Now You Can Trade Volunteer Time for Homeware Items

Transforming kindness into a tangible initiative.


This shop doesn't accept cash.

(Photo by David Shingler)

The scene resembled an ordinary gift shop found on a bustling high street. The windows displayed a range of homeware items like candles, rugs, lamps, and chairs. Outside, potted plants adorned overturned wooden crates, while café-style tables and chairs invited passersby to sit and relax. 

It is the kind of place you might casually stroll into on a sunny afternoon if you happened to be in Carlisle, a cathedral city that sits in the county of Cumbria in North West England. But this shop has a unique twist, you cannot purchase anything with money, reported Positive News

Every item stocked in the shop had been generously donated by local businesses and priced in terms of volunteer hours that the purchaser would contribute to nearby charities. The suggested number of hours required to “purchase” each item was prominently displayed on its price tag.

Calling itself The Kinder Shop, this store has transformed the concept of kindness into a tangible initiative that genuinely impacts the lives of locals. The pop-up shop became a reality through the support and endorsement of the Cumberland Building Society's Kinder Cumbria campaign, which strives to foster kindness and empathy within the community.

The response was overwhelming, with an astonishing 1,143 hours pledged to support local charities in a single day.

Bartering goods for volunteerism
The first customer, Sara Talebaoui, happened to be passing by just as the shop opened its doors, according to Cumbria Crack. “Purchasing” a table and chairs bistro set for her garden, along with a bird box and some relishes, Talebaoui will “pay” for her purchases by volunteering for a total of 24 hours at several local charities.

“This is indeed my lucky day. I had no prior knowledge of this event and couldn't believe it when I was informed that all these lovely things are being offered for free,” Talebaoui told Cumbria Crack. “I am a bit of a history nerd, so the opportunity to work with English Heritage is absolutely ideal for me.” 

The essence of the initiative
The essence of The Kinder Shop lies in its dedication to supporting the county's charities and community groups, which rely on the invaluable contributions of volunteers to fulfill their vital missions.

Organizations like Eden Valley Hospice, Anti-Racist Cumbria, Lancaster Homeless Action Service, and the Cumbria Deaf Association actively participated in this initiative, according to Positive News. The enthusiastic reception from these organizations towards their newly acquired volunteers has been remarkable. 

Jonny Irving from Eden Valley Hospice had the honor of officially inaugurating the shop and expressed his delight at the prospect of the charity gaining new volunteers through the Kinder Shop project.

“Volunteers play an immensely significant role at the hospice, so an idea like this that introduces new individuals to volunteering with us will be a tremendous boost,” he said. “This project will enable us to establish new connections with those who generously give their time to support our fundraising events.”

Paying it forward
The Kinder Shop has opened doors for people to engage in volunteering for the first time, enabling them to make a tangible impact in their community, reports Positive News, from helping in the gardens of a local hospice and manning the tills at one of their shops, to delivering meals and stewarding events.

The impact of The Kinder Shop has reverberated beyond its immediate sphere. Bramble House Hair Salon in the nearby town of Keswick hosted a "pay-with-kindness" day, where individuals who spent 15 minutes collecting trash in the town center received a complimentary haircut as a gesture of appreciation.

“What we thought would be a one-off event looks like it could be the start of something really special,” Des Moore, CEO of the Cumberland Building Society, told Positive News. “We believe we can take the idea of kindness from Cumbria and spread it all around the UK.” 

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