This is the second in our series of interviews with volunteers to gain perspectives on volunteering in the time of COVID-19. We thank all of those who took the time to chat with us about their experience with volunteering.

Cristian Castiglione

Cristian Castiglione is a volunteer Retail Assistant at the Sligo National Council for the Blind Ireland (NCBI) Charity Shop. He shares his views on volunteering in the “new normal”. He started his role in January 2020.

What has been the biggest change in your role since the start of COVID-19?

The main priority now is safety. It used to be sales. We clean a lot! We clean our hands, put on gloves then clean the glove each time we touch money. We must tell people that we have a limited capacity to accept donations these days due to limited space. Donations need to be quarantined for several days. Due to the small storage area in the shop, we do not have space to store too much at any one time so often must turn donations away.

What changes have taken place in the organisation?

We clean everything constantly. At the end of our shift, we clean the floors, many items for sale, the toilet, the tag machine, the till, everything! This part is not very exciting but it is necessary to keep everyone safe.

What measures have been taken by the NCBI Charity Shop to facilitate adherence to the new guidelines?

Now, we can only allow 7 or 8 customers in the shop at any time depending on how many volunteers are on duty. There are yellow discs on the floor to mark the appropriate social distance between customers. We now have a plexiglass enclosure around the till area. When we are on duty, even volunteers are distanced- one at the till, one on the floor and one in the warehouse area.

There are also new rules in place with regard to trying on clothing. Afterwards, the garment/s must be cleaned, steamed and set aside for 4 days before allowed back on the floor for sale.

Are people abiding by the new rules?

Customers are absolutely following the rules. People are fearful and it is the right thing to do.

Have your hours changed?

I am working more now since there are fewer volunteers available at the moment.

Can you please describe your experience of finding a volunteer role through the Sligo Volunteer Centre (SVC)?

I visited the website, looked at some of the opportunities that were available at the time, and emailed the Centre. I received a reply and an invitation to visit the Centre. There, the staff explained everything that I needed to know about the positions I was interested in and helped me to get started.

Would you recommend other people to register with the SVC to find a volunteer role?

I would and I have recommended this to others. For some, it is difficult to fulfil the dedicated volunteer time around new work hours, so I have tried to find more volunteers to help solve these kinds of problems.

Organisation overview: The NCBI, National Council for the Blind Ireland, (, Ireland’s national sight loss agency, is a not for profit charitable organisation which provides support and services nationwide to people experiencing sight loss.

There are over 100 NCBI charity shops located around Ireland.