill and in circulation for longer, while raising vital funds for environmental and social good.