Before the UK’s first lockdowns in March 2020, Sol Escobar had been spending her weekends volunteering at the Calais refugee camp and helping out resettled refugee families where she lives in Cambridge.
Once the lockdowns began, Escobar wanted to figure out how she could continue supporting refugees, even though the pandemic forced her to stay within the confines of her home.
Via Instagram, she happened to connect with a young woman in Cardiff who was unable to work before her asylum seeker status and was forced to live off five pounds a day. When Escobar found out that she shared the same dress size as this woman, she started to send packages of her own clothes.
However, this young woman was living in Home Office accommodation along with eight other asylum seeker women of a range of sizes who were also in need of affordable clothes, especially while charity shops were closed. To address their needs, Escobar asked friends of diverse shapes and sizes to send photos of quality clothes in good condition that they no longer wore. She uploaded these photos on Instagram so that the women could see what their options were.
“The women really enjoyed it—they said it was like a little shopping experience,” Escobar said. This simple exchange led Escobar to launch Give Your Best in October 2020—an online fashion outlet made especially for refugees and asylum seekers where every item listed is free of charge.
How does Give Your Best work?
People who want to donate simply post a photo of their best quality clothes or accessories that they don’t need anymore. These photos are then posted on the Give Your Best Instagram account, which refugee and asylum seekers can scroll through and claim items by contacting the shop. The seller then sends the chosen items directly to them for free. The sender will usually include a personal message for the recipient in their package.
This system means that the platform holds no stock, minimizing waste because an item is only sent once its claimed. Give Your Best also has plans to reduce waste in the fashion industry in general by working with clothing retailers who are willing to give away unsold stock.
Unsold stock from traditional retailers often ends up in a landfill or in textile recycling, but as Escobar says, “there is no place for fashion waste in a world where millions of people are living without [sufficient] clothing.”
Since Give Your Best began, Escobar’s team has grown to over 170 volunteers. Some of these volunteers, like Kemi Ogunlana, were once shoppers on the platform themselves.
Ogunlana was granted refugee status in March 2020 after four years of waiting. For her, having elegant clothes that she was proud to wear booster her confidence, which was especially important during job interviews. Receiving clothes and accessories along with kind messages and extra gifts like chocolates from generous donors through Give Your Best made her feel surprisingly welcome in the UK at a time when she was expecting to be greeted with anti-immigrant hostility.
“Sometimes, when I open the things I receive, I cry,” she says. “I feel that someone out there cares about me.”
“The donation world can be dehumanizing at times, even with the best intentions,” notes Escobar. “People internalize that all they deserve are the things that they’re given. But these women deserve to choose what they want to wear.”
If you’ve enjoyed this story then check out this article we wrote about the Social Supermarket that also empowers vulnerable communities with the power of choice.