London : Joe Mitty, Oxfam’s first paid employee and a British army officer who was profoundly affected by poverty in Kolkata when he passed through India in the early 1940s, died in Oxford earlier this week at the age of 88.
Mitty is considered the father of the modern charity shop. He established Oxfam’s first shop in Oxford in 1949. At Oxfam, one of Mitty’s earlier jobs was managing the accounts and overseeing the distribution of clothes in the post-war period.
Mitty was the first who saw the potential of selling donations (household goods, clothes and other items) rather than sending them overseas. In the process, he inspired Oxfam to open a chain of shops that sold everything but bought nothing.
He is known to have sold a live donkey, a houseboat and gold wire from people’s old dentures, among other things during his lifetime.
He once recalled: “I was a sort of Christopher Columbus of the 1940s. I had no idea how to price things and when. But I had two words — rage and passion. Rage because of the inequality and injustice in the world, and a passion to do something about it.”
Over the years, Oxfam has been involved in several projects in India. The charity organisation was also one of the supporters of the India International Film Awards (IIFA) that were held in Yorkshire earlier this year.