Offenders sort donations for Oxfam
Oxfam is giving offenders the chance to help its charity efforts in Northern Ireland as part of a novel initiative by probation services.
A number of criminals sentenced to community service are spending their ordered hours sorting through thousands of books and other items donated to the charity.
They are working in Oxfam Ireland's huge behind-the-scenes warehouse in east Belfast where up to 20,000 donated books are processed each week.
The Probation Board for Northern Ireland initiative has seen offenders trained to scan the books and price them individually for eventual resale in Oxfam shops.
They are also trained to spot rare books and limited editions. At the end of the process, the offenders also help pack up the second-hand goods ahead of delivery.
Oxfam manager Steven Nicholson said the charity was "really pleased" to be part of the project.
"Our warehouse in Belfast is designed to handle a high volume of books and other goods donated to Oxfam," he said.
"Those on community service have made a real difference to our operation in Belfast, and ultimately made a positive impact for those people we work with, such as those presently affected by the earthquakes in Nepal.
"We can now get more books, DVDs and CDs processed in a much quicker time frame.
"At the end of each day we can actually see the numbers of books and items processed and the potential revenue accumulated for Oxfam. We really couldn't achieve what we do without the community service teams."
Chris Davies of Probation Board NI said: "This project has been really successful in helping rehabilitate offenders.
"Many of those who have gone through the project have said they got a sense of purpose carrying out the work, as well as developing life-changing skills, such as effective communication and team working.
"The offenders have also gained an understanding of the range of excellent community work carried out by Oxfam locally and globally.
"The organisation is concerned with helping the disadvantaged, those living in poverty and facing crisis.
"It is important that those on community service, many of whom have only been concerned with their own needs, are exposed to this type of environment and understand the terrible conditions that many people worldwide are living in."