COWLEY-based Oxfam is throwing open its doors tomorrow to celebrate 70 years of helping communities around the globe.

As part of Oxford Open Doors, people will be able to see how the charity works.

Duncan Green, Oxfam’s senior strategic adviser, said the charity is getting ready to face the challenges of the future.

He said: “In Oxfam’s lifetime there has been the most impressive progress in terms of infant mortality, health and life expectancy.

“There is still loads to be done but we are at a stage where we can finish the job and poverty becomes a thing of the past, like slavery.

“We are permanently dissatisfied and we never think we are doing it right. Since I have been working here I have never met anybody smug, and that is probably a healthy state of mind.”

It was on October 5, 1942, that a small group of people gathered in a room at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin in High Street to form the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief.

Their first task was to raise money for Greece, which at the time was occupied by the Axis powers of Germany and Italy.

And within six years of being founded Oxfam – as it became known in 1965 – was once again breaking the mould when the UK’s first permanent charity shop opened for business at 17 Broad Street where donated items are still collected and sold on.

Oxfam GB now has more than 5,000 paid members of staff and an annual income of more than £380m – with about 850,000 people giving money each year.

But there are also 14 other organisations bearing the name Oxfam which work across the globe to fight poverty and famine.

Oxfam Canada, launched in 1963, was the first charity outside the UK to bear that name and more would follow with Oxfam India and Oxfam Italy the most recent additions.

Mr Green said new branches were a key part of helping the charity adapt to a changing world.

He said: “It is better than having an enormous charity in Oxford which will try to run everything and fail. More of our decisions are being made by our officers on the ground.

“We have Oxfams in India and in Hong Kong. Soon there will be an Oxfam Brazil so we are reflecting the change in global politics.

“One of the things which has changed over time is that we are trying to influence governments to do the right thing rather than just setting up projects.”

  • Oxfam will open the doors of its John Smith Drive base from 10am to 5pm tomorrow. There will be tours, an exhibition and a cafe. To find out more about Oxford Open Doors, see