In the midst of people ice skating to classic holiday tunes beneath a giant Christmas tree as the Empire State Building stands tall above, World Vision launched its first-ever Give-back Gift Shop Nov. 27-29 in New York City’s Bryant Park.
The shop showcased meaningful gifts people can give during the holiday season from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, such as goats that provide milk for families in need, chickens that provide eggs for nutritious food, mosquito nets to prevent malaria, gers for warm shelter, and clean water to help families thrive.
Give-back Gift Shop also provided interactive activities for attendees to participate in, such as posing for selfies with farm animals, carrying 40 pounds of water to understand how women and children walk miles for water each day, watching a virtual reality (VR) video of a girl’s walk for water in Kenya, taking photos in a 180-degree photo booth, and building hygiene kits that will go to people in need in the New York City area as well as survivors of the recent hurricanes.
Emerson and Kristina Gomez from the Bronx stopped in with their dog, Olivia. Kristina says, “We’ve been learning about other cultures and how they live around the world.”
She says recognizing how much work it still is for people to gather water around the world, even in 2017, is what still amazes her. “You don’t realize the comfort and how lucky we have it with water, especially in the city.”
Throughout the course of three days, about 12,000 people visited the shop and helped World Vision shine bright on Giving Tuesday by helping people in need. Here’s the recap of what happened during the event.
Day 1: Monday, Nov. 27
Local church partner prays to kick off the event
World Vision couldn’t do its work without the partnerships it has with local churches around the world. Pastor Reggie Stutzman from Real Life Church in the Bronx came before the shop opened today to pray with staff and volunteers.
“We join our hearts, our hands, and our faith, and we thank you, God,” he prayed. “Without you, this wouldn’t be possible.”
World Vision has partnered with the church for four years by providing toiletries and pantry supplies, backpacks with school supplies, and even household items for victims of an eight-apartment unit fire. “Everything was burnt out,” Reggie says. “We were the direct line from the [World Vision Bronx] warehouse to the community.
“World Vision has really enabled us to help the community.”
Helping others at the shop
One of the biggest attractions at the Give-back Gift Shop was the live animals — donkeys, goats, sheep, alpacas, cows, chickens, and rabbits. Animals given through World Vision’s Gift Catalog help provide milk and eggs for better nutrition. The animals’ poop serves as fertilizer to yield better crops on people’s farms. And as animals reproduce, families can sell the offspring for extra income to buy food, clothes, and pay for school fees.
The Give-back Gift Shop also provided attendees an opportunity to build hygiene kits. The kits hold toiletry necessities and will be distributed to people in need in the greater New York City area as well as survivors of the recent hurricanes.
Eight-year-old Camilla Tecce saw the live animals and wanted to come in. She says excitedly, “We wanted to look at the zoo, but we saw more. We saw the water challenge. We made a care package — it’s going to help people in need.”
The shop also showcased a Mongolian ger, which houses a marketplace where families can buy meaningful gifts for people in need.
Seneca Sebring, 9, says his family has supported World Vision in the past, so he was inspired to purchase soccer balls as well as insect-repelling blankets to protect against malaria. He also helped build not one but two care kits. Seneca says, “I like supporting people who need help.”
Guests sponsor children at Give-back Gift Shop
As attendees moved through the shop, they also had an opportunity to begin sponsoring a child through World Vision. Sponsorship provides families with access to education, healthcare, clean water, economic opportunities, and spiritual nurture.
Lisa Alvarez had the day off and was in the city from New Jersey to do some Christmas shopping when she stopped by the Give-back Gift Shop.
“I came in and noticed the animals – that’s what drew me in,” she says. Then she noticed folders featuring children waiting for sponsors. “Then I looked, and I came across this little girl – she has the same birth date as I do. I said, ‘Wow! Let me just do it.’ I took it and ran with it. It’s well worth it.”
Jovani Angel was visiting from Puerto Rico. He watched the virtual reality video about Cheru, a girl in Kenya who walks miles each day to gather dirty water. He says, “I saw the video and decided to sponsor.”
HGTV’s JD Scott arrived Monday to open the shop in style.
“I think this is the perfect opportunity for people to see a tangible example of what World Vision is doing and where their money is going,” JD says.
JD attempted to milk a goat live on social media to show how the animals provide up to 16 cups of milk each day for families in need. But he laughed as he came away with only a few drops and encouraged his followers to come out to the shop to see the animals and experience all the activities themselves.
Day 2: Giving Tuesday, Nov. 28
People come out for Giving Tuesday
On Giving Tuesday, the second day of the Give-back Gift Shop, people continued to stream through the shop learning about World Vision and ways they could give back.
World Vision gave mini stuffed camels, elephants, chicks, and pigs to children, who were overjoyed to have a new friend to take home.
Two young sisters were among the children who did the water walk, an experience where people can carry containers of water to better understand how people in developing countries walk an average of six kilometers to get water each day.
Cora Glidden, 8 from New York, said she didn’t think it was that hard. But when her mom asked her how she’d feel if she had to carry it all the way to the subway station a half mile from their house, Cora said, “I think I’d get pretty tired of it. I can’t imagine it.”
Cora was also really excited to do the virtual reality experience and to see the live cows. She says, “I liked the cow because I had never seen a cow before!”
Giving Tuesday partner Thirty-One Gifts shows support
“We’ve been blessed to partner with World Vision and have seen first-hand how effective your systems and distribution processes are in making an impact in communities you serve,” says Cindy Monroe, founder, president, and CEO of Thirty-One Gifts. “I’ve seen you go beyond fundraising to taking action. You actually are doing the work – laying pipe for water or establishing animals in place. You go into the community and do what needs to be done. I also appreciate how widespread your reach is, and the great ability you have to share God’s love across the world.”
