This festive season, shoppers in London and New York are being encouraged to pay it forward. Rather than housing gifts only for loved ones, Choose Love pop-up stores in both cities offer a way to do your part for the refugee crisis by instead purchasing a present for someone in need. The shops are an initiative of Help Refugees, a non-profit that provides vital aid to people fleeing war, persecution, and poverty across the world.
The pop-up stores, located off London’s Carnaby Street and in New York’s West Broadway, stock everything from a warm blanket to a hearty meal, as well as options to gift services such as medical care and mental health support. “With all the hype around Black Friday and Christmas shopping, we wanted to try something different,” the Choose Love website states. “Instead of gadgets and jeans, what would happen if we bought items that could make a real difference to someone’s life?”
The concept first launched in 2017 in London, and raised £750,000 (AED 3.5 million) for refugees, including £38,594 (AED 180,000) in life jackets, which helped assist more than 1,300 people making the perilous sea crossing from Turkey. The initiative has been backed by stars such as models Suki Waterhouse and Daisy Lowe, who attended the London store opening, and Oscar-winning actress Julia Roberts. The Erin Brockovich star has sported the Choose Love T-shirt at red carpet events and on her social media account, Reuters reports.
“You come in and you buy the blanket or the life jacket and you leave with nothing, but just have a real feeling of warmth and love,” Josie Naughton, the charity’s chief executive, told the news agency. Choose Love added that 100% of the money raised will go towards refugees, with the shops staffed by volunteers.