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SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: A circular economy in practice

SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: A circular economy in practice

Friday 29 September 2023

SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: A circular economy in practice

Friday 29 September 2023

Two thriving second hand shops in St Peter Port are funding a number of public services creating a circular economy driven by and feeding the community's needs.

The Health Connections shops on Smith Street and at the Market are run differently to other charity shops, says the Operations Manager.

She explained how, despite giving away a large number of their products, they don't sell their goods cheaply. In fact, they aim to get the best price possible because that income funds services the charity also provides.


Pictured: Health Connections offers a variety of services, all funded by its charity shops and other donations.

"(We're) not only catering to people who might be struggling, to put it bluntly," explained Agi Savcenko (pictured top).

"We're not here to provide cheap goods for people. We're here to fundraise for our core services. So, we will always try to get as much as we can out of each good quality item.

"There might not be a lot of 50p items (for sale), it might be a non-essential item such as a designer pair of boots, but that money is our attempt to fundraise as much as we can for our core services. One of which is the transport service, which is essential. It provides free lifts for the vulnerable and frail people who don't have family to take them out.

"That is an essential service funded by these luxury items that are being sold."

health connections

Pictured: The Health Connections pricing policy is available on its website HERE.

The other essential services run by Health Connections includes the Talking Cafes which as well as simply connecting people together with all the benefits that can bring, it also aims to connect people with other vital service providers including States run and third sector ones.

"It's not only the human connection, but (our volunteers) also tell the people that they talk to about our services and our directory. Someone might be struggling with something in their life, whether it's a divorce, free things to do with kids on a Sunday, whatever it is, our volunteers will always have an iPad with them.  And they have the directory so they can say, 'ok, you need some help with physio, let's look at the physio options here'.

"They have all the resources in front of them to help them find whatever it is to help them - physical, social, spiritual..."

The Repair Cafe is another service funded by the sale of second hand items in the shops - while helping people to maintain, and reuse clothing, fabric and textiles, the staff and volunteers who run that service also teach people basic sewing skills so they can learn how to repair their own clothing.

repair cafe

Pictured: The Repair Cafe is based at the Smith Street shop with a monthly event at the KGV too.

That is one of the key aims of the Health Connections shops too - any items which are donated which may be damaged or stained are checked to see if they can be repaired or repurposed before any decision is made on throwing it away.

If you're looking for a costume this Halloween keep your eyes peeled as Agi plans to make bedsheets available for re-purposing as ghosts.

Other bedding sets may be available for free within the shops as although most items are priced to reflect their quality and to fund the other Health Connections services, the charity also aims to help those people who need support in practical ways.

That has included making all items for children free, including clothing, toys and bedding, and a recent initiative to make most books free to take away too.

health connections

Pictured: The 'Kid's Corner' at the Market Street shop offers items for free.

Agi says they also help other specific groups of people on a case by case basis, in confidential ways to ensure those people get the help they need. 

"We get people coming in who might be ex-offenders who are trying to get back on their feet. If they're interviewing for jobs they can get free ties and jackets from us. We work closely with the women's refuge and Safer. People who might be displaced from their home can come in here, and take what they need."

One of the more obvious ways that Health Connections has tried to help people through its shops in particular is by making coats free to anyone who may need one during the colder months. 

"I say to everybody, it's not just the homeless who need a warm coat, and our homeless community tends to be more hidden and you might not necessarily know who it might be," explains Agi.

"You don't necessarily have to be homeless to not be able to afford a proper coat so we thought let's try it.

"I was always quite naive to the difficulties a lot of people on face. [Guernsey looks like] a very bountiful community, everybody has everything they need, but there is a real undercurrent of people really struggling with things."


Pictured: Operations Manager Agi Savcenko checking through the stock at the Health Connections shop at the Market.

Agi has lived in Guernsey for a long time, working in finance before going travelling and coming back when covid hit.

She started volunteering for Health Connections while looking for a job, and ended up staying. As Operations Manager she is bringing in fresh ideas to increase the value of the products the shops sell.

"We don't buy, we don't outsource. We don't buy or sell on eBay or Depop so everything you see comes from people that drop it off or we will go and collect it if they're unable to."

Some of the retail tactics specific to the Health Connections shops relate to each item's back story, as Agi explains. 

"Let's say a Terracotta glazed bowl," suggested Agi. "Go on eBay or John Lewis or any of these wonderful places and you'll find something similar. But it's the fact that this was made by a local artist. They took hours, they glazed it, they made five of them in the kiln."


Pictured: The Health Connections shop tries to explore the story behind each item it has for sale.

"We try to attach a story to everything we sell. This is quite a regular pouch, I think it's quite ordinary, but really this pouch might have traveled the whole of Italy with an 18 year old on their gap year. That tweed jacket was around in 1970 and went out to St James. It might not always be obvious, but everything has a story.

"That's one of the things I'd like to implement when donations come in, to actually probe people and ask the story behind their items and add tags so that people really see the value of things. And especially then if it does come with those sentimental stories or a very emotional situation from a bereavement, it would be nice to have those stories to pass on because I think people value a story more than they do the thing itself.

"A dress is a dress, but a dress made in a sweatshop is not special as a vintage dress that was around in the sixties and someone went to a wonderful ball in it.

"If it has something attached to it, there's more of an emotion, I think."


Pictured: Vintage tea sets are a popular product on sale at the Health Connections shop.

With a lot of items coming from house clearances, Agi said there is often a lot to uncover about the people who previously owned those goods coming in for sale.

"A house clearance can be quite sensitive and personal, and then if they have donations, they will bring it to us and we try to upcycle anything that might not be fresh, or if anything needs repairing, or we might dye it or recycle.

"A lot of people give us really, really good things and we always say to people please, please don't sort on our behalf. A lot of people say, 'oh, you're not gonna want this' or 'this isn't good enough for you'. Don't do that. Bring it all in. You would be surprised by something that you think has had its day and someone will fall in love with it and have a creative way to reuse it."

health connections

Pictured: Vintage clothing, including children's christening gowns, hang alongside household goods for sale too.

With second hand shopping seeming more in fashion now than it was, Agi says more people are turning to "thrifting" for themselves and for others with 'Secret Santa' shopping particularly popular, as well as more serious gifts.

She also said that for many people the environment is not their foremost thought when secondhand shopping.

"I think people think it's a really big reason to shop secondhand, but it's actually a lot smaller than you think. I think a lot more people shop secondhand because it's trendy, because it's fun. It's more interesting. It's that hunt, their experience, going to a physical shop, touching the fabric, talking to someone. It's better than going online.

"I think a lot of people, they might not find what they need here, but they will try their best to buy locally first. And if they can't find it then they'll turn online. But for sure it's the experience I think of looking for something and finding a gem. That one of a kind on the rail."

secondhand September

Above: Secondhand September is an initiative attributed to Oxfam. It was launched in 2019 as a way of encouraging sustainable lifestyles.

Secondhand September was first launched by Oxfam, in 2019.

As well as being kinder on the pocket, it is aimed at helping to fight the climate crisis by reducing the world's dependence on fabric production by encouraging us to reduce, reuse and recycle clothes and other textiles.


SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: Reusing school shoes

SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: "We have lost our 'make do and mend mentality"

SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: Saving on school uniforms

SECONDHAND SEPTEMBER: Going, going, gone! 

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