She arrived at the Give-back Gift Shop on Giving Tuesday with a Thirty-One Gifts team donning pink Santa hats. The group felt excited to see the shop.
“During our years partnering with you, we’ve seen the various kinds of work you do and the help you provide. I love how you really brought your work and the catalog to life,” Cindy says. “I especially liked the virtual reality experience, and seeing the animals was really fun. We love what World Vision does around the world, and we’re delighted to help make a difference!”
Cindy loved the virtual reality experience the best and chose two little girls from Mexico to sponsor following the experience.
“We’re really excited to match donations coming in today,” says Cindy. “We can go further faster together.”
Thanks to amazing support from donors, World Vision was able to receive the full match from Thirty-One Gifts for 2017 and is incredibly grateful to everyone for their generosity in making that happen.
Jennifer Nettles highlights
Country superstar Jennifer Nettles helped World Vision kick off Giving Tuesday. The Grammy award-winning singer came out to encourage her fans to give a meaningful gift this Christmas season.
“We want to give gifts that actually have meaning, and I think that World Vision does that well. I’m going to show my fans all about it!
She also participated in a kit build to assemble hygiene kits to help people affected by the recent hurricanes.
“When we think about the hurricanes that have happened throughout this country, it really is devastating to people,” Jennifer says. “These kits make a really big difference for people. They have things we need, the basic necessities that people need. And you can sign a card with a personal note that shows how much you care about what’s going on with them.”
Jennifer also hung out with the animals live on Facebook and talked about how they benefit people in developing countries.
“These animals actually sustain these communities; they change people’s lives,” she says. “They give them economic stability and economic freedoms that they’ve never had before.”
She also urged her fans that if animals aren’t your thing, you could give what she’s most passionate about — clean water.
“I love the water gifts. You can provide a deep water well. It really, really affects their lives, especially the lives of children,” Jennifer says. “Once children have water in their communities, it frees them up to go to school. So it changes their lives exponentially, and it opens their world. And World Vision is a boss about water! They provide more water than any other organization to developing countries in the world. Every 10 seconds!”
Day 3: Wednesday, Nov. 29
With 60-degree weather and the annual Rockefeller Christmas tree lighting in the evening, people came out in droves, with some families returning for a second visit this week.
The McFarlane family was visiting from Edmonton, Canada, for vacation. Terry McFarlane said they visited Tuesday and built hygiene kits. So many people helped build kits the first two days of the Give-back Gift Shop that all hygiene kits were assembled, so World Vision brought in school kits for guests to help assemble. The McFarlanes returned Wednesday and also helped build the school kits.
“Building the kits for school supplies was really amazing because when they get that, they’ll be grateful that people care about them,” says her son, 11-year-old Jack.
Jack and his twin brother, Ethan, also enjoyed the VR experience and learning about how far children walk to get water in other countries through it and the water-walk experience.
“Your feet would hurt, your arms would hurt — you’d just want to sit down and rest,” Jack says.
Jenny Fuller of Manhattan came with her husband and 5-year-old son. She said her son goes to a really diverse school, but even with that, the children are all more well-off than many of the children World Vision works with.
“It’s eye-opening, and it’s heartbreaking, but it’s wonderful to see the work that you do,” Jenny says. “It’s touching.”
As parents, she and her husband, who grew up in Kenya, are committed to helping their son understand and embrace the world around them and learn about other cultures. “One of the reasons I love raising my son in New York is the diversity here,” Jenny says.
She wasn’t familiar with World Vision prior to the event and was grateful to have this opportunity to help further educate her son, especially about how far children walk for water in many places. She says, “I wanted him to see this. He hasn’t been exposed to having to walk that far, let alone carrying anything — I carry his backpack for him. I thought it was nice for him to experience this.”
Yorseli Confesor and her daughter, 13-year-old Michelle, also visited the Give-Back Gift Shop from Brooklyn. They enjoyed the VR and the alpacas, and Michelle in particular enjoyed the 180-degree photo booth.
“I think it’s pretty cool because you guys are helping and supporting people,” Michelle says.
When asked what she learned at the event, Michelle says that “you should give to people in need and to help them. It helped me learn how giving can help others and how to help them feel better.”
Patricia Heaton highlights
Emmy award-winning actress Patricia Heaton joined World Vision at the Give-back Gift Shop for the final day of the event.
She toured the event and went live on Facebook talking about how World Vision changes lives and encouraging her fans to give to World Vision to get the bracelet she designed, the Hope Bracelet by Patricia Heaton, by giving a $100 donation to World Vision’s Where Most Needed fund.
“What I like about this bracelet is, to me, it symbolizes branches,” Patricia says in her Facebook live appearance. “We’re all a part of this beautiful tree of life, and there are a lot of branches to it, but we’re all rooted in this shared humanity.”
She also encouraged fans to give up some of their monthly coffee habits or other expenses and choose to sponsor a child for the holidays.
“You can sponsor a child through World Vision for $39 a month, and that’s a terrific way to be an ongoing part of someone’s life and really changing their life,” Patricia says.
Patricia also took photos in the 180-degree photo experience with the alpacas featured at the Give-back Gift Shop and then took time to take photos with fans.
Overall, everyone felt the Christmas spirit as they visited the Give-back Gift Shop and helped make Giving Tuesday 2017 a huge success.