This New York store is selling Christmas presents for refugees

Christmas UNHCR

The ‘No Stranger Place’ exhibition at Vienna’s central train station. © UNHCR/Ida Kielmansegg

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Kate Whiting, Senior Writer, Formative Content


Tills in Europe will be ringing loudly from Black Friday onwards, as consumers make the most of pre-Christmas sales.

But there are two new stores where spending money will leave you empty handed.

Choose Love is a pop-up store run by the charity Help Refugees. After a successful opening in London in 2017, which raised over £750,000, the original shop is back, with a new branch opening in New York on Giving Tuesday, 27 November.

The stores invite shoppers to “shop your heart out, leave with nothing, and feel the love”. They present a range of essential items and services – from emergency blankets to school bags and legal fees for a separated family. Once ‘purchased’, these will be distributed by the charity and its partners across Europe and the Middle East.

Image: Help Refugees/Choose Love

Choose Love will also offer bundles designed to meet specific needs – such as for mothers and babies – as well as sleeping bags and support for the homeless in the UK and the US.

Shoppers are encouraged to interact with the items available and find out why they’re needed – and the stores are divided into sections exploring different stages of a refugee’s journey: survival (emergency blankets, warm clothing and food); shelter (tents, sleeping bags and hygiene packs) and future (educational materials, a dictionary and keys to a home).

Record crisis

In 2017, according to the UN Refugee Agency’s Global Trends study, there were record levels of displacement – with 68.5 million people forcibly driven from their homes, more than the population of Thailand. That is one person being displaced every two seconds.

The study found 25.4 million refugees had fled their countries to escape conflict and persecution, 2.9 million more than in 2016, and the biggest increase the UNHCR had seen in a single year.

Image: Help Refugees/Matthew Firpo

Last year, the London store and its online version helped provide refugees with:

– 800,000 nutritious meals

– 3,556 nights of accommodation

– 25,000 essential winter items for adults, which included 5,000 blankets and 11,000 items of clothing

– 100,000 essentials for babies and children including 77,000 packs of nappies.

Josie Naughton CEO of Help Refugees says: “Last Christmas, the shop became a beacon of compassion in the heart of central London. Choose Love helped people from all walks of life feel empathy for refugees – and do something practical to help.”

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