London Food & Culture

Choose Love: visit the world’s first pop-up shop for refugees

Help Refugees' innovative opening in Soho gives a humanitarian flex to the Christmas shop

A sample of essential items up for sale. Photo: Help Refugees

The folks behind pioneering grassroots charity Help Refugees have come up with a nifty way for Londoners to give some of their Christmas moolah to refugees around Europe and the Middle East.

How? They’ve just opened a pop-up shop in Soho where people can buy real and necessary items for refugees. The Choose Love store will be dotted with products from emergency blankets to school bags, medical equipment to sturdy shoes. Prices range from a fiver to 500 quid, and they’ve even included an option to buy the entire store.

Each item is accompanied by a short story about how and why it was chosen. Shoppers simply take the tag to the till or buy directly from one of the store’s staff – each of whom works for the charity, and so is prepped to answer questions about their time working with refugees.

Spend anything from a fiver to £500. Photo: Help Refugees

This is an innovative and engaging way of contributing to Help Refugees’ vital work. The organisation launched two years ago, when founders Josie Naughton and Lliana Bird decided to load up a van with resources and drive to Calais.


Interest in, and support for, their initiatives grew swiftly; it’s now one of the most prominent and effective humanitarian aid groups working directly with refugees.

Their grassroots status enables them to wriggle out of the governmental constraints and bureaucratic entanglements that often thwart the efforts of larger charities, allowing them to swiftly slink to the frontline, pumping energy and resources to where they are needed most.

Alongside the tangible financial and material support that’ll leave shoppers’ pockets in Soho and head straight to tent-bound families in Greece, the pop-up also offers a crucial opportunity to learn more about the experiences of those who’ve been forced from their homes.

School supplies and cooking equipment. Photo: Help Refugees

“It’s easy to forget how lucky we are to have a bed, a blanket and a roof over our heads,” says Josie Naughton, “for thousands of people this winter, these basic human needs are completely out of reach. This shop is all about one simple idea: that we should all choose love this Christmas and help those in need.”

With winter upon us, we can’t forget that the refugee crisis hasn’t ebbed. Hundreds of thousands of people of all ages, from multiple countries, sit in squalid, muddy purgatory, waiting in conditions that get more perilous with every degree the temperature drops.

A jacket helps, as does a hot meal, a pair of thick socks or a hefty blanket. Tis the season to remember that that tenner we would frivolously lob at a barman could instead be given to an organisation that’ll use it to ensure people’s safety in the coming months.

Choose Love pop-up is open from 24th Nov-31st Dec, Mon-Sat 11–6pm, Sun 12–6pm. 18 Broadwick Street, Soho W1, more info here.

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