Every year, when Christmas comes around, I always pledge to give less stuff, fewer material objects and more ‘experiences’. But the inevitable accumulation of stuff creeps in. I’ll admit it: I like stuff. It makes me feel like my accomplishments are tangible when I see the stuff laid out around me.
But this Christmas, Help Refugees are offering you an alternative gift for your loved ones. For the second year, the charity have opened their Choose Love pop up shop in central London. But, while you can buy Choose Love merchandise upstairs as well as bespoke prints from Print Club London, this is a store with a difference.
In there, you can shop for essential items needed by refugees, from children’s coats to warm blankets and hot meals. Everything you buy, 100% of all money spent, goes directly into buying those items for refugees across 10 countries in Europe and the Middle East. The items are bought in each region to support local businesses and asylum seekers.
The store has been divided into three sections: Survival, Shelter and Future, which mirror the journey taken by a refugee. Survival offers those much needed items essential for keeping people alive like emergency blankets and funds for search and rescue teams. Shelter contains items needed for life within a refugee camp, from nappies to tents and sleeping bags. And Future looks to those services which help a refugee rebuild their life, like mental health support and safe spaces for women.
The store itself is manned entirely by volunteers, with the building, fittings and artwork offered for free. This year, Help Refugees has also been donated a piece of art by Banksy. The work, which is a coin-operated boat from the artist’s park Dismaland, is being raffled off online for £2 an entry. You can enter as many times as you like. All you have to do is guess the weight of the boat.
Last year, the store made around £750,000 which provided 800,000 hot meals, 3,556 nights of accommodation and 100,000 children’s items. This year, the charity hopes to raise even more.
Choose Love is open until New Year’s Eve at 30-32 Foubert’s Place, London or you can visit their website to shop online and find out more.